Issue #290         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES      November 21st, 2005

Karate For Life
(1977; Toei)

Japanese: Karate baka ichidai

  RATING: 5/10


The concluding chapter in Sonny Chiba’s Mas Oyama trilogy opens with the headstrong karate master kicking, punching and otherwise clobbering all 101 students of a local dojo. He then accepts a fight promoter’s offer to enter the square ring and battle a foreign wrestler in a match staged for American G.I.s stationed in Okinawa. Naturally, he wipes the floor with the big lummox, much to the anger of the crowd and the dismay of the promoter’s Yakuza backers. Broke and out of work, Oyama soon finds himself assisting some street urchins and a consumptive prostitute in the sort of melodramatic detour these movies almost invariably take.


Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi presents the fights in the same berserk, handheld fashion as those on view in KARATE BULLFIGHTER and KARATE BEARFIGHTER, and while the film is ostensibly set in the 1950s, little attempt is made to accurately evoke the period (everything from the fashions to the cars looks a bit off). Fortunately, the novelty of karate vs. wrestling carries the show, along with a few inspired touches (when his enemies try to foil Oyama by pouring oil on the floor, he regains his footing by hopping from the body of one fallen opponent to another!) and an absurd recreation of the Bruce Lee/Shih Kien "hall of mirrors" duel from ENTER THE DRAGON. Hideo Murota and Chiba’s favorite whipping boy, Masashi Ishibashi) also appear, but even the latter does not fare as badly as a poor rat that is actually electrocuted in one scene.



The transfer looks stark and marvelously colorful, easily the best of the three Oyama movies, and the mono audio is fine. The regular Sonny Chiba Collection trailers are included and, like other entries, the film is presented in Japanese with optional English subtitles (which get a bit anachronistic too, with terms like "in the zone").


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


- U.S. Release

NTSC – Region 1 Only

Adness #18852-7

Dolby Digital 2.0

Japanese Language

Subtitles (Optional): English

12 Chapters

16:9 Enhanced (2.38:1)

90 Minutes


- Manitoba: PG

Nova Scotia: R

Quebec: 13+

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