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"Sonny Chiba is both an accomplished actor and martial artist. He holds dan rank in both Kyokushin karate and Nippon Shorinji Kempo.Back in the 70's Chiba made two biographical films about the life of the founder's of each of those arts. The film about So Doshin, founder of Shorinji Kempo, was released in the U.S. with the idiotic title "The Killing Machine." A terrible misnomer about the life of a truly great man who was anything but a killer or a machine.Chiba's film about Sosai Mas Oyama, founder of Kyokushin karate, is equally mistitled here as "Champion of Death." I believe I read somewhere that the film was also released in English under a different, and equally silly, title called "The God Hand."Of the two films, the one about Master So Doshin is the better of the lot, but fans of Karate generally and of Oyama karate in particular will not want to be without "Champion of Death."
There is actual footage at the beginning of the film of a Japanese Kyokushin training class on a beach, and there is even a 10-15 second close up of Sosai himself executing Seiken tsuki!Chiba does a reasonably good job with portraying Oyama's life, though I suspect some of this is embellished (the rape scene, I hope!) for cinematic purposes.My one complaint is that although the DVD is dubbed into English, there are several places where Japanese signs or texts are shown that are crucial to scenes in the film but they are left untranslated and unspoken in English."
Not his best
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/30/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Not a very good movie. I've seen a lot of martial arts movies, so I'm used to the crazy story lines, but this one was pretty bad. The action was okay, but I got a headache watching the scene where Sonny fights the bull. They tried to make it so you were right there in the action, but the result is just a long segment of very jerky shots, which got annoying after awhile. The transfer was pretty poor, so the picture isn't really that good. If you really want to see Sonny Chiba in action, doing what he does best, get the Streetfighter series. With a title like Champions of Death, I expected to see more action."
A Guilty Pleasure - A Real Guilty Pleasure!
K.H. | 03/23/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I really am surprised to see so many four/five stars reviews. The movie isn't really that good. Normally, if I like a movie, but know it is not really a good movie (normally what one labels a guilty pleasure), I give it three stars. That way, I have indicated I liked it but know that the film suffers and is objectively not very good. That is this film.
Even for its date (1977) the direction is poor and the script is poor. For example, with regard to the directing, we get, as one viewer noted, an overly long, I mean really long, and poor camera work with regard to the title character, Oyama (Chiba) fighting a bull. This incident is loosely based on the real Oyama who fought bulls to display his karate supremacy. Also there is the rape scene, which demonstrates a poor script. As far as I have ever read, Mas Oyama didn't rape anyone, little a lone, if he had, it is doubtful the woman would then fall in love with him after such a horrible act.
Chiba's karate personality fits well with the Street Fighter series, but it is awkward here. The movie is trying to be a reflection of Oyama's life and therefore, one would hope not only would the script be more faithful, but so would the fighting style. Chiba was a student of Oyama's, but his fighting movements are not reflected of Kyokushin. Of, course, the script is faithful in only small vignettes (like Oyama helping the widow and her son after he killed her husband in a bar fight), but fails on so many other levels.
With all the negatives, why three stars, `cause at certain parts, the movie is fun. The opening tournament scenes are a blast to watch. Chiba does a great job in showing remorse for his sins and the sins of his top student. Lastly, the final fight scenes are also terrific and I love that mid 70s soundtrack - it is simple and the score fits the movie well. So, all in all, a guilty pleasure and I only recommend people who love 70s Japanese karate flicks. "
A good sonny chiba movie, but pretty boring for a while
morgoth | omaha, NE | 07/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"But I made it through it. It starts off with Masutatsu Oyama coming to compete in the first martial arts tournament after World war II. Though a fictional account, the movie is overall very dark and tries to hit on some key points in Oyama's life. KArate Bullfighter is the other name of this movie and if you know about the life of Masutatsu Oyama, then you will be familiar with that name. Though very cheesy and a bit boring, their is a badly done, but good story in here. The very end is short and sweet but overall the final fight is pretty dam good.
DVD quality offered by Good times Entertainment is acceptable and sound quality is fine and dubbing is pretty funny."
Sonny chiba?, more like sonny delight!
firstname.lastname@example.org | dallas, TX USA | 07/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"sonny chiba portraits a war-veteran, karate master, and rapist. rapist? yes, rapist. that's our hero ladies and gentlemen. but don't worry he says he's sorry. to prove it he kills an angry bull with his bare hands in what could be considered the greatest fight of all time. so if you ever become desperate enough to watch this movie, you'll love it as much as I do."