One of Germany’s biggest pop stars of the 1970s goes on a martial arts adventure in the first German karate film shot on location in Spain featuring an international cast.
Frank Mertens is a martial arts teacher who owns a dojo in Spain. He has taken over his late master’s school and seems to be doing well. However, a crime lord named Van Bullock is looking for karate schools in the area to take over as a front for his drug running operation. When Van Bullock attempts time and time again to get to Frank’s school, Frank always seems to get the upper hand on anyone Van Bullock sends over.
Desperate, Van Bullock sends in his moll Cora, who after a night of seducing Frank, plants heroin in his school. Frank is arrested and jailed. However, when Frank’s assistant Ingrid learns from Cora the truth, Cora is killed for her actions and Frank escapes from jail. Soon enough, Frank discovers that Van Bullock is somehow connected to his master’s death. Now with the rage of vengeance, Frank sets out to destroy Van Bullock’s empire once and for all.
Hailed as one of Germany’s biggest schlager stars in the 1970s, Christian Anders was invited to do a movie and it does help that he is not just a pop star, but an actual martial artist. A black belt in karate, Anders found a surprising connection with the late legend Sean Connery, who suggested he meet with O’Dell Productions head Tony Tarruella in Madrid. Tarruella and Anders collaborated and came up with this martial arts wild ride that’s too fun to pass up. If that’s not fun enough, the theme song performed by Anders to totally catchy.
Christian Anders is great as Frank Mertens, who fights like Bruce Lee at times. At a time where anyone is making a martial arts movie, Anders seems to be charismatic when the script (also written by Anders) calls for it. However, one of the unintentional funny things is Frank’s training scene. In one section of the scene, he decks out in some nearly S&M gear with bands attached at the hip to help with his upper body and then he does push ups followed by some move that looks like a goldfish flapping when it’s out of the water.
As if that’s not crazy enough, the mastermind Van Bullock is played by the legendary Deep Roy, best known today for his work as the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opposite Johnny Deep and as Teeny Weeny in The NeverEnding Story. Yes, as farfetched as that sounds, Roy seems to be having fun with the role going over the top at times, but still fun. Francisco Bilbao, using the pseudonym “Frank Harris” is Van Bullock’s muscle “Kobo” with Yugoslavian pop star and actress Dunja Ratjer playing Cora, the moll with a heart of gold while Maribel Martin plays Ingrid, Frank’s longtime assistant who harbors feelings for him. Newcomer Wolfgang Schutte does quite well as Thomas, Frank’s buddy who gets in on some action himself and like Anders, knows his martial arts.
Roots of Evil is an instant cult classic that has it all: martial arts, a catchy pop theme, an over-the-top bad guy, and all around fun. Despite his later appearance in a John Liu film, one can only wish Christian Anders had done more martial arts films.
WFG RATING: B-
A Leo Kemkes Film production. Director: Christian Anders. Producer: Leo Kemkes. Writer: Christian Anders. Cinematography: Hans Burmann and Ricardo Navarette. Editing: Eduardo Biurrun.
Cast: Christian Anders, Deep Roy, Maribel Martin, Dunja Ratjer, Wolfgang Schutte, Francisco Bilbao, Yaushito Ishikawa, Hideaki Gennai.