Tuesday, September 4, 2012

KILL AND KILL AGAIN

By the late 70s-early 80s, U.S. exploitation film distributors had run out of Bruce Lee movies to feed martial arts-hungry drive-in and grindhouse crowds. While there were plenty of other Chinese kung fu flicks available, there was a suspicion among distributors and exhibitors that their inherent "foreignness" was limiting the audience.

Fortunately, Western martial artists like Chuck Norris and indie studios like American Cinema were rising to the demand for English-language fight flix designed specifically for American theatergoers. Among that first wave of customized karate capers were two films starring South African actor James Ryan: 1976's KILL OR BE KILLED, and its follow-up/semi-sequel, KILL AND KILL AGAIN (1981), which has just been given a widescreen DVD release from Scorpion Releasing.

A scientist named Dr. Horatio Kane (John Ramsbottom) has discovered how to make a gasoline substitute fuel from potatoes. Oddly, this same chemical concoction makes a powerful mind control drug. Dr. Kane is kidnapped by a man named Marduk (Michael Mayer, "Little Ricky" from the original I LOVE LUCY), who uses the serum to take control of an entire town. Freelance secret agent and martial arts champion Steve Chase (James Ryan, SPACE MUTINY) is paid $5 million by a group of wealthy businessmen to rescue the scientist. Accompanied by the doctor's daughter, Kandy Kane (Anneline Kriel), and a group of mercenaries with such colorful sobriquets as "Hotdog" (Bill Flynn), "Fly" (Shotokan karate expert Stan Schmidt), "Gypsy Billy" (Norman Robinson), and "Gorilla" (Ken Gampu, ZULU DAWN), Chase sets out to retrieve the kidnapped chemist from "New Babylonia," battling wave after wave of Marduk's mind-controlled soldiers every step of the way...

Pure, joyously unrelenting nonsense, KILL AND KILL AGAIN is shamelessly stupid... and highly entertaining. Despite the lurid title, this is PG-rated, comic book action, with bizarre characters, a ludicrous story, lots of stunts, and cheapjack production values. Our "professional" heroes take several days to drive to their target in a Land Rover, but don't bother to bring a map. They keep stopping to ask for directions - and are attacked by Marduk's cronies every time they do! As Marduk, Mayer wears the worst fake beard ever seen on screen, and if the script ever says where "New Babylonia" is, I missed it - whatever country it's supposed to be in uses American currency, but everyone speaks with a South African accent. The movie is action-packed, however, with a multiplayer fight scene every few minutes, and may also include the very first "bullet time" effect ever seen on film.

While previously available as a low-quality, pan & scan disc, the new "30th Anniversary Special Edition" DVD from Scorpion Releasing presents KILL AND KILL AGAIN at its proper 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio for the first time on U.S. home video. The brand new anamorphic transfer from the original interpositive is pretty damned nice, too, considering the film's age, cheap film stock and low budget filming. There are a few specks and lines here and there, but not enough to be distracting. The Mono audio track is adequate, if a bit flat. Scorpion has rounded up a few cool supplements for this edition, including an isolated music track, an audio interview/commentary by actor James Ryan, a video interview with writer John Crowther (THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, MISSING IN ACTION), and the original theatrical trailer.

KILL AND KILL AGAIN is a decidedly goofy but genuinely fun martial arts romp, with nearly non-stop action and an honest sense of humor. Its tiny budget is evident in every frame, but it earnestly wants to please, and that counts for a lot.

Now if Scorpion Releasing could just secure the rights to KILL OR BE KILLED....

BUYKill And Kill Again (Widescreen Remastered Edition)