Sunday, February 15, 2015

KARATE KIDS U.S.A. a.k.a. LITTLE DRAGONS (1979)








Directed by Curtis Hanson
Written by Harvey Applebaum, Louis G. Atlee, Rudolph Borchet and Alan Ormsby
Cinematography by Stephen Katz

As part of my 200 movie set Drive In Cult Cinema Collection, this may be one of the better, more interesting films in the set. I included the cinematographer in the credits because he has done things like The Blues Brothers. I know when you see four writers you wince a little, but two of them only have this film as a credit and the third guy wrote a little televsion. I'm guessing they hired Ormsby to fix the script.
So, we have a pair of brothers at their Karate dojo. The instructor Pat E. Johnson was a referee in all three Karate Kid movies. They leave after practice to go fishing with their grandpa who they only call J.J. (Charles Lane). He has bought an old klunker of an RV and they are on their way camping. They get passed by a new, sleek RV that houses the Forbinger family Dad (Rick Lenz), Mom (Sharon Clark) and their daughter, Carol  (Sally Boyden).



Unfortunately, the Forbingers get lost and then get their RV stuck. Luckily, help comes in the form of a pair of hill billy brothers, Yancey (Joe Spinell) and Carl (John Chandler) who get them out of their predicament and send them on their way. Anyone who has seen Joe SPinell in a movie knows this encounter will just lead to something bad. And since I remember John Chandler as the baddie from Adventures in Babysitting we know it can't be good. They report back to their momma, Angel (Ann Sothern) who decides they should rob the Forbingers of all their fancy RV stuff.



One mishap follows another and the boys kidnap young Carol and her dog, Rufus. They decide it's a way to make some serious cash quick.
Soon, the FBI are involved, the karate boys get help from a motorcycle gang led by Donnie Williams of Battle Creek Brawl fame. They enlist the other kids from the dojo and soon it's the karate kids versus the kidnappers.
This was a fun flick. They didn't go the silly route like a lot of films would and they had no problem putting a large amount of children in peril. When the dojo gets rides from the motorcycle gang and they are all tooling down the road it's pretty obvious they didn't have any stunt doubles.



I was amazed that they got as the karate master, Bong Soo Han who is considered the master of Hapkido and taught Billy Jack to kick ass. This movie is full of little surprises like that. The whole movie is pointing at the screen and saying, 'Hey! I know that guy!'. I love movies like that.
Kind of a shame they don't make movies that don't really fit any kind of predetermined mold any more.
Karate Kids U.S.A. kicks ass!

Here is a link to enjoy the entire film if you like;


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