With the success of Kill or Be Killed, the South African martial arts film that launched James Ryan as an action star, director Ivan Hall returns with this in-name sequel that delves practically into more of a James Bond-like thriller rather than the tournament genre of the original.
Steve Chase is a martial arts champion who has gotten the attention of Kandy Kane. Ms. Kane’s father Horatio is a scientist who while developing a fuel made of potatoes inadvertently created a mind control drug. He was kidnapped by a former billionaire who now calls himself Marduk. Marduk has created an army of fighters and hopes that by kidnapping Dr. Kane, he can lure Steve to take on his top fighter, the Optimus.
Steve forms a team comprised of his old buddies to assist him on his mission. They are ex-karate champion turned recluse Gypsy Billy, former wrestler Gorilla, mystical warrior The Fly, and the very outspoken and unorthodox Hot Dog. Going against his wishes, Kandy joins the team and together, they must find a way to rescue Dr. Kane, even if they have to fight to win.
South Africa hit it big with the martial arts genre when in 1977, the country’s Kavalier Films shot Kill or Be Killed, a tournament genre film that launched the career of native karate expert James Ryan. The film was released in the U.S. three years later, at a time when the American martial arts film was coming in full swing thanks to the likes of Chuck Norris amongst others. As a result of the film’s success, Film Ventures International founder Edward L. Montoro financed and brought back Ryan, director Ivan Hall, and fight choreographers Stan Schmidt and Norman Robinson for a sanctioned sequel.
This time around, Ryan plays Steve Chase, a karate champion who all of a sudden becomes a secret agent. Yet, his original character of Steve Hunt was somewhat of a mercenary in the aspect he entered the tournament only for the money only to find a bigger prize in rescuing his girlfriend. Here, he is given a chance to rescue a scientist for 5 million dollars. Ryan still has the skills and has aged well here, not having lost a step.
He has a team of fellow fighters this time around that may look like a predecessor to the prolific The A-Team of the 1980’s television series. There’s former wrestler Gorilla, played in comic fashion at times by Ken Gampu. Gampu certainly has the comic style and yet big fighting style that would come perhaps in the form of a Michael Clarke Duncan today. Bill Flynn’s Hotdog is reminiscent of The A-Team’s resident lunatic Mad Dog, helping Gorilla as comic relief for the otherwise serious tone of the film. Miss World 1979 Anneline Kriel plays Kandy Kane, the daughter of the scientist who becomes the love interest and shows to be quite a fighter in her own right. Rounding out the cast are the fight choreographers of the film, Stan Schmidt and Norman Robinson respectively as the mystical sage known as The Fly and ex-champion turned hermit Gypsy Billy.
Playing the film’s villain Marduk is Michael Mayer, who as a child star played Little Ricky Ricardo on the very popular series I Love Lucy. Sporting a beard and in possession of a mind control drug, he plans to have an army of karate warriors with one man, The Optimus, as his champion. The Optimus is well played in a non-speaking, all action role by South African karateka Eddie Dorie, who appeared as one of the fighters in Kill or Be Killed. Like the original film, much of the film’s supporting cast consists of members of the Japan Karate Association South African Division.
Once again, the fight scenes themselves are more reminiscent of the classic Sonny Chiba films of the 1970’s, where it is more like real Japanese karate techniques rather than the fast whirlwind style of Hong Kong action choreography. Schmidt and Robinson work well in crafting the fight scenes as if one is watching the film as an instruction tape on self-defense on the streets. Once again, Ryan is doubled for his acrobatic stunts by karateka/gymnast Derrick Lotz, flipping over at times making Ryan look quite good.
Another scene worth mentioning is Marduk’s head guard attempting to shoot Dr. Kane. This is considered one of the first films to use the “Bullet-Cam”, which would later be improved with films like Hong Kong’s Full Contact and the Hollywood actioner Sniper. The effect was done in-camera on location rather than post-production by pointing the bullet downwards with the camera on its side and shot at 120 frames per second with Plexiglass.
Kill and Kill Again is a fun, campy sequel that is more reminiscent of a cheapie James Bond film rather than its tournament-like original. James Ryan is still in true form and the fights are quite enjoyable.
WFG RATING: B+
A Film Ventures International production. Director: Ivan Hall. Producer: Igo Kantor. Writer: John Crowther. Cinematography: Tai Krige. Editing: Peter Leighton and Peter Thornton.
Cast: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer, Marloe Scott-Wilson, Stan Schmidt, Norman Robinson, Bill Flynn, Ken Gampu, Eddie Dorie, Malcolm Dorfman.