Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Treasure of the Amazon (1985) review


Stuart Whitman (Gringo), Donald Pleasence (Klaus), John Ireland (priest), Bradford Dillman (Clark), Pedro Amendariz (Pablo), Hugo Stiglitz (boat captain), Sonja Infante (Morinba), Ann Sidney (Barbara), Emilio Fernandez (Tacho)

Directed by Rene Cardona Jr.

The Short Version: A great cast, some juicy gore and a throwback storyline to the serial adventures of old
enliven this Mexican mishmash of 'B' movie cliches. As a bonus, there's some amazing cinematography that captures both the danger and splendor of the Amazon jungle. Occasionally collapsing into unintended hilarity, fans of RAIDERS style rip offs and Italian gut crunchers may wish to seek out this obscure minor league treasure.

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity and gore***

An aging gold hunter, a myriad group of danger seekers and a Nazi intent on creating a race of superhumans are on an expedition to locate a vast treasure in gold and diamonds hidden away somewhere in the amazon jungle. While everyone has their own agenda, they all face an onslaught of treacherous obstacles including alligators, piranhas, flesh eating crabs and a vicious band of cannibalistic head hunters.

This pulpy adventure yarn melding elements of the Italian cannibal sub genre, Disaster movie cliches, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK styled thrills and a dose of SCAVENGER HUNT (1979) is enjoyably fluffy nonsense from Rene Cardona Jr, the mastermind behind such trash as NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS (1972), TINTORERA (1977), CYCLONE (1978) and GUYANA, CULT OF THE DAMNED (1979); the latter of which also starred Stuart Whitman. Making movies was a family affair in the Cardona household and they certainly have accrued a fair amount of notoriety throughout the careers of both Cardona junior and senior. Their films are so similar you'd swear they were made by the same person.

Cardona senior was a well known commodity in the Mexican exploitation arena churning out a load of crappy, if frequently entertaining Mexi-horror-wrestling movies such DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963) and WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964) being two of the more tolerable. His most famous flicks--outside of Mexico, anyway--includes the gory excess of NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (1969) and the box office success, if forgotten to time SURVIVE! (1972) about the Andes crash survivors who resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.

TREASURE OF THE AMAZON is probably the younger, yet late Cardona's best and most likable exploitation picture. It's not quite as long nor does it suffer from the severe pacing issues of his TINTORERA and CYCLONE, but could afford to lose about ten minutes nonetheless. The great cast helps immensely and lends the proceedings a Disaster Movie vibe, albeit one with lots of nudity and gore; the latter of which this sync sound Mexican production has a healthy dose of. There's blood squibs, multiple throat slashings, a few noggin removals and even a shrunken head or two. The gruesome showstopper is an attack by an army of flesh eating crabs(!) that bite, rip and tear away at one of the cast members. This sequence is almost verbatim from the 'Spider Attack' seen in Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND (1981). Only here, the effect is more convincing.

Stuart Whitman tries to hide himself underneath a bearded mash of facial hair and proves to be the life of the party in what quickly becomes a running gag watching him frequently get a little too excited whenever the subject of gold and jewels is brought up. Whitman's character of Gringo isn't much of a good guy, but he does provide some humorous moments both intentional and otherwise. The messy script is too ambitious for its own good teasing us with some interesting backstory for some of the characters, but no one here is really worth rooting for. Everyone's out for themselves and the knives come out when backs are turned.

Pleasence is anything but pleasant as Klaus, a Nazi with dreams of starting the new Aryan race. He treks through the danger riddled fauna armed with a sub machine gun and guided by Morinba, an attractive guide whose wardrobe appears modeled on Maria Socas's lack thereof from THE WARRIOR & THE SORCERESS (1984). With her bouncing bosom popping and jiggling into view with veritable frequency, Klaus never once cops a feel, nor shows the least bit of interest. Sadly, the script underwrites him, too. Klaus has the potential to be a grand villain, but he takes a backseat to the jungle savages. These head shrinking, noggin lopping, flesh chompers (we only hear about their flesh munching exploits) run around the jungle painted up in bright colors, firing off poisonous blow darts while feverishly slashing throats, hanging victims by their tongues with meat hooks and removing heads with gleeful abandon.

Mexican cinema mainstay, Emilio Fernandez starred in many big budgeted American westerns such as RETURN OF THE SEVEN (1966), GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN (starring Anthony Quinn [1968]) and most famously in Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH (1969) where he played the brutal bandito who spurs the BUNCHes blood soaked vengeance. He's also seen in PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1973), BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974) and the Charles Bronson action-comedy-thriller BREAKOUT (1975).

Hugo Stiglitz was also a popular and prolific Mexican star, but his role here as the river boat captain is mostly inconsequential. He has a few lines and that's it. He appeared in many of the Cardona family's more notorious pictures and also headlined Lenzi's ambitiously grim NIGHTMARE CITY (1980). Pedro Armendariz (CHISUM, EARTHQUAKE!), Bradford Dillman (ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, PIRANHA) and John Ireland (HATE FOR HATE, SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS, THE INCUBUS) round out the big names.

In the face of some cumbersome 'B' level dialog and a delightfully ravenous throwback appeal, Daniel Lopez's photography is nothing short of stunning. The crew took full advantage of the South American floral surroundings capturing some awe inspiring vistas and a beautiful selection of waterfalls. Honing its 'B' movie nature, TREASURE OF THE AMAZON makes a flub rather quickly during the opening credits in an attempt to label this as a true story. A title card states the setting is a fictional one, but both the films title and dialog from the cast state otherwise.

Whether a move to protect its tourism trade (does the amazon have such a thing?), the film manages to showcase the South American hot spot as a great source of eye candy and popcorn entertainment, but not such a nice, nor hospitable place to visit.

Boasting a boisterous score by Mort Garson, the abrasive soundtrack sounds like it should be in a bigger movie, but still has a slight hint of a TV Movie of the Week sound despite all the nudity and bloody shenanigans. Those with a fondness for Euro items like MAN FROM THE DEEP RIVER (1972), MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978) and RAIDERS rip offs like HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (1982), ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1984) and JUNGLE RAIDERS (1985) will most likely feel right at home here in Mexico's entry into the 'Violent Jungle Adventure' sub genre capped off with an ensemble cast of familiar Hollywood faces and cult cinema vets.

This review is representative of the VCI DVD

DVD stats: 1.85:1; non-anamorphic; 1:45:02

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mark of the Devil (1970) review


Herbert Lom (Lord Cumberland), Udo Kier (Christian), Olivera Vuco (Vanessa), Reggie Nalder (Albino)

Directed by Michael Armstrong

"God's will is greater than that of man."

The Short Version: This at one time controversial exploitation picture rode the coattails of the much better WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) to become one of, if not THE most infamous movie of its type. A healthy portion of its notoriety was due to a brilliant ad campaign. With a faux rating and 'barf bag for every patron' in tow, the preponderance of torture and screaming victims managed to keep sleaze lovers satiated. There's also some thought provoking subtext at work here even if it's occasionally drowned out by the shrieks, breaking bones and burning flesh of the beautiful, the wealthy and the sexually active.

***WARNING! This review contains images of violence and nudity***

Lord Cumberland and his devoted acolyte travel the European countryside seeking out and executing the practitioners of witchcraft and satanism. Arriving in a new village purported to be teeming with witches, Cumberland is sent to replace the hamlets resident witchfinder, the evil and avaricious Albino. However, Cumberland proves to be no less cruel. Meeting and falling in love with a local tavern girl, Cumberland's follower, Christian, begins to doubt his teachers true intentions eventually questioning the witchfinder's authority and putting his own life at risk.

Michael Reeves's WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) was a major turning point in horror as well as positing a dark cloud over the period setting Hammer Films had lorded over for a number of years. While Hammer had definitely pushed boundaries in terms of sex and violence, WITCHFINDER GENERAL burned those boundaries at the stake with a searing portrayal of a brutish man hiding behind a veil of godliness and respectability in his crusade of cruelty and pain. Of course, the success of this film meant there'd be bandwagon movies in the form of such offerings as CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1969), THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970), TWINS OF EVIL (1971) and BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1971). One of these in particular would surpass the grueling subject matter and somber tone of the WITCHFINDER and carve its own place in the annals of cinematic infamy.

MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) took the most SINsational and salacious aspects of the earlier film from Reeves and expanded upon them nearly forsaking characterization and storytelling for extreme violence exemplified by a sincere mean streak and utter callousness. Whereas WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) evoked mood and an oppressive sense of dread spearheaded by a deliciously vile lead performance by Vincent Price, MARK OF THE DEVIL takes the low road (or the road most traveled during the 70s boom of brutal cinema) by lovingly glorifying graphic torture. No doubt the key to the films enduring cult status was its ingeniously creative advertising campaign. This was also one time where the ballyhoo equaled the bloody excess. Touted as 'The first film rated 'V' for violence' and free barf bags handed out to patrons, it's no wonder that both the curious and the curiously twisted would be attracted to such tactics.

One of the most intriguing pieces of info regarding MARK OF THE DEVIL is that Michael Reeves was allegedly tapped to direct, but died before shooting began. If true, it would have been curious to see what Reeves would have done with this material although it's doubtful it would have surpassed his Price picture as the two scripts were virtually interchangeable. Reportedly, Reeves was actually signed on to direct Price's THE OBLONG BOX (1969) before his death. Michael Armstrong--who did end up directing the film--was reportedly at war with the producer, Adrian Hoven (who also acted and co-wrote in the film). This resulted in Armstrong's dismissal and Hoven taking over. Possibly the most famous part regarding the "takeover" was the discarded ending which survives only in still shots. The original ending had the victims of the tyrannical witch hunters returning from the dead to claim Christian. The actual ending on the film isn't much different only without the outlandish, yet no doubt surreal element of the living dead.

Either way, evil still wins out in the end. Cumberland gets away and his few remaining subordinates not killed by the angry villagers do an aboutface to stay alive. Cumberland is a particularly interesting character in that Albino, another witchfinder, threatens to ruin his reputation by exclaiming his "court rulings" as both a farce and unfounded. None of this affects him in the slightest till Albino threatens to proclaim Cumberland's impotency to the public. Well he won't have that and proceeds to kill the crater faced witch burner with his bare hands!

Herbert Lom is fine here as Cumberland, but he's no replacement for Vincent Price. His role really isn't given the same degree of attention that Price received in the Michael Reeves classic. But then, performances are secondary when you have such enticing alternatives as witnessing a woman's tongue ripped from her mouth, bodies burned, broken and mutilated. The film purports to be an important document of one of man's darkest eras and like another champion of societal hypocrisy, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979), Armstrong's movie blurs the line between its supposed social subtext and blatant savagery. There's nothing wrong with getting your "fix" from what is essentially a piece of trash filmmaking, but its mixed message is kind of off putting. There's a double standard when a picture begins with an historical statement and instead of focusing on the problem, its causes and consequences, we get little more than the effect and a parade of people deriving a great deal of pleasure from the pain of others.

We learn little about Cumberland aside from his apparent impotence lending to his hatred towards beautiful women because he can't satisfy them although we don't spend that much time with him. This is the closest we get to the reasoning behind Cumberland's cruel methods. More time is spent with the androgynous persona of Cumberland's witchhunter in training, the aptly named Christian. The script ultimately pigeonholes the complexities of Christian's "virginal" view of the world in his quest to understand the plight of the common person versus the pablum spouted by his crotch crippled authoritarian. Christian's questions regarding his master's methods are undermined by the tortures carried out by horny, ugly old men who despise the beauty of what they can't have, or can't give--and if they can't have it, than no one will.

The depiction of sex and sin are the mainstays--the life's blood of Devil cinema--and that's what MARK OF THE DEVIL gives us. The film even destroys religious iconography in an opening bit of blasphemy with the rape of nuns. The subjugation and penetration of the female religious order by the use of sex and various temptation was a constant theme in various examples of nunsploitation cinema. This brief, but grim flirtation with religious malefaction would be expounded upon in a flurry of films including THE DEVILS (1971), FLAVIA, THE HERETIC (1974) and a host of nunnery offensiveness hailing from Japanese film studios.

It's this offensiveness and sleazy atmosphere that has branded MARK OF THE DEVIL with the stigma as the most infamous film of its type. Hidden away within the many scenes of rapes, beatings, tortures and scenes of bloodletting there lies a fascinating if underexposed condemnation of religion. This is the single most impressive theme running through the movie when people aren't being killed or stretched out on a rack. Those who are happy or live by their own rules are perceived as evil and must be stamped out. Those in authority bearing faith in a supreme being are uniformly proven to be the true evils. Feigning performing the service of a just and righteous cause to hide their own lustful or violent yearnings is the path to enlightenment as malevolent and sexually deviant as that road might be. As the bible itself is full of contradictions, so are those who proclaim to be crusaders for Christ.

Because Christian questions an increasing number of false claims, this foreshadows his imminent downfall. Anyone with beauty is instantly a target and those of a lucrative pedigree are framed, their assets seized and their lives ended; possessing an attractive body means you're a witch and possessing wealth is an admission of sorcerous practices. Much the same thing happens today in our modern and ever worsening political climate. One party believes that those who are successful and have worked to get where they are are supposed to share their monetary accomplishments with those who do nothing for themselves except make others make their living for them. Nothing has changed since those dark days. Anyone with wealth or even an overabundance of happiness are considered evil or resented by the envious.

Going back to MARK OF THE DEVIL, those who question the "Will of God" are also of dubious allegiance to their purported savior. In contrast, those doling out the torment of others do so with a joyous verve that is far more resonant and disturbing than any of the slanderous, mortally fatal false accusations. Throughout history, so-called civilization has had a propensity for deriving pleasure from the pain and suffering of others. This morbid paradigm of sexual deviancy is exploited to an extreme degree in this movie. The head torturer is even shown enjoying a meal during one particularly brutal torture session. Innocents are wantonly accused of devilry for the sheer amusement of the so-called Christian faithful. In this case, the inmates are truly running the asylum. If only this sort of subtext had been more prominent and the violence not so sensationalized, then MARK OF THE DEVIL might be a better respected picture.

The score by Michael Holm is an unusually romantic, melancholic and melodic score punctuated by occasionally shrieking strings that hammer home the unnatural proclivity of oldeworld authoritarian regimes who used god as a mask for their true hidden agendas. The main theme heard at the beginning and variations of it throughout the movie sound strangely similar to the main theme orchestrated by Riz Ortolani ten years later for Deodato's classick CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980). Michael Armstrong's MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) is one of the signature examples of 1970s exploitation at its most grueling. It's been over 40 years, but it still retains a few squirm inducing moments to leave its MARK on modern audiences and still make folks wince who may have seen it in a theater back in the day.

This review is representative of the Blue Underground DVD

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Karate Bullfighter (1975) review


Sonny Chiba (Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama), Narita Mikio (Nakasone), Masashi Ishibashi (Nanba), Yumi Takigawa (Chiyako), Jiro Chiba (Shogo Ariake)
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

The Short Version: Sonny Chiba tackles one of his most famous roles playing his real life master, Masutatsu Oyama, a man whose real life was as exciting as any cinematic depiction. The possessor of the 'God Hand', Oyama became infamous for killing bulls barehanded even slicing off their horns with those same hands. Breaking the bones of challengers whether hitting back, or simply blocking, his person grew into legend status that led to a popular manga and culminated in a trilogy of beloved films. BULLFIGHTER is a must see dramatic Karate cum exploitation picture for fans of both the indominatable Mas Oyama and the indefatigable Sonny Chiba.

After the end of WW2, Japan holds its first ever Karate Championship tournament. A man in a ragged, torn gi arrives and enters the tournament at the last minute. Easily defeating everyone else, the sponsor and Senbukan gyms chairman, Nakasone, wishes to groom the rough fist fighter bearing the name, Masutatsu Oyama. Declining the offer, Oyama's demeanor and unbeatable fighting spirit attracts lots of trouble that leads to tragedy and death.

Having been trained by the world renowned martial artist, Mas Oyama, it was only natural that Sonny Chiba--who a year before had given the world one of the most iconic 'real mean bastards' in the form of Takuma Tsurugi--should essay the role of his famous bull slaying master. This was the first of three Toei films built around the iconic founder of Kyokushin (Ultimate Truth) Karate and while elements of truth existed in at least this first movie, the succeeding two entries fell further into the realm of pure popcorn entertainment. The second film had Oyama battling a great grizzly bear bare handed and the third saw "God Hand" getting involved in the wrestling business. Before delving into the exceptional martial arts picture that is KARATE BULLFIGHTER, let's look at the films inspiration.

The real Oyama during the opening credits

Oyama was actually Korean. Born in 1923, Yong I Choi lived in Manchuria as a young boy before embarking to Japan at age 15 to become a fighter pilot where he changed his name to Masutatsu Oyama. He eventually lost interest in aviation training, but excelled in building his body and studying the martial arts attaining an incredibly high standard at barely 20 years old. At 23 Oyama spent over a year atop Mt. Minobu, the same mountain where Miyamoto Musashi had honed his indominitable sword style. Upon descending the mountain, Mas Oyama won the first post war National Karate Championships (which is depicted in the movie). After this, he retreated to Mt. Kiyozumi to continue his training, this time more ardently than before.

It's at this point in his life during the early 50s that he began attracting a lot of attention for incredible feats of strength and unfathomable ability. In an effort to test his skills and see if all those months of intensely torturous training had paid off, Mas Oyama decided the best, albeit most dangerous way would be to fight bulls barehanded. He faced down a total of 52 bulls, three of which were reportedly killed from a single blow. He was also acclaimed for slicing the horns from many of the beasts using only his hand. Sources vary that anywhere between 36 to 49 horns were removed by Oyama's literal Five Fingers of Death. Battling bulls obviously wasn't an easy task and Oyama was nearly killed by one during a "bullfight" in Mexico in 1957.

Oyama also fought innumerable human challengers with these fights ending quickly and often times with his opponents gaining broken bones either from Oyama merely blocking their attack, or delivering one himself. He opened his first dojo in 1956 and promoted his interpretation of "Real Karate" (as in full contact), constructed by Oyama as the only true way to learn the art. Because of the arduous strain and pounding toll taken on the human body from this type of training, his turnover rate was extremely high. But there was no doubt that training under the man who became known as "God Hand" required an unwavering degree of dedication and determination. His Kyokushin (Ultimate Truth) school was officially established in 1964 garnering hundreds of thousands of students around the world.

As his fights and feats grew to an Herculean level, his legend was born in a popular Japanese comic book in the early 70s entitled KARATE BAKA ICHIDAI (written by Ikki Kajiwara, who also authored the manga that was the basis for Chiba's THE BODYGUARD filmed in 1973). This of course led to Toei's fantastic and fictional trilogy about Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama, the role undertaken by the redoubtable Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba. Incidentally, Chiba had also starred as the real life martial artist Doshin So, the founder of Shorinji Kempo (Shaolin Karate), in the bloody fictional biopic, THE KILLING MACHINE also released in 1975.

Oyama in an issue of Karate International volume 4 issue #8

Oyama was the advisor on the set of these films and the trilogy does feature incidents out of Oyama's life, but also takes artistic license with others to fashion a film that intermingles real life with pseudo exploitation. Oddly enough, a Korean movie about Oyama entitled FIGHTER IN THE WIND (2004), was nearly identical to the first film starring Sonny Chiba, only with modern special effects and more refined filmmaking techniques. Ten years prior in 1994, Mas Oyama passed away. Some sources list the cause as lung cancer and others say pneumonia. Either way, Oyama was the personification, the living embodiment of a champion in both the martial arts and in life itself. Who better than his student Chiba to bring his character to life on the big screen?

Sonny Chiba instills a great deal of what made his personality so defining within the parameters of Japanese martial arts cinema. With the international popularity of Chinese kung fu movies spearheaded by the Shaw Brothers and taken to bigger, if brief prominence by Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba was Japan's answer to the world famous 'Little Dragon'. Released in America as CHAMPION OF DEATH in 1977, Chiba had yet another hit on his hands. The film had a little bit of everything including Chiba breaking Coke bottles with his bare hands, battling bulls and beating the beejeezus out of various opponents and challengers. The film concludes in a blood bath where Chiba pulverizes an oppressive band of Karate students (lorded over by perennial villain, Narita Mikio) determined to keep him from participating in anymore tournaments.

Again Chiba refines his infamous STREETFIGHTER character retaining that persona's brutality, but at the same time differentiating himself from the caveman qualities that made Takuma Tsurugi so memorable. Just like in THE STREETFIGHTER (1974), Chiba destroys his opponents in his portrayal of Oyama, but adds some complexity by questioning the morality of fighting and killing. Everywhere the man goes, he's challenged, threatened and ultimately must fight back because there's no other option. At one point he takes on a student (which Oyama did in real life) named Shogo (played by Chiba's younger brother, Jiro) who eventually kills a man in a fight out of anger after he insults him as a "disciple of evil Karate". Pursued by the law, the violent acts perpetrated by his student does nothing but continue to put Oyama and his unorthodox methods in a bad light. Surrounded, Shogo is brutally shot down by the police. Going into seclusion, violence continues to follow Oyama till he finally explodes unleashing his "Ultimate Truth" Karate in true Sonny Chiba style during a wild and bloody finale.

The director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi apparently had a good rapport with Chiba as he worked with him multiple times throughout the 1970s, predominantly and most memorably during the latter part of the decade. Totaling seven films together, these included WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY: SHE-CAT GAMBLER (1972), WOLFGUY: THE ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (1975) and one of their best collaborations, KARATE WARRIORS (1976). The erratic, ADD encumbered cinematography of Yoshio Nakajima was the "black sheep" of this team. Taking venerable HK director Chang Cheh's innovation of a hand held style to new heights, Whenever an action scene erupts onscreen, Nakajima's camera takes the stance of the "subjective fighter" essentially becoming a participant in the action. This may have been perceived as cutting edge at the time, but it does little now but annoy and may bring about motion sickness. Thankfully, Nakajima's kinetic camera never ruins any fights, it just has trouble sitting still when fists and feet are flying.

Writing duties for BULLFIGHTER was the work of one of Japan's unsung exploitation directorial talents, Norifumi Suzuki. His writing credits are just as impressive as the films he directed and he often did both. Suzuki also directed Chiba in the same year's SHORINJI KEMPO aka THE KILLING MACHINE and later in the period historical fantasy SHOGUN'S NINJA (1980) wherein Chiba played the lead villain and the 1982 throwback ROARING FIRE featuring Chiba as a top hat wearing magician martial artist aiding Hiroyuki Sanada.

The script is actually a bit more developed beyond sensationalizing Oyama's life. Spending so much time in isolation devoid of others surely does something to the human psyche when one does finally re-enter civilization. Oyama constantly ponders his actions and the consequences of them. After winning the tournament then discarding his trophy as not being a true representation of his perception of true Karate, he happens upon a young lady named Chiyako he had saved from thugs some years earlier. Believing her to be a prostitute for the Americans occupying Japan, he decides to give her back her "dignity" so to speak by raping her(!) It's noticeable that this action has troubled Oyama and shortly thereafter he asks her to marry him. He also explains he didn't rape her because he hated America, but because he desired her. Chiyako's response is that she can't forgive a man who has trampled her heart. Oyama then looks befuddled in an attempt to understanding the concept of the human heart. It's interesting to note that in a later scene, Oyama admits to his new student Shogo that he "loves her, but loves Karate more."

Oyama also doubts the purpose of Karate after he kills a gangster in self defense. The dead man's wife and child see him at the police station and scold Oyama for leaving them without both a husband and a father regardless of what type of man he was. At this point, he forsakes the practice of Karate instead dedicating his time to helping the now fatherless family. Of course, this doesn't stop Mas Oyama's enemies nor those jealous of his skills from trying to silence him. Ironically, it's the gradual love and eventual forgiveness of this crippled family unit that spurs him on to not abandon his art. It's here during the last fifteen minutes where the exploitation elements take over till the end. Oyama challenges Nakasone after discovering he had sent assassins to kill him. Kyokushin's creator battles it out with dozens of fighters in a field eliminating them all in brutal and sometimes gory fashion till Nanba, his sole rival is left to fight.

One of the interesting things about this script is how closely the 2004 Korean version/remake adheres to it. It takes a less comic book approach to the material making attempts to ground Oyama the man in reality as opposed to the older film heightening the outlandish potential of embellishing his exploits that in turn make his true persona diminutive by comparison. BULLFIGHTER has truth, fluctuating between realism and sensationalism, but puts a heavier accent towards the latter which is carried over in the 2004 version, only that film balances the two more evenly. Still, the time periods are vastly different. The 1970s demanded escapism and Oyama's real life exploits were rife for cinematic tinkering that showed an Oyama whose actions could only be replicated on the pages of a wildly popular manga.

KARATE BULLFIGHTER (1975) is a hugely enjoyable movie and ranks among Sonny Chiba's best works. There's a good degree of subtext here that seems to get overlooked in favor of the undeniable magnetism of the films star and the plentiful scenes of action. There's an effective balance between characters motivations and morality as well as Chiba's brutal brand of fight choreography that his fans clamor for and the comic book machinations built around the all too real legend that is Masutatsu Oyama.

This review is representative of the Adness/Ventura DVD
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