Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 27th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1974, 1975, 1976
Directors: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, Shigehiro Ozawa
Cast: Etsuko Shihomi, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Sanae Obori, Kenji Ohba, Tatsuya Nanjo, Sonny Chiba, Emi Hayakawa, Harry Kondo, Asao Uchida, Masashi Ishibashi, Hideo Murota, Akane Kawasaki, Yasuaki Kurata, Mitch Love
DVD released:September 5th, 2006
Approximate running time: 325 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Mono Japanese (All Films), Dolby Digital Mono English (Sister Streetfighter)
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse/Ronin Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $44.98
As a teenager Shihomi was a huge fan of Sonny Chiba’s and after writing him a few times she was invited to join his elite Japan Action Club. Shihomi was of the few women in the Japan Action Clubs ranks and she quickly rose to the top and became one of the best known. Shihomi made her feature film debut opposite Sonny Chiba in 1973’s Bodyguard Kiba and she also had a supporting role in Chiba’s The Street Fighter. In 1974 she would star in the Street Fighter spin off Sister Street Fighter and she would go on to star in the 2 sequels.
In addition to being a gymnast and martial artist Shihomi was risk taker who liked to live on the edge. She liked to leap from his places and for the promotion of Samurai Reincarnation where she jumped from one building to the next to the delight of her on looking fans. As the martial arts craze died down by the early 1980’s Shihomi shifted towards more period films and dramatic TV work. Since 1986 Shihomi has been missing in action from the movie scene and no one has filled that huge void she has left. One would have to look to Hong Kong cinema to find Shihomi’s contemporaries that could match her grace, beauty, and brutality.
What you now hold in your hands is a collection of films that showcases the undeniable martial arts talent of Etsuko Shihomi.
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 classics 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.
Martial 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.
Sister Street Fighter – Hanging by a Thread: A dying man hands Koryu Lee (Etsuko Shihomi) his eye as he gasps for his last breath. His eye happens to a fake glass eye that has hidden micro film in it that expose the culprits of diamond smuggling ring. Around the same time Birei a daughter of a wealthy man goes missing and Koryu a friend of the family is brought in to investigate. She quickly discovers that Birei is being held hostage with several other girls by the same diamond smugglers that were on the micro film. The diamond thieves are using the girls to transport the diamonds by hiding them in the girls’ behinds.
Sister Street Fighter – Hanging by a Thread was made just a few months after its predecessor Sister Street Fighter and many of its key personal like director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi and screenwriter Norifumi Suzuki would come back for this squeal. Once again the opening credits are done with style as we are shown Etsuko Shihomi showcasing her ability with various different weapons in front of several mirrors. The films score likes its predecessor mixes the eclectic with classic compositions. The action is brought up a notch as Etsuko Shihomi cerates some of her greatest moves ever committed to screen. The ever resourceful Etsuko Shihomi totally steals the show in what has to be her finest performance of her career.
Frequently cast as a heavy Masashi Ishibashi who also starred in the previous Sister Street Fighter as Hammerhead returns for this one as one of three assassin brothers. There is also a wide variety of villains and each one comes with their own unique fighting style. There is several instances like the films high flying finale that are reminiscent of the first Sister Street Fighter film. Despite rehashing some of the ideas from its predecessor Sister Street Fighter – Hanging by a Thread stands out as another solid entry in this series and it has enough strengths that I would have a tough time choosing the first Sister Street Fighter over Sister Street Fighter – Hanging by a Thread as the best film in the Sister Street Fighter series.
Return of the Sister Street Fighter: Koryu Lee (Etsuko Shihomi) is asked to find Shurei a young girls’ mother. Koryu quickly finds out from the woman who brought Shurei to Japan that they were promised work and ended being forced into prostitution. Shurei was now being held by a man named Ryu Mei who has made her his mistress. Every step of the way Ryu Mei and his men appear to known Koryu’s next step. Will she be able to out fox them and return Shurei to her daughter or has Koryu finally meet her match?
Return of the Sister Street Fighter is fast moving film that is loaded with mind blowing action sequences. Just when you thought you had seen it all Etsuko Shihomi comes back with moves that almost defy logic and gravity. Story wise Return of the Sister Street Fighter is the weakest of the series and a lot of it has to do with the fact that this one feels cobbled together almost like a greatest hits package. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any outstanding set pieces in this film like when Koryu arrives in Japan and is meet by a group of gangsters on a dock or when she is hung upside down and tortured.
This would mark the final Sister Street Fighter film directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi he would go on to work on a trilogy of films with Sonny Chiba. Several actors who belong to the Japan action club including Sonny Chiba’s brother Jiro would make appearance in this film. Back once again and yet again as another bad guy is actor Masashi Ishibashi who makes the perfect heavy and one could see why he was cast so many times as the villain. Just like the previous films in this series this one opens up with an elaborate opening credits sequence. Overall even though Return of the Sister Street Fighter lacks the freshness that its predecessors had it is still a highly entertaining film.
Sister Street Fighter – Fifth Level Fist: Kiku (Etsuko Shihomi) is the only child and her parents run a kimono shop in Kyoto. Her parents desperately want her to find a man and settle down while she is more interested in practicing her marital arts. Drugs are being smuggled into Japan and then sent out of the country via Buddha statues. After Michi’s brother Jim is killed because of this drug trafficking Kiku decides to help her find Michi avenge her brothers death.
Sister Street Fighter – Fifth Level Fist is one of those bizarre instances when a film is named after a series of films in which it has no story or character ties too. The film was most likely named a Sister Street fighter film just because of the immense popularity of the three Sister Street Fighter films. Sister Street Fighter – Fifth Level Fist was directed by Shigehiro Ozawa who was the same director who helmed the three Street fighter films. Ozawa often known for his off the wall direction tones things down in Sister Street Fighter – Fifth Level Fist where he focuses more on performance then style. The action sequences do have his trademark style and they feel out of place at they contrast with the style he goes for with the rest of the film.
Etsuko Shihomi with each new film exudes more confidence as her fighting scenes get more and more ambitious. The tone of the films is the exact opposite of the Sister Street Fighter films and one has to wonder how it ever started being referred to as a Sister Street Fighter film. The story moves along quickly and the high flying action set pieces are perfectly augmented by the dark humor that is injected throughout the film. Overall Sister Street Fighter – Fifth Level Fist is a bizarre film that has several solid fights scenes and it really shouldn’t be judge as or considering a Sister Street Fighter film since it is an entirely different beats altogether.
Ronin Entertainment presents all four films included in The Sister Street Fighter Collection in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves their original aspect ratios. Colors are bold and nicely saturated throughout with flesh tones and color reproduction looking spot on. Black levels are solid with an exceptional amount of detail present in the background and foreground of every frame. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and edge enhancement is virtually unnoticeable. The image at times looks a tad too dark. The first two films Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread look nearly flawless as there is no noticeable print damage. The other two films in this collection Return of the Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist has some very minor instances of print, still it is nothing that ever becomes distracting. Overall the source material used for these four transfers is in great shape and these transfers are on par quality wise with the Sonny Chiba DVD’s that were released by Adness.
Sister Street Fighter comes with three audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital mono mixes both in Japanese and a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The rest of the films included in this collection come with two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital mono mixes both in Japanese. The audio has been cleaned up with only a few instances of imperfection noticeable on any of the mixes included. Dialog is crisp and easy to follow and understand. The music and effects sound evenly balanced as they never overpower or distort the rest of the mix. For films that are about thirty years old the audio sounds pretty damn good especially the sound effects during the fights. The Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes sounds slightly fuller depending on your set and for purists the original mono mixes have been included. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras for this release consist of trailers for Sister Street Fighter, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread, Return of the Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist. All four trailers are in Japanese and come with English subtitles. The remaining extras come in the form of text pieces collected in a twenty page booklet that also comes with stills photos of Etsuko Shihomi and the movies included in this set. The first four text pieces are for Sister Street Fighter, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread, Return of the Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist. These four text pieces were written by Patrick Macias who also contributed a bio for Etsuko Shihomi which is included in the booklet. Patrick Macias liner notes while informative read like a history lesson and I was hoping to here more about his thoughts on the four films he discusses. The last two text pieces are print interviews with Kazuhiko Yamaguchi and Ken Wallace. Both of these interviews are great reads that are filled with many wonderful answers. Last but not least this set comes in a Digi-pack that folds out and inside on the various panels is original poster art for each of the four films.
Three of these films are making their North American debut in any format. All four films comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a few interesting extras. Ronin Entertainment’s Sister Street Fighter Collection is the Holy Grail fans of Etsuko Shihomi who live outside of Japan who have waited for too long for and for those who are initiated these films will without a doubt show you why Etsuko Shihomi is the first lady of action.