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The Street Fighter Collection Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Shout! Factory

The Street Fighter Collection Blu Ray Large

The Street Fighter
Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa
Written by Kôji Takada, Motohiro Torii (English version by Steve Autrey)
1974, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 26th, 2019

Starring:
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba as Takuma Tsurugi
Gerald Yamada as Rakuda
Doris Nakajima as Sarai
Tony Cetera as Jadot
Masashi Ishibashi as Tateki Shikenbaru
Etsuko Shiomi as Nachi Shikenbaru

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Review:

Takuma Tsurugi is a man who specializes in making the impossible possible. He is an anti-hero and occasional villain, but he is our protagonist and I promise over time he will grow on you. When we first meet him, he is helping spring a prisoner from jail, but when the condemned man’s family can’t pay, he fights them with lethal consequences. Rakuda is his bumbling sidekick who brings some much-needed levity to an otherwise grim plot.

Our story proper begins when Tsurugi is approached by the Hong Kong mafia to kidnap the beautiful Miss Sarai Hammett, heiress to the third largest oil company in the world. He refuses the job and the mob sends goons to keep him silent about their proposal. He successfully fights them off, but becomes a target in the process. He alerts Sarai to the danger she is in and arranges for her to be protected by martial arts master Kendo Masaoka. Tsurugi challenges Masaoka to a sparring match which he loses and then asks for a job at the dojo in order to use the students as backup against the mafia. Underboss Kowloon Dingsau (aka the Cutthroat of Kowloon) is sent to stop Tsurugi. He is joined by the vengeful former prisoner Shikenbaru, who vows to kill the mercenary that ruined his family. The chase is on and our hero is facing incredible odds, but if anyone can survive this challenge, it is the Street Fighter.

1974 was a very good year for Toei Studios with the success of their new Street Fighter franchise. All three chapters were produced within the same year and made a star of martial arts master Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba (Wolf Guy). Chiba stars as Tsurugi, an opportunist of low moral standing; although to his credit he does refuse to kidnap the heiress. He is a merciless fighter who brutally beats down his opponents, causing much bodily harm. At one point he hits a man in the head so hard we see an X-ray of the damage to his skull. He gouges out people’s eyes, tears out vocal cords and rips off the genitals of a potential rapist. The Street Fighter was the first motion picture to receive an X rating for violence. Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa (Killer’s Mission), this is a bleak tale of greed and revenge. Written by Kôji Takada and Motohiro Torii, the picture is light on plot but loaded with action.

The Street Fighter came in the wake of Enter the Dragon and the boom of kung-fu cinema in Asia. Chiba is not your traditional hero, as shortly after he is introduced we see him kill an innocent man and then sell his sister into the sex trade. One bit of interesting trivia, the sister character is played by Chiba protégé Etsuko Shihomi, who would go on to star in the Sister Street Fighter franchise later that same year. The Street Fighter ends abruptly with a pitch for the sequel promising more action that was released only a few months later. The original picture is edgy and unforgiving but never so much so as to make the characters unlikeable. Sonny Chiba is a charismatic leading man and quite an accomplished fighter who has enjoyed a lengthy career. If you are unfamiliar with his work, this is the place to start.

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Return of the Street Fighter
Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa
Written by Hajjime Koiwa
1974, 83 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba as Takuma Tsurugi
Masafumi Suzuki as Kendo Masaoka
Yôko Ichiji as Pin Boke
Hiroshi Tanaka as Isamu Otaguro
Claude Gagnon as Don Costello

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Review:

The picture opens with Takama Tsurugi receiving payment to silence two accountants before they can talk to the police and retrieve a stolen gold statue. He carries out his assignment with great skill, but becomes the focus of police Sgt. Yamagami’s investigation. Isamu Otaguro is an organized crime figure raising money under the guise of building a new Martial Arts Center, a project long delayed in development. Tsurugi is partnered this time with a fawning teenage runaway named Boke, who provides comic relief to another dark adventure. Tsurugi readies for his next job, but is surprised to learn the Japanese mafia wants him to kill his old friend Kendo Masaoka, who is investigating Otaguro’s corrupt behavior. He refuses the task and once again becomes a target for the mob.

Masaoka partners with Yamagami in his pursuit of Otaguro and they continue to gather evidence against him. Tsurugi continues to defy death at every turn, facing would be assassins in a variety of situations. Much to everyone’s surprise, former prisoner and mafia henchman Shikenbaru has survived their last encounter and is back for revenge. They fight and his old foe proves stronger than expected, leaving Tsurugi gravely injured. Boke helps nurse him back to health in the sewers under the city. The mafia carries out a hit against Masaoka, wounding him in the process. Tsurugi recovers from his injuries and vows to avenge his friend and take down the mob.

Return of the Street Fighter follows the model set by the original picture and emerges every bit as successful and entertaining. Sonny Chiba reprises the role of Tsurugi and is given more to do as an actor, developing the character beyond its street-thug roots. He is developing a set of morals that make it easier for audiences to root for him. The tone of this picture is lighter, with touches of comedy from some of the supporting players. The action scenes are just as prevalent and the violence remains over-the-top, albeit a bit more cartoonish at times. In our first big fight sequence, Tsurugi is attacked atop a ski lift and fights opponents in the snow, hitting one man in the back of the head so hard that his eyes pop out of their sockets! In another round, he takes a gun from an opponent and punches it into the guy’s stomach! The sequel is not above padding the running time with gratuitous flashbacks from the original film, as we are treated to this activity twice.

Sonny Chiba is a great action hero and these films are the perfect vehicle for him. The villains are cartoonish sources of evil, with the mafia frequently playing scapegoat. The script doesn’t really bring much new to the table, but the characters are freshened up a bit. The script is light on subtext, as everything is firmly in your face and there is not a lesson to take home either. This movie is pure exploitation bliss and is a strong middle chapter in the growing franchise.

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The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge
Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa
Written by Kôji Takada and Masashiro Shimura
1974, 83 minutes, Not Rated

Starring:
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba as Takuma Tsurugi
Reiko Ike as Aya Owada
Eizô Kitamura as Seigen Owada
Etsuko Shiomi as Kahô Huo-Feng
Kôji Wada as Takera Kunigami

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Review:

In the time since we last visited Takuma Tsurugi, he has become something of a master of disguise. He has a secret room full of masks he wears to fool would-be targets. Sometimes he appears as a motorcycle cop, another time he looks like Dracula. I don’t understand the development, but it only plays a minor part of this story, so I will roll with it. Our focus this time is on organized crime boss Seigan Owada and his dealings with the Toko Chemical Co. He is blackmailing them with taped evidence of bribes to government officials. Tsurugi interrupts their meeting and steals the tape for himself, demanding ransom. There are other interested parties however, as he becomes entangled with an ambitious prosecutor named Takera Kunigami, who takes possession of the evidence by force.

There is a lot of back and forth with ownership of this tape, with the mob, the prosecutor and our hero all making a claim for it. There’s a lot of plotting and double-crossing among reprehensible characters. An honorable fighter named Huo Fong defects from the Owada family in hopes of pairing up with Tsurugi to fight for justice, but he denies her wishes, as she is too young and lacks discipline. She continues to shadow him on his adventure and even manages to save him on at least one occasion. Tsurugi is more interested in pursuing a relationship with Owada’s sister Aya, a beautiful but deadly woman who is as opportunistic as he is. The prosecutor proves to be more than a casual adversary once money gets involved and he becomes greedy. This will lead to a showdown between Kunigami and Tsurugi, with only one man walking away.

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge is the concluding chapter of this epic adventure and finds our hero much more appealing as a character with some morals. He has evolved from the street tough he once was and now fights for a reason. He is still a mercenary, but he is no longer an unlikeable thug. He may not be totally good, but the people he opposes are much worse. Sonny Chiba owns this role and commands every minute of his screen time and has improved as an actor as the series progresses. He remains over-the-top a lot of the time, but he injects a sense of cool to the character that was missing before. Early in the picture we see him arrive at a night club in a white tuxedo, dancing with a lady. He still kicks ass when he needs to and nobody does it better. That being said, this movie has the least amount of fight scenes of the series, opting instead to focus on the dramatic elements.

Directed once again by Shigehiro Ozawa, the picture tells a broader story without losing sight of what fans came to see. There are many familiar elements on display here, including the go-to mafia villains. When the film was re-cut and dubbed for its domestic release, the plot was changed to once again feature drugs, as in the second picture, rather than high-level bribes. Regardless of his mission, Sonny Chiba is unstoppable. His fighting skills are impressive and he deserves every bit of the success he has enjoyed as an actor. The Street Fighter series is an energetic set of popcorn flicks that hit all the right notes when it comes to audience satisfaction. Martial arts fans will find a lot to like here, as will those that go gaga for classic exploitation pictures. Invite a group of friends, break out an appropriate beverage and prepare to have a kick-ass night!

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, all three films have received brand new 2K scans and digital restoration resulting in the best image possible. Some instances of multiple source materials have been used to present the most complete version of the films and extensive color timing has been accomplished to limit any shifts in picture clarity. Black levels are rich and colors really pop and there is a lot of fine detail absent from previous releases.

A Japanese language DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 English language dub are provided for each film in the series faithfully reproducing the heavy sound effects for the fight sequences which are well-balanced with an exciting musical soundtrack. The original picture comes with two English language options, the first being the 1974 theatrical dub and the other being the slightly enhanced 1990 New Line Home Video release version.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc One: The Street Fighter

Star Sonny Chiba sits down for the all-new interview Street Fighting Man (27 minutes) in which he reflects on his career and how he got into the industry while training for the Olympics. He shares stories about various people he has crossed paths with, including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Quentin Tarantino. He reveals that it was New Line chief Robert Shaye who dubbed him “Sonny” and how the name has stuck with him.

In Cutting Moments: The Street Fighter Trailer (13 minutes), filmmaker Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2) discusses his history as an editor of trailers while working for New Line Cinema. He talks about how this training influenced his work once he became a director and mentions several projects he worked on early in his career.

The U.S. grindhouse trailer is included and is a lot of exciting fun that will make you want to watch the movie again.

The Japanese trailer is also on hand, but is not as much fun.

A still gallery plays as a silent slideshow (7 minutes) containing color and black-and-white publicity shots and international poster art.

Disc Two: Return of the Street Fighter

The original Japanese trailer has also been included.

A still gallery (3 minutes) plays as a silent slideshow offering a look at promotional images, lobby cards and international poster art.

Disc Three: The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge

Both the original uncut Japanese edit (84 minutes) of the film and the domestic version (80 minutes) are included. Both edits stem from the restored U.S. cut with standard definition inserts applied to the Japanese cut. The domestic version greatly changes the plot of the movie and shuffles the order of scenes.

The U.S. theatrical trailer follows in the same exploitation vein as its predecessors, with major spoilers and a narrator who refers to the star as “Sonny Sheeba”.

The Japanese trailer is just as guilty of including major spoilers, but gets the job done.

A still gallery (2 minutes) of promotional images and poster art has been included.

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Grades:

Street Fighter:

Return of the Street Fighter:

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge:

Fourstars

Threeandahalfstars

Threeandahalfstars

The Street Fighter Collection Blu Ray Small
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Video: Fourandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: Fourstars

 

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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