Cast: Joe Nuzzolo, David Heavener and Lyn Levand.

Director: Joe Straw

Scores: Technical 75, Story 90, Acting 80 Overall: 82
(Note: “Kill or Be Killed” scored on the Z-Movie Scale)

And now the most important U.S. history lesson you will ever find fascinating. Never mind if Robert E. Grant’s wooden teeth were buried in the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier or how shamefully Eisenhower ripped off Sitting Bull at the Alamo during the Revolutionary War. This is material it is imperative to know-BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!

Back during the pre-cable UHF explosion, before megalithic national networks piped the same shows into every home and tolled the death knell for localized TV, hundreds of television station programmers constantly hustled to find enough content to fill airtime.

And do it cheap.

This added up to a boom period for low-budget film production, as B-projects that made no dent at the box office could turn a profit on broadcast rights, while station WXYZ plugged a two-hour hole in its evening schedule in the same fell swoop. Quality was of secondary importance: if the flick was fresh and in color, that was better than rerunning Casablanca for the umpteenth time.

(The later cable and video explosions had a similar effect, creating a mighty vacuum to be filled with dust-gatherers. In other words, one-time duds could make multiple resurrections for greenbacks.)

It seemed like every fourth guy in America and Europe who had a briefcase full of ten-spots that needed laundering, er, investing, got the film producer bug, with gritty urban dramas the genre of choice. (Their art imitating their life, you see.)

The vast majority of the end product was flaccid garbage with a hideous disco soundtrack, cinematic sewage to be avoided at all costs. However, as viewed through contemporary eyes-especially those with a true appreciation for the abysmal-many of these relics are fascinating in their ineptitude. And you can pick up ten-film DVD sets for about the cost of a six-pack. (Or get two ten-packs for the price of a CD by Tupac.)

Our sample selection, Kill Or Be Killed, is courtesy of one such ten-flick treasure. Michael is in the next room swapping spit with his sweetie when brother Charlie’s drug deal goes sideways then gets taken down by The Man. In the resultant bust, innocent Mike takes the fall for his sibling and does a lengthy stretch in the slammer. Touched to the very core by this selfless act, Chuck shows his immense gratitude by stealing the girl and giving little bro a “welcome home” motorcycle.

What a sport, eh? After all, a just-released con who hasn’t even seen a woman in several years would much rather hop on a Harley-you know, to ride to the home and job he no longer has-than hop on the honey who occupied his mind every minute of all those years in lockdown.

Hey, “soul mates” are a dime a dozen; but it’s not like you can just pick up the newspaper and find yourself a bike. What do you think, they’ve got a factory somewhere that cranks these things out on an assembly line?!?

Backstabbed and bent on revenge, Michael sabotages Charlie’s major-league dope deal with South American drug lords, doing so by robbing the ingrate’s cash stash in cahoots with one of charming Charlie’s confederates, a heavily hair-sprayed heavy who’s grown tired of playing second fiddle. Much shooting ensues. The End.

It may not sound like much, but the richness is in the details. For example, the traitorous tramp claims she was just sixteen (yeah, right) when “dating” Michael-and in another scene, states she was only seventeen!

There’s plenty more goofiness where that came from. The best, however, is the total abandonment of any form of continuity as it applies to the central plot of the entire movie: At some points, Charlie is absolutely certain his brother was the masked robber, and therefore is hunting down Michael for the return of the loot; while at other points, Charlie is thoroughly befuddled as to whom ripped him off!!!

This convinced/clueless flip-flop goes on continually, leaving the viewer in shocked disbelief any filmmaker-even one with no neck or cartilage left in his nose–would nonchalantly let such Saturn-sized inconsistency slide. The discrepancy concerning the girl’s age might generously be called a minor oversight. On the other hand, the wacko “Charlie knows it was Michael, then he doesn’t” business stands out like a Shaolin monk in a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

It’s so boneheaded, you can’t help but laugh. Well, okay, I can’t.

Adding to the merriment, the braintrust behind this funfest didn’t even devise an original title: Kill Or Be Killed is also the moniker of a 1950 crime caper and a 1980 martial arts movie. Our KOBK displays a copyright of 1993…which I believe was the shooting date about as much as I expect the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to put out a contract on Santa Claus. The whole look and style screams out “circa 1977, leading me to suspect, upon completion, the financiers (or perhaps potential distributors) said “Fuggettabottit.”

Could be it literally did get forgotten about, instead collecting cobwebs in storage while those involved moved on to other projects. “But a decade and a half?” you ask. It’s hardly unprecedented-and not even a junkfilm record. Perpetually short of money, Ed Wood let his Night Of The Ghouls remain in the processing laboratory, hoping someone would eventually cough up the dough to pay the lab tab. How long did the film sit? Oh, just 23 YEARS!

By Stately Wayne Manor at

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