Issue #267a            HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            June 6th, 2005

Karate Bullfighter
(1975; Toei)

Japanese: Kenka karate kyokushin ken
Alternate English Title: Champion of Death

  RATING: 5/10


That silly English title actually has a basis in fact: Mas Oyama gained immortality in Japanese martial arts circles for killing no less than 52 bulls with his bare hands. Sonny Chiba was a real life student of Oyama, so who better to play him in this Toei biopic? Reportedly based more on the exploits depicted in a popular Oyama manga series than the genuine article, the film opens in 1949 and follows the rise of Oyama from hermit to nationally respected karate expert. His obviously superior skills anger the martial arts establishment, prompting them to plot the downfall of Oyama and his "evil karate." Sensei Oyama must also deal with the violent repercussions that inevitably follow those who devote their lives to the martial arts.

Oyama (Sonny Chiba) demonstrates his incredible abilities at a karate exhibition Chiba battles perennial nemesis Masashi Ishibashi

Chiba (who went on to make two more films about Oyama) dominates the screen in his inimitable way, which helps to counter some of the storyline’s melodramatic excesses. Unfortunately, the various battles are almost invariably depicted via tight framing, jerky handheld camera work, and graceless editing (problems plaguing many contemporary action films), working against the kinetic charge one longs for from Chiba’s pictures and rendering KARATE BULLFIGHTER merely passable.

Beach training session Karate Bullfighter!


This Kazuhiko Yamaguchi effort was released stateside by United Artists as CHAMPION OF DEATH and United American’s low-quality 1999 DVD release of that English-dubbed version was most likely unauthorized. Adness’ anamorphic presentation looks superb and the restoration of the scope compositions makes the sloppy camerawork easier to follow. The Japanese language track is offered in the original mono and a 5.1 alternative that widens the sound field somewhat. Also included are trailers for the Chiba titles Adness is handling and liner notes by Patrick Macias (which inadvertently confuse this film with another Chiba vehicle, KILLING MACHINE, at one point).

Fist to fist in an illegal match staged for American GIs Oyama's troubled relationship with his love provides some of the requisite melodrama


Images in this review courtesy of Adness. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2005. All Rights Reserved.


- U.S. Release

NTSC – Region 1 Only

- Adness #18912-7

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0

Sync Sound Japanese Language

Subtitles (Optional): English

12 Chapters

16:9 Enhanced (2.35:1)

88 Minutes


- Australia: M 15+

Manitoba: 18A

Nova Scotia: 14

Ontario: R

Quebec: 13+

United States: R

Contains brutal violence and cruelty to animals

10 A Masterpiece
9 Excellent
8 Highly Recommended
7 Very Good
6 Recommended
5 Marginal Recommendation
4 Not Recommended
3 Poor
2 Definitely Not Recommended
1 Dreadful