Cult Movies: Chuck Norris brawls, briefly, in kung fu-crazed 1970s gem Slaughter in San Francisco

A photo of a bare-chested Chuck Norris preparing to beat someone to a pulp as Chuck Slaughter in Slaughter in San Francisco
Chuck Norris might only have 15 minutes of screen time, but he makes them count

YOU know the score, it’s Friday night and you need a little small screen diversion to ease you into the weekend in a suitably good mood.

You could go for something highbrow, intellectually challenging and culturally significant, or you could just opt for something completely brain dead, action-packed and morally questionable.

If the latter wins out for you, let me introduce you to the dubious delights of Slaughter In San Francisco.

A low budget 1974 Kung Fu actioner with an absolute lack of moral compass, this is the kind of cheap and cheerful cult offering that the expression “leave your brain at the door” was coined for.

Utterly generic and resolutely numbskulled throughout, it’s a shameless attempt to cash in on the trend for Westernised martial arts epics that was still paying out at the box office post-Enter The Dragon.

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While it’s not really fit to swing the nunchucks of Bruce Lee or anyone involved in that much-loved exploitation classic, it still makes for a proper fist of fun all the same.

Directed by Wei Lo, it stars martial arts superstar Chuck Norris as Chuck Slaughter, a ruthless big city mafia boss who gets involved when two inner-city police officers, Don Wong (Wong Tao) and John Summer (Robert Jones), save a young woman (Sylvia Chang) who’s being attacked by a gang of local criminals.

Chuck Norris as Chuck Slaughter in 1974's Slaughter in San Francisco
Chuck Norris cuts a faintly comical figure in this 1974 Kung-Fu cash-in

It turns out Slaughter doesn’t like his team getting hassle from the fuzz, but when the same thugs lure Summer to his death down a dark alley, Wong – unaware that his department boss is firmly in the bad guys’ pocket – goes on the warpath to exact revenge for his fallen colleague by finding Slaughter and cutting him down to size.

The fresh transfer for this first time ever Blu-ray release from Eureka Home Entertainment is crisp, the action pumped up from the off and the tone suitably manic throughout, but it remains a grimly 1970s viewing experience all the same.

How much you’ll enjoy it really depends on how much you enjoy the seedier side of the era that fashion forgot, really.

A picture of the Blu-ray box art for Slaughter in San Francisco
The film has been newly restored by Eureka!

Producer Raymond Chow’s desperation to grab the coat-tails of the Bruce Lee market is obvious throughout, from the casting of Chuck Norris – who’d starred opposite Lee in The Way Of The Dragon two years previously – but it never really rises above the level of basic kung fu competence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

In his playboy togs and extra thick 70s pimp glasses, Norris cuts a faintly comical figure, and while he gets star billing, he’s not really the main focus of attention, clocking up little more than 15 minutes on screen.

However, there are fights on the beach, some rooftop fisticuffs and a suitably elongated end battle that allows Norris to shine despite his limited screen time.

Released here in both its Hong Kong and USA Export versions, with a choice of Mandarin and ludicrously dubbed English audio, this isn’t top-notch Asian action – but it’s plenty of fun regardless.