Karate Bear Fighter (1975)

Directed by
Chiba is on peak form
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-22

I didn't write a review of KARATE BULLFIGHTER when I watched it last year, but the short version would be that I didn't like it much - don't remember why. KARATE BEARFIGHTER is the sequel, and I liked it a whole lot more ?

The films are the first two installments of a trilogy based on the life of Chiba's own teacher, Korean karate master Masutatsu Oyama (actually a Korean by birth). Basically the man had a single-minded devotion to to mastering karate, seeking to be the greatest fighter in the world - at any cost (a modern day answer to Musashi Miyamoto, perhaps).

The second film sees Oyama learn a bit more restraint and wisdom, and fight a bear. Actually, it would be more honest to say he fights a man in a bear suit, who has clearly never seen a real bear in his life - the fight is hilariously bad, and by far the weakest part of the film. Luckily he fights lots of more openly human opponents too, and these scenes are the strongest parts of the film - except when the camera man gets over-excited and starts shaking wildly (when will people learn not to hire epileptics to film fight scenes?).

Chiba is on peak form here, both as a fighter and as a charisma machine. And that's basically why the film works :) Here's hoping the final part of the trilogy, KARATE FOR LIFE, is closer to this than BULL!