Issue #272          HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES               July 18th, 2005

Karate Bearfighter
(1975; Toei)

Japanese: Kenka karate kyokushin buraiken
English: Fighting Karate – Ultimate Truth Brutal Fist

  RATING: 5/10


The second of three Sonny Chiba films about the life of karate legend Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama (who can be seen performing various martial feats under the opening credits), KARATE BEARFIGHTER finds the distinguished fighter’s brutal exploits generating newspaper headlines like "Karate Fighter Runs Wild Again." Rejected by the martial arts establishment (personified by perennial Chiba foe Masashi Ishabashi), Oyama turns to drink and agrees to be a Yakuza bodyguard/bouncer. His conscience finally gets the better of him, however, so Oyama leaves the organization and heeds the wisdom of an elderly stick-fighting master. Meanwhile, he all but ignores longtime love Chiyako (Yumi Takagawa) and strikes up an unlikely friendship with a bumbling conman who has been trading on Oyama’s name. Of course, it is only a matter of time before the karate association’s actions lead to tragedy and bloody retribution.

Sonny Chiba Sonny Chiba (left), Yumi Takagawa

As seen previously in KARATE BULLFIGHTER (reviewed in issue #267a), director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (SISTER STREETFIGHTER) presents much of the combat with dizzying handheld camerawork and the film takes a jaw-droppingly contrived detour into heavy-handed sentimentality in the final third, as Oyama befriends a feisty orphan. This association leads to the long awaited titular scuffle, which is only slightly less hokey than the battling behemoths of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, but almost as difficult to resist. This is followed by yet another fight that seems more than a little anti-climactic. If Oyama can survive a duel against a bear, what are a few more two-legged foes?

Masashi Ishabashi Sonny Chiba (center)


The presentation looks slightly bland and grainy at times, but almost certainly represents the film’s original look and has no distracting anomalies. The original Japanese mono and a 5.1 revamp are offered (with optional English subs, of course); the former is preferable and the latter tolerable. Trailers for this and the other Chiba titles offered by Adness are included, plus liner notes from Patrick Macias.

Sonny Chiba Karate Bear(suit)fighter!

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

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


- U.S. Release

NTSC – Region 1 Only

Adness #18872-7

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0

Japanese Language

Subtitles (Optional): English

12 Chapters

16:9 Enhanced (2.39:1)

87 Minutes

Contains brutal violence


Manitoba: PG

Nova Scotia: 14

Ontario: 14A

Quebec: G

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