Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 8th, 2005
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1974
Directors: Shigehiro Ozawa, Teruo Ishii
Writer: Koji Takada
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Masashi Ishibashi, Claude Gannyon, Yôko Ichiji, Frankie Black
DVD Released: January 24, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 246 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 & 15
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Optimum
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: $41.95
“I thought Sonny was the good guy.” – ALABAMA
“He ain’t so much good guy as he’s just a bad motherfucker. Sonny don’t be bullshittin’. He fucks dudes up for life. Hold on, a fight scene’s coming up.” – CLARENCE
Street Fighter: Chiba plays Takuma Tsurugi an assassin who has been hired to help fake the death of Shikenbaru (Masashi Ishibashi). When Shikenbaru’s brother and sister don’t have enough money to pay Tsurugi that is when the trouble starts. Terry fights Junjou’s brother leads to Shikenbaru’s siblings’ death. Tsurugi sells Shikenbaru’s sister into slavery for three million yen. Sarai (Yutaka Nakajima) learns of her father’s death she is now in charge of the family business and in danger from the mob who wants to take the business over. The mob tries to hire Tsurugi but when he refuses the job they send in a group of henchmen to kill him. He quickly disposes of them as he leaves a trail of corpses. Terry is then forced to take the job to get the mob off of his back. Once in his grasp Sarai’s fate lies in the hands of the director of the karate school who Terry challenges to a fight.
The first flashback of the movie occurs during this fight when the director of the karate school has almost defeated Terry. The flashback of his father gives him the strength to come back as they fight to a draw. Tsurugi decides to join forces with the director of the karate school to protect Sarai from the mob. Shikenbaru in order to save his sister from slavery must first kill Tsurugi for the mob. Shikenbaru’s anger boils over as he sees his sister enslaved and how Tsurugi killed their brother. Mr. Bayan (Tatsuo Endo) sets up the capture of Sarai.
The first and the best of the three Street Fighter films and unlike its sequels this film features plenty of Chiba screen time. Takuma Tsurugi would become the signature role for which Chiba would forever be identified. The Street Fighter would also raise the bar for violence in the cinema that followed. There are many classic Chiba moments in the Street Fighter including the films finale which takes place on a tanker in a rain storm. This scene has been eluded too since the beginning of the film when Takuma in disguise shows up as a priest and visits Shikenbaru who is on death row. During this scene Shikenbaru challenges Takuma to a death match.
Other classic Chiba moments include him ripping a rapists balls off and hitting a man so hard we get too see an x-ray of his fractured skull. The Street Fighter is all about the action and there is plenty of it. Chiba outside of action is not given a lot too do character wise. He does share a tender moment when his sidekick is killed. All plot and characters are mere props that are only there too further the high octane action set pieces. Director Shigehiro Ozawa keeps things moving with tight pacing and he expertly uses each of the films many locations too their fullest. Street Fighter is down and dirty exploitation filmmaking at its best.
Return of the Street Fighter: Takuma Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is hired by the yakuza to kill an accountant who is in police custody. Tsurugi fights with the police too force them to put him into custody. In police custody Tsurugi kills the man for the yakuza by ripping out his throat. Tsurugi escapes the police by jumping out of a window. The yakuza are using a karate school as a front to extort money to build the Asian Arts Center. After the yakuza realize that Tsurugi knows too much they send out assassins to dispose of him.
Shigehiro Ozawa, who directed the first Street fighter film, returns for the sequel. Unfortunately The Return of The Street Fighter doesn’t offer enough screen time for Chiba and it relies too much on flashbacks from the first movie. There are plenty of classic Chiba moments with the silliest one being when he hits a bad guy so hard on the back of the head his eyes pop out. The film bookends its two best scenes both which involve Chiba breaking into a police station to kill a witness and the finale when he is once again matched up against his arch nemesis Shikenbaru. The violence is still present in this sequel and this time around the film has been sexed up with some minor nudity.
The Street Fighters Last Revenge:Takuma Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) has been hired by the Owada too retrieve a cassette which contains a secret recipe for making cheap heroin. All bets are off when they double cross Tsurugi when he shows up with the merchandise and they refuse to pay him. A master of disguise Tsurugi starts to uncover the truth behind the secrets contained on the cassette.
The violence in Street Fighters Last Revenge is toned down compared to the other Street Fighter films. It is more like a spy film then a martial arts film. Chiba relies less on his fists of fury and more on his master of disguise in this film. Note: The dubbing for the English language version was done by George Takai (Lt. Hikaru Sulu – Star Trek). The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge would mark the last time that Sonny Chiba would play Terry Tsurugi. The Street Fighter’s last Revenge was directed by Teruo Ishii who would also direct Sonny Chiba in The Executioner.
Bruce Lee would launch martial arts films into the international spotlight, Toei Co. Ltd. Like many other Studio’s in Asia would spawn a slew of Bruce Lee imitators. Toei’s answer to Bruce Lee was Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba intense fighting style and brutality hadn’t been seen before. Street fighter would be the first film to receive an ‘X’ rating for violence, instead of graphic sexual material. In 1993 with the release of Tony Scott’s True Romance (Written By Quentin Tarantino) would spark a renewed interest in Sonny Chiba and The Street Fighter films. In True Romance Clarence and Alabama meet at a Sonny Chiba triple feature. Tarantino has gone on to use Sonny Chiba in his film Kill Bill Volume1 and Volume 2. In Kill Bill Chiba’s character Hattori Hanzô is also the name of a character Chiba played on Japanese T.V. known as Hattori Hanzô: Kage no Gundan or it’s US title Shadow Warriors. And with the Success of Kill Bill Sonny Chiba is even more popular then ever.
All three Street Fighters films are presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves their original 2.35: 1 action scope ratio. Optimum for this release has sourced their transfer from 35 MM prints and it shows as the color comes too life with natural looking flesh tones. The black levels remain strong and constant with solid detail through out. Grain is kept to a minimum and overall these transfers are nearly flawless. Optimum’s Transfers for this set are correctly framed unlike previous releases of these films which gives the viewer more picture information then what was previous available.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese Language track and it is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The sound track is in amazing shape with no problems with distortion or hiss. Overall the music and sound effects blend nicely with the dialog never drowning it out. This is the best these films have since their original theatrical releases. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
All three films contain the same extras which include a stills gallery and a bio on Sonny Chiba. Rounding out the extras is a Sonny Chiba trailer collection including the following titles The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka Marijuana Mitsubai Soshika, The Bullet Train, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment and Time Slip. Sonny Chiba has spent most of his career playing bad ass’s and after all of these years it is his Street Fighter films that his is still most remembered for.
Optimum has collected all three of these films for this Street Fighter collection giving them their best audio/video presentations to date. This Street Fighter collection should be in every self respecting Sonny Chiba. It is essential viewing not only for Chiba fans but also for fans of 1970’s exploitation films, highly recommended.