Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 23rd, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, August 10th, 1974
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writer: Teruo Ishii
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Yasuaki Kurata, Hiroyuki Sanada
DVD Released: April 2nd, 2002
Approximate Running Time: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Crash Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Synopsis: The film begins as a young Toga (Sonny Chiba), is a prisoner in his grandfathers house where he teaches toga the secret arts of Ninjitsu. Years later a disgraced narcotics detective seeking to stop the flow of drugs into Japan recruits professional killers to put a stop to the drug trade in Japan. Toga is a ninja enforcer who will do any job or kill anyone for a price. The group of hired assassin’s first job is to steal a briefcase full of cocaine that a Latin American gang is smuggling into Japan from China. After several failed attempts they finally track down mafia boss to his home where the drugs are stashed. In a final showdown that takes up the final third act of the film Toga and the other professional killers knock off the bad guys one by one.
The Executioner is a more coherent film then Chiba’s pervious collaboration with Teruo Ishii The Street Fighters Last Revenge. Director Teruo Ishii is known best for his adaptations of mystery author Edogawa Rampo stories. Under contract with Toei Teruo Ishii did not like to direct karate movies. So he loaded The Executioner with comedy and anarchy by turning the film into a parody of the genre he disliked so much in hope that Toei would be unhappy with the final results and not assign him in the future to these kind of films. The Executioner is one of Chiba’s most violent films and its depiction of violence towards women might offend some viewers. In one scene a hit man hits a guy so hard his eyes pop out of their sockets. There are several scenes when for no reason at all women take off their clothes. The fighting scenes are brutal and some of the best of Chiba’s Career. With haphazard editing throughout and in every frame you can feel Ishii contempt for the material. The Executioner is the craziest Sonny Chiba that you will ever see and throughout the film Chiba exhibits his ninja skills by crawling on the ceiling.
The Executioner is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 2.35.1, unfortunately it hasn’t be anamorphic enhanced. The picture is fairly clean to downright scratchy and the opening title sequence is ruff looking before the picture settles down as most of the blemishes disappear almost completely. The night and dark scenes are grainy and at times a bit to dark. Still even though the picture quality varies throughout this is one of the better looking Chiba transfers on DVD.
The soundtrack for The Executioner is Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 English Dubbed audio track. There is no hiss, drop-outs, or background noise. The dialog is crystal and easy to follow as is most of the soundtrack.
This DVD is a barebones affair, even the Diamond and Brentwood DVD’S of The Street Fighter films come with a biography consisting of birth date info, and a short selected filmography. The Executioner is classic Sonny Chiba and has some of the best action scenes of his Career. Laced with black humor and a solid supporting cast make The Executioner a must see for any Sonny Chiba fan.