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The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid, Part II

by on May 14, 2010
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The two good entries in the Karate Kid series, just in time for the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan remake, are getting the Blu-Ray treatment, which, in keeping with the recent slate of bad remakes, continues the trend of at least giving a new audience the chance to see the originals.

If you’re reading this now and don’t know the stories of Daniel LaRusso, shame on you, but I suppose I need to gloss over them anyway.

Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is a Newark kid moving to Southern Cali when his mom scores a new job. Almost immediately he finds two things: a cute valley girl (Elisabeth Shue)…and her ex-boyfriend Johnny (William Zabka), who happens to be the star pupil of a maniacal karate instructor named Kreese (Martin Kove), who seems to have not been able to chill out since the war.

A few beatings later, Daniel learns his apartment complex’s handiman Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) also happens to be a karate expert, and in a scant few weeks trains “Daniel-san” to black-belt levels by having him wash cars, sand a deck, and paint a house.

In the second film, of course, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi travel to Miyagi’s native Okinawa, where they find Miyagi’s old friend Sato (Danny Kanemura) is still upset that Miyagi tried to take his girl some 60 years or so prior, and he happens to have a karate master nephew who takes it upon himself to prod Daniel into a fight or two himself.

Of course the first “Karate Kid” is one of the best films of the 80s, basically “Rocky” with karate and a teenager (“Rocky” director John C. Avildsen even helmed these films), and it made Macchio a star and earned Morita an Oscar.

The 1986 sequel is a bit unheralded but is a quality picture on its own and successfully amps up the tension as the film’s baddie actually wants to kill Daniel. And for my money the somewhat more virginal Kumiko (Tamilyn Tomita) is a better-looking, less prissy love interest than Ali-with-an-i.

A couple of things I noticed upon re-watching the first film: 1) Dutch (Chad McQueen), who was positioned as a badass in his own right, was given the short stick at the end of the film. He even confronted Daniel in the locker room for a few slimy threats before the climactic tournament, yet was reduced to a quick exit. He deserved more. 2) why do Daniel’s opponents get no points for blows to the face, yet the famous “crane kick” hits Johnny squarely in the mush for the winning point. What’s up with that?

Of course, if you already have these films on DVD, it’s the extras that will get you hooked onto the Blu-Ray releases, and on the first disc they deliver. Macchio and Zabka contribute a pop-up commentary track where they appear on screen to offer behind-the-scenes tidbits of information, and there are two pretty solid featurettes about the first film, as well as a commentary track repeated from the DVD release.

“Karate Kid II” is a little more sparse with the extras, contributing only a featurette on the sequel. A commentary would have been most welcome, or at least a digital version of the “Karate Kid II” magazine I wore out when I was a kid.

If you’re a fan of these films, you definitely would do well to pick up these films on Blu-Ray, with the second offering a particularly good transfer.

Karate Kid film: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps

Karate Kid, Part II film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps