“Shut up, you shitty skunk or I’ll tear your tongue out!”
The roll of dishonour which constituted the “Section 3 video nasties” (i.e. liable for confiscation but not prosecution) was every bit as randomly thrown together as the list that the DPP compiled of their fully fledged “nasty” cousins, a real grab bag of the cinematic good, bad and what the actual fuck?!? Prominent among the latter was Paul Gray / Grau’s Mad Foxes. Although VCL’s VHS edition was significantly cut (notably missing a Nazi biker choking on his own severed genitals and another enjoying a bowel movement until somebody throws a hand grenade down the pan), in the UK the early ’80 were the best of times, the worst of times to release a tape with the legend: ” Warning: This is an extremely violent film which could seriously disturb you” emblazoned across its pack.
Rewinding 50 years, does anybody (apart from Darrell Buxton, obviously) remember the Laurel & Hardy shorts Them Thar Hills and (its sequel) Tit For Tat? Those are the ones in which Stan & Olly take turns with Charlie Hall to perpetrate ever more surreal and outrageous acts of violence upon each other. Nobody tries to de-escalate the situation or even evade their turn on the receiving end, content that they’ll soon be able to retaliate with a real doozy. It’s like watching public information films explaining the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction. I consider it not entirely impossible (though admittedly unlikely) that Gray / Grau regarded Mad Foxes as an unofficial entry in the same series. If he did, no doubt he directed it under the working title Shit For Tat.
The action kicks off with Hal Walters (“Robert O’Neal” = José Gras) out cruising in his Corvette Stingray with his best girl Babsy (“Sally Sullivan” = Andrea Albani) by his side, until they get into a little traffic light altercation with the lamest motorcycle gang since Homer Simpson formed a chapter of Hell’s Satans. Seriously, these guys ride around on trials bikes (the budget obviously wouldn’t stretch to Harleys) and one of them actually sits in his mate’s sidecar! Nor can they seemingly conclude a run without at least one of them falling off their vehicles. Plastered as they with swastikas, these guys’ political leanings are no big secret and their sexual orientation is scarcely less easy to discern… lots of lumbering around naked, with taut buttocks clenching and soft knobs dangling. If it’s any consolation for this flaccid disappointment, Hans R. Walthard (who produced Mad Foxes with Eurotrash legend Erwin C. Dietrich) is anglicised into “Woodhard” on that video sleeve. I guess there could be a hard core edit of Mad Foxes somewhere but if it exists, I really don’t want to see it.
Hal runs one of these bully boys off the road, with fatal consequences. Obviously not wanting to let this disagreeable interlude ruin the romantic evening they had in prospect, Hal and Babsy adjourn to a swinging hot spot, where a jitterbugging competition is in full, anachronistic flow. Do these guys know how to party or what? Unfortunately, as they leave, the waiting bikers beat up on Hal and rape Babsy.
Hal rings his mate Linus at a martial arts club, the ambience of which seem scarcely more heterosexual than that prevailing in the motorcycle gang, its bare chested members (including the mandatory Bruce Lee lookalike) going through their sweaty paces in a broom cupboard sized gym. Good job this joint was closed (under the alarming circumstances described below) before social distancing became de rigeur. “Babsy was raped the other day and I went you to do me a little favour”, Hal tells Linus. “We’ve gotta give those pigs a good whipping…” agrees the latter: “You know our methods!”
The bikers are cremating their pal Jimmy, with attendant manly drinking games, at a local amphitheatre (where else?) when Linus and co turn up. “Let’s teach these skunks a good lesson” he implores his students, but what ensues is one of the limpest dust ups in action cinema history. Nobody’s winning any Oscars for the fight choreography here. “Stunts” are attributed to one Ronnie Lee, though Mad Foxes seems to be his first and final film credit. Things climax in memorable style though, with the Nazi biker honcho’s aforementioned castration and enforced genital auto-ingestion, a move straight out of the sho’nuff Shaolin handbook.
With Babsy avenged and apparently recovering in hospital, Hal is soon off shagging somebody else and the matter seems successfully concluded… but violence begats violence and the remaining bikers (announced by the disco music that heralds their every appearance) visit the kung fu clubhouse to establish conclusively that martial arts, of whatever sexual persuasion, are no match for machine guns and hand grenades.
Having gotten the gay kung fu dudes into another fine mess, Hal decides he’d better take a cooler and heads off to his parents’ country pile in the Stingray. En route he picks up promiscuous hitch hiker Lily and invites her to stay with him and the folks for the weekend, advising her that mom “fell from a horse and now she’s paralytic”. Dad’s a bit of a stock market whizz and “they never lock their doors”, which is convenient for the bikers when they, inevitably, arrive. Needless to say, before they do, Hal fits in another bonking session. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this moment” he tells Lily, a weird thing to say to a hitch hiker he only met a few hours ago, but we’ll let it pass. Plenty stranger things than that happen in this film…
… and continue to do so as the bikers kill the gardener with his own shears, unconvincingly disembowel the hilariously badly dubbed (in broad cockney) maid and shoot everybody else up. “We’re the kings of the universe… the whole world will admire us!” is their verdict on their bloody handiwork. Well, perhaps not, though the scene in which Hal’s crippled mother gets blown out of her wheelchair is undeniably, unforgivably funny. Returning to discover this scene of carnage, Hal is understandably keen to find where the bikers are hiding out. Luckily he gets into a casual conversation with a bloke from the local garage, who can tell him precisely that. But is he sure they’re talking about the same guys? “Yeah, they have helmets and dirty hair”. Hal’s revenge includes hand grenade enemas and a session with a Nazi dominatrix before that dickless wonder from the amphitheatre atrocity pops up again for a truly explosive finale.
It took four people (Grau, Walthard, Melvin Quiñones and Jaime Jesús Balcázar) to write this thing, which is surprising enough. What’s really surprising, though, is that not one of them appear to have compared notes with the other three on what, exactly, they were writing. Mad Foxes is so relentlessly random, it’s kind of the trash film equivalent to Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, the lyrics of which comprise elusive allusions to songs that The Zim envisaged he would never live to complete in the wake of the Cuba missile crisis. What was Paul Grau envisaging when he directed Mad Foxes? If it was a long and illustrious directing career, he will have been disappointed. He did manage one more directing credit two years later, with a more typical outing from the Erwin Dietrich stable, a film whose title translates (loosely) as Six Sexy Swedish Girls Up A Mountain and which sounds as self-consciously straight as Mad Foxes is coyly gay. Those sexy Swedish girls might well have been up a mountain, but the film under review here will always remain Paul Grau’s career pinnacle (and no, I’ve got no idea whether he was related to the late Manchester Morgue mainman Jorge Grau or not).