Kill or Be Killed (1977, directed by Ivan Hall)

Martial artist Steve Hunt (James Ryan) is offered a spot in a martial arts tournament that is to be held at a castle in the desert.  Steve accepts but, once he reaches the castle, he thinks that something is off about the tournament’s sponsor, the German Baron von Rudloff (Norman Coombes).  Could it be because the Baron wears a swastika armband, travels in a limousine the flies a Nazi flag, and spends his spare time talking about how much he misses Hitler?

Braon von Rudloff is a former Nazi general who is still bitter that his marital arts team was defeated by Japan’s team at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The tournament was just a ruse to recruit a new martial arts team that will take part in a do-over competition against the team led by Rudloff’s rival, Miyagi (Raymond Ho-Tong).  Steve doesn’t want any part of that so, with the help of a former circus dwarf named Cico (Dani DuPlessis), Steven escape from the castle with his girlfriend, Olga (Charlotte Michelle).  They return to Steve’s home in South Africa.  The Baron sends his main henchman, Ruell (Ed Kannemeyer), to bring Olga back to him.  After Olga is kidnapped, Steve joins Miyagi’s team and returns to the castle.

The best thing about this South African film is that there is rarely a moment when a fight is not breaking out.  Steve and Ruell will fight at the drop of a hat.  My favorite part of the movie is when Steve is trying to find a loophole in a contract that the Baron made him sign and Ruell grabs a torch and sets the contract on fire.  Steve grabs another torch and the two of them spend several minutes swinging torches at each other.  Later, Ruell and his friends turn on Chico for some reason and it turns out that Chico is just as good a fighter as anyone else in the movie.  The plot is just an excuse for one fight after another but the fight choreography is pretty exciting and always entertaining to watch.  Almost everyone in the cast was a real-life martial artist and it shows.  The story is nothing special and it’s hard to have sympathy for Miyagi after it’s revealed that the Baron isn’t lying about Miyagi bribing the judges in 1936 but fight scenes make up for all of that.

Kill or Be Killed was a surprise success when it was shown in the United States.  It was followed by a sequel, Kill and Kill Again, which I’ll review tomorrow.

2 responses to “Kill or Be Killed (1977, directed by Ivan Hall)

  1. Pingback: Kill and Kill Again (1981, directed by Ivan Hall) | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 5/8/23 — 5/14/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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