SCARECROW ON SEATTLE
In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.
No Retreat No Surrender (1986)
NRNS, as I call it, is widely regarded as the Plan 9 From Outer Space of Karate Kid rip-offs. This film is so singularly awful in nearly every respect that it accidentally nails the funny bone and has consequently endeared itself to countless trash movie fans. It is also one of those films that professes to have been made in Seattle and, additionally, pretends to star Jean-Claude Van Damme, but both the Emerald City and the "muscles from Brussels" get about 10 minutes of screen time. Kurt McKinney stars as a vaguely snotty karate kid (or, more accurately, a Jeet Kune Do kid) named Jason whose dad runs a karate studio (or dojo) in Los Angeles. For inexplicable reasons some gangsters want to take over all of the dojos in LA but Jason's dad refuses the offer, only to have his leg snapped by Van Damme, who plays a henchman named Ivan the Russian. Fearing more broken bones, Dad decides to move to Seattle. The city is redundantly established with a shot of I-5 from the Yesler Way overpass looking south towards Beacon Hill, which fades to a view of the Seattle Center from Kerry Park that cuts to a shot of an "Entering Seattle" road sign. We are shown the Space Needle in a close up and then, just to make sure even the slowest witted viewer understands where they are, a superimposed graphic spells out "Seattle, Washington" over a shot of the family roadster tooling along Aurora Avenue near Denny Way. When they arrive at their new home it sure seems like we're back in the suburbs of LA with all sorts of palm trees, flat horizons, straight streets and nary a conifer or hill in sight. Partway though the film we suddenly discover that Jason has a girlfriend and they soon participate in a romantic Seattle montage during which the young lovers stroll beneath the Pacific Science Center arches, peer through a telescope from the observation deck of the Space Needle, wander along the Central Waterfront (with a stop for some fish and chips), take a monorail ride, and gaze longingly at each other while sitting in the Changing Form sculpture at Kerry Park. Another scene is, undoubtedly, the reason the filmmakers set NRNS in Seattle. After losing a few fights and feeling dissatisfied with his martial arts skills, Jason travels to Lakeview Cemetery to visit Bruce Lee's grave. Jason makes a graveside plea for guidance, help and inspiration to his idol. His wishes do not go unheeded and shortly thereafter he's visited by Lee's spirit who becomes the young man's personal trainer. As you could expect if you ever saw The Karate Kid (or any one of a hundred other martial arts revenge films) those nasty LA gangsters show up in "Seattle" and Jason must face Ivan the Russian in the ring. NRNS has never been released domestically on disc in the States. Scarecrow Video has both a videotape and an import DVD that, in a different cut of the film, omits the "young love" montage, so Seattle fans should be sure to rent the VHS for maximum Jet City footage. Don't retreat but be sure to surrender to this ludicrous film's unintentional pleasures.