Review: KARATE FOR LIFE (KARATE BAKA-ICHIDAI) (1977)


karateforlife

Starring Sonny Chiba, Hideo Murota, Masashi Nakada, Kohjiro Hongo

Fight Choreography by Sonny Chiba

Directed by Kazuhiro Yamaguchi

The film opens with Masutatsu Oyama (Chiba), now infamous for his fights with a bull and bear, finds himself on the outs with the Japanese Karate society, ‘cause who can respect a guy who beat the crap out of a bull with his bare hands? Surely he wouldn’t be a good martial arts teacher. Oyama gets work as a gangster, and so, to pass the time, Oyama travels to different dojos challenging their teachers. Oyama travels to one particular dojo at the beginning, and fights the entire school during the opening credits, delivering whoop-ass after glorious whoop-ass. The students even cheat, and are still unable to win. Finally Oyama fights the Sensei, and wins, blinding the master in one eye. The Sensei vows revenge, and from there Oyama goes back to his job as a bouncer for the local gangsters. He soon gets an invitation to go to Okinawa and fight in what turns out to be glorified wrestling matches in which Japanese are supposed to lose, to provide entertainment for the American soldiers there. The local mob also controls this enterprise, unknown to Oyama. The mob made three glaring mistakes here:

1. They expected Oyama to lose.

2. They tried to kill him once he decided that no, he doesn’t lose. This is Godd***n Sonny Chiba, people!

3. They didn’t succeed in killing him. A common, fatal mistake for all Sonny Chiba villains.

Before the rampage of blood and death that we know will drastically reduce the population of Okinawa, Oyama has his plane money stolen by a bunch of kid thieves he has to track down. He befriends these children (luckily for them) and tries to work to earn money for them all.  As things do, it turns bad for Oyama and the kids, and all that’s left is revenge. Trust me, Okinawa didn’t have enough graves to put all the dead Oyama left in his wake…

karateforlife3

This is the third film in Sonny Chiba’s Oyama Trilogy, along with Karate Bull Fighter and Karate Bear Fighter, telling the tale of Matsutasu Oyama, one of the greatest karate fighters of all time.  Sonny is, well, Sonny, and he’s as good as ever. The other actors are all good with their parts, and many of them are Sonny Chiba mainstays. The fights are good, but there are no rivers of blood here like in Chiba’s other films, but that doesn’t take anything away from them. The fights still show off Chiba’s karate style very nicely, but as I warn in any of these kind of reviews, if you are a kung-fu film aficionado, you may have to adjust to the pacing of the karate fights here. The tempo and cadence are different from Hong Kong fare, so go into the film with that in mind.

karateforlife1

The scenes with the kids were odd compared to Oyama’s new venture as a gangster, which in itself was odd compared to Chiba’s portrayal of Oyama in the previous film, which, if you read my review of Karate Bull Fighter, that film also suffered from a contradiction from the first half of the film to the second. The final fight is bigger and better than the previous film, but the the opening of the fight was truncated in a way that was frustrating, but the next round somewhat made up for this (I’m referring to the fight outside of the mob mansion, and then ensuing fight inside.) The mobsters die nastily, and many limbs were broken, as they tend to be in a Sonny Chiba film, but the final fight with the main villain was something to behold. Not because it was good, but because it ripped off the mirror room fight at the end of Enter The Dragon wholesale! I had to roll my eyes at this, and it took me right out of the film.

Best moment: In the fight inside the mob mansion, once Chiba gets a staff and starts wrecking house, he sweeps a guy off his fight and stabs the guy with the staff, and to put all his weight one it he strikes what has to be one of the coolest “see me now, bitches?” poses in the history of ever.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

Chiba brings the goods as normal in an adventure slightly better than his previous outing as Oyama. Much karate mayhem ensues, but it’s not as crazy as most of Chiba’s films.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Review: KARATE FOR LIFE (KARATE BAKA-ICHIDAI) (1977)”

  1. Just to let you know Michael, I have just put the link to this on the heroic Sisterhood page.

    Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: