Karate Warrior (1987)

Our stroll through the career of the Prior brothers continues, sort of. In 1988 Ted would appear, extremely briefly, in “Karate Warrior 2”, so for fun I decided to watch the first two “Karate Warrior” movies – there are, apparently, six of them and given parts 3-6 only appear to be available in Italian-language DVDs, I’m probably going to pass. Coming up next in the official Prior canon is “Deadly Prey”, aka “the one every bad movie enthusiast has already seen” so I’m putting that off for a few days.

Manila looks legitimately filthy and miserable, and poor Anthony Scott (Italian actor Kim Rossi Stuart) is having a rough time of it, getting beaten up and having all his stuff stolen after he’s only been out of the airport for a few minutes. He’s off from the USA to visit his Dad, a campaigning journalist who can’t possibly get on a plane himself and visit his own damn family. That Dad is Paul, played by Jared Martin (“Rome 2072: The New Gladiators”, lots of American TV) and their dialogue when they meet is the sort of stilted you can only get when an American and an Italian who can’t act are both dubbed by people who can’t act either. But still, it’s a nice reunion I guess?

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Anthony meeting a nice girl, Maria (Janelle Baretto, one and only credit), and then having a run-in with local gangster Quino (Enrico Toralba) – oh, and Quino is also the national karate champion, having learned from Master Kimura (Ken Watanabe) before he disappeared some years before. Anthony decides to antagonise the man who could 100% have him killed with no problem, and luckily for him Quino just decides to kick his ass and leave him in the woods.

This has really taken an unacceptable amount of screen time – something like 38 minutes of an 80 minute movie. Reading the VHS cover will reveal to you that Anthony learns karate from that same Master Kimura, so you either need more of a plot in your act 1 (like, a reason the Dad can’t leave the country, or why Quino is so evil), or you need less of an act 1. Then, act 2 where Anthony learns from Kimura, including some of the most poorly scripted philosophical musings of all time; and an act 3 which is revenge!

Only it’s all messed up. The training doesn’t start til 54 minutes, and act 3 really involves…nothing? I guess? Maria’s little brother is trapped in a burning building, which is apparently Quino’s work, and then Anthony rescues him and goes off to compete in the national karate championships. Well, he just turns up at the and challenges the actual champion, Quino, who’s just fought four other guys on his own so must be feeling a bit tired. Also, if you’re feeling picky, the title it’s known by in the USA, “The Boy In The Golden Kimono”, is super-irrelevant until the last five minutes when he puts it on, and then plays zero role in the rest of the action. It’s like calling “Grease” “The Girl In The Leather Jacket”.

It’s not so much awful as it is really, really boring. Director Fabrizio De Angelis, a minor figure in the Italian exploitation cinema story, seemed like he could barely be bothered here, and certainly couldn’t be bothered to make the hero remotely likeable. You’ll be cheering for Quino from the first time he appears on screen, and although we all know how it’s going to end, we’re all still a little sad when he gets his. Plus, Anthony uses the magic punch he gets taught to knock out a cow, which is a crappy thing to do so screw him.

I would like to talk about the training segment, though, a segment we bad movie fans have seen a million times. Kimura tries to sort Anthony’s twisted neck by shouting “Don’t worry, just relax!” at him multiple times, to the point where he’s screaming it in his face – if it’s a joke, it predates Seifeld’s “serenity now!” by almost a decade. Oh, and Anthony does the whole “can I ask you a question?” to which Kimura replies “no”, which I rather liked too.

The fighting, what little there is of it, is interesting, being properly stylised karate (I’ll leave it to the experts to talk about it in more detail – it has an interesting visual to it, anyway). But it’s badly edited and badly shot and terribly badly acted and has justifiably disappeared completely without trace since its release.

Part 2 is apparently set in the USA, so even though it’ll be mostly filmed somewhere in Italy and will suck out loud, we’ll watch it anyway. Then “Deadly Prey”! You’d have to go out of your way to find “Karate Warrior”, so my advice to you is don’t. Just leave it to sink ever further into obscurity and fill your mind with more joyful works.

Rating: thumbs down

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