Fans of trashy, bad 1970s cinema gather 'round. I've found a real
winner Death Machines. Calling Death Machines "so bad it's good"
doesn't begin to explain how deliriously enjoyable this movie truly is.
Sure, it's bad in fact you'd have a hard time finding anything quite
so inept but it's also an incredibly fun experience. What little plot
the movie has concerns three assassins for hire one white, one black,
and one Asian (Think of the Death Machines as the Rainbow Coalition of
killers - how politically correct!). These killers are all but
indestructible they're even impervious to bullets (the movie may have
explained why or how, but I must have missed it). On a mission to take
out a local karate studio, they inadvertently leave one man alive. They
may have taken off one of his hands, but he's alive nonetheless. The
police can't seem to find any leads into the karate studio killings, so
it's up to our hero, Whining One Hand (as I like to call him), to bring
down the gang of killers.
Oh where to start? This is one of those instances where I could easily
write paragraph after paragraph about the ineptitude on display in
Death Machines. But I'm not sure I can do the thing the justice it
deserves. So instead, I'll summarize some of the highlights:
- The plot is little more than one set-piece after the next that only
fit together because some of the characters are the same. The attack on
the karate studio, the killing of the man in the phone booth, the
bazooka shot at the airplane, the obligatory fight scene in the police
station, and the bombing of the bank president the only connection is
that a familiar character or two appears in each scene. Otherwise, you
might get the wrong idea and start to think the Death Machines actually
had no real, coherent plot (wink, wink).
- The killers receive their marching orders from one of screendoms most
bizarre master criminals. Madame Lee (and I only know her name by
reading the credits on IMDb) is one weird cookie. To begin with, she
seems incapable of opening her mouth and speaking as a normal person
might. Between that, her thick accent, and the boom operator's
inability to get close to her, it makes it just about impossible to
understand what she's saying. And then there's that wig! Why in God's
name did anyone think it would be a good look to have her wear a
12-inch high geisha wig? She looks ridiculous. Add to that her strange
way of walking, her unusual choice of wardrobe, and her totally out of
place facial expressions and Madame Lee is a sight that must be seen to
- The fight choreography is laughable. The opening fight scenes where
Madame Lee is picking her three killers is beyond ridiculous. My 6
year-old son takes karate and I'm sure he and a few of his friends
could have put together more believable fight set-pieces. And what's
with the gun? Who told the white guy to bring a gun to a karate fight?
And was it just me or were the opening fights rigged to ensure the
racial diversity of Death Machines? White guy fighting white guy, black
guy fighting black guy, Asian guy fighting Asian guy? It's too funny.
- Has there ever been a more ineffective hero than Whining One Hand?
When not whining about his problems, getting beat-up by an old man in
the bar he works at, or making love to the most unappealing nurse
imaginable (I think I might have just thrown up a little in my mouth
thinking about it), one of his lone contributions to the movie is to
follow the bad guys, crawl through the tall grass, and watch as they
blow up a plane and the unknown passengers therein. Does he do anything
at all to try to stop the baddies? NO. He merely watches. By the time
he shows up at the run-down house (that's obviously a stand-in for an
opulent mansion- just use your imagination) the Death Machines have
left, Madame Lee's right hand man is already dead, and yet he still
manages to get attacked by the wobbly sword welding Madame Lee and her
gigantic wig. What does our hero do? Again nothing. Thank God the
police were on hand to take out the dragon lady or Whining One Hand
might have ended up being Whining No Hand.
On and on it goes (I haven't even gotten into the technical issues, the
lack of any sort of ending, the inappropriate Casio keyboard music, or
the old time gospel music played over the fight scene in the grocery
store/bar). Death Machines is a real hoot of a movie that I implore all
fans of bad 70s trash movies to seek out. You won't be disappointed. As
for my rating, I'll be honest, rating movies like Death Machines is
difficult. On one hand, it's a stinker of epic proportions. But, on the
other hand, I've always said that I rate movies based on my enjoyment.
And with that in mind, I have to give Death Machines at least a 7/10
even with its numerous and all too obvious problems. Be warned, if the
notion of a bad, plot-less 70s movie with characters that have no
motivation or acting ability and big bad wigs with speech impediments
doesn't appeal to you, stay away. Otherwise, enjoy!