Death Promise (1977)
By: Devon B. on August 31, 2015 | Comments
Code Red | All Regions, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Audio: English 2.0 | 95 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Robert Warmflash
Starring: Charles Bonet, Speedy Leacock, Bill Louie, Thomson Kao Kang, Abe Hendy
Writer: Norbert Albertson Jr.
Country: USA
There have been some strange casting choices made throughout the history of cinema. Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Ben Affleck in Daredevil. Everything Kris Kristofferson has been cast in ever. One of the strangest has got to be Charles Bonet in Death Promise, a man of Puerto Rican descent cast as a Bruce Lee clone. Even forgoing the ethnic differences between the two, this is an odd thing to do because Bonet is a karate man, not a kung fu one. I know this because I was all ready to call this a kung fool epic, but had to cut that line because there's nothing worse than an inaccurate martial arts pun. Except Kris Kristofferson. Man, that guy sucks.

Thankfully Death Promise is Kristofferson free, and instead features Bonet as a guy living in a community housing flat (I think) in a building where his father is maybe the super or maybe just another tenant who likes to try and fix things. Their dodgy landlords want to clear the building because of a property development deal. The landlords try various illicit ways to get the tenants out including rats, shutting off the utilities, and arson. All of their nefarious schemes are foiled by karate, so the stakes get raised, building to a martial arts show down where no one seems that proficient and one guy seems like he's constantly crapping himself.

Death Promise is a ludicrous story of a little guy taking a stand. Literally, because Bonet is so tiny he could be Bruce Lee's Mini-Me…if he looked anything like Bruce. Obviously Bonet's martial arts ability pales in comparison to Bruce's, but there are other areas where he's inferior, too, like his acting. On the plus side, Bonet likes to put his arms around his friends, because he does this a lot. I mean a LOT. Every fuckin' time Bonet has the opportunity to get huggy, he does. Maybe Bruce wouldn't have gotten in so many fights if he'd just embraced his fellow man more often rather than kicking him in the face. To be fair to Bruce, Bonet ends up fighting a fair bit in Death Promise, so maybe the love and tolerance thing wouldn't have done Bruce much good anyway.

Bonet's a huge part of Death Promise, but he has help in making the film what it is. The movie must've been made by people who were evicted at some point, with all its bitter talk of corruption and evil property owners, and the filmmakers' view of these despicable property-owning villains is so simplistic their evil mastermind leader is actually first seen diabolically stroking a cat. Another simplistic element is the karate, because Bonet's not the only one displaying mediocre martial arts, as there were quite a few cast members who were keen to get in on the clumsily choreographed hoo-ha. The whole movie is a mess, really, brimming with amateurish scripting, stagnant direction, hypnotically bad acting, choppy edits, and confusing and/or heavy handed voice over.

Death Promise is a bit slow in parts, but overall it's a hugely entertaining slice of ridiculousness that might've even inspired Stephen J. Cannell when he was creating The A-Team.
The Disc
Death Promise is presented at 1.78:1. The movie still has some spots, specks and blemishes, but overall this is a clean, sharp print. There's some edge enhancement and some artefacts, and the 70s film stock leads to some black crush, and some sections are cleaner than others, but in general this transfer far exceeded my expectations. The audio is a 2.0 mono track, and it's fairly hissy, but this would be sourced based, and otherwise it's a fair representation of the movie's audio. The extras are the trailer and trailers for other Code Red titles King of Kung Fu (at least, Ihope that's going to be a Code Red title soon), The Black DragonThe UndertakerCut-Throats 9Death MachinesDevil's Express, and Black Dragon's Revenge.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If fans of kooky karate flicks aren't sold yet, Death Promise has some of the funniest screen deaths ever. It fails on almost every count as a "good" movie, but it's all the more enjoyable for it. The DVD isn't a deluxe edition by any means, but for those of us that have only seen Death Promise on VHS this release is a revelation.
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