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The Asian ApertureKarate for Life (1977)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, January 20, 2013    Share

Various men, all wearing white gis are practicing karate, yelling out as arms smack into arms and it looks like just another typical day in the dojo, until Mas Oyama quietly walks in. One of the instructors rushes up to Oyama and demands to know what he is doing here. Mas fires back that he doesn’t want to waste his skills on a nobody and to get his master out here right now. Oyama wants to fight the head instructor to show the power of Kyokushin Karate. Finally the sensei shows up and accepts Oyama’s challenge providing that he can beat all 100 students. Sonny Chiba bursts into chaotic rage as his hands and fists quickly beat down all students within striking distance. The whole scene is heavily influenced by Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury aka The Chinese Connection with Chiba’s own passionate enthusiasm that leaves the numerous Bruce Lee imitators in the dust.

Sonny Chiba plays Mas Oyama, a Korean, who changed his name and moved to Japan, eventually opening up his own karate school. One of his training practices involved punching a charging bull in the head. Oyama even toured the US and fought against professional wrestlers without ever losing. Eventually he established his own karate schools all over the world including the US.
In Karate for Life, Oyama travels to beautiful and scenic Okinawa for matches that pit karate against wrestling. He is teamed up with a judo expert and foolishly signs a contract that states that he is to lose to the American wrestlers to make them look good and because they are willing to pay lots of money to see karate defeated. This didn’t set well with Mas Oyama, who believed in keeping Japan strong and most importantly, to show that karate was just as good as any other fighting system, especially Kyokushin.

Oyama helps a young suicidal woman from slashing her wrist open. Later on, when his bag and all his money is stolen by orphans living on the streets, he discovered that one of the boys is the brother to the young woman that he helped out previously. However, soon the crime bosses get tired of losing money because Oyama would play ball so they kidnap the woman and torture her to death.

Oyama teams up with his judo buddy and in true martial arts movie fashion they take on the whole evil complex. This is definitely the most entertaining part of the movie as each fighter takes on guys armed with bo staffs and nunchakus. Chiba goes into a violent rage as he sends henchman after henchman to the nearby hospital while his buddy breaks bones using painful to watch judo moves that is knocked up a notch by loud breaking sound effects.

In the end it is Chiba vs the main boss and as they fight, Sonny is led into a mysterious room that is filled with mirrors, this is clearly from Robert Clouse’s Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee. In fact, the ending is the weakest part because it is so obliviously a rip off. The end fight would have been much better to just cut out the mirror scene and just keep those two fighting.

After the battle, the judo guy and Oyama stand on a mountain overlooking the sea. Both are victorious and his buddy survives intact. One of the most tiring clichés of the action movie genre demands that the buddy gets shot, killed, maimed, during the ending. Not so in Karate for Life and it is a welcome change.
Unlike other martial arts movies that feature tons of action and carnage, Karate for Life has a lot more going for it. Chiba displays real anguish over the girl’s death. He also sets himself apart by really caring for the orphans boys and putting them on a better life path.

In closing, Karate for Life fits your needs whether you just want a lot of martial arts action or if you want an emotionally driven storyline. Sonny Chiba may be copying key scenes from past Bruce Lee movies, but he does so with his own gusto. So give Karate for Life a look and feel the pain that Mas Oyama inflicts on all who cross him.


3.5 out of 5

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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