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Two former ranking figures of the Axis powers schedule a deadly martial arts tournament in an isolated locale. The two rivals then race to assemble the top competitors from around the world, with Steve Hunt being the most sought after fighter.Written by
James Ryan portrays Steve Hunt, a karate expert caught up in a grudge match between two WWII war criminals, Baron von Rudloff (Norman Coombes) and Miyagi (!) (Raymond Ho-Tong). The two men are going to have their teams of martial artists square off in a tournament, with the first team to garner 20 points declared the winner. Steve and his girlfriend Olga (Charlotte Michelle) try a few times to escape, but to no avail. There's no way Steve isn't going to end up participating. Fortunately for the two of them, they have a helping hand in the form of Chico (Daniel DuPlessis), a put-upon little person who is the Barons' associate.
Filmed in South Africa in 1976, but not released in North America until 1980, when martial arts mania was then in full swing, "Kill or Be Killed" is on the low-budget and crude side. The 1981 sequel, "Kill and Kill Again", is a little more polished. While the sequel blatantly goes for tongue-in-cheek, this is played somewhat straighter - still, there's plenty of time for some humour, which helps to make the movie very enjoyable. There's lots of fights, lots of action - and lots of fun. Some of the acting is pretty cheesy, especially from hammy villain Coombes. The most appealing performer is diminutive, likeable chap DuPlessis, who figures in one extended, amusing montage where he's recruiting fighters for the Barons' team. The leading lady Michelle is quite gorgeous, the scenery is very striking, and it would be hard not to get into the spirit of "Kill or Be Killed" thanks to that rousing music score (which one has to assume is stock music, given that there's no composer credited).
Highly enjoyable for any fan of karate cinema, with engaging heroes and wonderfully despicable antagonists, including one fighter (who kind of resembles Jeff Conaway) constantly making trouble for Steve and Chico.
The ultimate resolution, however, falls short of being really satisfying.
Eight out of 10.
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