In the wake of the success of the 1984 Hollywood hit The Karate Kid, Italian schlockmaster Fabrizio de Angelis churns out his version of the two films and the result comes to an abysmal attempt to make a future Italian heartthrob a top action hero.
Kim Rossi Stuart takes on the role of Anthony Scott, a young man visiting his father Paul in the Philippines. He runs afoul of a local gang run by Quino. When Anthony witnesses a crime Quino and his gang commits, he gets beaten up and left for dead.
That is, until a mysterious master known as Kimura finds the beaten Anthony and nurses him back to health. When he learns about Quino, Kimura decides to teach Anthony the ways of martial arts. He even teaches Anthony a special technique known as the “Stroke of the Dragon”. When Quino enters a local tournament, Anthony is determined to defeat Quino and get even for his beating.
Fabrizio de Angelis can be considered the “Roger Corman of Italy”. For years, he has been known as one of the great B-movie filmmakers, perhaps known for his horror film Doctor Butcher M.D. (1979), but using the pseudonym of “Larry Ludman”, gained a reputation in the action genre for his Thunder Warrior trilogy, starring Italian-born Mark Gregory. Having been influenced by The Karate Kid, de Angelis and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti (using the pseudonym David Parker, Jr.) came up with a basic martial arts action film that revolves around a new student and a teacher.
To cut costs, de Angelis set the film in the Philippines. While the fish out of water schematic may be of interest to the plot, this was made at a time where lead actor Kim Rossi Stuart was just beginning to boost up his film career as a young man. The son of the late Italian B-movie actor Giacomo Rossi, Kim had the looks but still needed to polish up his acting skills when this was made. Aside from that, he had learned martial arts for the film from a local Filipino stunt team. Both of his acting and skills just are too sub-par for this and they make Ralph Macchio look like Chuck Norris when comparing the two.
Kensaku Watanabe plays the role of Master Kimura, the monk who would become Anthony’s master. He tends to have a little bit of sarcasm much like Pat Morita’s Miyagi. Kimura seems likable enough and is the only true watchable character of the film. Even the characters of Anthony’s parents, played by Jared Martin and Janet Agren, seem to fall flat here as is love interest Maria, played by Filipina actress Jannette Barretto.
The fight scenes are truly in the sense of ridiculous. It is a typical case of “hit you, hit me” and the so-called “Stroke of the Dragon” is an open-handed palm strike but with this, the filmmakers went beyond the ridiculous with showing the impact of the move by using a blue light. It looks to be beyond ridiculous, but is definitely worth its cheesy value, hence the extra half-star.
The film’s original title is The Boy in the Golden Kimono and in other territories, the film is known as either Fist of Power and Master Kimura. Fabrizio de Angelis would go on to spawn an unprecedented five sequel, with Kim Stuart returning for only the second installment and then being replaced by Ron Williams as Larry Jones for the rest of the series.
Karate Warrior is definitely a terrible rehash of The Karate Kid, but it’s so cheesy, it can be sometimes a guilty pleasure, depending on one’s taste.
WFG RATING: C-
A Fulvia Film Ltd. production. Director: Fabrizio de Angelis. Producer: Fabrizio de Angelis. Writers: Fabrizio de Angelis and Dardano Sacchetti. Cinematography: Giuseppe Pinori. Editing: Alberto Moriani.
Cast: Kim Rossi Stuart, Kensaku Watanabe, Jannelle Barretto, Jared Martin, Janet Agren, Enrico Torralba.