Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Gweilo Dojo: THE INSTRUCTOR (1983)

“I'll get you. I’ll mangle you. You turd.”

If you immediately find joy in lines of dialogue like that, THE INSTRUCTOR is a film for you.  A relic from an era where white guys at a karate school could pool together enough money to make a film (aka the late 70s/early 80s), this is the kind of cinema we live for here at Video Junkie.  Is it cheaply made?  Yes.  Is it going to replace ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) as a martial arts classic? No.  Is it entertaining as hell?  Freakin’ A!

THE INSTRUCTOR opens with, naturally, The Instructor (Bob Chaney) jogging with his student Thumper (writer-producer-director Don Bendell).  They seem unaware that they are being followed by a ninja (who picks his nose) before running into some of their kid students at the park.  Meanwhile, a ragtag gang battles by some railroad tracks with swords and trash cans (I’m told that’s how they settle things in Ohio). After playing a bit of soccer with the kids, The Instructor and Thumper continue their jog, but head back because The Instructor has a bad feeling.  Turns out he was right as the ninja has attacked the kids.  But these kids use their masterful moves to knock the guy down and the ninja bolts.  Alas, a man must jog and our heroes keep going until they stumble upon the gang forcing this ninja geek to molest a woman from the gang named Cookie (Shirley Bendell, Don’s wife).  Or as Thumper so hilariously puts it: “Sir, look! That woman’s being raped!”  This leads to a big fight scene where Thumper gets KO’d and The Instructor takes out everyone.  Our heroes find out the ninja is a guy named Fender, who may or may not be mentally challenged, and he says he was following them as he wanted to learn Bud Hart’s moves. “Don’t confuse me with Bud Hart,” The Instructor sternly warns.

The Instructor & his hair!
So who the hell is this Bud guy?  Turns out he is the Bud Hart (Bob Saal), an asshole karate instructor from a rival school.  How much of an asshole is he?  He drinks beer and reads Playboy with his feet up on his desk while others train.  Oh yeah, he also raped and killed The Instructor’s wife Debbie.  The two groups get into a big scuffle at a banquet, but The Instructor’s cooler head prevails.  No doubt due to that insulation on his head he calls hair.  You see, he is a good guy and seems to harbor no ill will toward anyone, despite the fact that his wife was raped and killed by his former best friend. Bud is in cahoots with the local mob and is hired to rough up some union guys. In return, Bud asks the mob to send some boys to trash The Instructor’s school.  This involves them throwing some papers on the floor (the horror!) and attempting to rape The Instructor’s new love interest Dee (Lynday Scharnott).  Despite all of this recreational violence, the men still carry on a civil relationship and agree to meet at a big tournament.  This is where Fender really loses his cool.  Wanting some black belt glory, he steals Thumper’s trophy and, when confronted, beats Thumper to a pulp with it.  The Instructor immediately suspects hothead Bud and an insane 20 minute chase ensues all over Akron, Ohio.

The Instructor & his rage!
I’ve got Tom to thank for sending this movie my way.  I mistakenly sent him an email after getting 15 minutes into it and commenting on how amazing it was.  I should have waited until I finished it because nothing could prepare me for this film’s finale.  Seriously, this chase has to be seen to be believed.  They go from cars to motorcycles to a foot chase in what is seemingly a high-speed tour of Akron.  Not to mention these is one of the craziest car stunts I’ve ever seen on film in this movie.  They do the standard car flying through the bed of a semi bit, but manage to sneak a camera person into the bed of the truck, placing them mere feet from the action. Additionally, the car achieves some amazing air time. Seriously, look at the first 45 seconds of this clip.  I was dying because that car looks weightless and seems like it is just going to keep going into the sky like the end of GREASE (1978) or something.  No joke, this is insanely dangerous and insanely cool.

I seriously wish more movies featured chases like this.  Every film needs the battling combatants to fight at a waterfall then stumble upon a logger on his lunch break and have them incorporate his axe and chainsaw into their fight. Another amazing thing about this chase is the entire pursuit springs from one bad assumption (The Instructor thinking Bud beat up Thumper).  So essentially we have the wrong man being chased.  I assume the message is letting anger control you emotions can result in you doing bad things.  But The Instructor gets off with a $500 fine and suspended sentence in the end.  Classic stuff!  And don’t get me started on the Fender character.  That guy is hilarious.  Something is obviously wrong with him as when one of the young kids knocks him down in the opening, he responds by saying to one of the young boys, “Why you little SLUT!”  WHAT!?!  Later, when he is pondering stealing the trophy, he sees a girl he likes and he sits doe-eyed in front of her while his voiceover ponders the most outrageous things (“If I was a black belt she would like me. And if she did, I’d punch her in the face.”).  Here is his delivery of the incredible line I opened the review with:

Remember: Fender is watching you!
The marital arts also leave a lot to be desired, despite some legit talent in the cast.  There is lots of Lanky White Guy Fu on display that would make Christopher Mitchum envious. Anyone expecting something as cool as the cover featured above will be sorely disappointed.  The action depicted (guy kicking another guy on a motorcycle in his helmet) is basically in the film, but let’s just say there is world of difference between concept and execution.  But one has to remember this was shot in 1979/80 when things weren’t as refined as we expect today.  Believe it or not, early reports in Variety had famous karate instructor Ed Parker listed in the cast. Sadly, he eventually wasn’t in the film.  Bob Chaney is still in the martial arts business, having moved out to California where he runs his school. Don Bendell also stayed in the business when he moved out to Colorado.  He also became a prolific author.  Neither man has made a film since and that truly saddens us here at Video Junkie.

2 Reactions:

  1. That chase scene is EPIC!!! Rented this on VHS way way back in the day

  2. Bob Chaney passed away today, March 27,2016.


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