Blu-ray Reviews: Death Machines

The mid-70s were an amazing time for cinema and a bizarre time for the grindhouses. Producers of did their best to genre bend in order to create a movie that stood out from the pack. They kicked up the gore and action as much as their budgets could handle. They would tweak the genre in an attempt to attract a larger opening weekend audience. Death Machines is a perfect example of blurring the lines between Chop Socky action and science fiction to ask that question of when does hired killer become a robot programmed to killer.

Madame Lee (Mari Honjo) is ready to take over the world of the soldier of fortune hitman racket. She’s created a multi-racial elite squad that will eliminate any problem in your life for a huge fee. She has a white guy who is an expert in guns (Karate Cop‘s Ron Marchini, also a producer), a black killer (The Weapon’s of Death‘s Joshua Johnson) who knows how to use all the kung fu weapons sold at ninja outlets and an Asian martial arts master (Rapid Fire‘s Michael Chong) as her crack squad. In order to make a name for themselves, their first assassination gigs are to commit a hostile takeover of the competition. What makes Madame Lee’s version of Charlie’s Angels so amazing? Turns out that using a state of the art medical program, she’s made them mindless death machines. They have been programmed to not care about pain and finish their missions. A mobster hires the team to take out a martial arts instructor which leads to a massive battle at a karate school. The trip make the mistake of leaving one student alive and even short a hand, he is out for revenge for his Master and classmates. Even worse is that Madame Lee realizes she’s losing her grip on her faithful killers. Can anyone really control or stop them?

Death Machines is an over the top without much thinking action film. Which is perfectly fine since the trio of killers are relatively mindless when sent on their missions. They’re like a trio of Terminators with their emotionless attitudes and ability to absorb punishment without a care. The film pushes the limit of its budget with all the mayhem and carnage that fill up the big action scenes. A lot stuff gets smashed up when the deadly trio get their mind set on a victim. There’s a lot of unintentional comedy from the non-action scenes. Madame Lee’s huge wig and the ’70s cop suits are good for a few laughs. The opening animation is ominous and sets the right tone for the live action violence.

The videos is 2.35:1. The transfer quality is astounding for a film that has been treated so poorly in home video. The ’70s cop suits seem even more itchy with the extra resolution. The audio is mono. The levels bring out the crunching action sounds. The movie is subtitled.

DVD with everything found on Blu-ray.

Director introduction (0:55) has Paul Kyriazi in Japan talking about Yakuza. He went on to make Omega Cop, One Way Out, Ninja Busters and The Weapons of Death.

Audio Commentary with director Paul Kyriazi. He was impressed by the opening titles that Crown International had created. He didn’t get to see them until the movie debuted. Crown had decided to promote the film as science fiction after Death Race 2000 and Rollerball had become hits. Crown had a new opening scene shot to create the feeling that the hired three killers were under futuristic influences to enhance their martial arts skills. This screwed things up for theaters who discovered they had a Kung Fu flick for an audience expecting robot killers.

Video interview with actor Michael Chong (10:21) allows him to recount his life in martial arts and cinema. There was very little fight choreography on the set. They just basically improved their fights. The karate school massacre was given a bit of preshooting action. Chong is great with his tales form the set.

Audio interview with actor Joshua Johnson (15:23) is a phone conversation. Johnson talks about being a photo technologist for the Air Force before getting into action. He was military buddies with Paul Kyriazi. They both practiced karate together.

Trims / outtakes (3:19) features unused angles from the action scenes.

Original theatrical trailer
(2:06) promises a future where murder is no longer a crime, but merely a job. It uses scenes of people getting shot and getting back up to make it look like Team Terminator. They do include a lot of the over the top killing scenes.

Teaser trailer (1:05) a shorter version of full trailer.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Death Machines. Directed by: Paul Kyriazi. Screenplay by: Paul Kyriazi & Joe Walders. Starring: Mari Honjo, Ronald L. Marchini, Michael Chong, Joshua Johnson & Ron Ackerman. Running Time: 93 minutes. Rated: R. Released: November 29, 2016.

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