Cult films are a different breed unto themselves. Sometimes they can be artistic films, sometimes truly horrible films and other times movies that are enough of both of those items as to be something different. Such is the case with THE LAST DRAGON. Released in 1985 the movie did fair at the box office but nothing outstanding. And yet it has a certain charm to it, a fun feel and has drawn the interest of fans for all of those 30 years.
Two stories mingle into one in the film. The main story takes place in New York City and involves Leroy Green (Tiamak), a young martial arts student who has reached the pinnacle he can with his current teacher. That master tells him that to achieve the status of the last dragon he must go on a quest and presents him with a medallion and a name, Sum Dum Goy. Leroy sets out to find his new master and to achieve “the glow”, the highest achievement one can attain.
At the same time pop star Laura Charles (Vanity) is hosting a musical show called Seventh Heaven where she features new music videos. Kids dance to the music on stage and she sings on occasion. Arcade game hotshot Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney) is dead set on his talentless girlfriend Angela’s (Faith Prince) video showing there and is willing to do anything to make it happen, including abducting Laura. Of course the paths these two stories on cross when Leroy prevents the kidnapping of Laura.
An interest sparks between the two with the flirtatious Laura offering all smiles and Leroy fumbling along not having a clue how to behave. His life has been spent in dojos. Dealing with women is something he has no clue how to handle. And yet having caught the eye of the attractive Laura has come easily enough to him.
The back and forth between the two stories moves on as Arkadian finally does kidnap Laura. Leroy comes to her rescue taking out Arkadian’s men with ease but incurring his wrath at the same time. Arkadian sets out to hire the most vicious thugs he can round up, all with the intent of taking out Leroy. Among those he hires is Sho’nuff (Julius Carry), the self-proclaimed “Shogun of Harlem”. Sho’nuff has been doing his best to lure Leroy into a fight to determine who is truly the master martial artist in the neighborhood but Leroy hasn’t risen to the bait. With Laura’s life on the line, he finally must face his fears, fight Sho’nuff and find “the glow”.
The movie plays out like most martial arts movies of the time did, with a nice mix of kung fu combat, romance, comedy and story to make it work. To make it different the movie also tosses in 80’s music, music videos and Soul Train style dance moves. While it may sound like an odd combination it completely works. Perhaps that’s due to the producer of the film, Berry Gordy. Yes THE Berry Gordy of Motown fame. This was his first attempt at a film and it succeeds.
The movie would be easy to dismiss as a pop culture salute with camp influences but the actors involved all play their roles as seriously as possible. That adds to the humor that is seen on screen and trust me, there is plenty to laugh about in this film but not in a bad way. A whole slew of films came out during the eighties that celebrated pop culture of the time, movies like BREAKIN’ or ROLLER BOOGIE, and all have enough charm and fun to them to make them fan favorites. At the same time today’s crowds find them funny and a throwback to those days and have turned most of them into the cult films that at one time drew in large crowds to midnight movies. Now they gather people together to join around the big screen at home smiling through them all.
The extras in this one are slim but there is a nice documentary on the making of the film. It also talks to a fan who brought about a 30th anniversary screening of the film that had fans showing up dressed as the characters and quoting lines from the film. It would have been nice to include footage of that but even hearing about it can bring about a sense of joy this film holds for some.
There may be blockbusters being released this week but for my money this is the one to seek out. If it’s not available for rent then perhaps you might want to pick up a copy. I know I’ll be adding this one to the shelf to take out from time to time. For me it was that much fun.
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