Film Review: Kill or Be Killed (1976)

Also known as: Karate Olympia (South African English title), Karate Killer (original US release)
Release Date: June 17th, 1976 (South Africa)
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: C.F. Beyers-Boshoff
Cast: James Ryan, Charlotte Michelle, Nroman Coombes, Raymond Ho-Tong, Danie DuPlessis, Stan Schmidt

Kavalier Films, Film Ventures International, 90 Minutes

Review:

When I watched and reviewed this film’s sequel, I didn’t know that this one existed. I guess it kind of flew under my radar for years.

Overall, it’s probably a better movie than its sequel but I’d say that it’s less enjoyable, as the sequel was more bonkers than this one and it was just much more over the top.

That’s not to say that this one also isn’t a bit crazy.

The story is about a Nazi general that felt embarrassed when his fighting team lost in the Olympics way back in the day because Miyagi, the leader of the Japanese team, paid off the judges with diamonds. Now, years later, the general trains and holds tournaments in a fortress in the desert.

This brings in James Ryan, as Steve – the same character he plays in the sequel, who is essentially a badass karate fighter that is forced to fight in the Nazi dude’s tournament. This movie is basically a ’90s fighting game with a Nazi twist to it.

Steve and his girlfriend want to escape the Nazi fortress but they run into problems along the way but end up getting assistance from other fighters and a midget that is sympathetic to them, even though he is the henchman of the Nazi general.

See, this movie is pretty nuts.

Anyway, it’s fairly enjoyable for what it is and I loved the locations where this movie was shot. South Africa is pretty beautiful and it provided some spectacular landscapes that made this low budget action flick seem like a much bigger production.

I thought the tournament fights and general action sequences were well done and even though this doesn’t hold a candle to the best action films Cannon made in the ’80s, it really channels the same sort of energy and vibe. It’s almost like this is a proto-Cannon film.

Overall, most people would probably serve themselves best by skipping this movie. But for those of us who enjoy martial arts schlock from outside of the US, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, Kill and Kill Again.

Film Review: Kill and Kill Again (1981)

Also known as: Fighter Gang (Germany)
Release Date: May, 1981
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: John M. Crowther
Music by: Igo Kantor (supervisor)
Cast: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer

APC, Again Productions, Kavalier Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

“My father has been working for several years on a project to extract fuel from potatoes.” – Kandy Kane

Man, I saw this so long ago that I barely remember it. I mostly just geeked out a bit at some visual cues that re-sparked my feelings from the first time I watched this, which would’ve been somewhere in the mid-’80s. I think my cousin had this on a bootleg VHS or we rented it from the Movie Van, a cool van that provided us with lots of ’80s horror, sci-fi and action flicks when we had weekend sleepovers.

Watching it now, it’s still good at its highpoints but a lot of it is kind of boring and drab. It wasn’t as action heavy as I remembered or as the trailer implies. Most of the film is actually about building a badass team to go overthrow an insane dictator with a karate army.

One thing that caught me by surprise, though, was how funny this was. I didn’t remember it being so quippy and maybe that’s because I wouldn’t have noticed that as much as a kid. But the jokes were goofy and fun and made this a really lighthearted romp mixed with Cannon Films style action.

In fact, the humor and action mix reminded me a lot of the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s and early ’90s, once the Israeli director came to the United States and made some awesome D-movie classics.

The bulk of the movie is carried by its star, James Ryan. He’s not a guy that worked a whole lot but he’s always been enjoyable to me, as he’s convincing and charismatic in these sort of roles. Other than this film, he’s probably most known for Space Mutiny and Rage to Kill. He has a sort of poor man’s David Carradine thing going for him.

Side note: this movie is apparently a sequel to a film called Kill or Be Killed, which I have never seen. That film is also referred to as Karate Killer and Karate Olympiad. I’ll have to try and track it down so I can review it.

This is a fun movie at its best but you do have to sit through a lot of talking and a lack of action in parts. There are at least enough action sequences worked in, just when you might start getting too bored to care.

The fight choreography is decent, the plot is bonkers, the acting is barely acting but this still has a lot of heart and is mostly enjoyable.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as most of Cannon’s action flicks from the ’80s.

Film Review: Space Mutiny (1988)

Also known as: Mutiny In Space, Southern Son (South Africa)
Release Date: August, 1988 (US theatrical release)
Directed by: David Winters, Neal Sundstrom
Written by: Maria Dante, Ian Yule
Music by: Tim James, Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: Reb Brown, Cisse Cameron, Cameron Mitchell, James Ryan, John Phillip Law, Graham Clark, Billy Second, Rufus Swart

Action International Pictures, 93 Minutes

spacemutinyReview:

There is shit… and then there is Space Mutiny.

I kind of love Reb Brown, even though he is synonymous for starring in awful movies. Granted, I kind of love awful movies. I must be a sick and twisted person. But there is just something about films that are so flawed that they go beyond being just bad and into the realm of filmmaking insanity.

Space Mutiny is one of those pictures, where it is baffling to try and understand how it got made or why. Did the people working on this see this as quality work? I’m not saying that 100 percent effort wasn’t given but one would have to assume that the people behind this picture are completely devoid of talent and possibly delusional.

The costumes were horrendous. This film came out in 1988 yet the characters were dressed like something out of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie. Ed Wood may have provided his cast with better costumes three decades prior to this picture.

There are only two sets in this film. One is a warehouse and the other is an office building.

The warehouse stands in for just about every action sequence, whether it is the multiple snail-paced security cart chases or the endlessly running around catwalks and railing. It also stands in for the spaceship’s nightclub, which provided the film with a terribly strange sequence.

The office building is used for corridors on the ship, as well as the bridge – a bridge where they use large telephones with cords and bulky keyboards glued to the drywall.

Then you have the space battles. Luckily there are few of those. And to be honest, you might think the effects are somewhat passable for a South African sci-fi film with no budget. The problem, is that those sequences were taken from the original Battlestar Galactica. It is completely disorienting, as I was watching the film and immediately, I knew it was Battlestar Galactica.

Did I mention that there are the dancing space witches that sexually slither around plasma globes like sexy drunk girls Halloween shopping at Spencer Gifts?

Space Mutiny also has atrocious acting but that should probably go without saying.

The film is so awful, that the director claims he left the production before filming began and left those duties in the hands of his assistant. He also claims that he was unable to get an Alan Smithee credit, which is the film industry’s recognized pseudonym used by directors that disown their own work – usually because something happened to destroy their vision for the project.

If you like analyzing the worst films in history, this should probably be on the list of things you need to see. If you hate bad movies and want to avoid them at all costs, wipe this thing’s existence from your memory banks.

Space Mutiny is beyond bad. However, you can watch it in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it ended up being one of the best episodes of Mike Nelson’s run.

Rating: 3.5/10