Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 3rd, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: USA/Japan, 1976, 1974
Directors: Simon Nuchtern (The Bodyguard), Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Sister Street Fighter)
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Jirô Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Aaron Banks, Judy Lee, Bill Louie (The Bodyguard), Etsuko Shihomi, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Sanae Obori, Kenji Ohba, Tatsuya Nanjo, Sonny Chiba, Emi Hayakawa, Masashi Ishibashi (Sister Street Fighter)
DVD released: September 14th, 2007
Approximate running times: 89 minutes (The Bodyguard), 86 minutes (Sister Street Fighter)
Aspect Ratio: 2.3:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (Both Films)
DVD Release: BCi Eclipse/Deimos
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $12.98
The U.S. version of The Bodyguard opens with the narration “The path of the righteous man and defender is beset on all sides by the iniquity of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the father of lost children. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious anger, who poison and destroy my brothers; and they shall know that I am Chiba the Bodyguard when I shall lay my vengeance upon them! – Ezekial 25:17”. This same text would be later used in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction when one of its characters Jules Winnfield a hit-man recites it before killing a man.
The main difference between the U.S. and Japanese version of The Bodyguard is the inclusion of fight scenes with Aaron Banks, Bill Louie and Judy Lee. These scenes make up less then ten minutes of the film and for the most part don’t further the plot. The films opening credits feature Chiba’s mentor Masutatsu Oyama and other martial artists performing while they chant “Viva Chiba!”
Now finally seeing this film in its original widescreen aspect ratio has really enhanced its reputation with me. The fight scenes are just as brutal and memorable as the ones in The Street Fighter series which came out after this film. There are also many amazing compositions like the woman lying naked and the only thing covering her is the shadow of a cross. Bad guys enter the room in the most unusual ways as they hide themselves in furniture, Chiba breaks coke bottles with his bear hands and during one fight he even rips a mans arm off only to later use as a weapon.
Sonny Chiba performance in The Bodyguard is more subdued then most of his films from the same time period. The women in this film are treated as sex objects and plenty acts of brutal violence. The Bodyguard like all Chiba films from this era features a remarkable score. Two members of the Japan action club and Chiba film regulars Jirô Chiba and Etsuko Shihomi have brief cameos in the Bodyguard. The Japanese release of The Bodyguard was Etsuko Shihomi’s film debut. Ultimately The Bodyguard ranks right up there with Chiba’s best films like The Streetfighter series.
Sister Street Fighter: Koryu Lee’s (Etsuko Shihomi) brother is an undercover police agent in Hong Kong who is investigating the smuggling of heroine into Hong Kong. He went to Japan where he quickly infiltrated the drug ring before disappearing. He hasn’t been heard from since and their other contact a woman with a red rose tattoo has also gone missing. Frustrated with the police’s lack of progress Koryu goes to Japan to look for her brother.
Sister Street is a sequel in name only as it has nothing to do with the Sonny Chiba series. Sonny Chiba even has a small cameo as a character named Sonny Kawasaka. Sister Street fighter was directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi who would go on to direct the next two sequels. Besides the Sister Street Fighter films Kazuhiko Yamaguchi is also known for directing Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess and a trilogy of films with Sonny Chiba Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life. The screenplay for Sister Street Fighter was co-written by maverick filmmaker Norifumi Suzuki who has directed several genre classic’s like Girl Boss Guerilla, Sex and Fury, Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom, Convent of the Sacred Beast, The Killing Machine and Star of David: Beauty Hunting.
Matrtial arts films have been known to try to outdo the previous box office hit and since this series is loosely based on the Sonny Chiba Street Fighter series it might come as no surprise that Sister Street Fighter is sleazier, bloodier, crazier and just down right more violent then any of Chiba’s Street Fighter films. Koryu Lee is played by Sonny Chiba Chiba protégé Etsuko Shihomi who unlike her previous film roles gets plenty of screen time and her incredible martial arts skills are used to the fullest. What is most impressive about Sue Shiomi’s skills in Sister Street Fighter is the fact that she wasn’t even eighteen years old when she completed the film.
Sonny Chiba has very little screen time, but that doesn’t matter because Etsuko Shihomi is the star of this thrill ride. One of the heavy’s Hammerhead Masashi Ishibashi also appeared in The Street Fighter and The Return of The Street Fighter as Junjo. This movie is all about action. If you are looking for back story of character development you won’t find it here. Fast paced and well choreographed martial arts dominate this film.
Both films have been given anamorphic widescreen transfers and both films have been flagged for progressive playback. The transfers look clean with colors and flesh tones that fare well all around. The one drawback is that they do look a tad soft at times.
Both releases each come with one audio option Dolby Digital Mono English. The audio sounds clear and balanced.
Extras for this release are limited to trailers.Despite the lack of Japanese version of The Bodyguard and the fact that Sister Street Fighter has already been released on DVD by BCI this double feature is a steal at its ridiculously low retail price. If you are a fan of Sonny Chiba or even just a fan of classic martial arts cinema this double feature is a must have purchase.