• Killing Machine (Adness) DVD Review

    Released by: Adness
    Released on: October 6th, 2004.
    Director: Norifumi Suzuki
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shiomi, Tetsuro Tamba, Yutaka Nakajima, Sanae Kitabayashi
    Year: 1975
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    Killing Machine – Movie Review:

    Sinichi "Sonny" Chiba, the man with the sideburns and the karate skills that only a 70's action hero can maintain, is a veritable killing machine. At least that's the vibe you get from this aptly-titled martial arts flick from director Norifumi Suzuki. Chiba's screen presence is easily comparable to that of the most famous fight flick forefather of all, Bruce Lee. It's all about intensity with the Cheebster, and his brand of 'mean man' fight tactics can be seen in all its glory in this 1975 historical martial arts film Killing Machine.

    Sonny Chiba is Doshin So, an agent for the Japanese Secret Service, and a man with some serious martial arts style. After that brief international incident known as World War II, he finds his country in shambles, and his panties in a bunch. Clearly a bitter and resentful young man, his animosity reaches its boiling point when a young whippersnapper from his hood is run over by a couple of American G.I.s who obviously did not graduate from the Sears Driving School. After breaking them off a lil' somethin', literally, he gets tossed in the hokey, but not after treating the audience to a dazzling display of handcuffed fisticuffs. After his release, he continues on the path of ass-kickery while somehow finding time to hang with some orphans and, umm, a pretty whore.

    Lots of melodrama happens, until finally So opens up his own dojo to school the young’ins in Ass Kicking 101. But all hell breaks loose when some mobsters start throwing their weight around and want their cut. Sonny is not having any of this, and he proceeds to carry out his agenda of ass whoopin' in a major way.

    Hardcore action aficionados might have a hard time with the ponderous scenes of melodrama, and the talky plot development stuff really seems to drag at time. There are times in this film where you might find yourself just wanting to get to the next fight scene, seeing as how the main reason we watch these films is to see Chiba kick people in all his slow motion glory. But luckily, as far as action goes, this flick delivers. Chiba punches. Chiba kicks. Chiba even rips a guy's balls off and feeds them to a dog. And while you might not want to let him take care of your pets over the weekend, he sure can dominate the screen with his tough guy panache, and crisp karate technique.

    The director also infuses the film with many visual niceties that viewers might appreciate, such as the scene in which Chiba has a contemplative moment while snow gently falls around him, it sort of harkens back to Lady Snowblood made two years prior, while the night club scene is reminiscent of a similar scene in Point Blank. So while some may find the film to be too slow and melodramatic for their tastes, it at least has some great moments of visual style to go along with the well-choreographed fights scenes. And honestly, it’s worth watching to see Chiba rip off a guy’s balls and feed them to a dog. You really can’t ask for much more than that, but if you need more, you also get Sue Shiomi in a supporting part and this is, to the best of my knowledge at least, the only movie where you get to see Sonny Chiba chase a duck.

    Killing Machine – DVD Review:

    The Adness release of this film does a good job of showing off the bright colors of the source material, and it's presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35.1, enhanced for anamorphic TVs. It's always good to see films of this age and genre looking as good as they can, and this disc certainly gives that impression, or at least it did by the standards of 2004 when it was released. There are some scratches and speckles that are to be expected, but overall the thing looks pretty decent, even if a new high definition release would be very welcome indeed.

    This disc offers two flavors as far as sound options - the original language mono mix, and a brand-spankin' new 5.1 mix, also in Japanese. The 5.1 mix won't become your new demo disc to show off your surround system, and the OG mix is just about as good, so it's really apples and oranges. The subtitles are only slightly cheesy, but sometimes they go missing altogether when characters are clearly talking. But despite this, the viewing experience doesn't suffer too much. And the sound mix, while not earth-shattering, does a decent job.

    It's pretty cool when martial arts flicks get discs with special features, but unfortunately, they do only so often. This disc only has some trailers, but there's a butt-load of them, and they are Chiba-friendly. They are for the film itself, Karate Bearfighter, Karate Bullfighter, Karate For Life, Shogun's Samurai, Black Magic Wars, Legend Of The Eight Samurai, Resurrection Of The Golden Wolf, and G.I. Samurai. Quality stuff! Patrick Macias also contributes some nicely written liner notes that breakdown the history of the film.

    Killing Machine - The Final Word:

    Killing Machine isn’t Chiba’s best from this period but it’s definitely well worth seeking out. If you can brave the slower scenes of melodrama, you will be rewarded with some sick slow-mo scrappin' - and that's no lie. Adness’ DVD looks and sounds pretty good for a release that’s closing in on its twentieth birthday, though this and many other Sonny Chiba classics really do deserve proper Blu-ray releases at this point. Until then, this’ll do.