Friday, January 7, 2011

Kárate a muerte en Torremolinos (2001)

Karate is funny. By no means do I wish to be disrespectful to its practitioners, as I’m well aware that the martial arts have deep cultural roots and have important significance to unique cultures. I respect that. However, if I were ever confronted by an opponent who entered into a karate stance and made a readying battle cry, then I would completely lose my shit. Game over before the battle ever started. Some of the greatest martial arts films that I have ever seen, have not only impressed me but made me laugh immensely. For example in Fists of the White Lotus (1980), Gordon Liu and Lo Lieh square off in a phenomenal sequence: Lo Lieh as the White Lotus Chief is meditating in the bath. Liu’s character attempts to get the jump on him by attacking him in the bath. Not only does Lieh exit the bath and put on his clothes, but he manages to fend off Liu’s attacks and win the fight. One of the greatest martial arts films ever. To further gauge my own sense of humor, I also laugh immensely when the vending machine kicks the shit out of the little league coach in Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive (1987). Go figure.
I discovered a little gem recently entitled Kárate a muerte en Torremolinos (2001).
Torremolinos is a Spanish resort town whose primary source of income is tourism. Jess (José María Cruz Piqueras) is a twenty-year-old surfer with a beautiful girlfriend named Danuta (Sonia Okomo). Jess is a member of the Catholic Brotherhood of Surfers and has made a vow of chastity until he is twenty-four. This is a problem for Danuta as she really wants to fuck. It may be a blessing, however. Torremolinos also houses a local legend: that of Jocantaro, a half-crab, half-octopus monster who lives off the coast and under the sea. Enter Dr. Malvedades (Paul Lapidus), a diabolical genius, who plans on raising Jocantaro from his watery depths to take over the world. With his zombie ninja henchmen, Dr. Malvedades needs five “newly-screwed virgins” to complete his plan. Oh shit. I was initially attracted to Kárate a muerte en Torremolinos by learning of the inclusion of Jess Franco as one of its actors. Its director, Pedro Temboury, according to his IMdB credits, served as an assistant director for some of Franco’s latter-day efforts such as Lust for Frankenstein (1998) and Tender Flesh (1998). Franco has always acted in his own films, and I have to admit that he’s pretty funny in Kárate a muerte. By the time Franco appears in the film, Jess has recruited his fellows in the Brotherhood of Catholic Surfers to combat the impending evil upon Torremolinos. Franco appears as a karate instructor named Miyagi who appears from an ethereal plane to instruct the desperate group in combat. In twenty four hours all the secrets of karate are revealed. The most humorous thing about this sequence is Franco’s delivery of his dialogue: he goes from quiet and meditative to ridiculously animated. While everyone in the cast gives enthusiastic performances, perhaps Oliver Denis deserves special mention. Denis plays, according to the film’s ending credits, one of the zombie ninjas but also served as fight coordinator for the film. In one hilarious sequence, four to five black-belt students at the local dojo head outside to practice. The zombie ninjas interrupt them and dole out some ass-whippings. Each karate student is wearing a white t-shirt with the logo “Karate Denis” on the back, so I take this as an indication that Denis teaches karate somewhere close to the location. If I had to choose my favorite character in Kárate a muerte, then it would have to be Denis portraying a mercenary, karate master named “Chuk Lee,” who is hired by the mayor of Torremolinos to stop the mayhem. Yes, he ultimately fails, but it is an entertaining failure. Denis is very good at karate and he’s dead serious when performing. I’m certain that he’s in on the joke, but that’s incidental. Denis’s performance and contribution, like all of Kárate a muerte, is perfect camp humor: never too self-aware, always straight, and when necessary, absolutely dead serious. Paul Lapidus, as Dr. Malvedades, also deserves mention. Temboury and Pablo Álvarez Almagro, screenwriters, give Lapidus the best dialogue in the film. No cinematic evil genius deserves this much ripe material. (The English subtitles are well-done.) Like all diabolical and evil masterminds, Dr. Malvedades has to relate his plan to everyone that he meets, and he is having a wonderful time doing so. He even has a copy of the Necronomicon (which is interesting that he owns it, as it appears non-essential to his plan.). His nemesis, named “Dr. Orloff,” played by Temboury, has a wonderful late-nite occult television show. I could watch this show over and over. When Dr. Orloff is finally recruited by the mayor after the failure of Chuk Lee, Dr. Orloff plans on using toys. Like plastic swords and dry-erase boards, I bullshit you not. While all of the characters have a glimpse in their eyes that this man is going to combat the ultimate evil with toys, none makes any mention. The only complaint that I can make about Kárate a muerte en Torremolinos is the opening credit sequence is too long, but it appears as if the collaborators put a lot of time into making it look spiffy. The entire film runs less than eighty minutes, and I could have watched a film twice as long. The film is low-budget, has a rubber-suited monster causing havoc on the beach, martians appearing out of nowhere, and a tremendous amount of heart. As much entertainment as Kárate a muerte en Torremolinos has provided me, it’s earned the tag: brilliant, phenomenal, amazing. I purchased the Region 2 disc here.


Alex B. said...

Thanks for the enthusiastic review!
I've also heard of this film because of the Jess Franco involvemnet.
Hope to watch it someday.
I'm in the mood for some 'One Shot Productions' Franco now, might go re-watch'Snakewoman' or something.

Hans A. said...

Cheers, Alex! I think I'll go watch Snakewoman, too, or watch some Uli Lommel movies, like Devonsville or Stolen Stars.

Warren said...

A karateka would not confront you, because "Karate ni sente nashi" is the first rule, which roughly translated means "There is no first attack in karate."

Unless your confrontor had a bad teacher like the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid!!! In which case, just use the crane kick, it worked for Daniel-San!