Also known as Chuck Norris Vs. the Karate Cop and Slaughter in San Francisco, Karate Cop is one of the most mystifying chop-suey pictures I’ve had the pleasure/befuddlement to have in my collection. I still have no idea how it was made, as later I’ll point out how about three or four cultures collided to put this in front of the camera. In any case, this is perfect b-movie fodder, so let’s begin, shall we?
Don Wong stars inexplicably as a cop named Officer Don Wong, whose partner, John Sumner, gets killed while trying to prevent a bank robbery. In standard fashion our boy decides to take revenge, scouring the streets of San Francisco in search of John’s killers. During his investigation a terrible conspiracy is revealed, one involving Don’s police chief and a powerful street gang run by a man named Chuck Slaughter…played by Chuck Norris.
Many kick-punch-repeat fights ensue, all set to giggle-inducing sound effects of wood planks being slapped together interspersed with a lot of crazed yelling. There’s no new ground being covered here folks, but from this material comes a bevy of memorable moments. The first thing I noticed was the terrible video transfer, which was scratched and often turned fuzzy on the left side of the screen. This put me in the perfect mood for a junky time, and Karate Cop did not disappoint.
What is so weird about this movie is how it’s set in San Francisco, comes with a cast of American actors, and for some reason is dubbed into English. Everything has been dubbed in fact, including the dogs! When you’re looking right at a dog whose mouth isn’t even open and you hear barking, something is wonderfully wrong. As for the humans, they don’t fare much better. Bankers are dubbed in with British accents while one cop is saddled with a thick Irish dialect. Best of all, Mr. Norris sounds like Yosemite Sam with one of the thickest drawls in cinema history. This is gold stuff, people, and I couldn’t get enough. But again, why was it dubbed into English?
One of my favorite characters in the movie was the crooked police chief, who has the motto, “Back on the job.” Don Wong’s partner has literally just been beaten to a pulp by two dozen punks, his forehead bleeding, and the chief tells him to get back on the job. Sadly he only says this maybe once or twice, ruining any chance of it becoming a classic running joke. I wanted Wong to come in with a busted hand and two broken legs and be put back on the beat, but this was not to occur.
Are you wondering why I haven’t talked about Chuck Norris more than I have? Well, be patient, because he makes the movie and I want to save him for last. In the meantime I’ll point out how he’s not the only “name” in this picture. Oh sure, their names may not be Quentin Tarantino and Tom Selleck, but for the life of me there are two actors here who are the spitting images of those men. The Selleck look-alike was especially funny, since he kept tricking me every time I saw him on camera. “Tom Selleck?” I would think, followed by a knowing laugh. “Oh, drat you, Tom Selleck’s evil twin!”
Nope, this isn’t the Chuck Norris paragraph either, folks. I still have some random stuff to talk about, darnit! Okay, so there’s this scene with Wong and his pseudo-love interest where they’re talking very solemnly about Chuck Savage and the evil gang that is terrorizing the streets. I might have bought this scene if not for the clunky dialogue and, wait for it, someone playing Greensleeves in the background. Greensleeves! Sorry, but if you saw this scene and didn’t at least do a double take then you’re a poor soul. And here’s another quirky nugget: people keep using the term “row” when talking about a fight. “He had a row, they had a row. Row, row, row.” Where are these people? This is San Francisco in the ‘70s!
Wait, uh-oh, what’s that I hear in the distance? It’s the call to arms to finally talk about Chuck Norris and just why he’s equally the most entertaining and blood-curdling aspect of Karate Cop. Two words ladies and gentlemen: Body Hair. I cannot accent this enough: Body Freaking Hair. Like, everywhere, man. At a random point Norris peels off his shirt and what I was exposed to was this shag carpet of rust colored fur all over the man’s chest and shoulders. And what’s worse, the shoulder hair looked as if it had been combed. It was styled, I swear! Creeping Caligula it was a sight for sore, bloodshot eyes. If you have a strong stomach and are near a toilet I would dare you to experience the hair for yourself, but I don’t like receiving hate mail.
This was a fun time, I have to say. Dopey dialogue, over-choreographed fights, and a shot of Chuck Norris wickedly eating an apple (swear to God) are more than enough to keep this boy smiling, so I turned off my VCR a happy individual. I’m not too sure how widely available Karate Cop is in today’s market, as I stumbled upon my copy in a dusty used store, but you should certainly pick it up if it comes your way.