Kansas City Confidential (B&W, 1952) AKA The Secret Four
Hard-as-nails noir about an armored car robbery. Taking orders from a masked leader, three sinister hoods (Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, and Jack Elam - how's that for a noir dream cast?) pull off a perfect heist and get away clean with over a million bucks. The only problem is they set up an innocent truck driver named Joe (John Payne) so it looks like he was an accomplice. The cops grill him and beat him because he has a record, and it costs him his job and reputation and makes him good and mad, so he goes on the warpath to track down the men who framed him. He finds Jack Elam in a Tijuana crap game and beats some info out of him. But when he goes with Jack to the meet-up where they were supposed to split up the money, he finds out that was a set-up, too. So Joe assumes Elam's identity (all the crooks wore masks so they'd never know each other, so they think he was one of them) and meets up with the rest, demanding a share in the loot. An embittered ex-cop and his pretty lawyer-in-training daughter also get mixed up in the proceedings, just to make the situation even more complicated. Plenty of hard looks, hard words, and hard rights make this one rough, tough, and very well-done crime drama that'll stack up favorably to just about any of the genre in the hard-boiled department. Plenty of plot twists along the way. -zwolf

Keoma (C, 1976) AKA Desperado, Django Rides Again, Violent Breed, Keoma il vendicatore
Spaghetti Western fave Franco Nero stars as Keoma, a half-breed badass who's great with a gun but who can also throw knives accurately from like half a mile away. A plague is sweeping the countryside, and Keoma rescues a pregnant woman whom some townspeople think is infected with it. Then he visits his father and learns that his half-brothers have gone to work for an evil leader who's persecuting settlers. The bad guys also abuse his friend Woody Strode (whom spaghetti Western fans will recognize as the badass black guy from the classic opening segment of Once Upon a Time in the West), and the half-brothers start trying to pick on Keoma the way they did as kids. But it's a bit more difficult now.... A strange (and really bad - the one bad quality of this movie is its music score) Greek-chorus-like song comments on what's happening from time to time. Some of it sounds like it's sung by Franco Nero himself, but the accent is even worse. Keoma kills his way through much of the gang but ends up in big trouble, and he may not get out alive, much less find the redemption he was seeking. But, you never know... This has the reputation of being the best non-Leone spaghetti Western, and it's definitely a contender, given its strength of story and attention to style, plus Nero's always-welcome presence. It has a reputation for violence, and there's definitely a lot of killing, but it's almost completely bloodless. There's also lots of allegory if you feel like getting analytical. -zwolf

The Killer (C, 1989) AKA Die xue shuang xiong, Bloodshed of Two Heroes
John Woo's best-known film stars the incredible Chow Yun Fat as Jeffery, a hit man with a conscience that may turn out to be his fatal flaw. During the fulfillment of a contract he blinds a female singer who gets too close to a muzzle blast. Haunted by this mistake, he later becomes her friend (since she can't see, she doesn't know he's the guy who blinded her) and takes more contract jobs to raise money for an operation to restore her sight. But a determined cop is on his trail, and his employers have double-crossed him and sent hitters out after him, so the gun battles are quite frequent. And some astounding battles they are, gun in each hand, firing as fast as possible, and no one only gets shot once but are multiply blasted into oblivion... especially in the finale, where the killer and the cop, in an allegiance based on mutual respect, stand off an army of gangsters. It's like Peckinpah turned up a notch, hyper-violent but somehow beautiful, too. The influence of this film is far-reaching; even established action director Walter Hill adapted Woo's style to his Last Man Standing, because he knows a good thing when he sees it. And Tarantino wrote in a discussion of the film into Jackie Brown. No fan of shoot-em-ups should miss a chance to see this. -zwolf

Killer Army
(C, 1980) AKA Da sha si fang, Rebel Intruders, The Guerillas
Shaw Brothers kung fu of a pretty grim and serious nature. A civil war is ravaging China, filling the land with starving refugees who are trying to escape the fighting. Several of the Venoms are among them, and they try to find work bodyguarding brothels or running scams in casinos, or anything else that results in lots of fighting using brooms, benches, and fists. The three stars (Kuo Chui, Chiang Sheng, and Lo Meng) decide to become blood brothers, even though they keep sparring with one another. Then some assassins kill a colonel and try to frame our three heroes for it, so they have to get out of town. But escape routes are heavily guarded, and when one of the people helping them is forced to betray them, things get worse. In a strange, extreme-jump-rope fight scene, one is captured and nearly hung. Lots of brawls and sword and spear fighting with the odds decidedly against them. Gets complicated, but it's powerful. -zwolf
Killer Meteors (C, 1977) AKA Feng yu shuang liu xing, Jackie Chan Vs. Wang Yu
This is always marked as a Jackie Chan film, but it's mostly a Jimmy Wang Yu movie, and there's not a thing wrong with that. Jackie is in it, though - believe it or not, he's the bad guy! Jimmy Wang Yu is the hero, an enigmatic badass called The Killer Meteor, who's so tough that evildoers chop their fingers off as gifts to him so he won't kill them for their crimes. One guy brings him a stolen giant pearl as tribute, which everybody seems to want. Another guy has to take him to see Jackie or he'll be killed, so Jimmy goes along with it to spare the guy and prove he's not scared o' nothin'! Jackie's in a fancy costume with a headband and top-knot, and wants to hire Wang Yu to kill his wife, because she tried to poison him. Plus he needs the antidote. But the estranged wife has superpowered bodyguards - a guy who throws pins, a guy with magnetic hands, a voodoo master who can cook birds by looking at them, and Devil Monk, who is very cunning. And the wife - Madame Tempest - is also extremely dangerous. But Wang Yu plows through them while delivering tough-guy one-liners, completes his mission, then goes back to Jackie and his evil henchmen, and double-crosses galore give him a chance to unleash his killer meteor secret weapon - a double-headed mace that can make people explode. There's also a secret drug that makes people melt. I held off seeing this for a while because I'd heard it was one of Jackie's worst, and while that's true since he's not in it much, it's very entertaining kung fu otherwise, especially if you like Wang Yu, which I always have. So, I wasn't disappointed in the least. Check this out, unless all you're looking for is Jackie. -zwolf

Kingdom of the Spiders (C, 1977)
Don't confuse this with The Giant Spider Invasion - this one's actually a good movie, even though William Shatner's the star. He seems to do his best in desert-rancher type roles, like The Devil's Rain and this nature-on-the-rampage horror flick. When pesticides decimate their regular food supply, zillions of spiders turn to killing cattle, then people in a plague of '70's movies proptions! They start making big hills, like ants. And Shatner - always the Captain Kirk type - starts making moves on the lady biologist from the city who's there to investigate the attacks. This one's actually got some depth to the characters and an actual plot going on and - most importantly - thousands of real tarantula's crawling all over the place, and they're used very effectively. Don't miss the little girl playing on a swing over ground covered with spiders! One of the best of its breed, and more apocalyptic than most. -zwolf

Kiss Me, Kill Me (C, 1973) AKA Baba Yaga, The Devil Witch, Black Magic
Bizarro Italian horror flick with funky hallucinatory sequences, based on a French comic book. A photographer named Valentina saves a dog from being run over by a Rolls Royce driven by a strange sex-witch named Baba Yaga. When Valentina gets home she dreams about Nazis throwing her into a pit. The next day Baba Yaga drops by and puts a hex on her camera, so it causes accidents. Valentina visits Baba Yaga's house and finds a bottomless pit under the rug in her living room, and a doll that's dressed as a dominatrix. The doll apparently becomes real at times, or perhaps it's all part of Valentina's obsessive imagination. She's called back to the dark old mansion and whipped... or possibly she's just losing her mind in a condemned house? Very weird, kinda creepy Italian horror with plenty of surreal style. One company has this on a cheap DVD, touting that it's directed by Umberto Lenzi, but it's not. He directed a different film with the Kiss Me, Kill Me title, but this one's directed by Corrado Farina. Interesting obscurity that you should seek out. -zwolf

Kiss of Evil (C, 1963) AKA Kiss of the Vampire
This lesser-known Hammer film starts with a man attending his daughter's funeral and then, startlingly, driving a spade through her coffin. Then a traveling couple have a breakdown and end up at a foreboding old inn (that happens a lot in Hammer films), and are invited to visit the castle of Dr. Ravena, who you just know is gonna be some kind of creep. For one thing, he's always ordering mass quantities of robes from a local seamstress, and people who have a big use for robes are always up to something. Turns out that he's leading a vampire cult and is interested in making the couple part of it. He throws a big masquerade party where he tries to indoctrinate the wife as the party turns into a cult meeting. The husband is drugged and the next morning they tell him he came alone, and they throw him out. All traces of his wife are gone, so they think he's delusional. Only Professor Zimmer, a drunken vampire-hunter, can help him. Pretty standard vampire tale (face it, there's only so much you can do with the genre) but it's well-handled, and ranks as a solid part of the Hammer canon. The climax is good, despite some somewhat-weak special effects (cartoon bats, or rubber bats on strings... which are scarier?!) -zwolf

Kiss of the Tarantula (C, 1972) AKA Shudder
Imagine the terror of that spider scene in the Hawaii episodes of "The Brady Bunch" turned into a feature-length film! Incredible to contemplate, isn't it? A little girl who loves spiders sics a tarantula on her evil stepmother (who was plotting the murder of her Victor French lookalike mortician father) and the woman has a heart attack and dies. The girl grows up a social outcast who still loves spiders and raises tarantulas in the basement of the mortuary. Some hoodlums who were intent on stealing a coffin kill one of her spiders and end up suffering for it when she unleashes dozens of them in their car at a drive-in (which is a pretty brilliant move when you consider that's where most people probably saw this). They get so panicked they kill themselves in accidents or go crazy. She finds this a neat trick and uses it to dispatch a few more enemies, always seeing that they get buried with a tarantula in their coffin. Her incestuous policeman uncle helps cover it all up, but there's an even worse fate in store for him... Low-budget horror that's not all that scary (tarantulas aren't even poisonous, y'know) but it does have enough of a gothic mood to it to make it a good way to kill a rainy Saturday afternoon. -zwolf

Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave (C, 1982) AKA Yin Ji
Wacky kung fu horror with Billy Chong (who, after Kung Fu Zombie, is used to this kind of thing). During the Ghost Festival in China, the dead return to roam the earth, and Billy's father's rotting ghost appears to him to tell him that he was murdered and Billy should go to Yellow Dragon Town (a haunted town from which no one returns) to avenge him. On the way, Billy finds a book of magic, and a wizard makes Lo Lieh impervious to weapons, using a spell of two hearts that were cut out during the moment of orgasm. Unluckily for Billy, Lo Lieh's the guy he has to kill. A couple of drunks disturb some hopping corpses, who help Billy out by battling a wizard, who summons ghosts with yard-long tongues, and a flying Count Dracula! The wizard gets Billy's book and learns new powers, while Billy finds his father's corpse and is attacked by laughing, flying ghosts with stretchable arms. Then Lo Lieh peeps on some people having sex (amazingly there's full-frontal female nudity, which is rarely shown in Asia) and harvests their hearts for another spell, which isn't completely successful. Then Billy and his friends have to take on the wizard and Lo Lieh in battles supernatural and otherwise. Has a less comedic tone than Kung Fu Zombie but still pretty wacky, and the action is literally nonstop, there's always either a fight of some cheap-but-cool special effects scenario going on. Well worth checking out, even if the DVD quality (Ground Zero Black Belt Theatre) isn't very good. -zwolf

Kung Fu Shadow (C, 1977) AKA The Brave in Kung Fu Shadow, Imperial Sword
A grubby but beautiful and highly-skilled beggar woman protects citizens against an evil sect presided over by a shadowy figure who is dispatching them to capture the powerful Blood Rain Sword. A one-eyed old man is murdered by the sect and his daughter (Judy Lee) takes the famous sword and goes after them. The fighting is gimmicky (overcranked and lots of backwards jumps out of trees) but is pretty amazing. She gets help from a guy who describes himself as "just a harmless bum" (Tien Peng), and fights against weapons like buzz saw blades on chains, poison darts, and some wicked clawed gloves on the main bad guy. There's a whole lot of double and triple crossing going on, and the sword has some hidden mystical powers, and there are several bad guys, so things do get a bit complicated. But there's lots of good action (mainly swordfighting) and it looks like it's making a good attempt at being a Shaw film. Pretty impressive. -zwolf

Kung Fu Zombie (C, 1982) AKA Wu long tian shi zhao ji gui
The charismatic and skillful Billy Chong stars in this over-the-top martial arts horror flick (with plenty of comedy thrown in to cover all the bases). Some old rivals of Billy's force a black magician to raise dusty, pottery-faced hopping corpses to fight Billy, but he manages to kill the main bad guy by causing him to fall into the knife-lined grave he'd planned for Billy. The magician is stuck with trying to find a fresh body to house the bad guy's ghost (which is mischievous and uses his invisibility to play pranks). They resurrect a scar-faced killer, but he wasn't really dead, only his soul... but Billy kills him in a fight and he comes back as an invincible demonic vampire. Then Billy's father dies of a heart attack and they almost succeed in killing Billy, but the evil guy's bumbling henchmen louse it up, and they end up with a half-ghost, half-human who wants revenge. Much unbelievable mayhem erupts, including Billy attacking while striking Buddha poses as the vampire sets his hands and feet on fire to use as weapons. Not the usual kung fu flick by any means... -zwolf

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