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Friday July 20th 2018

The Karate Kid | 1984

The Karate Kid location: South Seas Apartment, Saticoy Street, Reseda, California
The Karate Kid location: the Kid’s apartment: South Seas Apartment, Saticoy Street, Reseda, California

Basically, Rocky remade as a teen movie, and by the same director, too.

When Lucille LaRusso (Randee Heller,) and her son Daniel (Ralph Macchio) leave the industrial heartland of Newark for the palm trees of California, that really is New Jersey, just for those few opening moments. Their neighbourhood is the town of Harrison, on Essex Fwy (280) across a bend of the Passaic River, northeast of Newark itself. There's a glimpse of the girdered Jackson Street Bridge, crossing the Passaic to link Harrison with Ironbound. You may remember Ironbound as the site of the first appearance of alien war machines in Steven Spielberg's 2005 update of War Of The Worlds, with Tom Cruise.

The LaRussos trundle off on their journey along Franklin Avenue, between Hamilton Street and Harrison Avenue.

In no time at all, they're driving through – erm – Texas (for what seems to be about four frames of film) and on to the spectacular red sandstone formations of Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona. The Canyon Portal Hotel, which stood at 280 North Highway 89a, no longer stands. Not surprisingly, the landscapes here are no stranger to the big screen, having previously featured in Nicholas Ray’s cult 1954 Western Johnny Guitar.

Still with us and virtually unchanged are the South Seas Apartments, 19223 Saticoy Street, Reseda, in the San Fernando Valley, the flat suburban sprawl just north of Los Angeles. Ignore the Director's Commentary on the DVD – the building is still standing (at the time of writing), and still bears the 'South Seas' name.

The Valley provides the backdrop to most of the film – though not all of it was filmed there. Daniel takes time out to visit Leo Carrillo State Beach, 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu, where he meets Ali (Elisabeth Shue), as well as a bunch of objectionable jocks. The beach is also featured in the original Point Break.

'West Valley High School', where Daniel comes into conflict with the same jocks, was Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School, pretty much unchanged but now the Hughes Adult Learn Center, 5607 Capistrano Avenue at Philiprim Street, a few miles southwest of his apartment in Woodland Hills.

The 'Cobra Kai' dojo, run by the obnoxious Kreese (Martin Kove) like a West Cost branch of the Hitler Youth, is now Body Theory Fitness Center, 5223 Lankershim Boulevard, at the North Hollywood Pedestrian Plaza, North Hollywood. There's a bit of trickery here, though. You may assume that the 'Orient Express' restaurant on the opposite corner, where Daniel meets up with his mum, is now the Salomi Indian & Bangladeshi Restaurant, which does face the 'dojo' at 5225 Lankershim Boulevard. Although this was a restaurant at the time of filming in 1984, it didn't present the required view across the street to the 'Cobra Kai'.

The Karate Kid location: Wilshire Boulevard at Cloverdale Avenue, Midtown Los Angeles
The Karate Kid location: the 'Orient Express': Wilshire Boulevard at Cloverdale Avenue, Midtown Los Angeles

The restaurant used as 'Orient Express' is now Korean restaurant Express Restaurant & Nightclub, 5400 Wilshire Boulevard, at Cloverdale Avenue, miles away in Midtown Los Angeles. The exterior of the property directly across Cloverdale Avenue at 5376 Wilshire Boulevard (currently The Hair Shop salon) was dressed to match the 'Cobra Kai' location in North Hollywood.

The Karate Kid location: Wilshire Boulevard at Cloverdale Avenue, Midtown Los Angeles
The Karate Kid location: the second version of 'Cobra Kai': Wilshire Boulevard at Cloverdale Avenue, Midtown Los Angeles

The class divide is illustrated by the appearance of Ali's family home, 4072 Alonzo Avenue, at Lake Encino Drive, Encino, west of Encino Reservoir. It conjures up Cher's line from Clueless – "Isn't my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972." and was in fact chosen precisely for its ostentatiously tacky appearance (though I doubt that was fully explained to the proud owners).

The two crazy kids go on a wild date with go-karts and miniature golf. Amazingly, all these years later the fun centre is still going strong. It's a helluva drive from the Valley, though. It's Golf 'N' Stuff, 10555 Firestone Boulevard, just west of San Gabriel River Freeway (605), between Norwalk and Downey, a few miles southeast of downtown LA. Sadly, though, the huge waterslide has gone.

The peaceful lake, where Mr Miyagi (Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita) begins to teach Daniel about balance while on a fishing trip, is the Chatsworth Nature Preserve, a couple of miles northwest of Daniel's apartment. Once the old Chatsworth Reservoir, which was drained in the Seventies, it's now a wildlife sanctuary and off limits to the public.

'Encino Oaks Country Club', where Daniel crashes the fancy 'do' to see Ali apparently with badboy Johnny (William Zabka,), is the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel, 880 South Westlake Boulevard, Westlake Village, about 15 miles west on Route 101, the Ventura Freeway.

The climactic 'All Valley Karate Tournament' (don't worry, I won't spoil it by telling you who wins) is held at the Matador Gymnasium, usually known as the Matadome, on the campus of California State University, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge. Home of the Matadors, the indoor stadium is also featured in 2002 comedy Van Wilder, with Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid.

Which just leaves Mr Miyagi's house. This has been the Holy Grail of Karate Kid fans for years since the film's release. Its location was finally tracked down by the supersleuths at IAmNotAStalker.com and ItsFilmedThere.com. The bad news is, it's long gone. Amazingly, it was a real house, which stood on Gault Street in Canoga Park, but, like the mansion from Sunset Boulevard and the warehouse from Reservoir Dogs, this movie landmark – and potential tourist attraction – was unceremoniously bulldozed.

Usually, an ideal environment will be found and a fake house built, but Karate Kid reverses this traditional process. The house was so perfect that the Japanese garden, the junkyard and even fake railtracks were built around it.

The same house appears in The Karate Kid II, but by the time of The Karate Kid III in 1989, the property had been demolished and had to be recreated on the studio backlot.

In Karate Kid II, Mr Miyagi flies back to Japan to see his ailing father, and finds there are old scores to settle. The island of Oahu, Hawaii, stands in for ‘Japan’.

The Karate Kid III location: Ennis-Brown House, Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles
The Karate Kid III location: the villain’s hideout: Ennis-Brown House, Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles

Old rivalries are warmed over again in the second sequel, Karate Kid III. The stylish home of villain Terry (Thomas Ian Griffith) is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House, 2607 Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, seen in many movies, including the original 1958 House on Haunted Hill and Blade Runner.