Written by / 6/19/2016 / No comments / , , ,

LAWRENCE TIERNEY CINEMA PRESENTS 'KILL OR BE KILLED'

OVERALL MOVIE RATING: ***1/2
What a b-picture. The epitome of a programmer. Short and to the point with a beginning, middle and end, and plenty in-between...

This includes, going in reverse: deadly piranha, mistreated jungle labor, the beautiful yet put-upon wife of an eccentric German land developer and one of the few things befitting the Noir template...

Though this is more a suspenseful adventure... is that our hero, Lawrence Tierney, in one of his BODYGUARD and STEP BY STEP style nice guy roles as opposed to the DILLINGER, DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE and BORN TO KILL villain, epitomizes the particular genre but usually as a human monster, not pawn or, as in this particular case, Wrong Man.

Tim Roth (spouting Quentin Tarantino's dialogue) would compare Tierney, in 1991's RESERVOIR DOGS, to Marvel's Block Beast, THING, but in his youth, Lawrence was surprisingly lean, handsome and yet he still had a face like a slab of spear-shaped cement harboring narrow, piercing eyes built into a permanent scowl. He isn't only wronged here, he's not as angry as usual: Even after returning to an Opening Soon Nightclub after installing a complicated air conditioning system throughout the two-story joint... a three month task.

 He gets to sing and dance with a gorgeous blonde till discovering he's not getting paid. Of course a loud argument arises – and soon enough the boss is killed by a wraithlike stranger who makes out the window in seconds flat, and it sure seems like  Tierney's Robert Warren is the killer...

He becomes a hunted man, shot at by natives hired by local mobster George Coulouris: the very actor detested by Orson Welles in CITIZEN KANE and later double-crosses Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in PAPILLON. His nefarious Victor Sloma is as sleazy as his name, with hair wisp back, all frazzled as if having driven a motorcycle through a dust storm – a classy henchman of an even classier yet sinister, downright creepy German, Gregory, whose wife, in a boat heading to the river locale, falls for Tierney's Robert, hiding the desperate tough guy inside her cloistered room with all the trappings of high society. In this role, Margaret O'Brien's aunt, Marissa, is pretty in a wife-next-door manner, and she and Tierney have chemistry that makes their romance matter on a personal basis – without her he'll be caught, and without him she'd never learn what kind of man she really loves.

A primal adventure with shades of Film Noir at 1950
Short story short, with all the pulpy action stretched into a convenient 67 minutes, what KILL OR BE KILLED amounts to is Tierney becoming part of a jungle chain gang involving free men but they're not really, and he's much too quickly recognized and realized as "the wanted killer" from town... being the only white man... so the suspense amounts to very little, and we hear about the central river's deadly piranha more than we witness their wrath...

Of course, with such a low budget made so very long ago, it still works seeing only blood in the water, or, for the most part, hearing a piercing scream from their victims, which, at one point, comes to pass during a pivotal clash between Tierney and Coulouris: win or become killer fish food. Overall, when it comes to acting, Tierney's usual monotone works well enough to make him a hero to root for with an edge to keep him alive, without anyone by his side.
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