Saturday, February 2, 2013

El Professore Movie Reviews Karate, The Hand of Death

Director: Joel Holt
Starring: Joel Holt, Frank Blaine, Akira Shiga
* 1/2
An important, pioneering effort in the development of the martial arts film. It's also pretty dreadful...

Full review after the jump.

Matt Carver (Joel Holt) is an American Karate expert who suffers traumatic WW2 flasbacks showing him killing soldiers with his bear hands. Initially raised in Japan before relocating to the U.S. he returns to his place of birth to track down a lost love only to find himself caught up in a hard to understand crime drama involving in a stolen ex-Nazi's gold coin which would lead to a fortune in Plutonium (or something like that).

Going in, I was at worst hoping for some decent, campy fun. Instead, what I got was a thinly veiled home movie under the guise of a snail paced and uninvolving Film Noir wannabe. The acting ranges from poor, to awful, to practically non-existent. It's obvious from watching this dull mess that director/star Holt had great affection for the art of Karate (there is a long demonstration seqence describing it's form and application). Unfortunately, it's just as obvious that Mr. Holt knows absolutely zilch about how to perform martial arts, at least in front of a camera. Watching the stilted, terribly shot and edited hand to hand action scenes (if you can even call them that) is just plain embarassing. What Holt should have done was put his apparent ego aside and feature one of the actual Karate proponents from the demo scene as the film's lead or at least feature one as a sidekick type who could do most of the fighting. It's really a shame that what we're left with is as uninspiring as it is.

Not nearly good enough for a proper release nor trashy enough for the exploitation enthusist, 'Karate, The Hand of Death' functions as a missed opportunity to kickstart the martial arts film fad in America a good ten years early. After watching this, it's amazing it got started at all.

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