27 Apr

Forgotten Cult Hero Michael Sopkiw and the Hillbilly Revenge Flick Blastfighter

Posted by Tim Fife | Sunday April 27, 2008 | Reviews


Most cult actors have a great catalog of movies behind them establishing their place in the film world. Yet some only make a few movies, if that, and then seemingly drop off the face of the Earth. A great example is Peter Bark, whose only credited screen role is Burial Ground (1981, aka Nights of Terror), where he plays a creepy looking ten year old (even though the actor is clearly in his twenties), becomes a zombie and bites his mother’s breast off (a truly unforgettable role!).

Michael Sopkiw is another example of this phenomena; Sopkiw made four movies in his brief film career before he slipped away into obscurity. Sopkiw began his career in movies after he was caught trafficking marijuana into the States and needed some cash. He signed up at a modeling agency, where he eventually caught the eyes of Italian director Sergio Martino who cast him in the starring role of the Escape From New York styled post apocolypse movie 2019:After the Fall of New York (1983).

After the success of that film, Sopkiw caught the eye of another famous Italian director, Lamberto Bava. Bava cast him in the starring role of his amazing stinker of a Jaws ripoff, Devil Fish (1984) which is notable to American audiences for being one of the many tragic films to appear on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Bava then cast Sopkiw in his next film Blastfighter (1984), an Italian amalgamation of Rambo; First Blood and Deliverance. Originally set to be another one of Martino’s science fiction films, the film ran into production troubles and longtime Lucio Fucli collaborator Dardano Sacchetti was asked to make a new script. The production company however had already bought the name Blastfighter, so they used it anyways.

The plot of Blastfighter has a pretty basic revenge theme running throughout. “Tiger” Sharp is an ex-cop who killed a crooked politician who killed his wife and gets sent to prison. When he gets out, he returns to his hillybilly hometown, where he is greeted with very little southern hospitality. He runs into his old friend Tom (played by the great Italian cult actor George Eastman), who heads a redneck gang that kills animals and sells them to China for medicinal purposes (how do people come up with these ideas?!!). Tiger gets into a few runs with the gang, and at one point they even kill his pet doe in retaliation (which is honestly a pretty brutal scene to have to watch). Out of nowhere, Tiger’s long lost daughter Connie shows up to become reaqauinted with him. She is eventually molested and killed by the gang, which of course prompts Tiger to, what else, but take revenge.

Blastfighter is a pretty fun movie to watch. It is certainly one of Bava’s most entertaining jaunts (possibly as much as his 1985 hit Demons), and Quentin Tarantino is famously quoted saying it is Lamberto Bava’s best movie. The movie is, however, a good contender for a gulity pleasure as the plot is pretty stupid and could basically be nonexistent. Although it is shot decently, it’s no contender to any of Lamberto’s famous father Mario Bava’s ouput. But these things aside, it’s well paced, has plenty of action, and any movie George Eastman is in is usually good just because he’s in it (I don’t know. His role in Emanuelle Around The World is pretty ridiculous –ed.). You don’t get the impression it’s something Bava was proud of though, as he credits himself as John Old Jr. in the credits.

Sopkiw made his last film, the psuedo cannibal-action-movie Massacre In Dinosaur Valley (aka Cannibal Ferox 2, 1985), which undoubtably made him, like any of us that saw this movie, want to forget about Italian cinema for good. During the filming of the latter movies, Sopkiw met a group of metaphysical students in Switzerland who developed natural remedies and has devoted his life to selling their products ever since.

Blastfighter is unfortunately out of print, and has never been released on DVD stateside. Its really kind of amazing that companies like Blue Underground or Anchor Bay haven’t picked it up yet. It is available through certain “underground” film sites if you know what I mean. Also check the movie out for the killer score by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (credited as Andrew Barrymore), which has one of the best Italo influenced themes you will ever hear (and was so good they used it again for Massacre in Dinosaur Valley). Enjoy, and after you see it can try and figure out what the Blastfighter is in the story; is it him, or his gun.. I have no fucking idea.


  1. April 27, 2008 7:36 pm

    Bryan White

    How the hell do you pronounce Michael Sopkiw’s last name, anyway?

  2. April 27, 2008 10:13 pm

    Remo D.

    “Sopkiw” is pronounced “Sop-kee,” and “John M. Old, Jr.” is Lamberto’s tribute to his father (who used the name “John M. Old” when requested to adopt “an old American name” for his pseudonym on THE WHIP AND THE BODY/WHAT!

  3. April 28, 2008 4:21 am

    Tim Fife

    I still stand by my statement about Eastman. I think he’s the best part of Emanuelle Around the World, and even made Erotic Nights of the Living Dead somewhat watchable. Plus, can you imagine Ironmaster without him; hell no.

  4. April 30, 2008 10:02 am


    you might be interested in our interview with Michael from a few years ago:

  5. May 5, 2008 12:21 pm

    Tim Fife

    I love that article, and your site.

  6. May 14, 2008 7:04 pm

    vor redfellow

    i saw this movie when i was 8 years old and 14 years later it still kicks ass, and the SPAS 12 kicks ass too!

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