aka CHAMPION OF DEATH or FIGHTING KARATE-ULTIMATE TRUTH FIST
KARATE BULLFIGHTER is the first in a trilogy starring the great Sonny Chiba as his real life mentor Masutatsu Oyama. Apparently it’s based on a comic book called The Fanatical Karate Generation. Despite all the crazy titles this movie is really sort of a fictionalized biography of a visionary karate instructor who causes an outrage by rejecting the notions of the time. He pisses everybody off by saying that modern karate is just “a dance” and lamenting that he wasted his time by training for 3 years. He does win a big trophy in a tournament that supposedly means he’s the best karate man in Japan, but when a guy compliments him he gets all pissed off and throws it down some stairs.
It’s a real interesting story but let’s be honest, you’re not gonna watch it for an interesting story. You’re gonna watch it because it’s called Karate Bullfighter. This is because in the first half of the movie Sonny is practicing karate on the beach when suddenly he hears that a mad bull is loose. He figures maybe he should help so he saves a little girl from being gored and then wrestles the bull. He literally grabs the bull by the horns, then figuratively goes for the jugular by literally karate chopping the bull in the head until a beautiful shower of samurai movie/Dawn of the Dead style bright red blood sprays out. This is actually kind of creepy because they have a real bull for alot of shots and it looks like they somehow forced his mouth shut so he couldn’t bite. (Some of it is also clearly a fake bull.)
Anyway he kills a bull with his bare hands, and when word gets out his karate rivals talk shit and say he must’ve cheated somehow, drugging th bull or something. You figure he’s gonna try to prove it by fighting another bull in front of everybody, but no. The title just comes from that one scene. Still, the rivals cracks cause Sonny’s one and only student to go completely crazy and beat the shit out of them, putting them in the hospital. As you know from Mr. Miyagi, Chuck Norris and other wise individuals, karate is supposed to be for self defense. You’re not supposed to go beat the hell out of dudes for talking shit. So the fact that Sonny taught this asshole reflects poorly on him and reinforces the idea that he teaches evil karate. And he feels real bad about it and tries to make amends.
But things get worse. Upset about the whole thing he goes and gets real drunk and it just so happens that while he’s in the bar some gangsters come in and try to extort the club owner. So Sonny fights them and accidentally kills one of them.
In some movies that would just be an awesome action scene but in this one it has consequences. Sonny feels terrible about killing a guy, especially after he meets the guy’s wife and son. When he goes to their house to try to do work for them as an apology, the kid yells at him and throws shit at his head. But he still tills some crops for them and eventually wins them over.
So it’s got a cool anti-hero trying to redeem himself kinda thing going on but unfortunately it also has one thing I got a problem with in a lot of Japanese movies: the ol’ rape scene. When he was in the war he saved a girl from some American assholes. And now, years later, he sees this same girl speaking English and talking to a Yankee, and he assumes she’s a prostitute. This pisses him off so bad that he rapes her. Later he finds out it’s all a big misunderstanding and he apologizes, and after a while they fall in love. But I’m sorry man, no dice. It’s not a normal mistake to make. Maybe if you’re gonna cut your dick off or something we will consider forgiving you but even then I gotta wonder what your fuckin problem is. Jesus man be a fuckin gentleman. And the lady, I’m glad she at least rejects him for a while but jesus. Have some self respect.
If you can get past that problem, it is otherwise a fun movie with some good karate and the powerful presence of Mr. Sonny Chiba. It’s alot better than you probaly imagine, you actually get involved in the story instead of just waiting for the next fight scene or chopping a Coke bottle scene. My favorite part besides the bullfight is at the end when he’s sneaking around in a field fighting a whole gang of his rivals. Some hotshot comes at him all fancy, swinging nunchakas all over the place. Sonny’s response is to chuck a little rock really hard at the dude’s head and knock him out. It’s a classic move. I wonder if that’s where Indiana Jones got the idea to shoot that sword guy? I don’t know but if he had hit him in the head with a rock it would’ve been even better.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.