The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

KARATE FOR LIFE (1977) ** ½


Perennial bad ass Sonny (The Street Fighter) Chiba once again stars as karate master Masutatsu Oyama in this third and final installment of the trilogy that began in Karate Bull Fighter. 


The flick starts out with Chiba walking into a dojo and basically telling the master that his karate sucks nuts.  This pisses off the sensei and he sicks about eight dozen students on him and Chiba easily mops the floor (and I do mean mop the floor) with all of them while the opening credits roll. 


A sniveling wrestling promoter gets wind of Chiba’s legendary fighting skills and hires him to take on a bunch of sweaty wrestlers in the ring.  Since Chiba had already battled a charging bull and a raging bear in the previous entries, this is a piece of cake.  He’s later appalled when the yakuza backers want him to throw fights and when he refuses, they fire him.  Things take a turn for the melodramatic when Chiba saves an alcoholic prostitute from committing suicide and helps reform a gang of juvenile thieves.  To get the money needed for the ho’s treatment, Chiba agrees to become a wrestling heel and throws all his matches, but he ends up double crossing the gangsters after he gets his hands on the money.  In the end, the sensei he beat senseless (and I mean that literally since he knocked the dude’s eyeball out) during the opening credits comes back for revenge and Chiba nonchalantly tosses him off a cliff, to which Chiba proclaims, “There is no end to my way of karate!”


It’s not quite up to the zany heights reached by Karate Bear Fighter, but I guess anything would be a letdown after you’ve seen Chiba tussle with a guy in an unconvincing bear suit.  The fight scenes are expertly filmed and director Kazuhiko (Delinquent Girl Boss:  Worthless to Confess) Yamaguchi slyly slows down and speeds up the fight scenes not only to give you a real sense of Chiba’s mastery, but it also gives the fights a unique sense of rhythm.  The wrestling scenes are equally well done (I especially like how the names of the wrestling moves were juxtaposed over the action) and seeing the contrasting styles of the wrestlers with Chiba’s considerable karate skills were quite a treat.    


The film’s biggest problem is it’s draggy middle section when it shifts gears from being a karate chopping action movie to a syrupy soap opera.  Things improve dramatically once a bunch of ninjas show up to kick Chiba’s ass, but the unfortunate lapse into melodrama really hampers the film’s momentum.  Also the film’s hall of mirrors finale shamelessly rips off the ending of Enter the Dragon and doesn’t really gel with the rest of the movie’s vibe.  Still Chiba kicks mucho ass and it’s a worthy close to the trilogy, even though he doesn’t mutilate any rampaging animals with his bare hands.

Tags: action, k, kung fu
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