Death Machines (1976) Review

With all three of her Death Machines (and clearly sex slaves) back in her possession, Madame Lee is pleased.

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She tells them and her assistant that Mr. Gee-oh-lah-jee wants to try and convince Nathan Adams to work for him, without killing him now. In order to do this, Madame wants “levawege” in the form of Adams’ daughter.

His daughter appears to be this girl who looks like a 20-something teenager.

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She talks with her father over the phone and says she needs to do her college homework, assuring him that she has no boys over. I can see why she doesn’t, as she’s probably developmentally delayed judging by everything about her personality and clothes. As soon as she hangs up, our Death Machine squad shows up to take the girl hostage. The assistant takes some pictures of her, but it’s creepily unclear as to what she’s doing as the DMs walk off screen to where she is.

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Soon after, Madame’s assistant shows up to Nathan’s office, and shows him the photos of his daughter.

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He even shows him some more, saying that, “Although I’m sure your daughter is as sexually sophisticated as other students today, I’m quite sure their sexual habits don’t include this.” Oh, but it’s okay, the assistant assures him, because she was unconscious at the time they were taken.

In order to get back his likely psychologically scarred daughter, the guy is ordered to sever communications with the job he currently has, but being the moral man he is he instead refuses to back down from a job he’s been working his “entire life” to achieve.

Well, looks like you’re gettin’ the Buddha, my friend.

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Handcuffed to his drawer now and locked in his office (which is fascinating considering Madame’s assistant probably couldn’t have locked the door after leaving), Mr. Adams finds himself completely helpless to stop the ticking time bomb. He shouts for his secretary to get the keys to his office, but then she says the keys must be in his desk.

It’s a mess.

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The timer gets to the 12 o’clock position, but doesn’t go off, giving the guy some hope that maybe it was a cruel warning, nothing more.

But nope, it does.

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Madame is happy about this, of course.

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So is her assistant as he holds a photo of Nathan.

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Together they burn the photo in the fire, and probably have a good fuck after that.

Hey, Frank, you depressing bastard.

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What’s he up to? Oh, just visiting his old karate studio and having flashbacks. That’s good for his depressive personality, I’m sure.

As he takes his aggressions out a little on a punching bag, his old nurse “Florence” shows up, looking quite schoolgirl-y.

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They have a little chat during which Frank says he quit school. She asks him why, saying she thought he had dreams of being an officer. He just kind of laughs and nods it off, though.

They then continue to have a conversation that confuses me: first, Florence (is this her real name?) hints that she’s available for dates, and then Frank gets snippy and says, “I’m sorry. You don’t know what it’s like for me.” Then Florence argues that she didn’t mean to get involved, and Frank says he doesn’t want her to get involved. So, she begins to leave. Then she says, “So, aren’t you even going to call me back?” “I wasn’t thinking about it.” “I can see it’s gonna take some time getting used to you.” Oh, Jesus. Are you dating or not, YOU DODGY FUCKS?

“Why do you want to even try?” Frank asks.

“I don’t know. Maybe because by the time I get used to you, you’ll be used to yourself.” I see. Makes a whole lot of sense. Let’s move on!

They wind up going for coffee… at what’s basically a strip club.

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This is kind of like how socially unconscious Travis Bickle took his date to a porno theater in Taxi Driver, only this is definitely the better movie.

Turns out this is where Frank works as a bartender, and the stripper is a new addition that hasn’t helped business. Once he leaves to carry a case of beer in for his boss, his boss sits across from Florence and basically tells her that Frank’s a difficult guy and that if she can’t fix him, nobody can. No pressure at all, babe.

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Pretty soon this troublemaker gets pissed off when the jukebox craps out, and starts hitting it.

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Next thing we know, he’s demanding he get a refund for the beer that “stinks”, and knocks the bottle against Frank’s boss’s head.

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Then it’s a full-on brawl, during which Frank gets his ass handed to him behind the bar.

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All of a sudden this guy has a beef with Frank for no reason and starts throwing pool balls at him.

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I guess he and the old asshole are supposed to be buddies, but in any case it doesn’t seem to matter. The main purpose of this scene seems to be to show us that Frank really is as pathetic and useless as he thinks he is.

Frank: a man who is the true definition of 'less than zero'.
Frank: a man who is the true definition of ‘less than zero’.

I do love how it looks like water is spraying out of his eye here.

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Florence’s face is the definition of pity, or in this film’s case, the definition of love as well.

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Their silhouettes make out somewhere else.

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How romantic, right? We don’t get a sex scene, but we do get the scene after, and if I’m not mistaken, this isn’t the look of a satisfied woman.

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“Frank, what now?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” Frank states plainly.

He goes on to say he’d like to go back in time to before he lost his hand. He’d still rather have that thing than Florence in his life, I suppose. This is supposed to be our main hero, right? Or am I wrong? I don’t think it’s Clay at this point, because apart from showing up at murder scenes, talking with Frank and hating human relations courses, I don’t think he’s done much so far. Plus Frank is the one with the most depressing love story in cinematic history.

Florence reasons that Frank should get away from that place for a while, go with her on a little vacation. Their ideal place? A motel. Did I say this was the most depressing love story in cinematic history already? Oh, I guess I did in the last paragraph.

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6 thoughts on “Death Machines (1976) Review

  1. Thanks for that fun, in depth review and especially for the five out of five stars. We all had fun making that movie and took it very seriously to get the most production value for the money we had. This link will take you to a detailed article that I wrote about directing Death Machines: http://goo.gl/ho4Ugt

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    • Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed it. And thank you and everyone else involved for giving us this crazy film.

      Fascinating read there as well.

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  2. Death Machines was just released in Blu-ray made from ther original wide-screen techniscope negative and looks great. I did the director’s commentary, the asian killer did a video talk, the afro-american killer did a great audio interview, I did a short video intro at a Japanese temple. The print quailty if fantastic. And Capt. Green is less green than before. I just read through your reveiw again and last at least five times. Thanks.

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  3. Great film with film dubbed voices in Chinese theatre traditions.
    Great fight choreography by assassins. (This is too easy style.)
    Assassins injected: probably heroin den babies born to fight in death matches, (probably the hold their den mother had on them) is an old Secret of KungFu !!!
    Awesome soundtrack, where is the sequel.

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  4. Egad, this flick was a turkey–It’s the last or next to last flick featured in the 12 disk, 50 movie collection, “Sci-Fi Invasion”. Nothing about this film could really be called “good”, but the music is especially bad. The analog synth background music from “Death Machines” is also used as the menu music for each and every disc in the “Sci-Fi Invasion” collection and I have fallen asleep many nights to bad sci fi movies only to wake up at 4am to the creepy, eerie strains of the noodling theme of “Death Machine”. You can’t put a price on that kind of thing. As for the movie–they had enough cash to film it in technicolor, blow up a Cessna, and drive a truck through a perfectly nice Italian restaurant movie set. They made 70,000 grand on this–doubt it covered costs– doesn’t matter, it was well worth whatever they spent on it. I truly appreciate low budget bad movies–but only if the makers sincerely tried to make a good film at the time. “Death Machines” is right up there with the best/worst of ’em!

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