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  Death Machines Karate Killers
Year: 1976
Director: Paul Kyriazi
Stars: Ronald L. Marchini, Michael Chong, Joshua Johnson, Mari Honjo, Ron Ackerman, John Lowe, Chuck Katzakian, Edward Blair, Eric Lee, Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith
Genre: Action, Thriller, Martial Arts, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The three deadly killers have reached the end of their training, and after they kill their opponents their boss, Madame Lee (Mari Honjo), prepares to send them out on a mission. She goes to a secret chamber to see the mastermind behind this operation, and he instructs her to set her killers a test: go out and bring down gangsters working as assassins. This they do, throwing one would be gunman off the top of a building, another despatched with a bazooka and a third run over with a tractor as he makes a telephone call. The Death Machines have arrived.

I didn't know tractors were part of the average martial arts training, did you? Well, here's a film to educate you, a low budget item whose opening credits indicate with its painting of a metallic monolith with faces in its sides that this is to be a science fiction movie, an impression quickly dispelled by the rest of the movie which turns out to be a bog standard and decidedly unfuturistic action thriller. Although there is one fantastical element to the proceedings, and that is the invicibility of the killers: no matter how many times they are shot, even if it's a head wound, they carry on regardless.

Needless to say, this is utterly ludicrous from the start, with director Paul Kyriazi and co-writer Joe Walders apparently unable to make up their addled minds about what kind of film they are making here. Is it a mob thriller? A kung fu epic? Or even a moving drama about disability? It's all in there, with various bits and pieces from spy movies, biker movies and television cop shows all mixed in to unfortunate effect. Initially the plot concerns itself with establishing the takeover of the assassins by the death machines, indicating they are about to strike by leaving a red Buddha statuette around.

The significance of that appears to be only that whoever picks the statuette up is about to get his ass handed to him, and so it happens, with one martial arts school looking to be the worst of all time as when the outnumbered trio strike, the pupils run about in a panic. What were they teaching them at this school? Anyway, one of those pupils is Frank (John Lowe), who loses his hand in the commotion and ends up in hospital with the bad guys intent on crushing his hopes of recovery and romance with his nurse by bumping him off for good.

Why do they want to do this? It's never clear, making you wonder if this was being made up as it went along. This is where the police procedural stuff comes in and we follow a Lieutenant Forrester (Ron Ackerman) as he tries to track down the villains. But only for a while, because once Frank escapes peril once more we simply must watch him coming to terms with having one hand for interest-sapping scenes. After a while it's identifying the lunacies in Death Machines that keeps you watching: Madame Lee is a strange creature, with English obviously not her first language and a massive black wig perched on her head that is almost as tall as she is. Also notable is the electronic score, which gives new meaning to the word "noodling" and the way in which the film doesn't even have a proper ending, unless you call that five minute freeze frame a finale. It's baffling but compelling, though not in a good way.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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