Kill Squad: 12 Hands. 12 Feet. 24 Reasons to Die!

May 27th, 2011 by | Tags: ,

I’m sure you have figured this out by now, but I’m a man who loves a good cheesy movie. That’s the reason why the 70’s and 80’s are so great. Give me a choice between watching the English Patient and the Warriors and I’ll choose the latter every time. I think a great cheese movie is a lot like an expensive comic. You can’t force it. It just happens. Nobody knew that Action Comics #1 would be such a big deal years later, but it is. You can TRY to make your new movie as cliché and silly as possible (hello, Shoot ‘Em Up), but most of the time you’re going to just get another forced product like insisting Doomsday killing Superman is going to be a major collector’s issue. Got my sloppy metaphor out of the way, so let’s continue.

I guess there are just some movies that are too weird to exist and when you get wind of them, you can’t rest until you sit down and watch it. Like the day I discovered that there’s a Japanese monster movie about a 50-foot-tall Frankenstein’s monster fighting a giant lizard. Or a movie about a samurai Buddy Holly walking through the desert and fighting Death so he could one day become the king of Lost Vegas. Or whatever the hell Santa Claus Meets the Ice Cream Bunny was about. I’m compelled to watch them.

Several years ago, I came across a clip on YouTube of one hell of a grindhouse movie trailer. It was a movie from the early 1980’s called Kill Squad.

I feel like the guy from the Maxell commercial when I see that. They really just tried to convince us that a throwing star blew up a car via different footage cut together! They don’t even try to give you any semblance of a plot. They just show you that it’s nothing but ridiculous fighting and the world’s greatest tagline. I’m in!

Unfortunately, Kill Squad is so obscure that it isn’t even on DVD. Believe me, I’ve spent the last few years checking up on that again and again to find no progress. Then fortune struck. I was showing that trailer to someone the other day and I saw a shocking link on the sidebar: “Kill Squad 1/8“.


I sat through the movie and came out a better man. It isn’t a good movie by any means, but the world is a better place for the fact that it exists. Also, the trailer was right. There is a loooooooot of fighting. In fact, I’m going to keep a running tally.

The movie is directed by Patrick G. Donahue and stars a bunch of guys who don’t appear in any other movie. B-movie mainstay Cameron Mitchell is also credited as the villainous Dutch. There’s a really hilarious and interesting notable actor in the movie, but I don’t want to make this review too top-heavy. I’ll go back to it down the line.

We begin with an opening montage of fight scenes from the movie with an exposed red and blue filter mixed with some funky jazz that makes you feel like you’ve sat down in the movie theater an hour too early. The movie has a lot of jazz in it. It’s part of the charm. Luckily, nothing is spoiled because other than seeing arms and legs flailing, you can’t make out a single thing in these shots.

It’s a guy punching in front of a tree. That’s all I got.

Our opening scene shows the home of Joseph “Whoa!” Lawrence (Jeff Risk, whose real name is more badass than his character’s) and his wife Joann. Joseph is celebrating his electronics company’s success in exposition so clunky that even Joann tells him that she already knows all of this. As this is all going on, a mysterious man named Dutch drives to the house and steps out of the car with a bunch of ne’er-do-well hicks. Obviously, we’re about to get the first step in a revenge story. Considering one of the bad guys looks at Joann through the window and suggests to his friend that they “have some fun with her”, we should obviously be ready to feel sorry for her.

Then she turns out to be a complete racist. You see, Joseph credits the company’s success on his buddy Larry Pearson (Jean Glaude). Joann doesn’t approve of Larry because he is black. Hoo boy. She doesn’t deserve to get raped, but at least we won’t miss her when she’s murdered for the sake of a vengeance arc.

Dutch and his guys come in, slap down Joann and attack Joseph. Fight Scene #1! There’s four henchmen and they’re all handily taken apart. Jeff Risk is looking pretty good here. With them done with, he just kind of does a martial arts stance and stands there while Dutch pulls out a gun and shoots him. Joseph falls, the bad guys swarm his wife like locusts and we cut away.

We move to a metal shop, where a bearded dude is drinking coffee with his female assistant and the previously-mentioned Larry Pearson walks in. He’s there to tell him that he’s rejecting their work because it doesn’t meet specifications. He also eyes the assistant, who looks an awful lot like Dee Snider.

The metal shop boss guy gets offended because those specifications are bullshit and mean nothing. Then he goes into more exposition, explaining that Joseph is now in a wheelchair and his wife had been raped and murdered. He and his guys really need the money, so he tells him to accept their metal parts. Larry refuses.

Thus begins the habit of fight scenes breaking out where you’d least expect them. Yes, we have Fight Scene #2! in the metal shop where everyone working there attacks Larry. At least it works in context in the sense that nobody there other than Larry really knows how to fight and they all go at him haphazardly. He takes a couple hits, but comes out on top. The boss ends up falling where he can grab his spare gun and… this happens.

This actor is also the writer and director too.

Later in the day, Larry wheels Joseph out of the hospital and brings him home. Larry is extremely dedicated to his friend and business partner and will do absolutely anything for him. They go to Joseph’s rose garden, which brings him a sense of peace. Months have passed since the Dutch incident and the cops have done nothing. Therefore, they need to take things into their own hands.

In his badass, deep voice, Joseph tells Larry, “Assemble a squad.”

Larry lights up. Now he’s talking. “They owe you. I owe you. We all owe you!” Well, yes. That last part is just redundant.

We go into a flashback to show that Joseph and Larry served together in Vietnam. They were prisoners, tied up in rope and bamboo, slapped around and forced to march. They were brought to a minefield where Joseph was ordered to walk forward and sacrifice himself for any surprise mines. That’s where we meet Alan (Bill Cambra), who I will refer to as Strong Dude. While the guy is completely jacked, I’ve discovered that even decades later, the actor’s gotten even bigger. Strong Dude pops off his restraints, gets an enemy soldier’s attention, impales him with the broken bamboo and places the guy’s straw hat over the protruding bamboo so the others don’t notice. Neat trick. When Joseph sets off a landmine, the squad all act at once, overwhelming their captors. I don’t consider this much of a fight scene, since it’s just Strong Dude easily popping necks and slaughtering enemy soldiers with a machete for a couple seconds. It’s still cool. He frees the others while Joseph is shown writhing on the ground.

Now we have our premise. Joseph is confined to a wheelchair and his wife is dead. His Nam buddies owe him their lives. Therefore, they’re going to get revenge in his name. Sounds solid. The next fifteen minutes of the film are dedicated to Larry tracking down the squad.

First up is Strong Dude. Larry walks by a bar, where some patrons run out in complete fear. They pile into a car and try to start it, but no go. Strong Dude (who has a mustache even though he doesn’t on the poster) walks out in his Gold’s Gym wifebeater and literally tears the car apart. Fight Scene #3! The others try to attack him, but they’re all incompetent and he no-sells a lot of it due to his size. Notable about this is how one guy even tries attacking Strong Dude with a parking meter that Strong Dude inadvertently removed from its spot in the concrete thanks to his brute strength. After punching them out and throwing them like ragdolls, Strong Dude confronts the last one moving and is handed a dollar. The beaten man yells at Strong Dude for being a no-good cheater.

With a smile on his face, Larry walks over and says, “Joseph needs you.” Understanding, Strong Dude agrees to help. Then he shrugs and addresses what just happened.

“He owed me a dollar.”

“You did… ALL THAT… for a dollar?!”


“Did you cheat?”


Then the two walk away laughing. Probably the only legit good exchange in the movie.

Next up is K.C. (Jerry Johnson), who I will refer to as Pimp. As you can guess, he’s a pimp. Introduced with some funky music, he drives to his two employees and gets angry that they aren’t on the corner they’re supposed to be. They tell him about another pimp who has taken over the area. Fight Scene #4! Pimp vs. his rival and his rival’s henchmen isn’t even much of a fight. The others don’t even lift a finger against him. They simply take his offense until Larry and Strong Dude show up to tell him, “Joseph needs you.” Pimp tells off his rival and gives his ladies some spending money to take care of themselves while he’s out of town.

Even though Joseph had told Larry earlier that he’d know where to find everyone, there’s a little pattern where only one squad member knows where the other is. Larry knows where Strong Dude is, who knows where Pimp is, who knows where Tommy (Gary Fung) is. Tommy, the only Asian guy in the movie, I’ll just call the Gardener.

He’s shown finishing up his work at this rich asshole’s home. The owner is having a party on his patio and pretty much ignores Gardener. Gardener gets really angry, especially because this guy owes him a lot of back pay. As you can guess, this escalates into Fight Scene #5!, where owner’s party guests go after him. At first, it isn’t that offensive. Gary Fung is one of the more talented martial artists in the film and everyone runs at him and gets knocked back. It’s not like they’re suggesting that everyone there knows kung fu or anything… Then a woman surprises him by breaking a vase over his skull. Gardener gets his bearings and suddenly…

Well, random martial arts women out of nowhere. Sure. Gardener wins and gets the owner to write him a check. Walking away, he meets up with the others and is told, “Joseph needs you.”

Our next subject is Pete (Francisco Ramirez), who I will call Kotter because of his resemblance to one Gabe Kaplan. Now, just about every single fight in this movie is one-sided. At almost no point do we ever feel any tension that any of these guys are going to get beat up. In a way, it’s almost like they’re invincible. Yeah… almost, indeed.

Kotter is a construction worker, up on the edge of a rooftop. A fellow worker runs over and shoves him off the edge, causing him to fall several stories and onto a car. This is because they believe him to be a stoolie or something. Either way, they’re corrupt and he isn’t.

Yeah, he’s dead. At this point, I expect to see another guy show up, call them out on what they did, fight them and get recruited to help out Joseph. That would make sense. Instead, the workers go to the ground and find that there’s nobody on top of the car anymore! Kotter is standing there, COMPLETELY no worse for wear. He isn’t even selling a bad back or anything. The guy is straight up invincible!

While we get Fight Scene #6!, what’s the point? The man is a god AND he knows kung fu. It’s over before it begins, even though having everyone attack him with shovels makes for a nice touch. He wastes them all, Larry and the rest appear, “Joseph needs you,” and Kotter is suddenly in a good mood. Wouldn’t you know it, only he knows where to find the last member, Arthur (Marc Sabin), who I’ll call Comic Relief.

Comic Relief is kind of a crazy businessman of sorts, stealing the money of investors via his fake idea of pet bugs. Now the IRS is investigating his practice and one of his investors is out to get his money back. These guys are trying to get their money back by – you guessed it – having a bunch of goons run out and attack him. Fight Scene #7! A couple are armed with bats, but it does them no good. The investors run off, yelling that they’ll give him a week extension. Then the other five appear and tell him, “Joseph needs you.” A man comes to warn Comic Relief that he’s far behind on his payments, but Comic Relief merely hands him the keys to his car and walks off with the others.

You know, half of our heroes are terrible people.

I should also note that Comic Relief looks an awful lot like WWE wrestler Derrick Bateman.

They all meet up at Joseph’s rose garden and each do a little martial arts demonstration to show their mastery of specific weapons. This is odd, since this bit never really comes up. Like, we never get to see Strong Dude use his nunchakus in a fight later in the movie. The one minor exception is Larry, who shows off his mastery of the throwing star. He flings it with the accompaniment of a cartoon sound effect not unlike the Roadrunner taking off. Rather than show the throwing star hit something, Kotter simply walks off-screen and walks back over with a rose with a throwing star stuck into it.

Comic Relief also gets a laugh out of Joseph for wearing a Bruce Lee t-shirt. I’m not sure I get the joke.

Joseph goes into an emotional speech about his wife and how he believes a rival company had hired people to take him out. They only have the name of one henchman as a lead and know that he works for a mysterious man named Dutch (overheard during the raping, I suppose), but he wants them to go up the ladder, find Dutch and find out who hired him. While I’m not going to call this performance great, it is suspiciously well-delivered. For a guy who doesn’t have a single other acting credit, he seems a little too good. Again, I’ll return to that later.

The squad is on the lookout for Virgil, who hangs out with a tightly-knit group of cowboys. During a big get-together, the squad visit and see if they can find him. Virgil is off having sex with his girlfriend in our one gratuitous breasts scene. Larry politely asks one of the cowboys about where Virgil is. This discussion escalates into a lot of passive aggression and the disgruntled cowboy stands up.

Larry takes a second to respond, “Holy shit.”

Still, he stands up to the giant, especially after the n-bomb is dropped, and says, “I know it’s going to be hard to distinguish, but I said I’m looking for the cowboy who looks and smells like the asshole of a horse!”

Remember when I said that there was only one good exchange? Scratch that.

Fight Scene #8! Larry fights Giant Cowboy and the rest of the squad make themselves known, fighting off everyone else. Considering Giant Cowboy is supposed to be a racist, I can’t help but notice that one of the extras getting his ass handed to him due to supporting his cowboy buddies is black. That has to be awkward.

Virgil gets wind of what’s going on, picks up a shotgun, storms out, throws it to Giant Cowboy and pulls out a handgun. Larry thinks fast by kicking the shotgun so it’s aimed at Virgil right before the trigger is pulled. The fight winds down and their target is killed before they could question him. They end up having to grill his topless girlfriend over what Virgil’s told her. They get a couple new leads and go on their way.

Joseph has the squad split up into two teams to find what they can on those leads. Meanwhile, Giant Cowboy goes to a pay phone and calls up Dutch. He says that some military guys are out to get him. Dutch, who is polishing a rifle in this scene, promises that if the Kill Squad is taken care of, Giant Cowboy and his friends will be taken care of financially. After hanging up, Dutch seems incredibly irritated and mutters, “Asshole,” under his breath.

Here is where the movie goes into a total holding pattern. It’s like the writer knew he needed to fill up a half hour and got lazy. Half of the squad finds a guy at a different locale, mentions Dutch by name, the guy gets scared and tries to run off, we get a one-sided fight scene, they interrogate the bad guy, and then a masked man would appear in the distance and snipe both a member of the Kill Squad and the henchman.

Fight Scene #9! Ends with Strong Dude getting shot and killed. A shame, since he was my favorite.

Fight Scene #10! After doing the Bruce Lee “stomp on a guy, twist your leg in a way that kills them and scream like a weirdo” bit, Kotter gets capped.

Since Dutch is supposed to be some kind of major villain and he was messing with a rifle earlier, it makes sense that this would be him taking out the squad without lifting a fist. He has to be the masked sniper, right? Back at the rose garden, Joseph sees the dog tags and gets saddened. Larry insists that they died for something that they believed in and that they will see this through. Again, they split up into teams to chase leads.

Fight Scene #11! They beat up some guys at a junkyard and the target accidentally shoots himself. Larry and Pimp walk away, but the sniper takes out Pimp.

Fight Scene #12! This may be the most ridiculous of all the fights. The henchman Gardener and Comic Relief are after works as a used car salesman. When they go after him, the guy’s friends stand up for him.

A goddamn fight breaks out in the used car lot where all the salesmen are goddamn martial artists. What the hell kind of town is this?!

It isn’t all fighting, though. The target tries to drive off and the others pursue him through a rather nice car chase. You can see the highlights in the trailer, but there are some sweet jumps and crashes in there. They catch up, get their hands on him and the sniper shoots Gardener. And then there were two.

Joseph doesn’t want to continue with this, but Larry and Comic Relief insist. They find out that Giant Cowboy knows how to contact Dutch, as learned from talking to Virgil’s beaten girlfriend (Giant Cowboy didn’t take kindly to her spilling the beans to Kill Squad earlier in the movie). Since Giant Cowboy and friends are armed, Larry and Comic Relief trick them into chasing them around while accompanied by a country counterpart to the Benny Hill theme. They get to a rooftop parking lot, disarm the bad guys and outfight them. Fight Scene #13!

Once the bad guys are beaten, Giant Cowboy talks the remaining squad members down by saying that they should talk this out. This part is pretty amusing as he offers to give them the info needed to track down Dutch and desperately says, “All you had to do was ask. Communicate! That’s what’s wrong with the world today. No communication!” Then a bullet goes through his chest. The sniper finally realizes that he can actually shoot multiple times instead of firing once and running away. He kills off all of the bad guys and then gets Comic Relief in the chest.

Larry, the only one left, decides he’s had enough of this shit and decides not to let the sniper get away. He catches up to him in an alley and even tosses a throwing star, but it only gets lodged into the sniper’s arm before being discarded. Fight Scene #14! Larry goes at the sniper and… loses?! Seriously? Wow, that’s new.

Considering Dutch is pretty old and has the stature of Shatner, the idea of him being the sniper no longer makes sense. Larry unmasks him momentarily, but neither we nor Larry get to see his face. …Ohhhhhh! That’s the direction they’re going with this. You know, you can’t really have an under-the-mask mystery when there’s only one suspect. The sniper wins the fight and has a chance to finish Larry, but decides to let him live. Larry stirs and pulls out the address book he stole from Giant Cowboy.

He goes to Dutch’s place, where Dutch is having a pool party and barbecue. When Larry shows up, Dutch has just about everyone go after him. Fight Scene #15! Yes, everyone there knows how to fight. Larry even deals with a couple bikini women and punches them down. The only ones who aren’t lifting a finger are an elderly couple slowly moving out of the shot in the background. I’m not even sure if they were supposed to be there to begin with.

There’s even an endboss fight here. A huge Native American dude shows up with a grand entrance and I guess makes himself known as Dutch’s top bodyguard. Naturally, he gets kicked into the pool. That leaves Larry to confront Dutch, who tries to talk his way out of it. Larry wants to know which electronics company hired him and Dutch is shocked. He was never hired by an electronics company. He was hired by—oops, Larry accidentally shoots him in the stomach. He dies before he can tell Larry who was signing the checks.

You know what’s weird? Not a single cop in this entire movie. People are dying left and right and not a single officer gives a damn. I guess they must have their hands full anyway, considering every citizen is a black belt.

Larry goes to see Joseph and they sadly claim the mission to be a complete failure with Larry insisting that none of this was Joseph’s fault. They all knew what they were getting into. Joseph suggests getting what evidence they’ve put together and handing it over to the nonexistent police. When Larry comes back with the info in hand, he finds the masked sniper ready for him… doing a very familiar martial arts stance.

Fight Scene #16! It’s Larry vs. the sniper and once again, Larry gets taken apart. The sniper is about to go for the kill when he’s tackled by Comic Relief out of the blue. Comic Relief shows that he was wearing a bullet proof vest earlier. The sniper still overpowers him and cuts him up with a katana. Getting back up, Larry notices that Joseph’s wheelchair in the rose garden is empty. He kicks the sniper away from Comic Relief, grabs him by the mask and punches him back. The mask is off. Who is our mystery man?

HAHAHAHA! Holy shit! It’s Norman Osborn from Siege!

Really, why does Joseph have teeth painted over his mouth? What does that have to do with disguising himself?

Larry’s actor has a pretty good emotional response to this. He acts horrified and broken over what’s been done to him and his friends and demands answers. It’s a good delivery.

A good delivery that is immediately ruined by Joseph responding like a supervillain. He’s been bitter for years for losing his leg in Vietnam and has always wanted revenge. I can’t do this monologue justice, so here you go.

“Why your wife? Why Joann, Joe?”

“She hated me! She made me feel like I was a nobody! Always talking about divorce… Everything you see is hers! EVERYTHING! The car, the house, the money, the company! Everything is hers! I knew I had to get rid of her! I just couldn’t take it anymore! I made a game of it. A killer game. Yes. I hired Dutch to kill her… and to shoot me. Make it look real, I said! Next was to get you to assemble a squad. Oh, I knew that would be easy. YOU’RE SO STUPID! The squad would kill Dutch and his men… and I’d kill the squad. I almost died in my uniform! I wanted to see them die in theirs. And I knew… that it would just come down… between you and me. So I trained… and I trained… and I trained… forcing my body back into shape. WAITING for this moment. And after you’re gone, I’m free. And I own everything! And once again, I will be in command!”

Fists start flying again, this time with Larry on the advantage. Joseph picks up an axe out of nowhere, swings and misses, imbedding the weapon into the nearby fence. Larry kicks Joseph, sending him back so his neck would meet the blade.

With his fucking head cut off. Motherfucker, I’m Dre!

Larry goes to Comic Relief, who is covered in blood and weakly talks about how they should work together. Larry can be part of his pet bug business. Comic Relief then goes silent and Larry walks away sad. Comic Relief reveals that he’s actually still alive and he really needs to go to the hospital, causing Larry to laugh out loud and call him a damn fool. He carries the kid off as he weakly continues discussing his pet bugs idea and the movie ends to the sound of smooth, funky jazz.

Sixteen fight scenes! SIXTEEN! Wow.

Good or bad (it was bad), that was one hell of a movie. Silly and repetitive, at least Kill Squad is proud of what it is. I’m proud of what it is. It’s a cheesefest martial arts version of Magnficient Seven with much of the personality removed and a script written over the course of a weekend. It’s a movie that features the line, “Hey, it’s no bull! I wouldn’t lie to you about 3,000 centipedes!” I can’t hate that.

Now let’s go back to Jeff Risk, the man who played Joseph. I had mentioned that for a guy who hasn’t done anything else in the movie business (so says IMDB), he’s got a cool voice and competent delivery. It’s the same voice as the narrator from the trailer. So what’s the deal with that, anyway? Get this. All of Jeff Risk’s dialogue was dubbed over by – of all people – Russell Johnson. You might be wondering who that is.

That’s right. You guys got shot by AND THE REST.

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3 comments to “Kill Squad: 12 Hands. 12 Feet. 24 Reasons to Die!”

  1. Rest in peace, Strong Dude. A flight of Mike Haggars sing thee to thy rest.

  2. So this seems like the movie I’m Gonna Get You Sucka was based off of. Or was I always right and it was just a parody of Blaxploitation movies in general?

  3. “You guys got shot by AND THE REST” is going to have me laughing all day.