“Get me Bruce Lee!”
“Bruce Lee is dead.”
“Well, then get me his brother!”
A double-dimed Zatoichi remake that’s also a late-’80s remnant of gruesome / goofy aesthetics, Blind Fury has received loving treatment in its latest Blu-ray incarnation, this time from collectors’ house Kino Lorber.
Rutger Hauer plays Nick Parker, an American soldier blinded in Vietnam but nursed back to health by its people — who also provide quite useful training in unsighted swordsmanship. (A buried credit to writer Ryôzô Kasahara pins Blind Fury to the Zatoichi franchise about a blind swordsman, but as a more modern reference: Nick becomes Daredevil with a deadly blade.)
Twenty years later, Nick is a nomad eager to reconnect with his old Vietnam buddy and now chemist, Frank Deveraux (Terrance O’Quinn, as the LOST actor is so credited). But Frank has been swindled and forced into developing designer drugs by a dastardly Reno casino magnate (Noble Willingham). When the thugs come calling for Frank’s son, Billy (Brandon Paul), Nick is there to save the day and singlehandedly take on a band of thugs fronted by character actors Randall “Tex” Cobb, Rick Overton and Nick Cassavetes, among others.
Blind Fury is easily the friendliest film in which someone has their hand severed at the wrist, largely leaning on the bond built between Nick and Billy en route to Reno. The degree of meanness Billy displays to Nick would be more upsetting if Nick didn’t delight so much in dishing it back to bastards of all ages, including the buttwipe kid he has sworn to protect.
While a bigger-budgeted version of Blind Fury might feature more fighting, props are due to stunt coordinator Dick Ziker and swordfight coordinator Steven Lambert for delivering the goods within their means. That would also offset the film’s offbeat comic charm, such as the insets of elderly people marveling at Nick’s ability to cut down insects, the surprise that awaits Cassavetes and Overton when they accost a pair of pistol-packing old biddies, or the riot Nick incites when he uncovers cheating at the casino.
Throughout all of it, Hauer excels in one of his rare starring roles — crossing Bruce Campbell, Kurt Russell and Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name for an escalating series of eviscerations that lead to a snowy Nevada mountaintop and a too-short but still scintillating showdown with martial arts legend Sho Kosugi.
Kino Lorber offers a masterful cleanup of Blind Fury, which boasts a fine, filmic look, texture and sharpness down to beads of sweat on bald heads and fibers on clothes blown apart by bullets. Colors don’t quite pop as they could, but at the same time: This is as good as you’d want something so B-grade to look. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is also outstanding in regard to dimensionality, depth and sharpness, whether it’s showcasing the ambling Casiotone score of J. Peter Robinson or the clanging of swords.
The main extra is a commentary with screenwriter Charles Robert Carner (Gymkata). Moderated by Kino Lorber producer Douglas Hosdale, Carner offers a screenwriter’s-eye view of the film from conception to completion and the sometimes bumpy roads in between (namely Hauer’s clash on tone with director Phillip Noyce). Overall, Blind Fury is an analog delight that, thanks to Kino Lorber, no longer feels like an afterthought.