Day of the Panther & Strike of the Panther (aKa Fists of Blood) are two 1988 direct to video action films directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (Night of the Demons 2, Leprechaun 3/4, Dead End Drive-In, & Turkey Shoot). He also he did some script re-works & re-cast some of the actors after being brought in the last minute. They were both written by stunt coordinator Peter West (Dangerous Game & Among Dead Men) who was the original director of Day of the Panther but he got replaced after four days of filming. It was produced by Grahame Jennings (Howling II: … Your Sister Is a Werewolf, Nightmaster, The Wicked, & The Edge of Power) & Damien Parer (Dead End Drive-In, Silent Reach, No One Can Hear You, & Shame).
They were shot back to back in in Hong Kong & Australia. They were released on VHS by Celebrity Home Entertainment in 1988. Strike of the Panther was re-titled under Fists of Blood & it featured one of the hockey mask henchmen from the film making it look like a horror film & Friday the 13th rip off in some home video markets. It also got some cheap bargain DVD releases from Synergy Entertainment & Mill Creek Entertainment. They were going to make this a trilogy but plans for making “Escape of the Panther” fell through. The budget was $500,000 (AUD) for each film.
In Day of the Panther, William Anderson (John Stanton from Darkness Falls, Vacant Possession, Strike of the Panther, & Rent-a-Cop) retires from the Hong Kong Special Branch & returns to Australia. He knows the secret Temple of the Panther martial arts sect is in good hands now. It’s ran by his daughter Linda (stunt woman Linda Megier from …Almost, Nightmaster, & Two Twisted) & her partner Jason Blade (Edward John Stazak from Strike of the Panther & Black Neon). They end up losing evidence during a drug deal with Hong Kong triad & Baxter (Jim Richard from Strike of the Panther, Dangerous Game, & Black Neon). Baxter is the right hand man for millionaire Damien Zukor (Michael Carman from Killer Elite, The Devil’s Playground, Raw Deal, & The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) who is a known boss of the Australian underworld. Linda tries to do work on her own & pays for it with her life.
Jason is now the main suspect for her death from detective Colin (Zale Daniel from Strike of the Panther) & Constable Lambert (Matthew Quartermaine from Strike of the Panther, Shame, & Heaven Tonight) but Chief Inspector Hudson (Brian Fitzsimmons from Strike of the Panther, Zombie Brigade, & Ship to Shore) knows that he is trying to find the real killer. Jason Blade goes undercover to get revenge & he ends up getting help from Gemma (Paris Jefferson from Strike of the Panther, Dangerous Game, & The Runner) during his investigation. As he gets closer, the stakes get higher for the fighter. He enters Zukor’s annual high stakes martial arts tournament & he knows he will have to face Baxter who has been trying to expose him ever since he joined their crew. Will he find out his true identity before it’s over? Can Blade get his revenge & stop all this crime????
In Strike of the Panther, Jason Blade (Edward John Stazak from Day of the Panther & Black Neon) has trained & put together an elite task force with the help of his old friend William Anderson (John Stanton from Day of the Panther, Tai-Pan, Bellbird, & Homicide). Blade is now in a relationship with Gemma (Paris Jefferson from Day of the Panther, Xena: Warrior Princess, Highlander, & The Diamond of Jeru) but they are starting to have problems. He manages to save the drug addicted daughter (Fiona Gauntlett from Stones of Death, A Country Practice, & The Great Gold Swindle) of a respected member of the community out of a brothel before it becomes a big story & ruins everything for them. His mentor William Anderson is hit by a car & hospitalized.
Baxter (Jim Richard from Day of the Panther, No Escape, & Agent Provocateur) has escaped from prison & he’s looking for revenge. He kidnaps the most important thing in Jason’s life, Gemma & forces the martial artist to save her at an abandoned power station. Sergeant Lucy Andrews (Rowena Wallace from The Dark Room, Cop Shop, The Rovers, & Barrier Reef) is the acting department psychiatrist, she tries to warn Jason about the trap that he’s about to walk into but he refuses to listen to the professional. He is ready to fight the most dangerous & deadliest martial artists around to save his girl. They are all wearing hockey masks & loaded with various weapons. Each level he gets closer to his goal but the whole place is loaded with explosives, can he finish the job before it’s too late????
Did you know that Australian martial arts films existed? Me either until the awesome folks at Umbrella Entertainment sent me this for review. I am a huge Ozploitation & action fan but I’ve never heard of these two direct to video features before this release. Both Panther movies are a tribute & a time capsule to the 80s. Everything from the acting, clothes, fights, dancing, & music, there’s no mystery when this was made. If they made one film instead of doing two cheap ones back to back, I honestly think they could have made a great action flick but they went a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, if it wasn’t for the legendary Brian Trenchard-Smith these would have been beyond awful. He came in the last minute, he changed the scripts & added a better cast right away. Day of the Panther & Strike of the Panther may never be considered action classics but both of them deliver the goods when it comes to this sub-genre. They are action packed & lots of fun. Unintentional humor all over the place increases the entertainment value for these cheap flicks. Considering their extremely low budget, they pulled off a miracle with their ambitious plan. The 2nd film features around 12 minutes of previous footage from the original at the beginning to pad out the short running time.
They also made sure to have one main simple location for the rest of the production so they could make it without whatever they had left from financing the first feature. I can completely understand why Edward John Stazak never became a huge Australian action star after watching these back to back. He’s a horrible actor & his performances were really bad but he knows how to fight! His action scenes were actually very impressive. Lucky for him, he had a solid supporting cast that included John Stanton, Michael Carman, Paris Jefferson, & Rowena Wallace. In Day of the Panther, all the henchmen wore crazy masks & looked like slasher villains. It was strange but I thought it made the characters more interesting. In Strike of the Panther, all the henchmen wore a variety of hockey masks like a crazed army of Jasons from the Friday the 13th franchise but they were all skilled ninjas & fighters. Both had a nice flow to it & it always kept me waiting for more. I preferred Strike over Day, once Jason Blade gets in the abandoned power station, it’s a wild ride filled with non stop action & extreme battles. If you are into Ozploitation, martial arts, action flicks, & cinema that reminds you of the 80s, you will really enjoy this double feature from Umbrella Entertainment. RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s discuss the high definition presentation & special features from Umbrella Entertainment! These 1080p (1.85.1) transfers restored from new 4k restorations of the 35mm interpositives bringing back both direct to video films back to their original aspect ratios has never looked better on home video before! They are huge upgrades compared to the old VHS & bargain DVD releases from the past. Don’t expect reference quality here but for a cheap 80s double feature shot back to back, it looks way better than expected. Day of the Panther & Strike of the Panther both have English language DTS-HD 2.0 mixes here. All the dialogue is clean, the 80s music is banging in your home set up, & all the action is elevated on this. It also has English subtitles. The only extras on the disc is the “Trailers” for each film. It has reversible artwork. This is an all region release so anyone can play this release. It’s available at various locations right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!