Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 15 Mar 2017, 04:11

Key Hunter (Japan, 1968-1973) [DVD/TV] - 3/5
This was Sonny Chiba's most important, although not best, work in the 1960s. The detective TV series focusing on Japan's International Secret Police was created by Chiba and Kinji Fukasaku as a starring vehicle for Tetsuro Tamba. Hayato Tani, Eiko Okawa, Yoko Nogiwa and Chiba, who was in charge of creating the action scenes, co-starred. Although the whole cast appeared together in some episodes, most of the 262 episodes highlighted one or two characters with the rest either supporting or taking a rest. It's an uneven but enjoyable series that contained action, thriller and comedic storylines. Today it's best remembered for Tamba's cool charisma and Chiba's wild stunts, that include breathtaking moments like Chiba climbing out of a speeding car and grabbing on to a small aircraft that is about to take off.

The series made Chiba an action superstar in Japan and earned him fans in Hong Kong, including Jackie Chan who admired Chiba's stunt performances. Chiba himself later stated that the series was a goldmine for him to practice his skills as action performer. He also established Japan Action Club during the production of the series. That being said, most of the best action scenes are during the show's later episodes; the earlier ones feature some cool stunts but also plenty of standard action. In total, Chiba appeared in 177 episodes of which in more than one third he was the main star.

The storylines often leaned towards fantasy, the best ones usually written by Yuichi Ikeda. One of the best episodes features a criminal who has changes his face with a plastic surgery trying to escape. His girlfriend, the detectives, and a bunch of assassins all infiltrate the same flight with him but no one knows each others' identity. Other great stories include Chiba forced to double a race driver who is targeted by assassins, and a episode where a young German boy is trying to resurrect the Third Reich in Japan. Many of the comedic episodes with the female cast fare much worse. Also, it's a bit a shame that most of Chiba's episodes were written not by Ikeda, but Susumu Takaku, who mainly penned pretty standard storylines.


Note: the review is based on Toei's 20 episode DVD Collection as well as on a couple of dozen early episodes I caught on TV.

* Original title: Key Hunter / Kii hantaa (キイハンター)
* Directors: Kinji Fukasaku, Ryuichi Takamori, Hajime Sato, Yasuo Furuhata etc.
* Chiba's role: Co-starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (5 x 4 = 20 episodes) (no subs). Review Format: TV + DVD

Key Hunter screencaps part 1: black & white episodes (1-104)

Tamba with a blonde girl in the opening episode (directed by Kinji Fukasaku)
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The whole team. Chiba on the left
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Chiba and Tamba looking cool as hell
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Chiba looking cool as hell
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Although not a martial arts series, Chiba also threw in a few fights
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One of my favourite episodes: Chiba has to attend a car race in disguise instead of a race driver who is being targeted by assassins.
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 15 Mar 2017, 04:12

Key Hunter screencaps part 2: colour episodes (105-262)

Tamba
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Another one of my favourite episodes: a German boy is preparing the return of the Third Reich in Japan
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Insane Chiba stunt
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Another insane Chiba stunt. That is really him, not a doll.
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Unfortunately the show also features this kind of silliness
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Thankfully also this kind of coolness
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 16 Mar 2017, 05:28

Oh, and if you're looking for more information about Key Hunter (in Japanese) I highly recommend these two great sites:
http://gmen75.la.coocan.jp/k/khentry.htm
http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~tik2003111/ ... r/key.html

Not only do they contain lots of basic information, there are also complete episode guides with synopsis, cast, and main stars listed for each episode. The second site also lets you know which episodes feature major actions scenes and by which actor.

I find the episode guides highly useful since at 262 episodes of varying quality, watching the entire show is not really an option for me. I'm watching the episodes where Chiba is a major player as well as selected other episodes that seem interesting (elements that might contribute to my interest include being written by Ikeda, starring Tamba, directed by Fukasaku etc.).

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 16 Mar 2017, 07:55

The Bodyguard (Japan, 1974) [TV] - 4/5

Not to be confused with the unrelated Bodyguard Kiba (aka The Bodyguard) films, this karate packed TV series is an undiscovered gem that features some of Sonny Chiba's best action. Chiba stars as a member of a private bodyguard company established by Ko Nishimura (the priest from Lady Snowblood), brought to Japan after hammering a roomful of Arab villains to death in Middle East. His colleagues are played by karate girl Etsuko Shihomi, Chiba's brother Jiro Chiba, young nice guy Yuuki Meguro, and dirty fellow lone wolf Yoji Takagi who occasionally joins the gang.

The series, produced briefly after the release of the first Street Fighter film, is basically combination of martial arts action and traditional Japanese detective series format where we often had a group of 4-5 detectives solving crimes. Although not strictly a martial arts series, for these guys karate is usually the solution to any problem, and the action only gets better and more frequent as the series advances. Most episodes feature at least one fight, but many feature two or three fights.

Chiba is fantastic in the series. The fights ar as good as in his films, and are always clearly filmed without shaky camera. They are little short, though. And while the series may lack the excessive bloodletting and sex of Chiba's mid 70's films, the action looks and sounds painful. It also says something about the series' grittiness that a lot of the time the bodyguards fail to keep their client alive till the end. Adding to the effect is a fantastic, badass score.

The 18 year old Shihomi makes perhaps an even bigger impression than Chiba. She has never looked as cute and energetic as she does here kicking guys in the face. She doesn't get any fights in the early episodes, but becomes a major attraction later on. It's pretty difficult to curb your enthusiasm when an episode title that roughly translates as "The Roaring Female Dragon of Hokkaido" appears on screen and a miscellaneous bunch of martial arts villains that look like the cast of Sister Street Fighter (released towards the end of the show's production) are introduced. Hell yeah!

Jiro Chiba gets his share of action as well, and while Yuuki Meguro is not a fighter he turns out to be a sympathetic young guy in suit. Yoji Takagi isn't too bad either although it takes a while to warm up to him. Guest stars include Pinky Violence actresses Reiko Ike, Ryoko Ema, Yukie Kagawa, and Yumi Takigawa, Roman Porno starlets Yuri Yamashina and Moeko Ezawa, kick boxing legend Tadashi Sawamura, and of course Chiba & Shihomi's eternal karate nemesis Masashi Ishibashi.

If there is something negative about the series it the uneven and mostly unremarkable writing. Most storylines are decidedly routine, save for a few stand outs. There are also episodes that try too much with drama at the expense of action (e.g. the closing episode), and one rather unbearable comedic episode. Generally speaking the series is relatively free of comedy, except for some funny dialogue between Nishimura and older lady Izumi Yukimura (the owner of a tiny fashion shop operating in the same premises with the bodyguard office). However, in episode 16 some idiot came up with the idea of switching Yukimura for a hyperactive comedic young woman (the actress is credited as "Beaver"). Thankfully she only causes damage to a couple of episodes.

Despite its flaws, The Bodyguard is one of the seminal karate products of the mid 70s. For a Chiba fan it's a truly exciting discovery that deserves far wider recognition than it has been getting.

* Original title: The Body-Guard / Za bodigaado (ザ・ボディガード)
* Director: Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa, Hideo Tanaka, Koichi Takemoto, Yasuo Furuhata etc.
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Availability: Toei DVD (to be released May 2017) (no subs). Review format: TV.

Screencaps part 1

Nishimura and Chiba
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Chiba!
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Etsuko Shihomi and Jiro Chiba
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Shihomi and Yuuki Meguro
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Shihomi kicking arse
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Shihomi vs. Masashi Ishibashi
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Chiba being his usual mean self
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 16 Mar 2017, 08:00

The Bodyguard screencaps part 2

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This double-episode was shot in the US
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Chiba being mean in Nevada
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Jiro Chiba
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Yuri Yamashina
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Reiko Ike
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Tadashi Sawamura
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Shihomi!
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 17 Mar 2017, 06:58

13 Steps of Maki (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4/5
This is perhaps Etsuko Shihomi's most enjoyable, and certainly sleaziest, film. Shihomi is a girl gang leader straight out of a comic book, spending half of her time saving her delinquent karate girls from trouble. It's basically a pinky violence movie with karate action instead of gun and knife fights. Although there is little plot, the film is well paced. Lots of solid action, no irritating supporting characters or comic reliefs, very little in terms boring side plots, and just when you might start getting a bit tired of it they throw Shihomi in prison and the film goes all WIP. Great theme song too! Sonny Chiba has cool cameo as Maki's brother, and Roman Porno actress Meika Seri appears as assassin in the prison segment. Someone really need to put this film out on DVD and BD immediately.

* Original title: Wakai kizokutachi: 13 kaidan no Maki (若い貴族たち 13階段のマキ)
* Director: Makoto Naito
* Chiba's role: Cameo
* Film availability: None. Review format: 35mm.

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 03 Apr 2017, 05:36

Review in the works...

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 03 Apr 2017, 11:05

The Visitor in the Eye (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 2/5
Nobuhiko Obayashi's second feature film (following House, 1977) is a manga adaptation of Osamu Tezuka comics. There's a fair amount of movie magic to be found here, some with amazing visuals, a stunning 3 minute tracking shot, and an awesome turn by Joe Shishido as the medical genius Black Jack who is the manga's hero. So what gives? Well, Black Jack is not the main character here, in fact, he's a minor character. The relatively uninteresting main story follows a girl who receives an eye transplant - and odd visions of a mysterious man with it. Etsuko Shihomi appears as her best friend in a major supporting role; Sonny Chiba has a 60 second cameo as drunken man. Other cameos include director Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood) and Obayashi himself. The film certainly has its moments, but those moments alone are not enough to keep it from sinking.

* Original title: Hitomi no naka no houmonsha (瞳の中の訪問者)
* Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
* Chiba's role: Cameo
* Film availability: Pioneer DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Black Jack
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And here we have the character portrayed by Joe Shishido
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Lovely Obayashi visuals
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Shihomi
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Unfortunately neither Shihomi nor Shishido is the main character, but rather this guy...
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... and these guys
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This little girl is impossible not to love
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Chiba
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby chazgower01 » 03 Apr 2017, 22:47

HungFist wrote:The Bodyguard (Japan, 1974) [TV] - 4/5

Not to be confused with the unrelated Bodyguard Kiba (aka The Bodyguard) films....

...The 18 year old Shihomi makes perhaps an even bigger impression than Chiba. She has never looked as cute and energetic as she does here kicking guys in the face. She doesn't get any fights in the early episodes, but becomes a major attraction later on. It's pretty difficult to curb your enthusiasm when an episode title that roughly translates as "The Roaring Female Dragon of Hokkaido" appears on screen and a miscellaneous bunch of martial arts villains that look like the cast of Sister Street Fighter (released towards the end of the show's production) are introduced. Hell yeah!....

....Despite its flaws, The Bodyguard is one of the seminal karate products of the mid 70s. For a Chiba fan it's a truly exciting discovery that deserves far wider recognition than it has been getting.

* Original title: The Body-Guard / Za bodigaado (ザ・ボディガード)
* Director: Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa, Hideo Tanaka, Koichi Takemoto, Yasuo Furuhata etc.
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Availability: Toei DVD (to be released May 2017) (no subs). Review format: TV.


Never thought I'd see this released, I'm so glad to hear about it! Of course, I'm a big fan of the legendary Shi'nichi 'Sonny' Chiba, but I also think Etsuko Shihomi is one of the most under rated female movie fighters - and yeah, adorably cute as well!
A must have!

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 04 Apr 2017, 18:58

chazgower01 wrote:
HungFist wrote:The Bodyguard (Japan, 1974) [TV] - 4/5


Never thought I'd see this released, I'm so glad to hear about it! Of course, I'm a big fan of the legendary Shi'nichi 'Sonny' Chiba, but I also think Etsuko Shihomi is one of the most under rated female movie fighters - and yeah, adorably cute as well!
A must have!


I've already pre-ordered my DVD set. This release totally deserves to be supported. I wish Toei would release these shows on BD and not just DVD, though.

The Gorillla Seven stars on Toei Channel this month. Pretty stoked about that. Wish some luck, we might see a DVD release of that later this year.

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 04 Apr 2017, 19:04

Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 3/5
It took Toei 4 years to follow up their first Golgo 13 live action (with Ken Takakura) despite that film having been a major box office success. Director Junya Sato said the studio was not keen on the franchise because the films were too expensive to make due to their international nature. This one takes place almost entirely in Hong Kong, with Sonny Chiba in the lead. The film is generally considered underwhelming considering its potential, but with expectations kept in check the film is actually pretty cool. Chiba is pretty badass in the role, adding ultra violent karate moves to the smooth master sniper's repertoire. There's also a bit of Chiba's modern action influence with some cool stunt work. One assassination in the film greatly resembles a similar scene in The Killer (1989). Another highlight is Golgo's final kill, which may be very brief, and not have a hint of realism to it, but it looks cool as hell. The film's main liabilities are Yukio Noda's mediocre direction, a storyline that could've easily lost 10 minutes, and charisma free supporting actor Chia Lun in a major role as a Hong Kong cop. Etsuko Shihomi has a decent supporting role, and eye-patched Koji Tsuruta of all actors appears in two scenes.

* Original title: Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi (ゴルゴ13 九竜の首)
* Director: Yukio Noda
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), Toei DVD (no subs).

Chia Lun
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Chiba
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Shihomi
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 06 Apr 2017, 10:22

Soul of Chiba (Japan/Thailand/Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1977) [DVD] - 4/5

This is a strangely intoxicating trash classic filmed in Thailand, and produced by Chiba with no participation by Toei. Some sources claim he was frustrated with Toei execs and directors who didn't really understand about martial arts movies, but whether that is true remains a mystery. Tadashi Yamashita, Etsuko Shihomi and Bolo joined him for the relatively nonsensical, sloppily made but very entertaining flick. The film hit the theatres in early 1977 when karate films were already going out of fashion.

The film opens with just about the quickest introduction you could possibly do. Chiba is a kid in Thailand, vowing to avenge his parents' death to soldiers who killed them. A white bearded martial arts master accepts him as his student. 20 years later the man has learned to fight, but before the film has run three minutes, the old master is also dead. The killer's name is either Someone or Sam Wan, it's quite hard to say which.

By now, Chiba and the audiences alike have forgotten all about the dead parents (never to be mentioned again in the film) as Chiba goes after someone who killed his master. Same time elsewhere an undercover cop Tadashi Yamashita is searching for the same man with an intention to bring a drug cartel down. The two heroes will eventually encounter, but only after the film has introduced a whole load of sub-plots and supporting characters, including one with a long lost, thought-to-be-dead brother, and jungle girl Etsuko Shihomi who treats injured Chiba's wounds.

Soul of Chiba enjoys the reputation of being Chiba's most insane picture. Personally I feel that honour belongs to Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975), but Soul of Chiba puts up a good fight. Their breeds of insanity differ a bit. Wolfguy features a secret organization trying to mass produce werewolves using Chiba's blood. Insane perhaps, but perfectly logical and understandable! Soul of Chiba features a drug dealer crashing his boat through another boat and flying through the air for no apparent reason.

Soul of Chiba really gets to the core of madness when Chiba begins torturing with electricity while doing karate moves to make his body stronger. He treats the pain with drugs (cocaine?) of course develops a severe drug addiction! Yep, this is just about the only martial arts flick where the hero fights under the influence of hard drugs. And all that leads to a terrific ending that is one of the best in Chiba' filmography.

Even better than the electric torture is the psychedelic monkey fight where Chiba encounters four Thai fighters (JAC stuntmen actually) possessed by monkey magic, which makes them four times stronger. While the film may not be a technical triumph - it is downright sloppy a lot of the time - this sequence is filmed and edited with true inspiration. You also get the wonderful slow-mo effect priory utilized in Karate Warriors as an added bonus.

As you may have figured out by now, the action in Soul of Chiba is at least satisfactory. While Chiba uses karate, there's quite a bit of Chinese influence to the action choreography. There's plenty of action and quite a few duels as well, including Chiba's final fight, and another fight featuring Tadashi Yamashita and Bolo. The filming took 2 months, which is more that Toei would allow Chiba in his domestic productions. Some of the fights also use under-cranking, which would normally be a shame, but in this intoxicating feast of visual insanity it almost works in the film's benefit.

If you're into trivia, there was quite an interesting bunch of people involved in the production. Aside Chiba, Yamashita and Shihomi there is Bolo, who is also credited with the story concept. Someone is played by Luk Chuen aka Yasuhiro Shikamura, who played small parts in Wang Yu films and went on to choreograph the amazing The Boxer's Omen! White beard master is played by Fong Yuen, who was a make-up artist that worked on more than 350 Hong Kong films. The young boy who wishes Chiba would teach him to fight is none other than Peter Chan, the future Hong Kong director of films like Wu Xia, Perhaps Love and The Warlords. And would you ever have guessed there's a connection between Soul of Chiba and the Japanese FM Towns version of the video game Lemmings? That is composer Takashi Otani, who created the film's excellent score.

The directorial duties were dived between the mediocre Japanese workhorse Yukio Noda (Yakuza Deka, The Delinquent Boss series) and Chan Tung Man. It is unclear who did what, but that probably matters not, Their primary tasks seems to have been to film whatever Chiba and Yamashita asked for, without stressing about such things as logic or continuity.

The relatively high production values of Chiba's Japanese films are nowhere to be found here. In fact, the film often looks and sounds more like a cheap Taiwanese kung fu flick. Some of the performances are hilariously bad, the quality of cinematography varies from scene to scene, and continuity is nowhere to be found. One amusing goof is how Bolo's character is said to have had his tongue cut out by bad guys, yet it seems to have grown back since its very much visible whenever he opens his mouth. Such issues work either for or against the film, depending on the viewer. Yet, there is little doubt that the filmmakers were inhaling true inspiration (among other substances) while filming and editing. Those viewers who don't get it, have fully deserved every painful second they spend with the film.

In a nutshell: you don't need beer, you don't need weed, you just need Soul of Chiba. I made the mistake of combining Soul of Chiba with wine, and it almost made my head explode. Try at your own risk.

Soul of Chiba opened in Japan in February 1977 as a double bill with Ikuo Sekimoto's soft porn flick The General and His Empire of Joy. Toei was the theatrical distributor, but the Japanese VHS was later released by Fox, which suggests Toei does not own the rights. Outside Japan the film toured theatres from France to USA. The Italian release, which features the film's title in German for some reason, claims the prints were manufactured in Rome. Sure, why not?

According to August Ragone's (error ridden, but understandably so for dating back to the 90s) article "Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba: A Real Mean Bastard!" Chiba and Yamashita were planning a sequel that never came true that was to be shot in Mexico. The story may be true - or not.

* Original title: Gekitotsu! Jado ken (激殺!邪道拳)
* Director: Yukio Noda & Tung Man Chan
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: NEW DVD (Germany) (Eng dub with 1.66:1 aspect ratio), Rarescope DVD (Eng dub with 1.66:1 aspect ratio + JP with 1.56:1 aspect ratio). The original aspect ratio seems to be 2.35:1. Thankfully, the original framing does not appear to have been as tight as in many of Chiba's other movies, making the fights rather watchable even in 1.66:1 presentation.

Chiba
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Old master
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Yamashita. His moustache alone deserves the film a viewing
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Shihomi
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Chiba and Shihomi
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Electric shock training. This too, alone deserves the film a viewing
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One of the many great shots from the spychedelic monkey fight scene
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Monkey fighters
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Yamashita vs. Bolo
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The Oscar for the best over-actor goes to...
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Why this guy decided to crash through a boat instead of going around it is anyone's guess
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Chiba vs. Someone
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby Varrick » 07 Apr 2017, 09:46

HungFist wrote:
chazgower01 wrote:
HungFist wrote:The Bodyguard (Japan, 1974) [TV] - 4/5


Never thought I'd see this released, I'm so glad to hear about it! Of course, I'm a big fan of the legendary Shi'nichi 'Sonny' Chiba, but I also think Etsuko Shihomi is one of the most under rated female movie fighters - and yeah, adorably cute as well!
A must have!


I've already pre-ordered my DVD set. This release totally deserves to be supported. I wish Toei would release these shows on BD and not just DVD, though.

The Gorillla Seven stars on Toei Channel this month. Pretty stoked about that. Wish some luck, we might see a DVD release of that later this year.

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I've got the soundtrack for Gorilla 7...it's great (at least if you like big band funk) :love:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peYQsrFSQtI :rock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEXZ0Yl6N8c

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 10 Apr 2017, 14:53

Roaring Fire (Japan, 1981) [35mm] - 4.5/5
A mentally insane, turbo charged action comedy that is one of Norifumi Suzuki's most enjoyable films. Hiroyuki Sanada stars as a Japanese-American cowboy travelling back to Japan on family affairs only to discover a drug smuggling operation ran by a Japanese neo nazi. Except for the bloody violence and a monkey that steals a girls' bikini top, this is very much the kind of movie Jackie Chan would begin to make a few years later. There's a terrific mix of comedy, martial arts and amazing stunts. The highlights are too numerous to list, including Sanada running from ninjas in broad daylight in Kyoto, a double-decker fight scene shot in Hong Kong, and Sanada escaping on foot a helicopter that is dropping hand grenades on him. Quest star Sonny Chiba was responsible for the action design, and indeed, this is like a supercharged version of his own "Modern Action" era films from the 60s and 70s, with added Hong Kong influences to the fight choreography. Supporting cast includes Etsuko Shihomi, Abdullah the Butcher, and Masashi Ishibashi in perhaps the only good guy role of his career. Highly recommended!

* Original title: Hoero tekken ( 吠ろ鉄拳)
* Director: Norifumi Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No Sub), German DVDs (Eng subbed and non-subbed versions exist)

Sanada and Ishibashi
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Clumsy hero
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Mikio Narita
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Etsuko Shihomi's foot. That looks painful.
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Nazi bitch
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Hong Kong
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This stunt is just insane
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Abdullah the Butcher
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Chiba
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 10 Apr 2017, 14:55

A bit more about Roaring Fire

Still
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Teaser Trailer

The text says "directed by Norifumi Suzuki". Action director Chiba sitting in on the right.
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Promo footage not found in the film
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 12 Apr 2017, 13:13

Minefield (Japan / Thailand, 1992) - 3/5
Sonny Chiba is an ex-mercenary and explosives disarm specialist vacationing in Thailand when his family is captured by his former foe who, with his men, is on the run. They are caught between a minefield and approaching army forces. A surprisingly effective straight-to-video action melodrama despite some shabby filmmaking and limited production values. Chiba is excellent as a tormented man forced to clear a path in the middle of a minefield - a painfully slow process that takes several days to complete. Meanwhile his wife and underage daughter live under a constant threat of sexual violence by the ridiculously evil villain and his troops. Manipulative but quite original and entertaining with some solid action, and comes with an unexpectedly strong emotional punch. Based on an original concept by Chiba.

* Original title: Jiraigen (地雷原)
* Director: Kenichi Sakita
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: VHS (Japan)

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 12 Apr 2017, 13:28

Young and Dangerous 6: Born to be King (Hong Kong, 2000) [DVD] - 1/5
The last film in the series that started in 1996. Not having seen the earlier entries I'm unable to put this into a context, however, this TV-like triad melodrama is abysmal on its own right. It's a talkative wanna-be epic of a Hong Kong gangster (Jordan Chan) who marries a Japanese gangster boss' (Sonny Chiba) daughter, then becomes boss in Taiwan and gets in trouble with the local gangsters who don' trust him. The government seems to be involved as well. Director Andrew Lau, probably the most over-rated hack in Hong Kong, caters the film to young audiences by using nonsensical flashy editing, pretty boy Ekin Cheng and a truly horrible soundtrack. Leading man Jordan Chan has the charisma of a pubic hair. Not counting the ridiculous ending, the only funny thing about the film is the protagonist marrying a Japanese woman despite not speaking Japanese. Well, that is not funny, but the fact that the actress who plays his wife also can't pronounce a single Japanese word is funny in an awkward way. Sonny Chiba is the only good thing about the film. He has a handful of scenes, the first few of them rather worthless but his charisma is somewhat utilized during the film's second half.

* Japanese title: 狼たちの伝説 亜州黒社会戦争
* Director: Andrew Lau
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Universe DVD (Hong Kong)

Jordan Chan
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Ekin Cheng + Chiba on the right
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Shu Qi and Ekin Cheng
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Chiba
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I guess these random street thugs are the "young and dangerous". No one else in the series was young anymore.
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Chiba
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Tough guys! This is scene is pure accidental comedy
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 15 Apr 2017, 07:36

Jitsuroku Kyushu yakuza retsuden kyoken to yobareta otoko (Japan, 2003) [DVD] - 1/5
Shot on video DTV "true account" yakuza film with almost nothing of interest on offer. It's surprising how often these films refrain from sex and violence (as is the case here), which are the two things they could use to try and bump the entertainment value up even by a tiny bit. Instead they tend to go for 90 minutes of talking heads. Sonny Chiba has a small supporting role as a yakuza boss, but he's given almost nothing to do. Rikiya Yasuoka has a similarly dull supporting role. Add a really irritating narrator and you've got a truly unremarkable film.

* Original title: 実録 九州やくざ烈伝 兇健と呼ばれた男
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

I did not take screencaps of this film. Here's the dvd cover that is far more action packed than the film.
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 15 Apr 2017, 07:59

Shuryo no michi 6 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 1/5
This is the first film in the DTV yakuza film series that features Sonny Chiba in a supporting role as one of the yakuza bosses. His daughter, later played by Asami, does not yet appear. I watched the films with Chiba (6-9) out of order and have/will give a brief overview of the series with my reviews of parts 8 and 9. This one is weaker than them; a dull and talkative gangster film with insufficient production values. Chiba appears in a couple of dialogue scenes but has next to nothing to do. The series has no English title but the Japanese one translates as "The Boss' Way" or "The Leader's Way".

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 6 (首領の道6)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 18 Apr 2017, 07:54

Shuryo no michi 7 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Quest star Sonny Chiba did his entry into the series in the previous film. This movie is where things star moving as yakuza boss Chiba orders a couple of hits that get him into a conflict with the series' regular gangsters. Chiba has three or four scenes and gets to do a bit of angry acting. Otherwise the film is as underwhelming as these modern zero-budget DTV yakuza flicks tend to be. There's a fair bit of gunplay but the action is strangely lifeless and dull. The next two movies in the series, however, would be a bit better.

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 7 (首領の道7)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 18 Apr 2017, 07:57

note: I reviewed Shuryo no michi 8 already before as a part of the first review round.

Shuryo no michi 9 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 2/5
Part 9 in this DTV yakuza film series that is basically the men's equivalent of a TV soap opera. Each film continues the story from where the previous one left off, much like TV show episodes. It's cheap and poorly made but not entirely void of minor merits. The positives are Sonny Chiba, whose presence and one brief swordfight alone add something to the film, Asami, who looks very pretty here and does a bit of fighting as well, and a yakuza romance between Asami and young guy that against all expectations you begin to care for a bit towards the end. That being said, the film is barely worth watching. This was the last instalment with Chiba and Asami.

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 9 (首領の道9)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Chiba
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Asami
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Asami
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Asami
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Boring random guys
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A guy who was fired from a TV drama for over-acting
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 18 Apr 2017, 07:59

Chiba Reviews: Round 3

So far I have reviewed 118 Chiba films, including all of the starring roles in films that I've seen, and most of the supporting roles. From now on the reviews will become infrequent. I will only post reviews when I see something new, or re-watch something I haven't reviewed yet. Also, the rest of the reviews will not be in chronological order.

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 20 Aug 2017, 14:18

King of Gangsters (Japan, 1967) [TV] - 2/5
The 11th and final film in the Gang series. Most of the films had different directors and cast, and were only connected by the title and Toei's marketing department. Unlike the early entries, which were jazzy capers, this final entry is a prototype jitsuroku yakuza film. Just back from the war, Noboru Ando leads a gang of war vets turned gangster in the US occupied streets of Tokyo. They get into a conflict with a Chinese gang as well as the military police. Tetsuro Tamba appears as a police chief trying to bring peace to the streets; 1st wave pinky violence star Masumi Tachibana is a girl grieving his dead gangster father. Like many of director Yasuo Furuhata's films, this is light on action and relatively realistic in characterization to the point becoming dull. It is more interesting as a somewhat nationalistic peek into the history of Japan and modern yakuza than as a gangster flick. Sonny Chiba plays one of Ando's men, but like most supporting roles in the film, his part is ultimately minor despite getting a decent amount of screen time.

* Original title: Gyangu no teiô (ギャングの帝王)
* Director: Yasuo Furuhata
* Chiba's role: Minor Supporting Role
* Film availability: None. Review format: TV

Ando in the middle. Hideo "I'm in every gangster flick" Murota in the backround
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Ando and Tachibana
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Tamba
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Sonny Chiba (right) and Shingo Yamashiro (in a relatively non-comedic role)
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Chiba again
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 21 Aug 2017, 05:55

Wandering Ginza Butterfly: She-Cat Gambler (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3/5

The first Wandering Ginza Butterfly movie (which did not feature Chiba) was a bit of a mishmash that brought Meiko Kaji, who had just quit Nikkatsu, to Toei. Toei saw her as potential heir to Junko Fuji, their biggest female yakuza star whose retirement earlier in 1972 had ended the Red Peony Gambler series and put another nail in the soon-to-be-buried ninkyo yakuza genre which Toei was reluctant to let die. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who was fresh off from his trendy and contemporary Delinquent Girl Boss series, turned the film into a hybrid between modern and old school yakuza films. The movie had its share of exhilarating scenes, but was also too routinely written with silly comedic relief and standard yakuza trappings to be a classic.

This slightly superior sequel gets off to a very good start with boobs, sunset, a Meiko Kaji theme song, and an excellent gambling duel before the film has even hit the 12 minute mark. A moment later Sonny Chiba shows up as a goofy entrepreneur running a small prostitution business! Unfortunately the rest of the film is not as good, save for the finale. The film comes with the usual yakuza film clichés, including Chiba's comedy sidekick (Toru Yuri), an evil gang harassing girls, and an old ex yakuza (Junzaburô Ban, who played identical role in Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess) trying to do something good for once. However, the tale comes back to life big time at the end where Kaji and Chiba, armed with swords and pistols, finally decide they've had enough of it! This isn't a movie that utilizes Kaji's talent, but she's gorgeous as usual. Chiba looks like he ran off from the set of a Yakuza Deka film and started dealing girls instead of catching bad guys. It's nice to have him here, although the finale is his only real standout. Unlike in the 1st film, there's not much of ninkyo influence left in this production, and perhaps that was for the best.

* Original title: Gincho nagaremono mesuneko bakuchi (銀蝶渡り鳥 牝猫博奕)
* Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Synapse DVD (USA), Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Kaji playing againts Shingo Yamashiro
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Club scene reminiscent of the Delinquent Girl Boss and Stray Cat Rock films
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Yuki Kagawa on the fight
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Chiba and Toru Yuri
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Chiba's had it
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 23 Aug 2017, 07:04

Detonation: Violent Riders (Japan, 1975) [DVD] - 2.5/5

The first film in the Detonation series focusing on bosozoku biker gangs. The bosozoku were all over the news in the mid 70s. They were mostly aimless young men seeking excitement in gang life and tuned bikes. Toei had already done a whole bunch of biker films with the comedic Delinquent Boss series with Tatsuo Umemiya in the late 60s and early 70s. In the mid 70s it was time to cash in with a more sensationalist exploitation take on the phenomenon. Much like with karate films (The Executioner 1&2), Teruo Ishii got assigned to the job despite his lack of interest for the genre.

Ishii was known for easily getting bored with conventional films, and had the habit of throwing whatever he thought might be entertaining to the screen. The first 20 minutes of Violent Riders is exactly what you'd expect from a Teruo Ishii bosozoku film. Black dressed bikers speeding on the streets, performing stunts on bikes and causing public outrage. There are also wild parties with topless dancers and sex in the outdoors. When conflicts arise between gang members, they are solved via Rebel without a Cause style "who's got bigger balls" race towards a cliff.

Unfortunately, it is not long after that when problems begin to arise. The biggest issue is the sloppy screenplay that feels like it's about to fall apart any time. If there is any actual plot to be found, it would be the romance between the wild hearted mechanic boy Iwaki (Kouichi Iwaki) and the innocent but gang tied Michiko (Tomoko Ai). The newcomer is quick to make enemies while at the same time his old pals are tempting him to re-join their gang. None of this is very interesting, and the storytelling feels very fragmented. To make matters worse, the film's action climax, a major gang war, is little more than a messy display of bikers riding in circle and kicking and punching each other on the way.

What Ishii does well throughout the film is the motorcycle money shots. Close ups, sunsets and fast scenes on streets are plenty. Worth a mention is also a cool truck crash escape "stunt" that on closer look turns out to be a trick shot. The cast is also fine. Real life rocker / bike maniac Koichi Iwaki was born to play roles like this, and beard-faced Sonny Chiba has a small but enjoyable role as the girl's charismatic, ex-biker brother. Most of the other supporting actors are unknown stars and one-timers, possibly real gang members.

Three sequels followed, the first two of them helmed by Ishii. In Detonation! Violent Games (1976) Ishii drew inspiration from West Side Story and even introduced slight musical elements, resulting in the best film in the series. In Season of Violence (1976) Ishii tried to do a modern sun tribe film in the lines of Crazed Fruit and other 50s classics, but the film turned out quite boring and lacked in action. The relatively decent last film, Detonation! 750CC zoku (1976), directed by Yutaka Kohira (Dragon Princess), shifted some of the focus to cars but still managed the best bike chase in the series. All of the films starred Iwaki. Chiba only appeared in the first film.

* Original title: Bakuhatsu! Boso zoku (爆発!暴走族)
* Director: Teruo Ishii
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Iwaki
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Chiba
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