Hiyah! “Blood and Steel” – the Lost Kung-Fu Film now on DVD!
The brutal murder of his sister and her husband sends Mark Swetland into a vengeful fury. Behind the heinous act, a drug smuggling organization, using a steel fabricating warehouse and a dojo school as a front, had sent a merciless assassin to take out Mark’s sister after a previous incident with the organization’s personnel that could bring down the whole drug shipment operation. As Mark investigates for answers and track down those responsible, he’s greeted with hostility and uses his extensive martial arts experience, and a little help from a few of his closest allies, to bring the syndicate down once and for all, but the cruelty conscious conspirators don’t plan to go down without a fight as they kidnap Mark’s girlfriend and hire a mercenary fighter to bring the fight to them on their own terms.
If you’re a martial arts film connoisseur or just an aficionado of the action-packed genre, here’s an obscure title from 1990 you desperately need to get your hands on, today if at all possible! “Blood and Steel” is the Bruce Lee dedicated crime and martial arts actioner from producer, writer, and director, Mark Swetland. Yes, Mark Swetland plays himself, Mark Swetland, as the unstoppable, vengeful vigilante hero in his own production that pits him going solo against a scumbag kingpin and his narcotic import-export empire. Only recently discovered after being lost for decades, “Blood and Steel” breathes fresh 2023 air with a new DVD release and institutes a brand new, never-before-heard maxim, created by yours truly, of though white men can’t jump, they can certainly Kung-Fu. Perms, handlebar mustaches, and tight fitting and unappealing fashion grace the screen as nunchakus and hook kicks pave the way for this seriously gratifying choreographed Kung-Fu spectacular to be resurrected from the cache of forgotten films of the cinematic cemetery, shot in and around upstate New York complete with the N.Y. accented, short-a phonological vernacular.
Mark Swetland, proprietor of a safe and vault cracking company in Cheektowage, New York, was once a martial arts instructor. At the current age of 62, Mark has looked to cracking open safes instead of cracking open heads with his mixed martial art skills but Swetland also once dappled in film, developing his own low-budget Kung-Fu caper, inspired by his martial arts idol, the late and legendary Bruce Lee. Ponying up much of the funds for what would be “Blood and Steel,” Mark poured every ounce of his soul and craft into the film that displays his range as a fighter as well as getting his chops busted in delivering lines and acting out emotions. The former was more of his forte with asserting a magnetic presence as both an onscreen fighter and a competent choreographer to have the fight sequences appear realistic and quick against a slew of antagonistic opponents. As a thespian, Mark often borrows too heavily from Bruce Lee with overzealous fist poses to even echoing Lee’s idiosyncratic short and elongated kiai sounds. Swetland’s one-on-one scene with fellow martial artist David Bobnik, as the hired hitman Steiner, is well thought out coordination with lighting punch-kick combinations that would rival the best genre films of its time. Neither Swetland or Bobnik are overly muscularly cut bodybuilders or the zero percent body fat of Bruce Lee’s rail frame as both men are in an ideal, physically fit shape to add to scenes test of time and doesn’t yell amateur hour of wannabe martial artist attempting half-hearted roundhouse kicks for their low budget movie. “Blood and Steel” round out with a cast that includes Joanne Gargliardo as Mark’s girlfriend, David Male as drug kingpin Mr. Patterson, Elaine Arnone as the slain sister, Diane Zdarksky as the sister’s best friend, Rick Swetland as the sister’s slain husband, and cinematographer Al McCracken has the role of Mark’s best friend and sidekick to the end, Roy.
Influenced by quintessential Bruce Lee films, “Blood and Steel” is entirely an homage to the exceptional action icon. Mark Swetland’s film derives elements from “Enter the Dragon” with a plotline of the protagonists’ sister being killed by a drug trafficking enterprise as well as straight down to Mark Swetland’s yellow tracksuit, the same Bruce Lee wears in “Game of Death” with black lines down the arms and legs. Despite the derivative aspects, Swetland still manages to output an entertaining reel in what has resulted as a passion project that has been stowed away and forgotten only to be unearthed as a transmogrified time capsule of awesomeness. Swetland, who wore many productional hats, also edited, scored, and did sound design with a fair amount of adequate know-how. Transitionally between scenes, “Blood and Steel” works to segue into the next scene with various connective images or fade away dissolve without appearing abrupt or muddled. The additional Foley work, such as the whipping sound of the nunchakus, are done on a synthesizer with an unquestionable audio yield. “Blood and Steel” has a little bit of everything that is very indicative of a Bruce Lee actioner. Dirt bike chases that soar from off of a cliff into an exploding heap at the bottom of a ravine, forward and reverse car chases involving a 80’s Corvette Stinger, practical effects from throats being cut to spike cleats becoming lodged into the back of skulls, ridiculous over-the-head, over-the-knee backbreaking fatalities, helicopter entrances over the colossal Niagara Falls, shotgun squib explosions, and much, much more blood-churning excitement can engage the viewer into “Blood and Steel’s” edge of your seat conflict.
Emerging victorious as a SRS Cinema home video release is the obscure revenge-action thriller “Blood and Steel” on DVD. Presented in the boxy 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the standard definition 720p resolution, plus the type of camera being used seen in the bonus feature’s outtakes and the impurity characteristics of the image quality, all point to a super 8 shot feature. Lined left with barely visible sprocket holes and occasionally lined right, a visible magnetic audio strip, often blue in hue, “Blood and Steel” is without a shadow of a doubt a glorified home movie in the right hands of Mark Swetland. The washed look is a tell sign of no overlay grading, the tri-color emulsion layer remains as the original, natural grading, creating less shadowy contrast but remaining consistent and more-or-less delineated. The English, single-channel mono track is about as flat as a pancake, if a pancake could make noise. With hardly any depth, a steady crackling throughout, and depending on the camera mic placement in the shot, some scenes’ dialogue can barely be heard under what sounds like a soft breath or mumble while others are clearly audible and render no issue with understandability. SRS Cinema’s special features include a Fight Analysis with Mark Swetland and David Bobnik going over scene-by-scene, sometimes in slow-motion repeat, their fight sequences and explaining in commentary fashion how the crew set that all it up. Also included are outtakes, the original trailer, the new trailer, and other SRS trailers! The physical DVD sports the original “Blood and Steel” poster plastered inside a standard DVD case of an 80’s retro-rental mockup with color-coded round stickers of the genre action and of the Please be Kind & Rewind phrase. The disc art is a blowup of Mark Swetland from the original poster art. The film runs at a brisk 87 minutes, is region free, and is not rated. “Blood and Steel” has the independent spirit of the dragon, a fierce and fire-breathing martial arts film with fervent laudation for the late Bruce Lee, and is a white knight knockaround and Kung-Fu Flick that is vengeance glorious.