Project: Kill (1976)

And I am not talking about insulin for diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, veteran actor Leslie Nielsen did not have his first comedic role in “Naked Gun.” No, ladies and gentleman, that role would have to be here, in “Project: Kill,” one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I’ve ever seen. What is so tragic is that I believe the filmmakers had half-sincerity in what they were doing – trying to make a decent ’70s-style political paranoia movie on the cheap. Director and Kentucky-based B-movie maven William Girdler even called this his greatest film, making me wonder whether he had an injection or two of his own.

What they made instead is a movie with Nielsen embarrassing himself as a drugged-up, brainwashed top-secret assassin, walking through the Phillipines for some reason with both a bunch of Asian gangsters and an ex-partner after him (played by Gary Lockwood who, unbelievably, was in “2001: A Space Odyessey” 8 years earlier. His presence here certainly indicates that he received no royalties from that film). While on this little travel excursion, we get to see the beautiful and seedy sides of the Philippines (the producer appears to have spent the majority of the budget on pointless scenic photography at the expense of a badly-needed dialogue coach), and we also get to see the clumsiest kung-fu fight scenes ever put to celluloid. I’m not kidding – it seems as if Bugs Bunny was the resident martial arts consultant for filming. In addition, we get plenty of pseudo-sophisticated camera-work a la Sidney J. Furie’s “The Ipcress File.” I half expected to see the cameraman’s foot slip into the bottom of the screen these shots were so inept. Two other highlights: a music score which seems to cut off and restart incorrectly during scene transitions, and Lockwood’s boss on the telephone who has the voice of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I feel deeply sorry for the people of the Philippines. First, the United States annexed their country and claimed it as U.S. territory, then a hundred years later it made cheap movies like this even more cheaply over there to exploit the currency differential. A movie like this is grounds for diplomatic sanctions by the Philippines against the U.S. It is good for a few laughs and for curiosity’s sake. For that reason, I will forego giving it a formal star rating, and let you get out of this whatever qualities you may; after all, life is like a box of chocolates…