SassyFlix | Death Promise

Death Promise

  • R
  • 1977-08-01
  • 01:35:00
  • Action


In an era and landscape where tenants are mute witnesses to the unfettered whims, fancies and cruelties inflicted upon them by their tyrannical landlords, a fighter decides to make a stand. In his worldview, kung fu solves all problems. He also has the added fire pushing him in his quest to find and avenge the murder of his father at the hands of his oppressive landlords.


It is with glee in our hearts and clumsy 70s karate vengeance on our minds that we present to you the amazing, undefinable Death Promise. So goofy, so full of confused non-actors wandering through their dialogue like kids lost at the mall, and with so much more gentle sincerity than you’d expect in a movie about systematic revenge against a group of evil slumlords. It’s Guy From Harlem meets Kill Bill meets an after-school special about friendship - in other words, we really like it.

Death Promise is the story of the two least convincing Bruce Lee clones ever, one harbouring an obsession to put his arms around his friends.  Given his miniscule size it’s a wonder he can ever get his arm around them.

The lead is actually the chronic hugger, who probably should stick to ripping off Bruce’s attire, however he may have inspired Steven Seagal’s wacky dress sense.

He lives in a rundown apartment with his father.  When the dodgy landlords try to use unethical methods to get the tenants out, things get heated. But no amount of heat can stop our hero from his second favourite pass time (his first is using karate to fight injustice), putting his arm around his pals.


Weird, nostalgic, absurd and totally... Wonderful!!!

This "kung-fu"-movie from the seventies is a pretty interesting piece of work. It features all the classic themes of such a movie; revenge, corny acting, weird sound-effects and a complete in-comprehensive final scene - fighting on the roof tops.

Basically it's about Charlie Bone (or Charles Bonet, it's never really clear - the actors name is also Charles Bone) who's feisty father gets killed by hoodlums hired by a rich landlord who wishes to tear one of his skid-row houses down. So Charlie goes out on a rampage to revenge his father and stop the evil doers. Together with his friend Speedy Little (or Speedy Leacock, it's never quite clear either...) they go around kicking a** and, one by one, expedite the bad guy's henchmen.

This would be an OK film to watch. To seriously watch. As a kung-fu movie. But there's so many errors and weird stuff going on here that it actually turns into a comedy. For example: dead guy shrieks when thrown off a building and so on.

The high vote is cast because it's great comical value and also the movie's high entertainment rate. A must see!!! You'll laugh your a** off!

70's magic

One of the classic low budget 70's movies, this film was found in a bargain video shop in London for only 50p. (interestingly, the package lists the star of the film as 'Charles Bone', who sounds like a porn star, but once the credits role it's obvious that the picture is aligned to far the right of the TV screen, so that all the cast members have the last letter missing from their names)

From the moment the narrator lamely introduces us to the situation that the desperate tenants of a grimy New York City apartment block, you know you're in for a rollercoaster ride of fromage. The direction is from the 'Ed Wood one-take' school - if one or two extras were looking at the camera crew, then what the hell?

The films finishes with a plot twist that puts The Usual Suspects to shame. Buy it now.

Wow. This is a real classic

This movie stands for entertanment. Its the funniest movie I have ever seen. The lines, the acting. And the clothes, wow, talk about 70:s. If you ever see this little gem, buy it. Its worth every penny. By the way, the opening song is awsome. 

75 cent bargain spoiler for this crap? you got to be kidding!

This is a spectacular crappy movie that I saw back in the early 80's on a double feature with a Jim Kelly film called Death Dimension. The song has stayed in my head for over 25 years. Something like "Death Promise, I'm gonna get you ,Death Promise..." 6 months ago I'm looking around in a video rental place and they have a bin full of movies for 75 cents, a buck, a buck 25. I saw it and couldn't believe it. Bought it and showed it to my wife saying to her that it is part of my childhood. She almost passes out from laughing out loud. Her favorite scene is the bag full of rats and the sucker put behind the bull's eye. PFFFFFFFFFFT!!! If I see this on DVD I'll pass out from shock. Notice the people looking straight at the camera, totally unprofessional, but heartwarming to me.

Gem of all gems!

First time I ever saw this was at a friends house. It ended up in his parents hands by a fluke; some videostore/bicycle repair shop!! went bankrupt and treats like this was up for grabs. We saw it two times in a row and almost wet are pants how hard we laughed.

I've seen historical documents like Ninja Mission and Plan 9 from Outer Space, and they still remain good runners-up in comparison to this one.

Almost 15 years after first contact it is now considered the best cult movie of all times (in my circles); I've showed it to all my friends... We now have a tradition of searching for movies in the same category: the un-rateable one.

It can't be explained or reviewed in any normal way because every scene, every take, every move, contains at least one mistake regarding editing, dialouge, directing etc.

For any cult-movie buff this is the ultimate prize, the gem of all gems.

Raiting: As for craft it can't be rated, because it would even be an insult to homemade videos of birthdays and weddings.

As for pure amusement it is the funniest movie I have ever seen; funnier than any comedy ever made past or present. Anything less than a 10/10 should be regarded as an insult to good sense of hum our.

"Death Promise" makes good on word.

"Death Promise" is a lost 70's exploitation gem and deserves to be seen. Technically somewhat of a mess and boasting a stock of amateur New Yawk types, this film never bores. I highly recommend tracking this down. It's a hoot and a half.

Everything about this movie is just so great, enjoyable and fun

Warning: Spoilers

Buddies Charley Roman (Bonet) and Speedy Leacock (Leacock) love nothing more than training in Martial Arts at the Ridgefield Self Defense Academy in New York City under Master Shibata (Kang). But something is upsetting their normally peaceful lives. Evil, ruthless landlords - and their goons, mind you - are trying all sorts of nefarious tactics to get tenants to move out, such as turning off heat, electricity and water. When Charley's father, Louis (O'Connell), a feisty ex-boxer, tells everyone to stand strong and not give in, the antagonists graduate to more creative and dangerous means to flush out tenants. Starting all the trouble is a diabolical planning and zoning board, that naturally consists of a team of ethnic stereotypes. Jackson, Albano, Mirsky and Engstrom (Black, Italian, Jewish and WASP, respectively, played by Hendy, De Caprio, Kendell and Kirk, respectively), headed by the George Plimpton-like E. Bartley Alden (Van Lynn) want the land a particular building is on. And they have shirtless Kung-Fu fighting goons to ensure they get it. When Louis Roman is caught in the crossfire, Charley resolves to make the planning and zoning/stereotype board pay, so he travels to Asia to train even more in Martial Arts. While training under Master Ying (Liu), he meets young, enthusiastic fighter Sup Kim (Louie) who agrees to help him on his quest for revenge. Now with Charley, Speedy and Sup Kim prepared to take on the baddies, prepare for the ultimate real estate war as Charley vies to fulfill his DEATH PROMISE! It's hard to put into words just how much we LOVE Death Promise. We, and our circle of friends, have all watched it multiple times and it's become part of the fabric of our lives. Forget cotton, give me Death Promise any day! It's even become a sort of shorthand, for example, when discussing a certain movie, we might say, "Well, it's no Death Promise, but..." Such is the level of awesome-tude we're dealing with here. To us, anyway, this is an all-time classic and one of our "desert island" movies, for sure.

Cementing its status as legendary movie, it was packaged in a big-box Paragon with iconic, unmistakable box art. But the movie within is what counts. It has gritty NYC locations, and the World Trade Center towers figure prominently in the background of many shots, even, poignantly, during the final battle. This was the late 70's, the height of Bruce Lee mania, and here is a prime example of Bellbottom Kung Fu, where dudes with amazing patterns on their tight, wide-collared shirts kick each other with the massive lengths of fabric at the bottom of their pants. Bill Louie even appeared in Bruce cash-in The Dragon and the Cobra (1980). So while most people were busy waiting in line for Star Wars in 1977, those truly in the know were diggin' Death Promise.

Stacking another brick in the wall of awesome is the title song by Opus. It's beyond funky. It's almost like their mandate before recording the song was "out-funk Shaft, out-funk Super Fly, out-funk Trouble Man, just out-funk everybody". We believe they succeeded. The song is a new, mutant strain of super-funk. It destroys all funk that came before it. If there's ANY way to get this song in any form, let us know. As for the movie itself, it sadly was interestingly-named director Robert Warmflash's only directorial effort to date. We really wish he had done more, but we count ourselves as lucky we have this. It was many cast members' only effort as well, and the technical aspects of this movie are pretty amateurish, but so what? It adds charm and provenance. Give us a movie that's a little rough around the edges, but has originality and personality, rather than the soulless Hollywood schlock that's coming to theaters today. There are some amazing situations and line readings that are absolutely priceless. Death Promise was clearly made for the 42nd Street audiences of the day, who were not well-known for paying strict attention to technical details. Warmflash probably never imagined it would even have a life on VHS, but it does. To us, it will always have a place in our hearts.

Everything about this movie is just so great, enjoyable and fun, from the narration that only appears once at the beginning of the movie, to the overall concept about evil landlords, to the super-secret "Mr. Big" who has a cat and predates Inspector Gadget's Dr. Claw by many years. Not to mention Mirsky's car phone - which is a rotary phone (talk about big pimpin'), and the fact that there's a main character named Master Shibata, but it sounds like everyone is calling him "Master Ciabbata", which makes him sound like some sort of Bread Sensei. There's so much more we didn't even mention. While the magic of Death Promise could never be duplicated, a movie that's similar in feel is Gang Wars (1976). Both were distributed by classic NYC exploitationeers Mahler film. But only one has Warhawk Tanzania. We'll let you guess which one.

We can't speak highly enough of Death Promise. It's truly one of our favorite films.

For more action insanity, drop by:

A 70s karate/kung fu film with excellent end fight sequence

A group of evil businessmen need to knock down a building to build a huge complex, but they can't remove the tenants. The tenants and businessmen with their hired thugs clash until the film ends with one of the funniest fights ever! The guy with the ginger hair who goes 'eeeeehhhh' every time he throws a punch and the other guy who poses with a knife in his mouth instead of fighting, only to be beaten off camera, make this essential viewing if you like to laugh at films rather than with them.

I promise I will write another comment on a "bad" motion picture!

I always keep my promises on writing about movies like this, and it pays off. Usually, there isn't much specific detail I can give you because it's your basic low-budget format containing elements tried before. This one is pure 70s as it gets! DEATH PROMISE is a grade-Z actioner that has a few things going for it. Sort of like THE KARATE KID being ahead of its time. While typical, it sets in an urbanized locality that perfectly explains the nature of it all. The sensai can't act very well, and sounding almost like Mr. Rogers. A couple of infamous, shocking moments may give you severe bullemia, including a bag full of hungry RATS tied onto a guy's head! Other times, you will be truly amazed by how often a microphone hangs on the top of your TV screen! You can see it jerking and moving, and it's highly noticeable! It also has the downright FUNKIEST sounding opening-closing theme music in movie history, thanks to a soul group named Opus! Not many of you will be able to look for this movie. If you do, I hope you're not lying and saying to everybody that you have! That's a promise.

Low rent martial arts mayhem

Warning: Spoilers

DEATH PROMISE is a low rent urban martial arts film from 1977, shot in New York on a remarkably low budget. The story is about a bunch of ruthless landlords who terrorise their tenants and end up committing murder. The victim's son swears revenge and teams up with a bunch of martial arts experts to train and exact it.

This is very much a product of its time so expect lots of wacca-wacca guitar music and massive flares. The street grittiness of New York during the era is well captured. The script is pretty poor, with risible dialogue, and the acting fails to ignite the screen to boot. It's amusing to see all of the Asian stereotypes in the cast list. Worst of all, the slow fight scenes are nothing to get excited about, and that rooftop fight at the climax is completely interminable.


Rinky-dink thrills which pit a young martial arts student against a group of evil suits, the villains responsible for his father's death.

A definite winner for anyone interested in grindhouse action films of the 70s, this one is as entertaining as it is entirely preposterous, with obligatory "wakka-wakka-waa" guitar interludes. Plethoric tired clichés and ham-handed performances may well give you a good laugh, but DEATH PROMISE will simultaneously treat you to some decent fight scenes and a few gratis gore moments.

Not all types with find this one chewable, but a select few folks will dig the retrocious charm of this funky little cost-friendly quickie...if, that is, they are fortunate enough to find a copy.


Warning: Spoilers

To me, the 1970's are best remembered for three types of movies; Eco-Horror/Sci-Fi, Kung Fu movies (especially the early half of the decade) and revenge movies! Death Wish, the Outlaw Josey Wales, Enter the Dragon, Mad Max, The Abominable Doctor Phibes, Lady Snowblood, Rolling Thunder, Foxy Brown, I Spit on Your Grave, and now I have to add the tremendous Death Promise to the list. I don't know how this got past me in the 70's. I was 16 when it came out and don't remember seeing the poster. But I watched it today and LOVED it. No, it's not great cinema like say, The Seven Samurai, but what it is is entertaining as hell! Obviously heavily influenced by Bruce Lee's movies and moves, this fun film had a lot going for it. For one thing, Speedy, the hero's black friend, LIVES. That's amazing in it's own since the minute a black friend showed up on film in nearly any movie - they might have well been wearing a sign that said: DEAD SOON. Also, the guys doing the Kung Fu, look like they know how to do it. Not some silly fake Kung Fu. Charles Bonet may not be the best actor, nor is Speedy Leacock, but they bring a lot of sincerity to their roles. They have a good rapport together. Bob O'Connell is good as Charley's dad and has a great line where he calls both Charley and Speedy his sons. Also, the people living in the tenement, like living there. They want to stay there! But the rich pigs want that land. A lot of greedy people in the 70's, looking down on the little people. My favorite deaths in this movie (and if you don't like death why watch a REVENGE movie?) are the guy Charley leaves tied to the back of an archery target - very unique. And Speedy stuffing the Harlem drug dealers head into a bag of rats! Also lifting the murder from You Only Live Twice, where a ninja drips poison down to kill Bond and gets his 'wife' instead, was whack! Finally, one of the best things was this was when filmmakers used New York - who is a character herself - for filming. No going to Toronto or Vancouver and pretending it's NY. Dirty, grimy, crowded, the city is a character in itself and it was good to see the old lady!

How can one movie be so bad, yet so watchable at the same time?

A group of Fat Cats has their eye on a couple of buildings that they'd like to level and redevelop. The problem is that the buildings are home to several dozen people. The Fat Cats decide to do what they can to force the tenants to leave - turn off the water, attack residents, release a box of rats, etc. When everything else fails, the Fat Cats approve the murder of the tenants' leader. But Charley Roman isn't going to sit by and let his father's murderers go unpunished. He takes the law into his own hands and uses his martial arts skills to exact revenge.

How can one movie be so bad, yet so watchable at the same time? Death Promise really tests my notion that I rate films primarily on entertainment value, because everything else you can name about Death Promise is bottom-of-the-barrel. Pathetic acting, horrible lighting, lazy one-take direction, ridiculous plot, bad make-up, silly dialogue, "stagey" fight choreography, a "twist" ending that should surprise no one, incomprehensible lapses in logic (more on that later) - Death Promise has it all. One of the more annoying facets of the film is how the title - Death Promise - actually relates to the film. After his father's death, Charley Roman engages in an ongoing conversation with his dead father where he "promises" to avenge his "death". This monologue happens at regular intervals for at least half the film. Silly doesn't begin to describe this plot device.

However, despite all the flaws, Death Promise still manages to be surprisingly watchable - if not entertaining at times. What's Death Promise got going for it? First, they may not be real actors, but Charles Bonet and Speedy Leacock seem to know their martial arts. Their kicks, jumps, and punches look authentic. Second, I know it's unintentional, but the bad guys are so clichéd, they end up being a real hoot. I had more fun watching this group than I could have ever hoped. Third, Death Promise has a really cool bow-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack that worked on me. Gotta love these 70s films. Finally, Death Promise falls solidly into that "so bad it's good" category. I never like using the phrase, but it applies here. Considering the good and the bad, I think my 5/10 rating seems about right.

I previously mentioned incomprehensible logic. Well, here's what I mean. BIG TIME SPOILER Charley Roman wants revenge for his father's death. His martial arts instructor, Master Shibata, advises him to seek out some special training from another martial arts master. Charley Roman returns home more ready than ever to face his father's killers. How absolutely illogical is it when we discover (and it's no real surprise) that Shibata is the head baddie? So, Shibata sends Charley Roman for more training so that he can return to face him. What? How does that make any sense in the slightest? END BIG TIME SPOILER

Ouch! Christ - my ears!!! to will you be bemoaning the same auric pain if you sit through the final 20 or so minutes of this enjoyable martial arts knock about. In fact, said final minutes are amongst the noisiest I have ever sat through in a movie as a series of vicious fights ensue with the combatants yelling madly at the top of their voices before and as they pummel the crap out of each other with lethal blows.

Yes, as other reviewers have quite rightly noted, this my friends is a gloriously bad movie boasting some pretty terrible performances throughout by everyone concerned in addition to a threadbare plot, more clichés than I care to mention and a somewhat predictable 'twist' ending. is just so much damn fun! From the funky soundtrack to the cool seventies fashions and of course the plethora of fights that break out virtually every few minutes, there is certainly never a dull moment.

Best scene? Well for me it has to be a fight near the end wherein two of our heroes tackle some of the bad guys in an office including a mad blonde geezer called Mike who proceeds to scream like a banshee as he fights and another frizzy haired guy who, after taking off his shirt in a decidedly macho gesture, puts a knife between his teeth and starts flexing his pecs whilst yelling at the top of his lungs(!) Why was he doing this? - Who the hell knows but it certainly made me laugh like hell.

Great fun and dig that cool title song! Groovy!!!!