Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 18 Mar 2016, 04:03

Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3.5/5
Sonny Chiba is a silent, unshaven avenger in Ryuichi Takamori's violent yakuza western. Chiba plays a man who is after the yakuza who killed his father and sold his sister to prostitution. He's now taking out bad guys one at a time and agitating gangs against each other while making his way towards the syndicate boss (Koji Nanbara).

There is an instantly obvious Django influence that goes all the way to the fantastic finale where Chiba, with both of his arms broken by the villains, uses a custom made shotgun attached to a severed steering wheel and a stand which he can he operate without hands. The film also sports a colourful, even surreal visual look that predates the Female Prisoner Scorpion films that unleashed similar images later the same year. The obvious connection is screenwriter Fumio Konami, who wrote this as well as the Female Prisoner Scorpion films. Furthermore, the scene where Chiba attempts to rescue his sister from an underground sex club is like straight outta the bizarre world of Teruo Ishii.

Director Takamori is the weakest link as usual, managing the highlights quite well but sometimes failing to pump the kind of energy into the film that it really deserves. It's still a very cool film, though, with enough sex, violence and style to keep you thoroughly entertained. It also marked the beginning of a new, darker era for Chiba after a decade of clean hero roles.

* Original title: Ookami yakuza: Koroshi ha ore ga yaru (狼やくざ 殺しは俺がやる)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None (review format: TV)

Chiba the avenger
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Teruo Ishii, anyone?
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More Western stuff
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Un utterly awesome custom shotgun
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 21 Mar 2016, 15:13

Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3/5
A strange follow-up for having almost nothing to do with the original film. This one is more in line with the Yakuza Deka action comedies, albeit with a little less humour and action. Chiba is a clean shaven, suit wearing small time goon betrayed by a big shot yakuza. After his release from prison, he and pal Tatsuya Fuji start planning a heist/revenge plot against the yakuza. Former Nikkatsu director Buichi Saito (who also directed the 4th Lone Wolf & Cub film) keeps the film in constant move, but he doesn't have a the kind of unique script the first film had to work with. Hence, no spaghetti western imagery or surreal visuals here. There is still plenty of fun to be had, though, including some nice stunt work and a catchy theme song by Chiba. Reiko Ike, finally 18 for real (she had been lying about her age when she appeared in her first movies), plays Chiba's ex-girlfriend. She doesn't have much else to do than sing and show her breasts, but it's nice to have her in the film.

* Original title: Ookami yakuza: Tomurai wa ore ga dasu (狼やくざ 葬いは俺が出す)
* Director: Buichi Saito
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None (review format: TV)

Chiba has lost his beard
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Tatsuya Fuji, who became homeless when Nikkatsu went Roman Porno
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Reiko Ike
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Tsunehiko Watase
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Chiba stunt work.
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Yeah, it's the same bridge Shihomi fell from in Sister Street Fighter
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Flying Chiba
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 22 Mar 2016, 07:12

Two posters for Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder
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And one for Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 28 Mar 2016, 16:56

A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 4/5

This terrific, atmospheric neo noir is one of Chiba's finest films. The gritty crime movie kicks off from a gangster run sex club where one of the customers is murdered. It turns out the victim is a policeman. Older detective Yamamoto (Asao Sano) and his partner Tamura (Hiroshi Miyauchi) begin investigating, only to find out Yamamoto's own daughter is involved in a prostitution ring. Yamamoto kills himself and his daughter, leaving Tamura alone with the case.

Tamura later crosses paths with Kikuchi (Chiba), a narcotics detective so deep undercover that it's no longer clear on which side of the law he is operating. Kikuchi's wife awaits at home while he's working his way deeper into the underworld by hanging out with pimps and drug dealers, and having one night stands heroin addicts. His real identity kept secret even from the police.

Director Shin Takakuwa does excellent job helming the film. He goes for character driven crime drama supported by a terrific screenplay. There's a lot of attention given not only to the main characters, but also their loved ones, and how their work affects everyone around them. Pitting Chiba and Miyauchi against each other works especially well. The bets keep getting bigger as the film goes on until the tension reaches a hair-rising level towards the end. Action scenes are few, but very well executed. An atmospheric score by Toshiaki Tsushima (Battles without Honor and Humanity; The Street Fighter) completes the package.

The film was based in an idea by senior businessman Tsusai Sugawara, who had been campaigning against drugs, prostitution and sex diseases in Japan. Sugawara himself plays Chiba's superior in the film. Fear not the filmmakers going soft due to his involvement: A Narcotic's Agent's Ballad is gritty and borderline sleazy 70s crime cinema with no happy ending, very much comparable to Kinji Fukasaku's films in content and quality.

* Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men (麻薬売春Gメン)
* English aka: Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men.
* Director: Shin Takakuwa
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None (review format: TV)

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Asao Sano and Hiroshi Miyauchi
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Tsusai Sugawara
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 23 Apr 2016, 03:43

Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men: Terrifying Flesh Hell (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3/5
An entertaining, but a slightly underwhelming sequel to A Narcotics Agent's Ballad dispatches undercover cop Chiba to Okinawa. The poster and title suggests of sexploitation, but that is in fact just advertising promises. In reality the film tones down the sex and nudity from the first film and focuses more on narcotics than prostitution. Unfortunately the film also lacks the tension and superb characterization of the first film. This one is more of a basic cops vs. thugs flick, with Chiba teaming up with local cop Tsunehiko Watase and befriending dark skinned, half-Japanese small time goon (Ken Sanders). The Okinawa location brings some colour to the production, including a lot of foreign faces (amusingly always presented as criminals!) but is not as well used as you'd wish. That's not saying it's a bad film, though, quite the contrary. While unable to live up to its predecessor, it's a fast paced crime film with solid tech credits, occasional sex and violence, and Chiba smoking three lung cancers' worth of tobacco.

This was the last of the two Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men films; however, next year there was a movie called Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle. Chiba played a different character, but the film was again based on Tsusai Sugawara's anti narcotics/prostitution campagn, making it a loosely linked follow-up for the two Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men films.

* Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men: Kyofu no niku jigoku (麻薬売春Gメン 恐怖の肉地獄)
* Director: Shin Takakuwa
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None (review format: TV)

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 23 Apr 2016, 03:43

Poster for Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men: Terrifying Flesh Hell
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And two posters for the first film, A Narcotics Agent's Ballad
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 30 Apr 2016, 12:29

Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle (Japan/Korea/Thailand/Hong Kong, 1973) – 3/5

Sonny Chiba stars in this major Asian co-production based on the thoughts and ideas of the anti drugs/prostitution/sexually transmitted diseases campaigning businessman / political figure Tsusai Sugawara, who had previously inspired the two Narcotics / Prostitution G-Men films (1972). Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was a loose follow-up, with Chiba playing an ordinary man instead of a narcotics detective, and the storyline taking place in four Asian countries: Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan. Co-stars came from each country, and multiple edits of the film were produced for different markets.

The film opens in South-Korea, with truck driver Chiba arriving Seoul to receive his dead sister's ashes. While there, he discovers the death may not have been an accident after all, and has something to do with international drug smuggling. Chiba receives help from a Korean detective (Choi Bong, delivering the film's only martial arts moves) to track down his sister's runaway gangster husband (Hiroki Matsukata) and his Korean lover (Kim Chang-Suk). The chase takes Chiba first to Hong Kong and eventually Thailand, where Chiba hooks up with a bilingual woman (Nora Miao) and a local tough guy (Chaiya Suliyun).

Tokyo Seoul Bangkok has long been a sought-after movie for its fantastic cast, but those few who have seen it have sometimes been left a bit underwhelmed. This is more due to false expectations than the film, although the latter is also at fault. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok is not a martial arts movie, and it's not even very much an action movie as the filmmakers aim for more realistic crime drama/thriller. While that's quite fine, it is also true that with the level of action talent involved, the viewer can't help but to wish there were some more outrageous action sequences. This is especially true when some of the scenarios are, in fact, a little too wild to feel entirely realistic. Also, as a drug thriller, it is not as good as for example A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972).

On the positive side, the storyline is very good and the film remains interesting from start to finish. Locations are well used, especially in the Thai sequences, which are both exotic and atmospheric. This is partly due to the beautiful score by Ichiro Araki, which is also used to create some powerful images when the camera lingers on Chiba's desperate, badly bruised face. The supporting cast is interesting as well, the real stand outs being Nora Miao and Hiroki Matsukata. The latter's portrayal of an ultra-stylish gangster may be at odds with the film's intended realism, but he's so cool the viewer won't mind. The same can be said about one great action sequence in Thailand.

There's a lot of history to the production. First of all, it was the first film Chiba made after finishing the Key Hunter TV series (1968-1973), marking the beginning of a new era on his career that allowed a stronger focus on films. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was also one of the two major drug trafficking themed Asian co-productions that had been planned for 1973, the other having been The Shrine of the Ultimate Bliss. The latter was to star Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba and George Lazenby, but by the time Chiba arrived Hong Kong, Lee had just passed away (the project was eventually completed in heavily modified form and with a new cast as "Stoner"). It is likely (but unconfirmed) that the planned meeting between Chiba and Lee was scheduled to take place while Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was filming in Hong Kong.

The Lee connection is probably the reason why the film co-stars Nora Miao, whose open cleavage may come as a delightful surprise to the fans of her Hong Kong films. It's a lot of fun to see Chiba and Miao act together, although the kiss suggested by one of the promotional stills is not found in the film, at least not in the Japanese cut (which is the only cut is available at the moment). If it did take place, it would surely make Miao the only woman in the world who has kissed both Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba!

Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle is a fascinating, even if slightly underwhelming piece of cinema that can be quite enjoyable when approached with realistic expectations. It's not the lost action classic some wished it to be, but it's an atmospheric and entertaining crime drama with a good storyline.

* Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men: Kyofu no niku jigoku (Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok: Jitsuroku Mayaku Chitai)
* Director: Sadao Nakajima
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Choi Bong
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Hiroki Matsukata
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Chaiya Suliyun and Nora Miao
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 07 May 2016, 12:38

Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5

The second film in the Battles without Honour and Humanity series strays from the main storyline to focus on a low rank henchman Yamanaka (the reason for this was that some of the source material - articles based on the life of gangster Kozo Mino - had not been published in its entirety by the time the production begun). The result was a narrower focus than most other instalments in the series, some of which were overloaded with complicated gangster politics. This allowed a greater focus on one of the series' main themes: the disposable young men blindly taking orders by no-good superiors.

Hiroshima Death Match was a career changing moment for Sonny Chiba, who had originally been cast as Yamanaka. The role would've been a logical next step for Chiba, who was a popular actor know for playing handsome action heroes, but had also begun to appear in some darker themed crime films such as A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972) in the early 70s. Kinya Kitaoji, another young actor with record of playing good guys in movies, was set to play the the maniac yakuza Otomo. However, realizing just how vile and rude the character was, Kitaoji found himself unable to play the character and asked if he could have a different role. Chiba and Kitaoji then switched roles at the last moment. The rest is history.

For Chiba, Otomo was a career changing role. Having never played a villain before (in fact, he was one of the top selling idols at the time), Chiba decided to give all he's got to portray the ugliest human being imaginable. Director Fukasaku was taking turns encouraging ("scratch your balls!") and restraining ("don't smell your hand after scratching your balls! Overkill!) Chiba, whose performance was as memorable as over-the-top. Even more importantly, it was the role that directly contributed to Chiba's later characters, such as the classic anti-hero in The Street Fighter (1974 (a slightly more heroic karate version of Otomo) and the even crazier villain in Okinawa Yakuza War (1976) (a psychopath version of The Street Fighter).

The role switch worked for Kitaoji as well, who did excellent job portraying a tormented man who had even been denied the right to die (when he was too young to join the kamikaze during WWII). The film's setting, Hiroshima, played both a symbolic and concrete role in the film. In real life Hiroshima was the only place where the yakuza conflicts got so violent even innocent bystanders were caught in the line of fire. Symbolically speaking, director Fukasaku has always portrayed the modern yakuza as a side-product of the post war misery.

To counter-balance the character focus, Fukasaku inserts several montage-like sequences of violence erupting on the streets, gangsters killing each other off in realistic scenes that are a far cry from cinematic cool, and the police and the press getting involved, all enhancing the image of a city taken over by violence. Toshiaki Tsushima's amazing score, which is at its most effective in this movie, adds the final touch. Probably the best film in the Battles without Honour and Humanity series.

From Chiba's perspective it's interesting to speculate what might have happened had Chiba and Kitaoji not switched the roles. It's a fascinating thought that Chiba could've have played the starring role; on the other hand his later filmography might've become very different. Without Hiroshima Death Match would he ever have created the unforgettable character he played in The Street Fighter, which not only lead him to international fame but also influenced the kind of characters he played in various other mid-70s action films?

* Original title: Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match (仁義なき戦い 広島死闘篇)
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Arrow BD (UK/US)

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Chiba
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Kitaoji
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Chiba again
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Meiko Kaji
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* The screencaps selection above is a mess. I left my BD on a different continent, forgot to take more than 2 caps from the rental dvd I viewed recently, and was unable to find a good quality trailer online. I used HVE DVD caps that I had saved on my computer (1-4), a Toei DVD cap (6), and Arrow BD screencaps from bonus features on Proxy War and Police Tactics discs (7-9).

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 11 May 2016, 16:20

Bodyguard Kiba (Japan, 1973) [35mm] – 2.5/5

Sonny Chiba is as a Japanese karate fighter taking on the mafia in this mediocre grindhouse action film, which is notable for foreshadowing the karate film boom that would begin a year later. The sequel, Bodyguard Kiba 2 would be even more important in this respect.

The first Bodyguard Kiba film exists in two different versions. The American version is called "The Bodyguard" and it was released in 1976. This version not only removes some scenes, but also adds new ones. The additions include the famous Ezekiel speech that Quentin Tarantino quoted in Pulp Fiction, a modified opening credits sequence accompanied by Viva! Chiba! chanting, and a scene featuring US martial artists Aaron Banks and Bill Louie discussing who’s a tougher guy: Sonny Chiba or Bruce Lee? Yes, Chiba plays himself in this version, and he appears to be busier fighting crime than making movies!

The original Japanese version of the film, Bodyguard Kiba (1973), isn't really a better movie, but it does contain interesting context missing from the American version. In the Japanese version Chiba plays Kiba, a karate fighter who becomes a bodyguard in order to promote karate to the world, rather than just fight criminality like in the US version.

One of the key differences between the two versions is the long press conference sequence where Kiba explains in detail about his master's karate philosophy. We also see short clips of Kiba's master training with his students. Everything Kiba says in this scene actually refers to Sonny Chiba's real life master Masutatsu Oyama. The training footage we see also features the real Oyama and his students. The American version alters this scene heavily by removing the Oyama footage (it's actually used as the opening credits scene, lacking the context of the Japanese version) and using a heavily altered dub that doesn't make any reference to Oyama or karate philosophy.

The Japanese version features an entirely new scene at the end of the film, where, after killing about 40 people and seeing several others lose their life, Kiba speaks one more time to the press and concludes it has all been great promotion for karate. The character actually comes out as a bigger asshole in the Japanese version thanks to this scene!

The reason why the Japanese version is heavy on karate context is that the film was based on a manga by Ikki Kajiwara. The author was simultaneously publishing two comic books loosely based on Masutatsu Oyama's life. Karate Kiba was aimed for adult readers while the slightly more true-to-reality Karate Baka Ichidai (which was later adapted to screen as Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life) was intended for younger readers. As a results, Karate Kiba features more sex and graphic violence.

It's just too bad the film was helmed by the walking definition of mediocre, Ryuchi Takamori. The action scenes, while somewhat entertaining, are sloppily edited, the storyline is quite messy, and there are some slow patches. Nevertheless, there is some memorable ultra-violence and enjoyable spaghetti western imagery. Also, look out for Etsuko Shihomi as a stunt double for Yayoi Watanabe, who plays Chiba’s sister. In the sequel, Shihomi would inherit the acting role.

Neither version of Bodyguard Kiba are especially good, but both have their merits. The Japanese version is more interesting from the karate philosophy perspective, but the trashy US edition comes with some amusing new scenes.

* Original title: Bodigaado Kiba (ボディガード牙)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Japanese version: VoD (Japan) / US Version: BCI DVD (US) (Eng Dub)

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Chiba talks about karate... or international crime, depending on which version you're seeing.
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US exclusive: Aaron Banks and Bill Louie
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Oyama!
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby Guro Taku » 12 May 2016, 16:12

How does the Sonny Chiba Bodyguard Kiba film compare to Takashi Miike's trilogy of Bodyguard Kiba V-Cinema flicks? I take it all four of them are based on the same manga comic?

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 12 May 2016, 16:25

Guro Taku wrote:How does the Sonny Chiba Bodyguard Kiba film compare to Takashi Miike's trilogy of Bodyguard Kiba V-Cinema flicks? I take it all four of them are based on the same manga comic?


No idea. I haven't seen any of the Miike films. But now that you reminded me about them, I really should.

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 16 May 2016, 17:56

Bodyguard Kiba 2 (Japan, 1973) [VoD] -2.5/5

This interesting, but uneven sequel was an important turning point on Chiba's career. Chiba had been trying to introduce martial arts into his films for a while, the original Bodyguard Kiba (1973) being the most prominent example, but the problem had always been that most Japanese actors were not fit for physically demanding action films. To address this problem Chiba had opened his own acting school "Japan Action Club" (JAC) in 1970, but it still took a few years before Chiba got his gang together. Bodyguard Kiba 2 was the film where it finally happened.

JAC graduate and Chiba fangirl Etsuko Shihomi was the first addition to the team. Shihomi had joined JAC due to her admiration for Chiba, but had been too young to become a star before. Now, at the age of 17, she was finally ready for her first movie role as Kiba's sister. Though she doesn't have many scenes, the ones she appears in are loaded with both cuteness and fighting. It didn't take her long to become Japan's leading female martial arts actress, which happened with the following year's Sister Street Fighter (1974). She would also frequently play supporting roles in Chiba movies, such as The Street Fighter, The Killing Machine, and The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno.

An even more important addition to the team was Masashi Ishibashi. Ishibashi was a real life karate master and Chiba’s senior, who had been acting in movies for a while but had not done much action before. The word is that Ishibashi often visited Masutatsu Oyama's dojo as a quest instructor on his way back home (he couldn't be a full time instructor since his karate style was different from Oyama's). With Ishibashi on board Chiba had finally found an actor who could keep up with the choreographies even when films had to be completed at lighting pace. Ishibashi would go on to play villains in countless Chiba and Shihomi movies (e.g. The Street Fighter, Karate Bullfigher, Sister Street Fighter) in, and also work on the action choreography with Chiba.

Bodyguard Kiba 2 opens with each of the three stars giving their best in great night time fight in rain. Even Chiba fans who never saw the film have probably caught a glimpse of the fight as footage of it was featured in the theatrical trailer for Karate Bullfighter.

The rest of the film unfortunately does not live up to the great opening. Chiba is Kiba again, but this time he has fallen from grace and sent to prison for all the violent acts he has committed. Once he's out, he begins working as a bodyguard in a club that is crawling with gangsters. Never mind that he was a gangster hating hero that singlehandedly crushed a syndicate and even saved a passenger plane from criminals in the previous film! A man's got to earn money to cover his sister's hospital bills!

What happens next in the film is... not all that much. Chiba and bad guy Eiji Go go on about who's got a bigger, ehm, fist, and spend some time hanging out at the club. Things finally speed up when Chiba's prison pal Tsunehiko Watase is released. Turns out he was betrayed by the gang Chiba is now working for. It's a nice ninkyo yakuza film style twist, although unfortunately largely wasted with minimal character development (see the superb The Defensive Power of Aikido for a much better handing of a similar theme). Watase is good (as he always is), and although not really a martial artist, he does have a bit of karate experience from his student days. He would go on to star in Wicked Kempo, his only real martial arts film, in 1974.

Bodyguard Kiba 2 comes to its conclusion in an entertaining, though not classic, violent climax. If the rest of the film had been as good as the opening and closing fights, this would be a small gem. As it stands, Bodyguard Kiba 2 is more relevant for uniting Chiba, Shihomi and Ishibashi for the first time on screen. Their next collaboration, The Street Fighter, would be an all time classic.

* Original title: Bodigaado Kiba: Hissatsu sankaku tobi (ボディガード牙 必殺三角飛び)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: VoD (Japan)

Side note: although the caps below are from the VHS quality VoD version, Toei has new HD scans of both Bodyguard Kiba films.

Chiba vs. Ishibashi
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Chiba
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Shihomi
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Ishibashi
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Shihomi and Masutatsu Oyama
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Chiba looking frustrated
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Well, that's one way to catch a knife
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Good guys... no, just kidding. Bad guys obviously!
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Chiba and Shihomi
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Watase
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Mean Chiba
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Chiba kicking ass (or heads, to be more precise)
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Poster 1
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Poster 2
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 28 May 2016, 04:47

Alright, it's time for The Street Fighter. There's so much that could be written about this film, in fact, my Finnish review is twice as long, but I'll try to keep this short and just point out just a few things you may not know about the film.

The Street Fighter (Japan, 1974) [35mm] - 4.5/5

This was the film that started the golden age of Japanese karate entertainment. Two important factors should be considered when we discuss the film: timing and talent. Although Chiba had been making action movies since the early 1960s, including a couple of full-fledged martial arts films, Japanese karate films had never really taken off. For years Chiba had to deal with producers and directors who had little to no interest in the fighting aspect. Matters were made even worse by tight filming schedules. Things finally begun to change when Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon was released in Japanese theatres in December 1973 and proved a major hit (it was the first Lee film to arrive Japan; others followed in 1974-1975). All of a sudden there was a genuine demand for martial arts films.

The story behind The Street Fighter goes a bit further back than that, though. The production was launched earlier in 1973 after Toei screenwriter Koji Takada had seen a number of kung fu films in Hong Kong (probably during the production of Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok Drug Triangle) and managed to convince Toei executives that they should produce something similar with Japanese karate. Takada had Toei producers attend an advance screening of Enter the Dragon, which did the trick. Chiba was selected as the star: not surprising considering not only his status as the leading Japanese action star / stunt choreographer, but also his expertise in martial arts.

At first Toei intended the film to be an international co-production, but the Hong Kong studio it was offered to, Golden Harvest, did not take the bait. Perhaps Toei's understanding of a movie with an international appeal -that is, Chiba killing gangsters from various foreign countries - was not to their liking. This does, however, explain why parts of the film take place in Hong Kong and many of the characters are Chinese (although portrayed by Japanese actors). The budget was cut from the original, but the film went to production and Chiba spent his Christmas holidays filming the movie. The Street Fighter hit the theatres in February 1974, six week after Enter the Dragon.

The Street Fighter was also a movie that could not have been born much earlier - or at least not turn out the way it did - as the necessary action talent had just been discovered a few months earlier. Chiba’s earlier action films had often suffered from the lack of co-stars with martial arts experience who could make good opponents for Chiba. Most of Toei’s action film stars were yakuza film actors who looked good with a gun or sword, but made poor karate fighters. This finally changed when Chiba discovered Masashi Ishibashi, who was cast as a villain in Chiba’s previous movie Bodyguard Kiba 2 (1973). Ishibashi was a real life karate master and Chiba’s senior, who had been acting in movies for a good while already but hadn’t done much on-screen action before. With Ishibashi on board Chiba had finally found an actor who could keep up with the choreographies even when films had to be completed at lighting pace.

The action scenes in The Street Fighter were co-designed by Chiba and Ishibashi (as well as other real life martial artists), who played the film’s famous villain and returned for countless other Chiba films like Karate Bullfighter. There were other real life martial artists involved as well, like the future leader of All Japan Karate Federation Masafumi Suzuki (the older master), pro wrestler Tsutomu Harada (the villain who loses is eyes), and kick boxer Ken Kazama & karate man Yushiro Sumi (as two bodyguards). Chiba’s brother Jiro, who later went on to star in The Defensive Power of Aikido (1975), and Chiba’s protégé Etsuko Shihomi, who would become the biggest Japanese female martial arts star of all time, are also featured in minor roles. Furthermore, Chiba's real life master Masutatsu Oyama's influence can clearly be seen in the film: although he does not appear on screen, his thoughts are obviously echoed in the opening scene where Ishibashi criticizes the state of modern karate.

The Street Fighter also became an unforgettable showcase of Chiba’s anti-hero charm and ultra-violence. Chiba was given relatively free hands at creating the main character, a badass mercenary called Takuma Tsurugi. Chiba drew influence from the psychotic yakuza villain he had played in Kinji Fukasaku’s yakuza film Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match (1973), but made the character a little less evil this time. He also added his own brand of Oyama influenced fighting, which was faster and more brutal than the extended and balletic fighting scenes seen in many Kong Kong films. What resulted was 90 minutes of cinematic badassness that remains one of the most enjoyable action films of the 1970s. It was also very successful upon its release in both Japan, where Chiba toured theatres giving action demonstrations, and the US, where the film was even featured in the Playboy magazine, probably due to having been the first movie ever rated X for violence alone by MPAA.

For better or worse, The Street Fighter has characterized Chiba’s reputation ever since and made him a cult hero all around the world. However, his best work as an on-screen martial artist was still to come. The Street Fighter was still a contemporary action film where, for the most part, gunplay had merely been replaced with martial arts. This was no doubt largely due to Toei, as well as their filmmakers from screenwriter Takada to director Shigero Ozawa, being veterans of yakuza films rather than martial arts movies. It wasn’t until the next year when Chiba’s martial movies found their purest form in films like Killing Machine, Karate Bearfighter and The Defensive Power of Aikido, all of which were biopics of real life martial artists.

Side note: there is some confusion regarding Chiba’s side-kick character calling him “darling” throughout the film in the Japanese language version. The word is actually not “darling”, it’s “talen” which is Chinese for “master”. This makes perfect sense since the character is supposed to be Chinese or Singaporean, whose life was saved by Chiba. The Japanese mispronunciation of the term has, however, fooled many viewers and added unintended homosexual sub-context. It's quite amusing indeed, especially when the character even cooks Chiba’s meals and does his laundry; however, it's all a misunderstanding.

* Original Title: Gekitotsu: Satsujin ken (激突! 殺人拳)
* Director: Shigero Ozawa
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), HK Video (FR) (FR subs only), Toei DVD (no subs)

There are three notable DVD releases available. The Optimum DVD is quite dark but otherwise fine. The HK Video has the sharpest image but the colours and contrast seem odd like so often with their releases. Toei has the softest image but the best colours. Optimum is obviously the best choice for anyone who needs subs; otherwise all releases are equally flawed and it comes down to which flaw you consider the smallest evil. Toei is my preferred release, with sharpness artificially boosted to the max via TV / DVD player. However, a BD release must be on its way, no? That being said, at the moment, I believe Toei does not have an HD scan of the film (the recent TV screening on Toei channel was in SD, unlike movies such as Wolfguy, Yakuza Wolf etc. which were in HD).

The screencaps below are from the Toei DVD.

Chiba!
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Ishibashi
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Angry Chiba
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Shihomi and Jiro Chiba
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Chiba tells them they should hire him to protect here... or he will kill her himself
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Masafumi Suzuki
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Ultra violence
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Devil's laughter
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 02 Jun 2016, 06:31

Return of the Street Fighter (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 3.5/5

The first of the two Street Fighter sequels is a fun grindhouse film that doesn't reach the greatness of the original, but comes with superior fight choreography. The film also shows in a nutshell why the series enjoys such popularity, and where Japanese karate action was heading in 1974.

The karate films Chiba made in 1973-1974 were all contemporary action films with plenty of martial arts thrown in. However, the genre was heading towards a more serious approach to martial arts, exemplified by the numerous martial arts biopics released in 1975 (e.g. Killing Machine, The Defensive Power of Aikido). Return of the Street Fighter was still an urban action flick, but the amount of martial arts - and martial artists - on display already suggested of the trend.

Despite the rushed production (the sequel hit the theatres less than 3 months after the original) Toei had time to audition 100 martial arts from various countries, 11 of which were chosen to appear in the film, in addition to Masashi Ishibashi, Masafumi Suzuki & his students, and the JAC stuntmen returning from the first film.

The "fighter overpopulation" actually causes the film to lose its story focus early on as we are treated one martial arts demonstration after another. Fans of karate films should not be complaining, but casual viewers may find it a bit too much. However, there seems to have been even more footage than could be fit in the film, as the original teaser trailer features quite a bit of action, training, and promotional footage not found in the film.

For most people the real reason to watch The Street Fighter movies is of course Chiba and the character he portrays. Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi is back and in good form, even if he's a little less nasty this time. Highlights include Tsurugi taking down a police station's entire night shift crew in order to assassinate a target held by the police, and Tsurugi walking away from a crime scene with a big smile on his face while a villain is burning in the flames behind him. The film is a perfect example of a cinema era when heroes were allowed to be villains and villains could pass for heroes.

Action fans will also be pleased that the fight choreography is excellent throughout. There are lots of fights, the action is well choreographed, and the most commonly used sound effect is that of a breaking bone. There also a good bit of the series' trademark ultra violence, such as Tsurugi punching a man in so hard at the back of his head that his eyes pop out.

Story wise the film is a carbon copy of the original - to the extent that the writer of the original film, Koji Takada, has been given a "created by" credit even though he was apparently not involved with the sequel. The film merely switches Chinese triads for New York mafia, avenging death row prisoner for an avenging ex-detective, and a Singaporean sidekick for an Okinawan sidekick (the naturally cute Yoko Ichiji stripped down of her cuteness (sadly not of her clothes), and given a rather irritating character to play).

While the weaknesses somewhat hurt the film, the imperfection also makes the film a more genuine grindhouse type film, with its own trashy appeal. With expectations kept in check, Return of the Street Fighter is quite a bit of violent fun. Oh, and a bit of fun trivia: the bearded hippie mafia boss who appears in the film was played by the young Canadian filmmakers Claude Gagnon, who would later pick up the Japanese Film Directors' Association's prize for best director for his Art Theater Guild film Keiko (1979).

* Original Title: Satsujin ken 2 (殺人拳 2)
* Director: Shigero Ozawa
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), HK Video (FR) (FR subs only), Toei DVD (no subs) (DVD Comparison here)

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Original Teaser with footage not in the film
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Poster
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 07 Jun 2016, 15:05

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge is coming a bit later... I haven't written it yet

Military Spy School (Lubang tô no kiseki: Rikugun Nakano gakkô) (Japan, 1974) [VoD] -2.5/5
Another take on the Nakano Spy School which trained spies during WWII. The students were taught aikido, ninjutsu, weapons, explosives, foreign languages etc. Sonny Chiba already starred in the superb 1968 action/noir Army Intelligence 33, which was based on the same topic. This 1970s version is less successful, despite a big name cast (Chiba, Bunta Sugawara, Isao Natsuyagi etc.). Director Junya Sato adds more realism, but cuts down the action and loses the elegance of the ’68 version. This version is also more focused on the theme than any specific character, hence it doesn't really have a main character. It's not a bad movie, but one feel it should've been better considering the cast and interesting topic.

* Original title: ルパング島の奇跡 陸軍中野学校 (Lubang tô no kiseki: Rikugun Nakano gakkô)
* Director: Junya Sato
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: VoD (Japan)

I don't have screen captures of this, but here is the original poster:
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 14 Jun 2016, 07:01

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 3.5/5

Unfairly bashed third film tones down the violence and goes for more laid back action fun. This time Tsurugi is a ladies man with James Bond's sex appeal and Ethan Hunt's face mask stash. Make no mistake, though, he's still pretty much an asshole who steals the mafia's money, throws an enemy fighter in the cremator, and has serious difficulties respecting women. Screenwriter Koji Takada provides some very witty dialogue and insults ("I don't give a damn if you're Fire Bird or fried chicken). Action choreography is a bit uneven, but never less than entertaining, and the final fight is quite good. The film also features the best female roles in the series, with Etsuko Shihomi and Reiko Ike looking gorgeous, and the latter managing to breathe genuine dignity and spiciness into her mafia seductress character - a small miracle on the genre. A very enjoyable film although obviously no match for the unforgettable original; just don't go in expecting a bloodbath.

While the first Street Fighter movie came with a classic English dub, the third movie is certainly best seen in its original form. The American New Line Cinema version not only loses the witty dialogue in the dubbing process, it also heavily alters the storyline (drug dealers instead of corrupt politicians; a drug tape instead of confessions caught on tape, two tapes instead of one tape) and character's motivations (Shihomi works for police instead of mafia). In a addition, it's cut and plays many scenes on different order than they should be in (as a result Chiba actually becomes a nicer guy in the US version). What a mess.

* Original Title: Gyakushû! Satsujin ken (逆襲!殺人拳)
* Director: Shigero Ozawa
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), HK Video (FR) (FR subs only)

Tsurugi is back
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with a bite!
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Fried Chicken (Shihomi)
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Ike
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US Poster
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JP Poster 1
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JP Poster 2
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 14 Jun 2016, 16:03

HungFist wrote:The American New Line Cinema... In a addition, it's cut


I struggle to find all the differences (partly because the scenes are in different order), but two bits that I could easily notice to be missing are:

- The scrapyard scene is missing the final part where Chiba tells one of the punks he should hurry and go tell his boss what happened before he dies.
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- The ending is missing a part where Chiba pulls his opponents intestines out. It's not terribly graphic in the Japanese version either, but the US version entirely cuts that bit out.
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Also:

- The execution flashback we seen in every damn Street Fighter movie is in B&W instead of color
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The US version I examined runs 78:54 in NTSC, while my HK Video disc runs 79:30 in PAL. The latter would be approx 83 if converted into NTSC (jmdb also states 83 min as the Japanese NTSC running time) so, the US version seems to be missing about 3 minutes in total

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 27 Jun 2016, 18:12

Sister Street Fighter (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 4/5
Toei extended their winning formula to an unrelated but wonderfully entertaining sister series that gave the 18 year old Etsuko Shihomi her first starring role. The non-stop cavalcade of semi-sleaze and delightfully violent martial arts follows Shihomi battling a drug syndicate lead by a flamboyant madman (Bin Amatsu), whose "hobby" is beautiful women and evil martial arts masters. While not as fast as Chiba, Shihomi made an instant impression by performing all of her stunts and fighting. Chiba has a wonderful supporting role, and Masashi Ishibashi plays villain again. The lack of strong plot is the only real weakness. Just avoid the cut R-rated version, which was widely available on bootleg DVDs once upon a time, and is missing over 4 minutes of action and violence. Oh, and for those wondering why Shihomi's character is Chinese; that's because the role was originally written for Angela Mao.

Three sequels followed. Chiba did not return to the series, but Masashi Ishibashi did, and Yasuaki Kurata was featured in the next two films.

* Original Title: Onna hissatsu ken (女必殺拳)
* Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role *
* Film availability: BCI Eclipse Sister Street Fighter DVD Box Set (USA), BCI Eclipse Sister Street Fighter BD Double Feature, Toei DVD (JP) (No Subs), HK Video Street Fighter Box Set (FR) (FR subs only)

* This is a bit tricky. Chiba's screentime is certainly limited; however, he is featured in three fight scenes and provides some of the film's best moments. I'm calling it a "major supporting role" because "minor supporting role" simply wouldn't do it justice. Feel free to disagree.

Shihomi receoving her mission in Hong Kong
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She arrives Yokohama
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where ugly men are waiting for her
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amazons as well
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and Masashi Ishibashi's gang
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Chiba
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Chiba vs. Ishibashi
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If you saw the R-rated version, you didn't see this
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Fantastic US Theatrical Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPqUL9dCc9c

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 04 Jul 2016, 18:13

The Executioner (Japan, 1974) [DVD] 3.5/5

By mid 1974 karate films had proven so popular that even directors who didn't want work with the genre were ordered to make some. Such was the case with madman Teruo Ishii, who made The Executioner one of Chiba's trashiest pictures. The hit squad flick features ninja descendant Chiba, ex-cop Makoto Sato, and death row convict Eiji Go hired to wipe out a drug cartel. Former police chief Ryo Ikebe and his assistant Yutaka Nakajima are behind the assignment.

Ishii was bored with the project, so he filled it with extreme violence, sex, and crude jokes - and let's not even get started with the hilariously degrading treatment of every single female character in the film. One of the highlights features Chiba having a go with his half-dead opponent's naked girlfriend while the poor man is taking the count on the floor. Another scene features rock star gone actor Rikiya Yasuoka biting a man's ear off.

Chiba is in his usual manic swing, frequently using exaggerated violence against his opponents, sometimes landing 17 extra blows after the opponent is clearly ready to drop dead. It's a fun show, even if the fights are not quite Chiba's best. Yasuaki Kurata, in a full Bruce Lee mode, joins the cast for the final fight. Hiroyuki Sanada appears in the early scenes, playing Chiba's character in the childhood flashbacks where he's being trained by a ninja master.

The Executioner is hardly a pretty movie, but that's exactly where it's appeal lies. As irredeemable trash it never ceases to entertain, and it works like medicine on broken hearts (tested more than once). The film was followed by an even crazier sequel The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno.

* Original Title: Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken (直撃!地獄拳)
* Director: Teruo Ishii
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Toei DVD (JP) (No Subs) [DVD COMPARISON HERE]

Chiba and Nakajima
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Young Hiroyuki Sanada
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Sato
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Ultra-violence
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More glorious violence
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Chiba is distracted by the enemy's female friend
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Kurata kicking ass
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Kurata again
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Chiba vs. Rikiya Yasuoka
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 05 Jul 2016, 10:52

The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno (Japan, 1974) [35mm] - 4/5

Director Teruo Ishii was never keen on making karate movies, but the studio had him direct one with The Executioner (1974). Ishii responded by delivering an over the top action sleaze fest, which was probably more enjoyable than Ishii ever intended. Much to his shock, it was a commercial success and Toei had him make a sequel, which Ishii turned into a madcap action comedy.

In Karate Inferno the same old gang is back, supposed to save a kidnapping victim this time, but when the deal goes, bad they decide to rob their employer instead. There isn't quite as much action this time around since half of the film consists of Chiba (asshole ninja), Makoto Sato (asshole ex-cop) and Eiji Go (asshole pervert) taking the piss out of each other and molesting Yutaka Nakajima. The jokes are crude but funny, the soundtrack is fantastic, and there’s some great action at the end of the film. Oh, and this is the film that features Chiba saving his pal, whose clothes have caught fire, by pissing on him. Top grade entertainment.

The film contains quite a few film reference jokes, many of which may not be understood by most foreign viewers. For example, in the prison scene we see Kanjuro Arashi as Onitora - the character he played in Ishii’s Abashiri Prison series. Chiba also appeared in the 4th and 6th Abashiri Prison film, which is why he recognizes the character!

* Original Title: Chokugeki jigoku-ken: Dai-gyakuten (直撃地獄拳 大逆転)
* Director: Teruo Ishii
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Toei DVD (JP) (No Subs)

Chiba, Sato and Go
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Chiba enjoying the view
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Chiba takes bad guy by surprise
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Go caught cold
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Etsuko Shihomi
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Chiba gets pissed off...
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...like, seriously
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Villains pass a wrist watch ad featuring Chiba... Tarantino did something similar in Kill Bill.
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Kanjuro Arashi
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 07 Jul 2016, 10:32

Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4.5/5

This is the holy grail of Sonny Chiba madness. Chiba is the last remaining member of a werewolf clan, and a crime reporter who conceals his true identity from the mortals. The film kicks off with a series of ultra-brutal murders, in which members of a rock band have been slaughtered. The culprit appears to be a woman with supernatural powers. Her skills are demonstrated in the opening scene, were one of the rockers (Rikiya Yasuoka) pretty much explodes into pieces.

There is no other Sonny Chiba film as outrageous as this. The film begins as a psychedelic city noir, then transcends into a science fiction film with mysterious research labs, and eventually reaches for mythical tones as Chiba returns to his birth town in the mountains. Some of the scenes unfolding feature a werewolf vs. werewolf karate fight, a werewolf being created surgically by doctors, and Chiba pulling off the prison bars with his bare hands. It's bloody as hell and comes with copious amounts sex and nudity as well. And let's not even get started with the odd mother syndrome as Chiba rubs his face against Yayoi Watanabe’s breasts because she reminds him of his mother!

The mad visions spring from Kazumasa Hirai's 'Adult Wolfguy' graphic novels. Hirai also published the similarly titled but more youthful 'Wolfguy' manga that Toho had already adapted into a film in 1973. Toho's enjoyable adaptation was no children's film either, but Toei brought the sex and violence to a whole new level. The material was expertly adapted into a screenplay by Koji Takada. The relatively high level of continuity Takada manages to bring into the screenplay is quite shocking in fact. The storyline comes a long way, and the process feels. This is a far more coherent display of mayhem than some other Chiba films, where parts of the movie don't always connect to each other so well.

Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi does what he's best at, delivering non-stop mayhem with occasional beautiful images. Most of his other films, such as Sister Street Fighter and Karate Bearfighter, were very enjoyable; none of them however were quite as great as Wolfguy. Yamaguchi's usual problem, shaky cam, is thankfully nearly absent here, resulting in lots of fun action. Wolfguy isn't entirely a karate film, but it was made at the height of the karate film boom, which meant there were a lot of hand to hand fights accompanying gunplay and explosions.

Wolfguy is one of those rare cult movies that not only lives up to its outrageous premise, but exceeds it. It was certainly a hit with the audience at the Sonny Chiba festival in Tokyo, where one poor fella became mentally insane after the film! He sat quietly during the film, but burst into an uncontrollable laughter once the film finished and couldn’t stop. His maniac laughter echoed in the theatre staircase for several minutes. The film’s greatness must have been too much for him to handle.

I saw Wolfguy three times that day. Since it was a double feature with Game of Chance, playing all day, I simply decided not to give my seat away after the first go. After the insanely enjoyable second viewing I initially left for Co-ed Report: Yuko’s White Breasts (1971), which was playing on the other side of the town, but that screening turned out to be sold out, so I headed back to Chiba fest for one more go at Wolfguy, and I didn’t regret one bit!

The fact that there is no DVD or even video release anywhere in the world is a crime against humanity!

* Original Title: Wolfguy: Moeru okami otoko (ウルフガイ 燃えろ狼男)
* Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None. Review format: 35mm. Screencaps: TV

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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 14 Jul 2016, 13:05

The Bullet Train (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4/5

Toei anticipated Speed (1994) by nearly two decades with this excellent thriller. The film stars Ken Takakura as a criminal who plants a bomb on a bullet train and demands money from the government. If the speed falls below 80km / hour, the train will explode. The police do their best to track down the criminals without giving in to their demands, while the desperate train pilot (Sonny Chiba in a rare 1970s non-action role) is trying to keep his cool. Tension begins to rise among the uninformed passengers as the train skips its designated stops.

Director Junya Sato does fine job helming a character driven thriller, even if there are a couple of silly bits and too many flashbacks. The film’s biggest merit is the well crafted villains, whose acts are understandable though not acceptable. Takakura is very good at making his character human. Action scenes are few, but expertly executed. The ultra-funky 1970s score feels out of place at first, but once you get used to it, you can't imagine the movie without it. Supporting roles feature a whole variety of stars from Takashi Shimura to Etsuko Shihomi, Yumi Takigawa, and Tetsuro Tamba, sometimes only getting a few seconds of screen time. Chiba has limited screen time, but it's nice to have him in the film.

Interestingly, 1975 saw the release of not one but two bullet train thrillers. The other was Yasuzo Masumura's Toho release Dômyaku rettô, in which noisy bullet trains are seen as industrial monsters upsetting peace and tradition. In that film, too, activist/terrorists threaten to destroy a speeding bullet train unless the government gives in to their demands. Suffering from a silly premise and underwhelming climax, Dômyaku rettô was certainly the lesser of the two bullet train films released that year.

* Original Title: Shinkansen daibakuha (新幹線大爆破)
* Director: Junya Sato
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Twilight Time BD (US) (Upcoming), IVL DVD (R3 HK), Subkultur BD (DE) (no Eng subs), Optimum DVD (UK)

The original English dubbed US release was cut down to around 115 minutes, and should be avoided. The uncut version runs 152 minutes (NTSC).

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Takakura
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Chiba
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Shihomi
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 11 Aug 2016, 16:47

Killing Machine (Japan, 1975) [DVD] - 4/5
Sonny Chiba stars as Doshin So, the founder of Shaolin Karate, in this superb martial arts film set immediately after WWII. It was the first of the many martial arts biopics made in 1975 that brought the genre to a higher level by focusing not only on the violent mayhem, but also on the more philosophical aspect of martial arts. This one was easily one of Chiba's best directed movies with excellent pacing, strong focus on a well written storyline, and a very good leading performance by Chiba. There may be a few crying orphan child too much, but a bit of melodrama only works to the film's benefit and there's a suitably epic feel to the film. The production values are better than in most Chiba films, with limited but entirely functional sets capturing the atmosphere of the mid-1940s Japan. The fight scenes are terrific as well: fast, hard hitting and filmed with steady hands. Highly recommended.

* Original Title: Shorinji kenpo (少林寺拳法)
* Director: Norifumi Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Toei DVD (JP) (no subs)

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Chiba teaching Etsuko Shihomi
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 11 Aug 2016, 16:59

A little bit more for Killing Machine from the Toei DVD

Great teaser trailer with Chiba practicing in front of Doshin Do
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Doshin Do
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Photo gallery
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Poster
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Re: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

Unread postby HungFist » 19 Aug 2016, 18:56

Karate Bullfighter (Japan, 1975) [35mm] – 4/5
Sonny Chiba portrays his own master, kyokushin karate founder Masutatsu Oyama, is this excellent karate biopic, which obviously takes some liberties from the facts. The film is a live action adaptation of the Oyama comic books written by Ikki Kajiwara. Apparently master Oyama did not mind being portrayed as a brute and an "accidental" rapist - all of which worked to the film's benefit.

Chiba is at the top of his game here. He portrays Oyama as a man who attends a karate tournament, beats all opponents, and then throws away the trophy because he thinks sportsman karate is for pussies! The fights are generally excellent and very physical, although they do suffer from some needlessly shaky camerawork (probably influenced by the documentary style yakuza films of the era). Chiba also fights a real bull - something Oyama also did.

Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi was never much of a storyteller, and that's the film's biggest flaw. It feels very episodic, making the film sometimes feel longer than it is. There's a bit of love story, a bit of rivalry with nemesis Masashi Ishibashi, a bit of melodrama as Oyama kills a drunken man and then tried to make it up by taking care of his wife and child, and so on. One can sense the film tried to combine the juiciest parts of its source material without emphasizing coherence too much.

Chiba's brother Jiro Chiba (who later starred in the excellent The Defensive Power of Aikido, 1975) plays a major supporting role as Oyama's apprentice. Chiba returned later the same year for an even better sequel Karate Bearfighter.

* Original Title: Kenka karate kyokushin ken (けんか空手 極真拳)
* Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Toei DVD (JP) (no subs)

I don't have many screencaps for this, so please forgive me for not doing the film justice

Chiba
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Chiba vs. Masashi Ishibashi
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Jiro Chiba
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Bull vs Chiba
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Yumi Takigawa (School of the Holy Beast)
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Ishibashi again
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Original US poster
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Japanese VHS
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