Stickfighter (1974)- * * *
AKA: The Pacific Connection
Directed by: Luis Nepomuceno
Starring: Roland Dantes, Alejando Rey, Hiroshi Tanaka and Dean Stockwell
Set during the historical past of the Philippines, Stick Fighter (AKA The Pacific Connection) tells the tale of the wicked Spanish conquistadors, who naturally included Dean Stockwell and a Samurai. Yes, Alejandro Rey is The Governor (that's all he's credited as) of the Philippines, and he hires a man named Mori (Hiroshi Tanaka) to teach Martial Arts to his two sons Miguel (Stockwell) and Allan (Roland). Unfortunately for them, Allan and Miguel pick on the wrong guy when they mess with a local man named Ben. After extorting and then assaulting his family, Ben gets fed up and does what any normal guy would do in such a situation: he breaks out his Arnis sticks and proceeds to practice the art of Eskrima on the baddies. It may take a while to get there, but will we eventually find out who the ultimate STICK FIGHTER is?
Not to be confused with the Kely McClung classic from 1994, this Stick Fighter from 20 years earlier is also called The Pacific Connection, because in the 70's, there was a Connection from pretty much every country on earth. France and Italy top the list, but there were many others. What the supposed "connection" here is supposed to be is left for the viewers to figure out.
Nevertheless, Stick Fighter is the type of film you might find playing on a Spanish channel at 4 a.m. It's a well-shot historical drama with some action scenes thrown into it. It's not bad for what it is, but we think most viewers will find it to be slow going, especially by today's high-powered standards. The approach here is old-fashioned and harks back to the filmmaking styles of at least one generation before this. Here we have swashbuckling, sword fighting, and, yes, stick fighting during the Kung Fu craze of the 70's. At least it was offering something different, but the editing is wonky and there are major pacing issues.
This was the sixth and final film for director Luis Nepomuceno, and the only one to receive a U.S. VHS release. The tape came out in 1989 on the Prism label, in the small box. It erroneously states that the film is 102 minutes, but the real running time is somewhere in the 80's. While it was the end of Nepomuceno's career, it was the debut for Roland Dantes. He would go on to make another stickfighting movie, Sticks of Death (1986), and then other actioners such as Live By the Fist (1993), Angelfist (1993), Under the Gun (1995), Tigershark (1987), and Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection (1990). That's right, another Connection for ya.
Besides Dantes, and the prerequisite appearance by Vic Diaz, one of the highlights of Stick Fighter is Dean Stockwell as, of all people, Miguel. His accent is priceless. It stands out among a lot of the incomprehensible dialogue on show here. Of course, there's a training sequence involving Ben, and people who like Philippines-set action films will get a fairly early example of one with Stick Fighter. Sure, it may be rated PG, but this was during the 70's, when that really didn't mean anything. Today it probably wouldn't be, or at least it would be considered a "Hard PG".
After the credits, we get a James Bond-style promise that the Ben character will return in a sequel called "Sultan Ben". As far as we can tell, this project never came to fruition. But, nevertheless, with Stick Fighter we get a slice of 70's drive-in fare that is redolent of the time it was made in. It may be a bit slow, but it's still worth checking out.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty