Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 29th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writer: Takeshi Matsumoto
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Yutaka Nakajima, Asao Koike, Kei Sato, Etsuko Shihomi
DVD Released: August 29th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Optimum
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £12.99
“Strength without justice is violence. Justice without strength is inability.”
Doshin Soh (Sonny Chiba) served in Japans secret service during world war two and during the war he studied various forms of fighting including the ancient fighting techniques of the Shaolin monks. After the war he returns to Japan were he has taken in several orphans and he is a modern day Robin Hood. Two American MP’s run over a young boy. This enrages Soh and he beat the hell out of the two men leaving them cripples. Years later Soh forms his own Shaolin martial arts school which leads to some bad blood between Soh and the local gangsters.
Killing Machine would make the first of four collaborations between Norifumi Suzuki and Sonny Chiba. The film is loosely based on real life Doshin So the founder of the Shorinji Kenpo a form of martial arts that specialized in the primary use of fighting with ones fists. Norifumi Suzuki was never one to shy away from making down and dirty exploitation films like Convent of the Sacred Beast and the Killing Machine has a good balance action and drama. Suzuki injects his usual flamboyance through his intricate compositions and stylized lighting. The Killing Machine was shot quickly over a two week period and the amount of detail in the sets is amazing consider the lack of budget.
Chiba fresh off the successful Street Fighter and Executioner series would embark on one his most challenging roles of his career as Doshin Soh. It typical Chiba fashion his character in this film takes no prisoners. In the scene were Soh and one his students track down three rapists that have just raped a young girl. A punishment befitting there crime towards the young girl they hold them down before castrating them. During this scene a dog walks up inncoenlty and eats the man’s genitals. This scene is all about disgusting the viewer and it succeeds in spades. Etsuko Shihomi takes a secondary role after starring in the Sister Street Fighter and in Killing Machine shines in one of her earlier roles. The action sequences in Killing machine are more grounded then it had been in previous Chiba films. The fight scenes are also another of the films strong points. They are some of Chiba’s most expertly executed and savage fight scenes eclipsing his work in the Street Fighter films. Even though early in the movie we are shown during a flashback that even as a young child Soh was one mean son of a bitch. This helps lay the ground work for what is to come later. Soh also has a more compassionate side like when he gets involved with a girl he meet during his stay in a Chinese prison camp after the war and as the film progresses their friendship evolves into a love for each other. One character trait of Soh’s that had me scratching me head was how he time and again let the bad guys off with warnings even though they would come back and attack him and his students. Killing Machine is one of Chiba’s best performances and films.
Optimum presents Killing Machine in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Optimum just like they had done for their Street Fighter collection has sourced their Killing Machine transfer from a 35 MM print. The colors are vibrant and flesh tones look healthy through out. Black levels remain strong as there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. Overall the image remains stable through out and there are no problems with ghosting. This release comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track that is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog never sounds distorted and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The speakers are given a good workout as most of the action is focused on the up front. The music and effects sounds evenly mixed as they never drown the other one out. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
Extras include the films original theatrical trailer and a bio on Sonny Chiba. Other extras include a gallery of original Japanese poster art that includes the following films The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: The Assasssin, The Bullet Train, The Killing Machine and two posters for Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment. Rounding out the extras is a Sonny Chiba trailer collection that includes the following titles The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: The Assasssin, The Bullet Train, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment and Time Slip. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin is also available as part of Optimum Asia’s Sonny Chiba collection volume 1 which also includes Yakuza Deka and Killing Machine. Also both releases appear to be uncut and identical in content with the difference in time due too PAL’s 30 times per second versus NTSC’s 25 times per second. Optimum delivers another quality release that is on par with the rest of the titles currently in their Sonny Chiba collection. It is undeniable that Chiba reached his peak during the 1970’s. Still in my eyes whether he is a lead or just has a cameo in film he is always a joy to watch, Highly Recommended.
For more information about Killing Machine and other titles released by Optimum visit their website.