Bears Are The New Ninjas
Prepare yourselves for bold type.
Earlier this year, the unstoppable Kevin Church consorted with dark and sorcerous powers in order to discover the most awesomely titled movie of all time. Or he might've used NetFlix. Not quite sure. Anyway, he told me about it, and last night I finally got a chance to see it, and it shattered my world, roundhouse kicking me straight into a higher plane of consciousness. That movie?
Holy crap, this movie is awesome. It took me a while to get around to seeing it, since I had to wait for it to come up on my pal Ben's NetFlix list, and apparently he doesn't think seeing a movie called KARATE BEARFIGHTER is the most important thing in the entire world.
The movie stars Sonny Chiba, and has a plot that's entirely negligable. Everything you need to know is contained in the title: Sonny Chiba fights a bear. WITH KARATE. Seriously, if you watch it, you can pretty much skip most of the first hour. Here's what you need to know.
KARATE BEARFIGHTER is actually the second part of a trilogy, falling smack in between KARATE BULLFIGHTER--wherein Sonny Chiba kills a bull with his bare hands, a scene recapped in the opening of BEARFIGHTER--and a movie whose title brings joy and laughter into my heart: KARATE FOR LIFE.
Chiba stars as Masutatsu Oyama in all three movies, which are based entirely on fact, which will blow your mind as soon as you realize that I'm talking about movies where a guy fights a bear with martial arts. Chiba rolls around for the first part of the movie in much the same way as he does in The Street Fighter, the film all movies aspire to be. There's X-Ray Arm-Breaking, a dude getting kicked through a wall, and a scene where some guy bumps into Sonny Chiba while he's trying to eat, and you just know that he's not going to survive the next five minutes.
Then, heartbreak. Oyama's confronted outside of a nightclub by a woman who tells him that much like John Kreese, he's forgotten what Karate is all about, apparently because he won't take off his sunglasses. What better way to remember the true meaning of karate, then, than by fighting a bear.
Oyama rolls out to the forest where he befriends a shrill but loveable urchin, whose lumberjack father just happens to injure himself horribly about five seconds after Oyama tells the kid that he learned karate so that he could deal with the loss of his own parents. They rush back to the boss of the lumberjacks, and he says that the only way he'll pay for the operation to save the father's life is if Oyama can defeat a bear in single combat, and gives him a week to prepare.
The flaws in the logic here are varied and numerous, and I won't bother going into them, because it's time for the BEARFIGHT.
Sweet Christmas, it's a thing of beauty. Stock footage combined with a guy in a bear costume charging at the hardest working man in the Martial Arts Film industry. Not to spoil anything for you, but Oyama wins after he remembers that he can jump fifteen feet in the air and stomp on the bear's head until he gets a chance to rip its eye out with the power of his karate. Watching that scene is like drinking three cases of Red Bull in two minutes. While breakdancing.
Surprisingly, the movie's not over yet. Oyama's rival still wants to kill him, and so they have a big showdown on a beach that involves Sonny Chiba running up and down the surf like he just drank three cases of Red Bull. Me, I'd probably let it go if I found out the guy I was about to fight just punched a bear to death, but Evil Rival seems to think he can take him out. Well, old son, the movie's called KARATE BEARFIGHTER and not That Guy Who Beat the Karate Bearfighter.
You do the math.
The DVD copy I watched, from The Sonny Chiba Collection, was awesome. Not only did they not bother to subtitle vast sections of the movie--which was understandable since Bearfighting, much like love, is a universal language--but it also featured some of the most mind-blowing trailers you will ever see.
Personal favorites include Legend of the Eight Samurai, which apparently features special effects and mysteriously becomes Legend of the Eight Ninja by the end of the trailer, and GI Samurai, the story of a platoon of Japanese soldiers who travel through time to the Warring States Period of the 15th to 17th centuries along with a jeep, a tank, and a helicopter.
If you've never seen Sonny Chiba mow down samurai with a machinegun from the door of a chopper, you are not truly alive.