I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been stopped on the streets of my all-American small town and asked which of Fabrizio De Angelis‘ karate movies, Karate Warrior or Karate Rock, was better. That’s a lot like asking a fellow which of his step-kids he hates the most. Sure, you hate them all, but in different ways.
So it is with both of Fabrizio’s forays into the world of peach-fuzzed pansies kicking local toughs around. I may not be able to go on record with my preference, but I will say that Fabrizio had six different tries to get his Karate Warrior movies perfected, but only one for Karate Rock!
And you can bet that Fabrizio left it all on the sweat-stained mat at the strip-mall karate studio that hosted the bone-crushing, senses-shattering, kickapocalypse between arch rivals Kevin and Jeff! The final battle would have been pretty lame (well, lamer that it was) if it hadn’t been built toward with an unceasing increase in tension as Kevin and Jeff clashed in competitions where the stakes only got higher and higher and even freaking higher!
Why, by the time that Kevin had bested Jeff in the race through the Tunnel of Death (neither of them died making the tunnel’s name an disappointing misnomer), I was sure nothing could top that! Well, nothing but a Sabato training montage!
Sabato training montage? Yeah, you better have a spare pair of jeans handy because you’ll be creaming the ones you’re wearing! Sabato’s training montage involves the Oriental guy he’s living with punching him in the stomach, shaking his head in disappointment while staring at a stopwatch, and wearing a Hannibal Lechter mask for some reason. It also involves shirtless runs on the beach while wearing a headband. Only when Sabato is able to punch the old man in the stomach and knock him on his shriveled up ass do we know that he has truly become…Karate Rock!
I pride myself in being brutally honest in these reviews so I feel compelled to note that the Sabato I am referring to is actually not Antonio Sabato, but is Antonio Sabato, Jr.
I can understand that some may think we’re getting Sabato Lite since we’ve seen the original Sabato getting it done in classics like Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Bye Bye Vietnam and War Of The Robots. But I would urge you not to worry because Fabrizio has experience in getting the most out of the various Sabatos having previously worked with Sr. in Thunder. And while Fabrizio did not make the obvious choice in casting Sabato, Sr. as the dad in this movie, he did the next best thing by getting Italian screen legend David Warbeck!
I don’t need to tell anyone that Warbeck set a still-standing record of seven Italian classics from 1980-83 including The Last Hunter, The Ark of the Sun God, and The Beyond. Warbeck plays an Oakland cop who is sick and tired of his son (Sabato, Jr.) screwing up. He wrecked a station wagon Warbeck hadn’t even paid off yet, hangs around with the wrong crowd, is involved with the principal’s daughter, and is into grass, liquor, and contraceptives! But dad! It’s my friend’s Norplant!
Sure, the contraceptive bit is somewhat eccentric, but what I found even more eccentric was that Warbeck was a cop driving a Savannah, Georgia cop car despite not playing a cop from Savannah, Georgia. I wasn’t sure where he was from, but it kept sounding like he said he was from Oakland which doesn’t make much sense since that would be an awful long way to drive your cop car to drop your kid off in Georgia. I’m also pretty sure the Savannah Police Department would frown on that, but would also be glad to have their cop car back.
The movie also sports quirks such as Warbeck announcing that his kid is in high school, but toward the end of the movie, another character talks about Sabato being in college. Then there was the scene where the next door neighbor Conny made a big announcement that she cut her pigtails off and that she looked all grown up now! In her next scene though, the pigtails were back and she had them the rest of the movie!
Fabrizio also indulges his fetish for dressing his actors in weird sports team apparel. (We all remember the USFL shirt debacle from Karate Warrior.)
This time he stays a bit more mainstream and we see a person wearing an Oakland A’s cap which added credence to my theory that Warbeck was living in Oakland, but using some a kind cop car equipped with a warp drive enabling him to travel to Georgia in an hour. There were also two different people in different scenes sporting New York Mets hats. I’m guessing that with the budget of this movie, it was the same hat. The bad guy wore a University of Virginia shirt, a fat kid wore a Georgia Southern University hat, and most heinous of all, Sabato wore some nasty Notre Dame T-shirt! Can’t say I was sorry to see the bad guy beat his ass down when he was prancing around in that get up!
The action in the movie plays out like some kind of Special Olympics for Georgia white trash. First, Sabato enters the Rock Competition which is apparently a dance contest where the kids just kind of bounce around to canned synthesizer music. He beats the evil Jeff while dancing with Jeff’s girl!
Then they have a showdown at Super Race which is where everyone races their jeeps and trucks around a dirt track. It’s the least action-packed car race in the history of movies. And it ends in a tie! Between Jeff and Sabato! So Jeff gets up on top of his Blazer and whines that it can’t end in a tie! All us southern white trashers know what that means! Tunnel of Death!
The Tunnel of Death is a large metal shed with an exit big enough for one vehicle. And no, it wasn’t as auto-tacular as it sounds. In fact, despite Sabato winning, it ended up causing his dad to come all the way back from Oakland to come and take him home. And just to show us how mad his dad was, he used the siren so he could get there faster!
All’s well that ends well though as dad arrives at the big karate showdown to cheer his son on as he punches poor old evil Jeff in the back of the head while the half-conscious Jeff was struggling to stand up! Amusing continuity errors, dopey sportswear, contraceptive addiction, Warbeck teaming up with Sabato the Younger, and a nerd getting beat up in the school library all combine to make Karate ROCK!
© 2015 MonsterHunter