R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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HungFist
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R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by HungFist »

Terrible news news: Sonny Chiba passed away today. He died from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. He had been hospitalized since August 8. He was 82 years old.
- https://www.nikkansports.com/entertainm ... 01057.html
https://www.iwate-np.co.jp/article/oricon/2204126

Sonny Chiba and Ken Takakura
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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Chiba is my favourite actor of all time. I've seen more than 150 of his films. He was much more than just a karate film star, an endlessly inspiring actor who would make almost any film better with his sheer energy. A lot of his work from the 60s as well as TV work (including the incredible Yaguy Clan Conspiracy series which is even better than the Fukasaku film) is waiting to be discovered.

I was lucky enough to meet him in Cinema Vera's 24 film Chiba retrospective back in 2014. He was energetic like a little boy, and at the same time modest and very grateful to fans. I got to ask him a question about Soul of Chiba (though he ended up asking me several questions in return), and later take a photo with him. But the nicest part was when Chiba was leaving the site and I was loitering in the corridor, he stopped by me to shake my hand and say “thank you for attending”. It only took 10 seconds of his time, but it was a really nice thing of him to do. Most big stars wouldn't have stopped.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by adgy »

Heartbreaking.

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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HungFist wrote: 19 Aug 2021, 16:00 Chiba is my favourite actor of all time. I've seen more than 150 of his films. He was much more than just a karate film star, an endlessly inspiring actor who would make almost any film better with his sheer energy. A lot of his work from the 60s as well as TV work (including the incredible Yaguy Clan Conspiracy series which is even better than the Fukasaku film) is waiting to be discovered.

I was lucky enough to meet him in Cinema Vera's 24 film Chiba retrospective back in 2014. He was energetic like a little boy, and at the same time modest and very grateful to fans. I got to ask him a question about Soul of Chiba (though he ended up asking me several questions in return), and later take a photo with him. But the nicest part was when Chiba was leaving the site and I was loitering in the corridor, he stopped by me to shake my hand and say “thank you for attending”. It only took 10 seconds of his time, but it was a really nice thing of him to do. Most big stars wouldn't have stopped.
That's so awesome you got to meet him... so sad to hear of his passing. Such a wonderful entertainer.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by DenPryan »

R.I.P.
Several years ago I wrote to him, I wanted to support him when the paparazzi tried to stir up a scandal about his relationship with a young girl student. He answered me, thanked me for the support, and was very surprised that someone knew him in Russia. We exchanged a few more letters, I asked him various stupid questions, received answers to them and a photo of the master with his autograph. It was about 3 or 4 years ago.
What an irreparable loss. He will forever remain in our hearts and in his films.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by EvaUnit02 »

RIP for sure, he was a legend.

EDIT:
Oh damn, he was in a Golgo 13 movie as the title character? I need to track that down now.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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EvaUnit02 wrote: 20 Aug 2021, 18:17 EDIT:
Oh damn, he was in a Golgo 13 movie as the title character? I need to track that down now.
Yeah, in the 1977 film. Ken Takakura played Golgo 13 in the 1973 film. Both are good, although not really as good as they could be.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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(Chiba in Hepcat in the Funky Hat, 1961)

Chiba tribute - part 1/3

I couldn't help but to write a very small tribute to Chiba's career.

While Chiba is best known abroad for his karate films, there is so much more to him. Before becoming a karate hero, he was a popular idol in the early 60s when he appeared in detective films, youth dramas, war films, science fiction films, and superhero adventures. He debuted as an actor in the television superhero series New Seven Color Mask (1960) where he played the lead role, made his first film appearance in Police Department Story: Alibi (1961), and landed his first starring role in the Western influenced Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley (1961), which was Kinji Fukasaku's directorial debut.In the first three years of his film career alone, Chiba appeared in 36 movies! Among my favourite Chiba performances from the "Early Years" are an enthusiastic but naïve little brother in Fukasaku's gangster film Gang vs. G-Men (1962), a pacifist painter in the war drama The Navy (1963), a cheerful gymnastics teacher in the youth drama / musical film Here Because of You (1964), and a young man who becomes a political assassin in Sadao Nakajima's gripping true account Memoirs of Japanese Assassins (1969). A special mention goes to the superb Army Intelligence 33 (1968), a mixture of war time film noir and action, in which Chiba plays a suave spy first tasked with stealing secret information from a foreign diplomat, and later sent on a jungle commando mission.

Chiba rose to stardom with the phenomenally popular detective / spy TV series Key Hunter (1968-1973). Chiba played one of the detectives alongside Tetsuro Tamba. He was also in charge of designing the action sequences and performing several death defying stunts, such as climbing out of a speeding car's window and grabbing on to a small air plane while it's taking off. This series is what Chiba is best known for among many older Japanese people, and what also led him to establish his own film school, Japan Action Club in 1970. Key Hunter marked the beginning of the 2nd phase in Chiba’s career, “Modern Action”. He would follow Key Hunter with films like the 4 film Yakuza Deka series (1970-1971), Jail Breakers (1976), G.I. Samurai (1979) and Adventurer Kamikaze (1981), which were full of crazy stunts similar to what would later be seen in Hong Kong Cinema in the 80s.

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(Chiba in Yakuza Deka 4: No Epitaphs for Us, 1971)

Chiba was also a seminal figure in the gritty "Crime Films" of the 70s. He was a bearded avenger in Yakuza Wolf (1972), whose visual approach was influenced by both Japanese films and spaghetti westerns, particularly Sergio Corbucci's Django. Chiba made one his very best films with the skilfully written thriller A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972), in which he plays an undercover cop infiltrating a drug syndicate. Another drug themed film, Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok Drug Triangle (1973), filmed in Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, saw him act opposite Nora Miao. But the real game changer was Hiroshima Deathmatch (1973), which saw Chiba portray a villain for the first time. Originally cast as the main character, a last minute casting change placed Chiba in the boots of the film's barbaric villain, now recognized as the foundation for Chiba's later anti-heroes in films like The Street Fighter (1974) and Okinawa Yakuza War (1976). The latter featured Chiba as a karate-obsessed, out of control yakuza psychopath. One of his most charismatic turns was however playing a beard-faced gangster boss afraid for his family's safety in Okinawa 10 Year War (1978).

Chiba’s biggest international success came with the “Karate Films” from 1974 onwards. Chiba had been pushing martial arts in films before, but there was a lack of domestic demand, and a lack of domestic talent. With JAC in full swing by 1973, and Chiba having found reliable collaborators such as martial arts master turned actor Masashi Ishibashi (first collaboration in Key Hunter, followed by Bodyguard Kiba 2 in 1973) and Etsuko Shihomi (stunt double in Bodyguard Kiba 1, actress in Bodyguard Kiba 2), the gang was finally together. Fast forward till Dec 1973, and Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon opens in Japan (it was the first Lee film distributed in Japan, with the rest to follow in 1974-1975) to a phenomenal success. Suddenly, the demand was there! Chiba was already in the middle of filming The Street Fighter (1974), which would hit the screens just 5 weeks later. The following year would see the introduction of excellent historical biopics from Karate Bullfighter (1975) to Killing Machine (1975) and the superbly written gem The Defensive Power of Aikido (1975), which starred Chiba's brother Jiro. But Chiba's most exhilarating film may be the absolutely brilliant noir / action / sci-fi / werewolf mashup Wolfguy (1975) which remains the only movie I've watched three times during the same day in theatre.

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(Return of the Street Fighter, 1974)

After action and gangster films waned down in the late 70s, Chiba found perhaps his biggest calling in “Jidai Geki”. The massive ninja epic Shadow Warriors (1980-1985), in which he plays Hattori Hanzo, may be the best know abroad, however, his greatest role was portraying the one-eyed ninja Yagyu Jubei in film, on television and on stage. The incredible 39 episode Yaguy Clan Conspiracy (1979-1980) series may be the greatest work in Chiba career. He had already played the same character in Fukasaku’s Shogun’s Samurai (1978), and would return to the role in Samurai Reincarnation (1981). Chiba also delivered a heartfelt performance in Fukasaku's excellent 47 Ronin tale Swords of Vengeance (1978), and appeared in the same director's exhilarating samurai pop idol epic Legend of the Eight Samurai, starring Hiroko Yakushimaru and Hiroyuki Sanada.

All this is just touching the surface on Chiba’s incredible career, not to mention his many roles from the 90s to present day. All the career phases mentioned above contain many, sometimes dozens of more noteworthy films, not to mention TV productions such as the awesome Kazuo Koike manga adaptation Modern Witch Tale (1973) in which Chiba plays a 300 year old which and assassin for hire, and badass karate / action / drama series The Bodyguard (1974), which co-starred Etsuko Shihomi. Speaking of whom, Chiba also found time to tutor several future super stars. Etsuko Shihomi was a big Chiba fangirl who applied to JAC as a teenager. The judges failed her (“no boobs, looks like a boy, no potential”) but Chiba vetoed the decision and took her in. When Angela Mao dropped from Sister Street Fighter, Chiba proposed Shihomi as the replacement! Hiroyuki Sanada was an even earlier acquaintance: he played the son of Chiba’s character at the age of 5 in the three very entertaining Game of Chance period yakuza films in 1966-1867. Sanada would later enter JAC and become a major star in the 80s (before which he briefly appeared as "young Chiba" in Teruo Ishii's madcap karate film The Executioner, 1974).

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(Left: Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada. Right: Chiba and Etsuko Shihomi)
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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Chiba tribute - Part 2/3: Stills

Hepcat in the Funky Hat, 1961
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Army Intelligence 33, 1968
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Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle, 1973
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Karate for Life, 1977
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Okinawa 10 Year War, 1978
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Yakuza Deka 4: No Epitaphs for Us, 1971
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Shogun's Samurai, 1978
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Army Intelligence 33, 1968
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The many faces of Sonny Chiba (click image for bigger version)
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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Chiba tribute - Part 3/3: Posters

Police Department Story: Alibi (1961)
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Special Tactical Police: Part 2 (1963)
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Tokyo Untouchable: Organized Fashion Model Prostitutes (1964)
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Judo for Life (1963)
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Yakuza Deka 3: Poison Gas Affair (1971)

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Yakuza Deka 4: No Epitaphs for Us (1971)
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Jail Breakers (1976)
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Karate Bullfighter (1975)
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Bodyguard Kiba 2 (1973) and The Sreet Fighter's Last Revenge (1974)
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A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972) and Wolfguy (1975)
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Shogun's Samurai (1978)
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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- Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley (風来坊探偵 赤い谷の惨劇) (1961)
- Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us (やくざ刑事 俺たちに墓はない) (1971)
- Bodyguard Kiba (ボディガード・牙) (1973)
- Bodyguard Kiba 2 (ボディガード・牙 必殺三角飛び) (1973)
- Adventurer Kamikaze (冒険者カミカゼ) (1981)

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by HungFist »

Tokyo's Shin bungeiza announced a Chiba program for Oct. 20-30. Unfortunately it’s just biggest hits (I’ve seen 8 of the 12 films in 35mm already) and no rare films that I’m dying to see, but still kicks ass of course.

The Street Fighter / The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno
Karate Bullfighter / Killing Machine
Jail Breakers / Golgo 13
Okinawa Yakuza War / Hiroshima Deathmatch
The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy / Samurai Reincarnation
Karate Warriors / Bodyguard Kiba


- https://twitter.com/shin_bungeiza/statu ... 9639328771

激突!殺人拳/直撃!地獄拳 大逆転 けんか空手 極真拳/少林寺拳法 脱走遊戯/ゴルゴ13 九龍の首 沖縄やくざ戦争/仁義なき戦い 広島死闘篇 柳生一族の陰謀/魔界転生 子連れ殺人拳/ボディーガード牙

There's also a Chiba All Night Program on Oct. 2 with Bodyguard Kiba / The Street Fighter / Executioner 2: Karate Inferno / Karate Warriors.

In addition, Tokyo-Seoul-Bankok is playing in Laputa Asagaya Oct. 24-30 in their series of Japanese films shot abroad.
- http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program ... _location/

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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Got myself a few more Chiba posters:
- Judo for Life (柔道一代) (1963) B2
- Jail Breakers (脱走遊戯) (1976) B2
- Tale of Kawachi Chivalry (河内遊侠伝) (1967) Tatekan

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

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HungFist wrote: 07 Sep 2021, 13:25 Tokyo's Shin bungeiza announced a Chiba program for Oct. 20-30. Unfortunately it’s just biggest hits (I’ve seen 8 of the 12 films in 35mm already) and no rare films that I’m dying to see, but still kicks ass of course.

The Street Fighter / The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno
Karate Bullfighter / Killing Machine
Jail Breakers / Golgo 13
Okinawa Yakuza War / Hiroshima Deathmatch
The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy / Samurai Reincarnation
Karate Warriors / Bodyguard Kiba


- https://twitter.com/shin_bungeiza/statu ... 9639328771

激突!殺人拳/直撃!地獄拳 大逆転 けんか空手 極真拳/少林寺拳法 脱走遊戯/ゴルゴ13 九龍の首 沖縄やくざ戦争/仁義なき戦い 広島死闘篇 柳生一族の陰謀/魔界転生 子連れ殺人拳/ボディーガード牙

There's also a Chiba All Night Program on Oct. 2 with Bodyguard Kiba / The Street Fighter / Executioner 2: Karate Inferno / Karate Warriors.
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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by HungFist »

Sonny Chiba in this month's Eiga Hi-Ho. There's a 20 page Chiba article, including interviews with Sadao Nakajima, Jiro Okazaki, Rina Takeda, and others.

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Re: R.I.P. Sonny Chiba

Post by HungFist »

A couple of HD stills

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And in case anyone missed it (or is reading this years from now), the Shin bungeiza Chiba retro coverage is in the other thread:
viewtopic.php?p=182291#p182291
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