A Fight For Honor (1992)

A Fight For Honor (1992)- * * *

Directed by: Sam Um

Starring: Stacy Lundgren, C.K. Kim, Daron Edwards, Stephen Wong, and M.G. Lee

"Pepperoni, I love it." - Sensei 

A young Texan girl, who looks to be about high school age, is frustrated by her Tae Kwon Do studies and her three-year record of losing tournaments. Crystal Lundgren (Lundgren) comes from a privileged background and her vapid friends just want to take her mind off fighting tournaments by going out to bars to meet “hunks”. Even her mom tries to encourage her underage partying, but Crystal remains reluctant. 

Meanwhile, a hardworking kid named Min-Suk Kim (C.K. Kim, not to be confused with the great Y.K. Kim of Miami Connection fame) is bicycling down the road, delivering pizzas for Double Dave’s Pizzaworks. A distracted Crystal hits him with her car. While Min-Suk is unhurt, the two end up back at the house of Grandfather (Lee). That’s all he’s known as. That’s even how he introduces himself to Crystal. It turns out he is training Min-Suk and his friend David Lee (Stephen Wong) in Tae Kwon Do. 

Crystal is attracted to their approach to training, and after the typical initial resistance, he agrees to train her as well. Now with his three students, including the unlikely Crystal, Grandfather imbues them with enough wisdom and fighting ability to enter the All-Texas Tae Kwon Do Championships. Will Crystal get her chance to FIGHT FOR HONOR?

Grandfather’s grasp of the English language is not the best, and he looks like an Asian Tim Conway. You can see why Crystal wants to train with him. Adding to that, her former Sensei resembles Andy Richter and he orders a medium pepperoni pizza for himself during class. He has all the awesome fighting power of Francis Buxton. He’s less Zabka and more zoftig. 

Anyway, the problem with these Karate Kid Knockoffs, or KKK’s as we probably shouldn’t call them, is that so much time is spent training, there are minimal goons to fight. And believe you-me, there is a LOT of training in this movie. What fight scenes there are occur when an older set of Karate Goons want to manhandle Crystal. Most of them claim to be her boyfriend, and they believe the surest way to her heart is to hurl a bunch of racial slurs against her Asian friends. After they beat up her friend Dirk (Daron Edwards) (don’t we/shouldn’t we all have a friend named Dirk?), it’s the final straw.

It’s easy to see why everyone loves Crystal, as she’s attractive and has a stylish penchant for extremely high-waisted pants with a half-shirt. At that point it all equals out. We haven’t seen pants this high since Keaton’s Cop (1990). Stacy Lundgren had a lot of the movie on her shoulders and she acquits herself well. It’s too bad she was only in one other thing in her career, the Hasselhoff TV movie Knight Rider 2000 (1991). We would have liked to see what she did with further acting roles. Importantly, her co-stars C.K. Kim, M.G. Lee, and Stephen Wong are all likable. 

The movie as a whole does have that regional vibe, and, for a lot of the actors, this was their one and only role. The “local” feel is certainly here, but in a good way. York Home Video released the film in 1992 (though the Tae Kwon Do Delegation was shot in 1990 and it looks like a Republican or Democratic convention, with huge amounts of people holding signs with the states they are from), so they obviously didn’t see a problem with that.

Yes, the pacing is off for most of the movie, and some of the acting and writing are naturally a little clunky, and the wheels really start to fall off towards the end, but the whole outing has a childlike, na├»ve charm that’s easy to love. There are a lot of nice, little moments (Tae Kwon Do, Texas style, involves cowboy hats and horses. Talk about East Meets West!) and the silliness factor is high. Unfortunately, the movie is rare these days, but if you can find it, do check it out. 

NOTE: As of this writing, the movie is on YouTube.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Blood Hands (1990)

Blood Hands (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Sean Donahue, Ned Hourani, Jim Gaines, Nick Nicholson, and Christine Landson

A gang of aging ne’er-do-wells decide to get drunk and cause a ruckus at the grocery store. In the midst of their raucous tomfoolery, a fight ensues and the owner of the store dies. The guys, who are, apparently, known in the world of kickboxing, then drive over to fellow kickboxer Steve Callahan (Donahue)’s house. The lead baddie, James Clavell (Hourani) – who evidently is not the author of Shogun – begins assaulting Edward Callahan (Nicholson) and his wife while Steve is off training. This event ends in tragedy. When Steve and his girlfriend Tracy (Landson) come home, they see what the gang of MAP’s (Middle-Aged Punks) did and Steve is understandably upset.

Steve’s only clue is a medallion given to kickboxing champs in the area, so he goes it alone on his quest for justice after the main investigator on the case is himself attacked by the MAP’s. Even Steve’s beloved coach, Mr. Gale – who is a dead ringer for Freddy Mercury – isn’t safe from the gang’s rampage. With revenge on his mind and BLOOD on his HANDS, Steve Callahan must snap into action. With his fists and his feet as his only weaponry, will Steve beat the baddies and win the day? Find out today!

In the U.S., Blood Hands is one of the rarest Teddy Page movies, so we were lucky to see it. It does indeed have that Page-esque silly charm and is certainly entertaining. It’s pretty impressive how they were able to make a 90-minute movie of people punching and kicking each other (that’s what takes up most of the running time). Thankfully, the noises the punch/kick hits make are enjoyable enough in their own right. It’s impossible to describe the sound, but needless to say that in real life a fist or a foot striking another human being doesn’t sound like Mario bumping a box with a question mark on it with his head. 

So there’s lots of action, a great training sequence towards the end, and a cast of Philippines-shot movie regulars such as Jim Gaines, Nick Nicholson, and Ned Hourani, who here is inexplicably credited as Nead Hourani. That’s right, NEAD. Could that a typo? In any event, the star of the show is, of course, Sean Donahue, our old buddy from Parole Violators (1994). His classic acting and fighting styles are on display, and you have to love his energy and determination. 

Known in Germany as KICKBOX TERMINATOR, which is a fantastic title, Blood Hands is indeed rare but any fans of Teddy Page, Sean Donahue, lots of punching and kicking, and/or silliness are encouraged to check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Karate Wars (1991)

Karate Wars (1991)- *

AKA: Bloodfight 3

Directed by: David Huey

Starring: Christopher Wolf, Richard Rabago, Elsie Jay, and Gerald Okamura

“You do not know nothing about Oyama.” – Jason

Jason (Wolf) is in a Karate class taught by Oyama (Rabago). Even though he is the star pupil, he and Oyama seem to have some conflicts based upon a mutually-shared history. This only upsets Oyama further, as he has constant flashbacks of when he killed an opponent in the ring years ago. Jason and his fellow classmates are training for a big tournament called the Karate Wars, and boy do they train. 

Something about all this is even affecting the relationship between Jason and his girlfriend Tracy (Jay). While the owner of the rival dojo and token evil Karate master Nakaso (Okamura) is training his charges equally hard, something happens and the so-called Karate Wars are cancelled. Not caring about the huge cash prize, Jason arranges it so that the two rival schools fight it out with no audience and no awards, just a Bloodfight for honor in their own unsanctioned tournament. Will Jason and Oyama patch up their differences? Who will come out victorious in the new, more underground Karate Wars?

We wanted to like Karate Wars (or Bloodfight 3 if you prefer). We really did. But it kept disappointing us at every turn. The movie is incredibly repetitive, with just about every other scene taking place in a bare-bones room that’s supposed to be the gym at the school (high school? College? Who can say?) where Jason and his compatriots go to train and train and train. Those are interspersed with Oyama’s Black & White flashbacks of his fateful, deadly bout. Over and over and over again. Boredom looms over almost every scene, because there’s really only about three scenes shuffled around for 90 minutes or so.

Barely breaking up the monotony are scenes of ham-fisted drama that aren’t really based on anything. Those scenes are in conflict with the overall goofy tone of the film (which includes some of our dreaded bathroom humor). It has a ground-zero low-budget look to it and the sound quality is muddy at best. Unfortunately, there’s more…

Jason, the hero (?) of the piece – who looks like an attempted hybrid of Tom Cruise, Judd Nelson, and Charlie Sheen – is unlikable. His shining moment is when he throws a hissyfit in the locker room. He’s involved with not one, but TWO fights in the same parking lot in the span of about ten minutes. One is with Oyama, who he’s constantly whining to. Both fights are very, very dumb. Why not change the location just to spice things up? But no, both are in a dull, drab parking lot.

Even Gerald Okamura and the great noises he makes can’t save this wreck. It’s just that nothing interesting ever happens. Director David Huey has directed some action heavyweights in his time, including Gary Daniels, Richard Norton, and Olivier Gruner, so he should really know better. For this particular outing, he goes by the nom d’crud David Hue. Why? Was he hiding, or was he trying to sound more Asian?

Anyway, we hate to say this, but Karate Wars is rare for a reason. Whatever you do, do NOT spend 88 Euro for this on Amazon.fr. Sadly, they can’t all be winners, and this falls into the loser category.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Karate Warrior 6 (1993)

Karate Warrior 6 (1993)- * * 

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Scotty Daffron, Ron Williams, Rafaele Exina, Dorian Field, Richard Goon, Timothy Smith, and David Warbeck

“Here’s your mermaid, you stupid jerks.”

Leo (Daffron) is an overweight college student who runs into a bit of good luck. That’s because as he’s riding his bike while simultaneously having a snack, a limousine carrying some sort of foreign diplomat cuts Leo off and he falls off the bike. While not really injured, Leo overinflates the situation and the diplomat gives him $10,000 in cash right there on the spot. Leo then takes his buddies on a shopping spree, and then on a vacation to Greece. While in Greece, the boys fall victim to a scammer and lose all their money, so they try a gentle scam of their own – they pretend to be tour guides in order to make enough money to get back home.

Unrelated to pretty much all of this, one day Larry Jones (Williams), who is one of the group of friends, sees an attractive Greek girl being assaulted by some toughs, so he intervenes and beats them up. After saving her, she mentions that the yearly motocross race is coming up, and that could get them the money they need to fly back home. So they all go back to her house to fix up an old, shoddy motorcycle. The guy that wins every year is named Mustafa (Exina). 

After Larry bests him, he gets mad and challenges him to a Karate match. He wins that every year, too. Larry gets his girlfriend Betty (Field) and the token family friend/Karate Master Mr. Masura (Goon) to come to Greece to train him. Naturally, it all comes to a head at the final fight, which Larry’s father (Warbeck) also attends. Who will be final champion, Larry or Mustafa?

As you may have noticed, there are SIX Karate Warrior movies. This sixth and, to date, final installment in the long-running series was again directed by Fabrizio DeAngelis, using his usual Larry Ludman pseudonym. The above description details the rambling and ramshackle nature of the plot. A bunch of things happen, it all unfolds in due course, but the Karate angle doesn’t show up until later, and is just another “thing that happens”. We’re all surprised when we finally see Larry is even a fighter of some sort. Another element to this is a pleasant, but pointless, Greek travelogue.

There’s a lot of ridiculous and silly dialogue, and speaking of silly, the main nemesis of the movie, Mustafa, doesn’t inspire much fear. He’s thin, waifish, and looks like a more effeminate version of Balki. Karate Warrior 6 came out in 1993, which was the same year as the last season of Perfect Strangers. So it’s safe to say that America was in the grip of Balki Fever at the time. DeAngelis, as was his wont, was just capitalizing on it. Balki was from the island of Mypos, which was Greek (?) so it all makes sense. And he fights a guy named Larry, so we finally get to see what we as viewers have been waiting for for so long: Larry vs. Balki.

Fan favorite David Warbeck is in the movie for probably less than a minute, all told, so any Warbeck fans out there, don’t go into this expecting him to go around busting any heads. What you do get, however, is one of the friends, Greg (Smith), who looks a lot like the elder Pete on The Adventures of Pete and Pete. In the name department, it’s hard to do better than Richard Goon. He plays Masura, and, while training Larry, he calls him, “Larry-san”. Larry does something that looks a lot like Daniel’s crane move from a certain other movie series.

Finally, it should be noted that the scam the boys fall victim to involves a guy who says they can take a picture with a real live mermaid, and then he steals their pants. That’s right, the old mermaid scam. In part, maybe that’s why the Karate Warrior series never made it to any home video format in the U.S. after the first one (which was released by Imperial). Maybe someone, somewhere figured American audiences couldn’t handle the silliness of volumes 2-6.

Anyway, there’s not a lot of substance here – or Karate, for that matter – but the movie isn’t awful. It’s competently made and there are some funny moments. It just rambles and doesn’t have a lot of focus. Are there any Karate Warrior completists out there who have seen all six? If so, write in today.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty