New Gladiators to be Released on DVD
By: Elvis Australia
Source: Rising Sun Productions
August 20, 2003 - 3:00:00 PM
Elvis DVD News
Urquidez, Ron Marchini, Eric Lee, Mike Stone, Roy Kurban, Emil Farkas, Fumio Demura to mention but a few are seen in what is known as the
Golden Era of Karate in America (mid 1970's) fighting for top honors and at the same time telling a story as they take on each other, as
well as some of the best international fighters, names like, Englands Ticky Donovan , Geert Lemmens from Belgium, and many others fought
for the titles.
Filmed in the tradition of surfings "The Endless Summer" these karate men travel the country and the globe in search of the best fighters of
the time. The film ends in California where they fight it out in real competition and the final match between Roy Kurban (now a judge in
Texas) and Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, is one of classic matches of all times in sport karate. Producer George Waite and director Robert
Hammer enlisted some of the best available people of the time to put this film together. Names like Allen Daviau who went on to shoot the
blockbuster "ET" and John Hora who went on shoot the "Gremlins".
They both are Academy Award winners for cinematography and the music score was created by David Crosby and Graham Nash who were
a part of the legendary quartet Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
In retro-spective this film takes the audience back to the mid 1970's and the era of "Easy Rider". The viewer can re-live the revolutionary pop culture in America that is part of this feature film. The raw footage was found in a garage in West Hollywood where it had laid for over 30
years waiting to be discovered. Also found was a pristine 16mm color
print of Bruce Lee's legendary 1967 demonstration at Ed Parker's
"Long Beach International Karate Championships". Plus an amazing 32
minutes of Elvis Presley in color performing karate techniques in Memphis
Tennessee. Rising Sun is still looking for possible projects to release
this extremely rare footage.
Ironically the project was converted to 21st century technology and l
oaded on to Mini DV and the final cut was done in "Final Cut Pro"
restoring life to a glorious project that was almost lost to the annals
of time. It is available in DVD and VHS. This film is a must see for not
only martial arts enthusiasts but anyone interested in the pop culture
of the 1970's, its music and attitude of the people and time. Now
available in DVD or Video format $34.95 + $5.00 shipping and handling.
NEW GLADIATORSElvis Presley's pet karate film "NEW GLADIATORS"
will be released 25 years to the day of his passing August 16th 2002.
During the early 1970's Elvis was deeply involved in training in the
martial arts under Ed Parker a legendary martial artist who was the
father of American Kenpo karate.
The full length feature film was the brain child of producer George
Waite who was studing as well with Parker in the early 1970's. He
approached Parker with a one page draft of an idea for a film. Parker l
oved the idea so much he called "The King" on the spot and the two
of them drove up to Elvis house in BelAir and presented the idea to
him over a kitchen table where he was sitting.
After hearing the idea Elvis's initial reaction was: "well it sounds good
but let me think about it. I will get back to you in the next week or so
because I am going to Vegas tomorrow morning early to do a show
first". The next day at about 9:00 a.m. George, got a phone call, and
to his surprise, it was "The King" himself who said "George can you fly
up to Vegas tonight and see the show? I will send my plane back down
for you and your girlfriend to come up for the show." George agreed
right away. When they arrived in Las Vegas a limo took them straight to
the show and they were sitting front row centre when Elvis hit the
stage. In the middle of his act Elvis introduced people like Charlton
Heston and Sean Connery who were in the audience and then he
introduced George to the audience saying he was going to produce
his next film called "The New Gladiators".
After the show George was invited up to the top floor of the Hilton
(Elvis's had the entire floor) with the rest of the crowd of celebrities.
Elvis even had George put on a short karate demonstration in front of
every one. Elvis then pulled George off to the side and said "George I
really like the idea" as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a cheque
made it out for $50,000 and said take it down stairs and cash. Then l
ets get started tomorrow morning.
"Well I nearly fell over right there and then" said George Waite "but we
were off and rolling and the next day we started making the "New
Gladiators". The film was shot by two of the top Hollywood
cinematographers at the time Allen Daviau who went on to shoot
Spielbergs "ET" and John Hora who shot "The Gremlins" . The terrific score
was provided by David Crosby and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and
The film features the best karate fighters of the era including names
like Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Steve (Sanders) Muhammad, Roy Kurban,
Dan Anderson, Ron Marchini, Tom Kelly, John Nativadad, Darnell Garcia,
Emil Farkas, Englands Ticky Donovan and Belgiums Geert Lemmens to
name but a few who all clash in battles
not just fights. To quote Emil Farkas who was there "they were not
even battles they were all out wars. It was not uncommon to see
broken noses or cracked ribs".
The original idea was that Elvis would narrate the entire film and as
well demonstrate several techniques on the film showing his karate
skills. Footage of the Elvis's karate demonstration was also found, along
with a 16mm color print that contains 8.5 minutes of Bruce Lee
demonstrating and free sparring at the 1967 Ed Parkers Long Beach
International Tournament. Both these finds have never been seen
before. It was decided to not include it in the actual film as Elvis never
did the narration.
Rising Sun is now in possession of both of these archival films and is l
ooking for options and ways to present this historically significant
footage of the "King Of Rock and Roll" and the "King of Martial Arts".
When we asked Waite where and how he came up with the story
concept he said "Elvis arranged for Bob Hammer the director and I to
go to 20th Century Fox Studios and watch 3 of his favorite films. Elvis
emphasized that this is the way I want it to be shot and produced.
We did it exactly the way he wanted it.
The three films were the "American Cowboy", surfing's "Endless
Summer" and the motorcycle classic "Never on A Sunday". So when
the viewers watch this classic film they will see elements of these pop
culture flicks of the 1970's". In fact the New Gladiators is karates
version of the endless summer. Fighters in those days would travel
from tournament to tournament looking for the best fighters out there
to sharpen there skills on, similiar to how the surfers in "The Endless
Summer" travelled the world looking for the perfect wave.
The plot of the film is that an American team of five fighters were
formed to take on the challenge of the best karate fighters in the world
and they travelled first to England, to fight with the best Great Britain
had to offer and then to Belgium to fight the best Europe had to offer.
This era (mid 1970's) is often referred to as the Golden Era of Karate as
this when the best fighters in America and the world sharpened their
skills. There was no safety equipment used back then or minimal at best
and these guys were not playing tag karate like in todays tournaments.
The viewer will see when one of the Americans Ron Marchini gets split
wide open by the Belgium Captain Geert Lemmens and then US
Champion Dan Anderson in slow motion gets a front kick full force
right in the face that levels him. Neither of the attackers were
disqualified for excessive contact it was deamed an accident. They
then come back to the USA and began to fight in tournaments against
each other and the final matchends up with Benny "The Jet" Urquidez
fighting Roy Kurban of Texas in what has become one of the classic
matches of all times in sport karate. We won't tell you who wins but
the match is exceptional and the story ends with the winner getting
the girl in true Hollywood fashion.
The big question though is why did it never get released and how did it
come to getting released 25 years after the passing of Elvis? When we
asked George Waite the Producer what happened he said "well when
Elvis died I just lost all enthusiasm for the project as Elvis was the
heart and soul and driving force behind the project as he called us
nearly every day to see how the progress was coming along he really
was deeply involved in it as he loved martial arts and would do anything
to promote it. He trained with Ed Parker regularily in fact he was really
quite good. Elvis had one unusal quality he did not feel physical pain
and this made him part of the karate guys so to speak. " In Elvis last
days it was only his karate friends that were left and he really felt close
to them. It was they he trusted.
" Then when Don Warrener of Rising Sun started to get on me about
2 years ago I thought about bringing it out and doing it but I just didn't
have the heart for the project as Ed Parker had also passed away and
I just couldn't get it together to finish it so I decided to give it to Rising
Sun Productions one of the biggest martial arts video companies in
America and let them finish it off. The co-owner Isaac Florentine who
is a terrific director took on the job of finishing it and I really believe
that both Elvis and Ed would be very proud of the end result I know
that both Bob Hammer the director and I are very pleased with the
way it all has turned out and to see it finally come to fruition."
"The fact that it will be released 25 years to the day of Elvis passing
was a total coincidence" said Warrener. The Hollywood martial arts
community was having a celebrity roast for Bob Wall ("Ohara" in Enter
The Dragon) and the organizer Gary Lee asked if we would consider
having the premiere at the roast we thought it would be an excellent
idea as many of the West coast martial artists would be there including
Chuck Norris and many of the guys who actually appeared in the New
Gladiators. It sounded like a natural. When we asked where it had been
all these years, Warrener said "well George had it believe it or not in
the back of a 1961 GMC pick up truck in his garage which is where we
found it and rescued this piece of martial arts and film memorabilia.
We then had it converted from 16MM, to Mini DV so that we could do
the finish editing in our computers and then we brought it back out in
Mini DV and had duplication masters made. DVD authoring was then
done and DVD duplications were made.
Over the years many of the martial arts community have heard about
this mystery film but many had just put it off to being lost. Bey Logan
a known Hong Kong producer and a big fan of Bruce Lee and Elvis said
"WOW" thank goodness it wasn't lost. When we showed the film to
Geert Lemmens of Belgium he nearly started to cry as it brought back
so many memories. Warrener, president of Rising Sun Productions said
"Isaac and I are very proud to be able to be apart of this project and
even more proud that we were able to bring out this film that Elvis and
Ed Parker started nearly 30 years ago so that our children and
grandchildren can see what karate was like when it first came to our
shores. It was rough tough and a true brotherhood. Hopefully it will
help to instill his feeling back into the arts.
Rising Sun Productions is presently distributing the film along with their
line of martial arts videos but is also looking for wide spread distribution
through out the world.
For nearly two decades, Elvis Presley practiced the art of karate with skill and enormous dedication.
The discipline brought a thrilling new physicality to his film and stage performances, but fans have never before had the chance to see the King in authentic action.
This collector's edition set provides exactly that opportunity, bringing together footage from Elvis' never-completed martial arts epic The New Gladiators along with insightful commentary by fellow-enthusiast Wayne Carman who was with Elvis when much of the footage was shot.
This exciting NEW collectors set also includes an informative booklet that explores the singer's relationship with the art of karate, an evocative photo-retrospective and six collectable postcards.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.