Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 28th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, August 10th, 1974
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writer: Teruo Ishii
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Eiji Go, Yutaka Nakajima, Makoto Satô, Ryo Ikebe, Hiroyuki Sanada
DVD Released: October 11th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
A former police commissioner with the help of his daughter assembly a team of three uniquely talented criminals to stop the flow of drugs into Japan recruits professional killers to put a stop to the drug trade in Japan. The team consists of Ichiro Sakura (Eiji Go), Takeshi Hayabusa (Makoto Satô) and Ryuichi Koga (Sonny Chiba) a ninja enforcer who will do any job or kill anyone for a price. The trio’s first job is to steal a briefcase full of cocaine that is being smuggled into Japan from China. After several failed attempts they finally track down mafia boss to his home where the drugs are stashed. Will they be able to finally pull the job off or will they be left empty handed?
1974 was a busy year for Sonny Chiba who would star in a total of seven films. Most fans of Sonny Chiba are familiar with his Street Fighter films while other films like the two Executioner films have been rarely seen. The two Execution films were directed by Teruo Ishii the same man who directed The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge the delirious conclusion the Street Fighter series. One of Sonny Chiba’s protégé’s Hiroyuki Sanada would make his debit in The Executioner as the Ryuichi Koga character as a young boy. 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.
Sonny Chiba really gets show what his is made of in this film as he shows off his ninja skills by crawling on the ceiling and his brutal fighting style that often leads too removal of body parts. Even though there are many similarities between Ryuichi Koga and Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi characters in the end there is no denying that Ryuichi Koga is a bad guy while there are definitely some gray areas concerning the character of Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi like his ability to work for an enemy if the price is right.
The Executioner is one of Chiba’s most violent films and its depiction of violence towards women might offend some viewers. There are several scenes when for no reason at all women take off their clothes. Makoto Satô’s Takeshi Hayabusa character bears a strong resemblance to Lee Van Cleef’s “Angel Eye’s” character in “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”. In one scene right before Takeshi Hayabusa is about to kill a man that man offers him money to kill the man who hired him and he reply’s “I always finish every job”. When he later reports to that he has completed the job to the original man who hired him he tells him the story how the other man hired him before finally killing him to complete the cycle. This sequence of events and most of the dialog is almost exactly how it happens in “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”. Takeshi Hayabusa is the most level head of the three lead characters and there are several instances in which he has to break up near fights between Ryuichi Koga and Ichiro Sakura.
The final member of the trio Ichiro Sakura is played by Eiji Go who essential plays the straight man who ends up being the focal point of every prank/joke. In the film he is given the nickname “Klutz’s” and on more then one occasion he shows why his nickname is ever so appropriate. 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.
Adness presents The Executioner in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 Toei scope aspect ratio. Colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look natural. There is an exceptional amount of detail present in this progressive transfer even during moments that take place at night or in darker areas. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and there are no noticeable problems with edge enhancement. There is some noticeable grain and some minor instances of specs of dirt, still nothing that ever becomes too distracting. There are no problems with ghosting or blurring as the image remains stable through out. Overall Adness have done another amazing job restoring another classic Chiba film to a level of quality that supersedes all previous DVD’s releases of The Executioner released to date.
This release comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. Dialog sounds razor sharp and there is no problem with muffled or unintelligible dialog. The music and effects have been evenly balanced as they perfectly complement each other. Overall this sound mix more then gets the job done. This release comes with English subtitles that are easy to read and follow.
The extras for this release consist of trailers for The Executioner and The Executioner: Karate Inferno both trailers are presented in their original aspect ratios. The Executioner is my all time favorite Sonny Chiba film. I would have enjoyed too hear what Sonny Chiba has to say about this film. For now I eagerly await a time when Sonny will finally participate in an interview about his films.
Adness adds another quality entry into their Sonny Chiba collection that comes with a solid audio/video presentation. The Executioner is also available as part of the Executioner 2 pack which also includes the film The Executioner: Karate Inferno. The Executioner is one of Sonny Chiba’s greatest performances that showcase’s his often brutal martial arts style that perfectly compliments Teruo Ishii’s no hold bars directing style, highly recommended.