Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 10th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writer: Takeshi Matsumoto
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Yutaka Nakajima, Asao Koike, Kei Sato, Etsuko Shihomi
DVD Released: October 26th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: 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.
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 and the Killing Machine has a good balance action and drama. 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. 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.
Toei contract director Norifumi Suzuki keeps the action 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 brutal fight scenes eclipsing his work in the Street Fighter films. Early in the movie we are shown a scene that shows us that even as a young child Soh was one mean son of a bitch. Chiba has some tender moments which involve 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. 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. Killing Machine is one of his strongest efforts during this time.
The Killing Machine is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio and this DVD is anamorphic enhanced. The source print used is immaculate as there is no sign of grain or print damage. The colors are solid as blood which there is plenty of it in the film runs the deepest red and flesh tones look natural through out.
There are two audio options included for this DVD releases Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital Mono. Both tracks are free of distortion or hiss and are extremely clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 does offer a more beef up sound and the bass is deeper. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras include a Sonny Chiba trailer collection with the following titles Killing Machine, Karate Bearfighter, Karate Bullfighter, Karate for Life, Shogun’s Samurai, Black Magic Wars, Legend of The Eight Samurai, Resurrection of Golden Wolf and G.I. Samurai. Mosts of these trailers are in their original aspect ratio. Rounding out the extras is the well written and informative liner notes written by Patrick Macias. An interview with Chiba would have been nice, still a collection of Chiba trailers and excellent a/v is good enough for me.
Adness is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier distributors of Japanese cinema in America with their Sonny Chiba collection and The Tomie series being some of their best work to date. The Killing Machine is one of Sonny Chiba’s best films and now there is finally a DVD edition worth buying after years of suffering through horrible cropped and cut versions of the movie.