We're big advocates here at PCMJ of martial arts and self-defense for men. Sometimes things come down to fisticuffs, and any man worth his salt should be adept in these skills too. And besides that, watching martial-arts pros in action is always enjoyable. Our weekend feature is a little-known, but above-average martial arts fest starring American athlete and martial artist, the late Jim Kelly and titled Death Dimension.
Death Dimension was released in 1978 and was apparently the sequel to Kelly's 1977 hit, The Black Samurai. In this film, a vicious killer known only as 'The Pig' has employed a mad scientist working on a climate-control device. The scientist converts the device into a weapon, which within a certain radius will drop temperatures to the physical Absolute Zero (-273 F.). Realizing the weapon's great criminal potential, The Pig plans to sell it to terrorists at $50 million. But before this happens, the scientist has a recovery of conscience and repents. So he implants the formula on a microchip which he hides surgically under the skin of his lovely assistant, Felicia (played by Patch MacKenzie). He effects her escape, sets his lab on fire and commits suicide.
Frustrated, The Pig sends his henchmen in search of Felicia, who has orders to report to the UN. But the wily Pig has infiltrated the police and Felicia goes on the run again. The Black Samurai is called in to help; and the film is a race between him and The Pig to find the missing girl. As one might expect in a Kelly film, there are a number of fist-fights, shoot-outs, and car-chases between that and the conclusion.
Death Dimension's real strength lies in its martial arts scenes which are numerous and actually quite realistic. The opening scene with Kelly has him giving an instructional display to a group of police officers, and most of the fight scenes seem to be portraying and promoting martial artistry. Black Samurai has more than a few encounters with the Pig's top fighter, 'The Haitian' (played by bodybuilding champion Bob Minor).
The storyline, though, while quite good is not often at pace with the action. At least on the version I've seen, it seems as though some of the story was edited, and rather awkwardly at that. The film is an even 90 minutes long; and this may have been a studio decision to compress the film without sacrificing the action scenes. It's sometimes not exactly clear how the plot progresses from one point to another.
Nonetheless, we really like this film. It's not a deep film---except from the standpoint of martial technique---but it is a fun film to watch. Four stars for action and cute girls aplenty; two stars for plot. We're splitting the difference and rating
Death Dimension: ✪✪✪---three stars.