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Takuma

Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Sonny Chiba in Tokyo at the Sonny Chiba Film Festival. That event, as well as Chiba himself who turned out to be the nicest guy you could imagine (very energetic, very friendly, and very modest), inspired me to challenge myself to 100 Chiba kumite. In other words, I set a target to see 100 Chiba films. Since I'm now at 97, I think it's time to begin the reporting.

Like Chiba in Karate for Life (1977), I'm cheating a little bit. I've also included the films I had seen before last year, so I'm not actually beating 100 Chiba's at one go, and I won't be reviewing 100 films either. But there's gonna be quite a few. I'll begin in roughly chronological order, but I may make exceptions. Discussion, reviews and other contributions by other members are more than welcome: this thread is about Chiba, not about me.

With 97 Chiba's under my belt, I can't say I feel one bit tired. If anything, I've only come to love him and his movies more. Like my friend once said, even a bad Chiba film has at least one good thing about it: Chiba. I could easily watch another 100 Chiba films, but I'm starting to run out of films I can get access to.

Report and photos from the Sonny Chiba festival can be found in the other thread here:
http://www.shaolinchamber36.com/kungfufandom/index.php?/topic/18254-retro-cinemas-and-cult-films-in-tokyo-sonny-chiba-festival-some-content-nsfw/&page=2
VChiba1s.jpg

Older Chiba thread also exists. I hope you don't mind starting a new one. I just felt like taking a fresh start.

Review Index

Round 1
1. Police Department Story: Alibi (Keishichô monogatari: Fuzai shomei) (警視庁物語 不在証明) (1961)
2. Police Department Story: 15 Year Old Woman (Keishichô monogatari: 15 sai no onna) (警視庁物語 十五才の女) ( 1961)
3. Drifting Detective: Tragedy in the Red Valley (Fûraibô tantei: Akai tani no sangeki) (風来坊探偵 赤い谷の惨劇) ( 1961)
4. Drifting Detective: Black Wind in the Harbour (Fûraibô tantei: Misaki o wataru kuroi kaze) (風来坊探偵 岬を渡る黒い風) ( 1961)
5. Invasion of the Neptune Men (Uchu Kaisoku-sen) (宇宙快速船) ( 1961)
6. Police Department Story: 12 Detectives (Keishichô monogatari: 12 nin no keiji) (警視庁物語 十二人の刑事) ( 1961)
7. Hepcat in the Funky Hat (Funky hat no kaidanji) (ファンキーハットの快男児)  ( 1961)
8. Hepcat in the Funky Hat: 200 000 Yen Arm (Funky Hat no kaidanji: Nisenman-en no ude) (ファンキーハットの快男児 2千万円の腕) ( 1961)
9. The Escape (226 jiken: Dasshutsu) (二・二六事件 脱出) ( 1962)
10. The Kamikazes (Minami taiheiyo nami takashi) (南太平洋波高し) ( 1962)
11. Gambler ( 1962)
12. Love, the Sun and the Gang ( 1962)
13. Gang vs. G-Men ( 1962)
14. Tale of A Company Boss: Part 5 ( 1963)
15. The Loyal 47 Gangsters ( 1963)
16. Yakuza's Song ( 1963)
17. The Navy (Kaigun) ( 1963)
18. Gambler's Love ( 1963)
19. Gambler Tales of Hasshu: A Man's Pledge ( 1963)
20. Here Because of You ( 1964)
21. Dragon's Life ( 1964)
22. Meiji Underworld - Yakuza G-Men ( 1965)
23. Code of Ruffians ( 1965)
24. Sing to Those Clouds ( 1965)
25. Abashiri Prison 4: Northern Seacoast Story ( 1965)
26. Golden Bat ( 1966)
27. Abashiri Prison 6: Duel in the South ( 1966)
28. The Terror Beneath the Sea (Japan/USA, 1966)
29. Kamikaze Man: Duel at Noon (Japan/Taiwan, 1966)
30. Game of Chance ( 1966)
31. North Sea Chivalry ( 1967)
32. Tale of Kawachi Chivalry ( 1967)
33. Organized Crime ( 1967)
34. Diaries of the Kamikaze ( 1967)
35. The Young Eagles of the Kamikaze ( 1968)
36. Human Torpedoes ( 1968)
37. Army Intelligence 33 ( 1968)
38. Delinquent Boss: Ocho the She-Wolf ( 1969)
39. Memoir of Japanese Assassins ( 1969)
40. Yakuza Deka ( 1970)
41. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin ( 1970)
42. Yakuza Deka: Poison Gas Affair ( 1971)
43. Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us ( 1971)
44. Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder ( 1972)
45. Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences ( 1972)
46. A Narcotics Agent's Ballad ( 1972)
47. Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men: Terrifying Flesh Hell ( 1972)
48. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle (1973)
49. Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match ( 1973)
50. Bodyguard Kiba ( 1973)
51. Bodyguard Kiba 2 ( 1973)
52. The Street Fighter ( 1974)
53. Return of the Street Fighter ( 1974)
54. The Street Fighter's Last Revenge ( 1974)
55. Military Spy School ( 1974)
56. Sister Street Fighter ( 1974)
57. The Executioner  ( 1974)
58. The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno ( 1974)
59. Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope ( 1975)
60. Bullet Train ( 1975)
61. Killing Machine ( 1975)
62. Karate Bullfighter ( 1975)
63. Karate Bearfighter  ( 1975)
64. The Defensive Power of Aikido ( 1975)
65. Rugby Yaro ( 1976)
66. Machine Gun Dragon ( 1976)
67. Jail Breakers ( 1976)
68. Karate Warriors ( 1976)
69. Okinawa Yakuza War ( 1976)
70. Karate for Life ( 1977)
71. Doberman Cop ( 1977)
72. Yakuza War: The Japanese Godfather ( 1977)
73. Honor of Japan ( 1977)
74. Okinawa 10 Year War ( 1978)
75. Message From Space ( 1978)
76. G.I. Samurai ( 1979)
77. Dead Angle ( 1979)
78. Shogun's Ninja ( 1980)
79. Tokyo Daijishin Magnitude 8.1 ( 1980)
80. The Bushido Blade (1981)
81. Samurai Reincarnation ( 1981)
82.Ninja Wars ( 1982)
83. Legend of the Eight Samurai ( 1983)
84. Kabamaru the Ninja Boy ( 1983)
85. Leave it to Kotaro ( 1984)
86. The Last True Yakuza ( 1985)
87. Yakuza Warfare ( 1991)
88. Yakuza Warfare ( 1991)
89. Triple Cross ( 1992)
90. Iron Eagle III: Aces (1992)
91. Immortal Combat (1994)
92. Codename: Silencer ( 1995)
93. The Storm Riders (1998)
94. Explosive City (2004)
95. Sushi Girl (2012)
96. Shuryo no michi 8 ( 2013)

Round 2
97. New 7 Color Mask (Shin nana iro kamen) (新七色仮面) (1960)
98. Mid-August Commotion (8 gatsu 15 nichi no douran) (八月十五日の動乱) (1962)
99. Special Tactical Police (Tokubetsu kido sosatai) (特別機動捜査隊) ( 1963)
100. Special Tactical Police: Part 2 (Tokubetsu kido sosatai: Tokyo eki ni harikome) (特別機動捜査隊 東京駅に張り込め) ( 1963)
101. Decree from Hell (Jigoku meirei) (地獄命令) ( 1964)
102. Tale of Japanese Burglars (Nippon dorobô monogatari) (にっぽん泥棒物語) ( 1965)
103. Bitches of the Night  (Yoru no mesuinu) ( 夜の牝犬) (1966)
104. Game of Chance 2 (Zoku rokyoku komori-uta) (続浪曲子守唄) (1967)
105. Game of Chance 3 (Shusse komori-uta) (出世子守唄) (1967)
106. Key Hunter (Kii hantaa) (キイハンター) (1968-1973) (TV)
107. The Bodyguard (Za bodigaado) (ザ・ボディガード) (1974) (TV)
108. 13 Steps of Maki (Wakai kizokutachi: 13 kaidan no Maki) (若い貴族たち 13階段のマキ) (1975)
109. The Visitor in the Eye (Hitomi no naka no houmonsha)  (瞳の中の訪問者) (1977)
110. Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi) (ゴルゴ13 九竜の首) (1977)
111. Soul of Chiba  (Gekitotsu! Jado ken) (激殺!邪道拳) (1977)
112. Roaring Fire (Hoero tekken) (吠ろ鉄拳) (1981)
113. Minefield (Jiraigen) (地雷原) (1992)
114. Young and Dangerous 6: Born to be King (狼たちの伝説 亜州黒社会戦争) (2000)
115. Jitsuroku Kyushu yakuza retsuden kyoken to yobareta otoko (実録 九州やくざ烈伝 兇健と呼ばれた男) (2013)
116. Shuryo no michi 6 (首領の道6) (2013)
117. Shuryo no michi 7 (首領の道7) (2013)
118. Shuryo no michi 9 (首領の道9) (2013)

Round 3
119. King of Gangsters (ギャングの帝王) (1967)
120. Wandering Ginza Butterfly: She-Cat Gambler (銀蝶渡り鳥 牝猫博奕) (1972)
121. Detonation: Violent Riders (爆発!暴走族) (1975)
122. The Gorilla Seven (ザ・ゴリラ7) (1975)
123. Four Sisters (山麓) (1962)
124. Legend of Seven Monks (マスター・オブ・サンダー 決戦!! 封魔龍虎伝) (2006)
125. Battle Royale 2 (バトル・ロワイヤルII) (2003)
126. Adventurer Kamikaze (冒険者カミカゼ) (1981)
127. Truck Yaro: Dokyu Ichiban Boshi (トラック野郎 度胸一番星) (1977)
128. Robot Keiji: The Movie (ロボット刑事: 劇場版) (1973)
129. Fighting Fist (覇拳 ふりむけば修羅) (1992)
130. Akumyo: Tough Guys (悪名) (2001)
131. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
132. The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy (柳生一族の陰謀) (1978)
133. The Fall of Ako Castle (赤穂城断絶) (1978)
134. Hunter in the Dark (闇の狩人) (1979)
135. Sure Death Revenge (必殺IV 恨みはらします) (1987)
136. Shogun's Shadow (将軍家光の乱心 激突) (1989)
137. Seventeen Ninja (十七人の忍者) 1990)
138. Dragon Princess (必殺女拳士) (1976)
139. Blazing Dragnet (燃える捜査網) (1975-1976)
140. Emergency Line (大非常線) (1976)
141. Violent Street (暴力街) (1963)
142. Life of Blackmail (わが恐喝の人生) (1963)
143. Gendai onibabako: Satsu ai (現代鬼婆考 殺愛)( 1973)
144. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (ワイルド・スピードX3 TOKYO DRIFT) (2006)
145. Resurrection of the Golden Wolf(蘇る金狼) (1979)

* this is index is still work in progress, and while I cannot provide direct links yet, the reviews are in the above mentioned order, which should help you find them. I will also try to add more original titles in kanji when I have time.

 
Edited by Takuma

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ok, let's start

Police Department Story: Alibi (Japan, 1961) [VoD] – 2.5/5
Sonny Chiba in his first movie role. This is the 15th film in the Police Department Story series that started in 1957. Most of the films were one hour long detective tales shown as b-features in theatrical double bills. All of them were written by Kimiyuki Hasegawa. This installment kicks off with the murder of a security guard in a major company. It’s a relatively well made, although not especially cinematic story with plenty of talkative scenes at the crime scene and in the police headquarters. Chiba has a supporting role as one of the detectives. He’s not bad, but his lack of experience shows when he’s surrounded by the series’ regular cast. He sometimes looks like he's waiting for his turn to speak.

* Original title: Keishichô monogatari: Fuzai shomei (警視庁物語 不在証明)

* Director: Shoichi Shimazu
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

Crime scene
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Detectives
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Chiba
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More Chiba!
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Edited by Takuma

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Police Department Story: 15 Year Old Woman (Japan, 1961) [VoD] – 3.5/5
The 16th film in the Police Department Story series marks a notable improvement over the previous instalment, even though they were most likely shot back-to-back. Sonny Chiba returns to his co-starring role as one of the detectives inspecting the case of a 15 year old girl, whose dead body was discovered floating in a river. As usual, the film runs only one hour and doesn’t depart too far from the usual formula; however, it greatly benefits from frequent outdoor locations that were missing from the previous film. It also touches far more serious topics, such as child abuse and mental insanity, and even utilises Rashomon-like storytelling techniques to some extent. The last scene especially is haunting and echoes far more talented filmmakers like Kurosawa. Chiba has also greatly improved his acting with a far more confident performance, including a lot of small gestures even when his character is only in the background.

* Original title: Keishichô monogatari: 15 sai no onna (警視庁物語 十五才の女)

* Director: Shoichi Shimazu
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

Title screen
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Crime scene
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Chiba
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This shot reminds me of Kurosawa's High and Low... and it's not the only one in the film
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More Chiba
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More Chiba
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I like Chiba's acting in many of the scenes where he's only in the background
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The victim when she was still alive
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Chiba finds the murder weapon
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Edited by Takuma

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Love that quote - "even a bad Chiba film has at least one good thing going for it: Chiba" how true is that! I really wish I could of got out to LA and met him earlier this year, I'll have to pay attention to see if he gets to another event in the future. One of the older members put her pic on fb shaking his hand, I had to remind her that hand ripped a ball sack off back in '74.

 

Chiba looks so young in your first two reviews, looking forward to more, maybe I'll get to adding a few myself, though I'm still bummed after reading he's barely in GI Samurai.

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One of the older members put her pic on fb shaking his hand, I had to remind her that hand ripped a ball sack off back in '74.

:laugh

 

maybe I'll get to adding a few myself

You should :thumbsup

 

though I'm still bummed after reading he's barely in GI Samurai.

He's "barely" in Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (actually, he probably has about 15 minutes of screen time, so more than "barely"). He's the leading man in G.I. Samurai with about 2½ hours of screen time :laugh
 
Try to spot Hiroyuki Sanada and Hiroko Yakushimaru in G.I. Samurai!
 

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Drifting Detective: Tragedy in the Red Valley (Japan, 1961) [DVD] – 2.5/5
Kinji Fukasaku started his career with this Japanese gunplay Western set in the snowy mountains. A local farmer family is being harassed by a rich businessman and his goons who are after their land. The film was highly influenced by both American Westerns as well as Japanese watadori (drifter) films. The 21 year old Sonny Chiba stars in his first leading man role as a wandering detective who takes a stand against the bad guys. It’s fun seeing the two talents together for the first time, and the action scenes and cinematography are terrific. However, the film is a bit too goofy on its own right, with constant joking, comic book style characters and comic timing that is sometimes a bit off. You can see Chiba and co-star Harumi Sone are trying a bit too hard to be fun and energetic.

* Original title: Fûraibô tantei: Akai tani no sangeki (風来坊探偵 赤い谷の惨劇)

* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

Lovely visuals
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Chiba
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Harumi Sone
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Bad guys
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Edited by Takuma

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Drifting Detective: Black Wind in the Harbour (Japan, 1961) [DVD] – 2.5/5
Fukasaku and Chiba are back in a sequel filmed with the same cast and released just two weeks after the first film. This time the storyline is set in a small seaside town and favours detective and watadori film influences over westerns. Like its predecessor, the film runs barely over one hour and never drags. It's a little less goofy, but doesn't have as beautiful landscapes the first movie had. Not a classic, but for fans of Fukasaku and Chiba it's an entertaining if flawed 60 minutes.  

* Original title: Fûraibô tantei: Misaki o wataru kuroi kaze (風来坊探偵 岬を渡る黒い風)

* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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+ a couple of cool stills from the Toei DVD

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Edited by Takuma

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Invasion of the Neptune Men (Japan, 1961) [DVD] – 3/5
Sonny Chiba is Iron Sharp – a superhero who must fight alien invaders who arrive in flying saucers. The campy sci-fi adventure has a lot to be enjoyed: an awesome superhero mobile, good special effects (better than the 2014 Godzilla film if you ask me), aliens watching terrestrial TV in outer space, and of course Chiba! At 74 minutes the film never drags. The alien costumes are leave something to be desired, though: they're not even men in rubber suits, but men in plastic suits. Some of the destruction also appears to be archive footage. The film somehow ended up in the IMDb bottom 100, which probably has more to do with dubbed and cropped versions distributed in the US than the original Japanese version which is solid fun.

* Original title: Uchu Kaisoku-sen (宇宙快速船)

* Director: Koji Ohta
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles), Dark Sky Films DVD (USA) (Eng dub)

Title screen
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Chiba the superhero and his mobile!
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Chiba the scientist
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Many have called these kids irritating, but I didn't think so at all. Again, maybe an issue with dubbed version?
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Evil aliens
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Karate vs. Alien
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Edited by Takuma

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Police Department Story: 12 Detectives (Japan, 1961) [VoD] – 2/5
This is an unusually long episode in the Police Department Story series, which reached its 17th instalment here. At 88 minutes it runs a third longer than the previous two films which were helmed by a different director. Unfortunately the extended running time has not translated into increased ambition. Instead, it feels like a direct adaptation of the written story, with few cinematic tricks thrown in. The storyline is bigger than before, but also lacking the melancholy and sensitive themes that made the previous film so interesting. It’s still a passable movie with nothing totally wrong about, but hardly a very memorable one. Sonny Chiba is again solid in his supporting role, but his character is given little to do and gets less screen time than before. This was the third and last time he appeared in the series which would still run for another 7 films.

* Original title: Keishichô monogatari: 12 nin no keiji (警視庁物語 十二人の刑事)

* Director: Shinji Murayama
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

I seem to have screwed up and forgot to take screencaps for this one. Or at least I can't find them.

So, instead of screencaps, here are the posters for the three Police Department Story films Chiba appears in
sp3.jpgsp4.jpgsp5.jpg

 
 
 
 
Edited by Takuma

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Hepcat in the Funky Hat (Japan, 1961) [35mm] – 3.5/5
Sonny Chiba plays a happy-go-lucky son of a detective, who always manages to get himself in trouble, but comes out saving the day. It’s the third directorial effort by Kinji Fukasaku – the first two also starred Chiba – and already full of that madcap energy and camerawork he’s famous for, but without any of the nihilism. In fact, this one of his most positive films, a shameless celebration of youth, where the old men are left eating the dust. At 53 minutes the film moves at lightning speed, though in the hands of any other director it would have ran at least 20 minutes longer. It’s packed with youthful energy, groovy jazz, cute girls, and early 60’s pop-cinema, and comes with a very enjoyable performance by the young Chiba.

* Original title: (ファンキーハットの快男児)

* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Edited by Takuma

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Hepcat in the Funky Hat: 200 000 Yen Arm (Japan, 1961) [DVD] – 3/5
A solid sequel which however put more emphasis on plotting than the 60’s youth culture. This time the plot is about a young baseball player whose market value is more important for the greedy adults than his health. It’s a nice piece of entertainment by Fukasaku and Chiba, but more conventional than the first film. Cute and energetic female lead Hitomi Nakahara also returns, playing a different but similar role as last time.

* Original title: (ファンキーハットの快男児 2千万円の腕)

* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Edited by Takuma

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The Escape (Japan, 1962) [35mm] – 3/5
An entertaining military / "caper" mix based on the February 26th Incident in 1936, which saw a large number of rebel soldiers attempting a coup d'état in Tokyo. The film shows the raid on the prime minister’s house and follows the military police’s attempts to rescue the minister, whom the enemy thinks is already dead, without anyone realizing a rescue operation is being carried out. It’s a dialogue driven film with some exiting action in the beginning and end. Sonny Chiba has a small role as one of the soldiers. Ken Takakura is the real lead as the head of the military police.

* Original title: ni ni roku jiken: Dasshutsu (二・二六事件 脱出)

* Director: Tsuneo Kobayashi
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

No screencaps for this as I've only seen it on 35mm (a VoD is available in Japan, though), but here are some stills.

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Takakura
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Chiba on the right
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Edited by Takuma

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The Kamikazes (Japan, 1962) [VoD] – 2.5/5
The 1960s saw Japanese war movies becoming popular mainstream hits, and subsequently drifting towards more nationalistic tones after a number of pacifist classics that had played to international recognition in the 1950s. The output ranged from harmless adventures to patriotic melodramas. The Kamikazes leans towards the latter, but it’s still a pretty decent movie most of the time. The film follows both kamikaze pilots and human torpedo pilots – the latter being a less commonly discussed but highly interesting topic. Some of the nationalistic emphasis drags the film down, but the battle scenes, both air and underwater, are highly effective. Sonny Chiba has a pretty big supporting role as a kamikaze pilot. It’s a solid performance, but not especially memorable.   

* Original title: Minami taiheiyo nami takashi (南太平洋波高し)
* Director: Kunio Watanabe
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

Takakura as a submarine captain
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Tetsuro Tamba is a human torpedo
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Chiba...
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...who plays a kamikaze pilot
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Gambler (Japan, 1962) [DVD] – 2/5
Meiji era set gambling/family melodrama – not a yakuza film like Toei’s better known gambler films – by veteran Daisuke Ito, who started directing films in the 1920s. The film looks and feels charmingly old fashioned: especially the beautiful sets seemingly built on a mountain or a big hill facing Osaka are atmospheric. Solid execution all-around. However, it’s also very much a teary melodrama – a genre not made for this viewer – with crying scenes coming in ever increasing pace towards the end. Sonny Chiba has a relatively small role as the protagonist’s (Rentaro Mikuni) apprentice. Most of his scenes are during the last 20 minutes and don’t give him much to do.

* Original title: Osho (王将)
* Director: Daisuke Ito
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

Rentaro Mikuni
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Chiba on the right
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Chiba again
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Love, the Sun and the Gang (Japan, 1962) [DVD] – 2.5/5
The second film in the Gang series, which is linked only by theme and title. Ken Takakura, Tetsuro Tamba and a bunch of other crooks plan on robbing a casino run by foreigners. Of course, most of the gangsters are merely looking for a chance to double-cross their partners. A decently made but unremarkable, jazz-tuned, highly noirish caper by Teruo Ishii. Takakura stars in one of his early “punk roles”, as opposed to the stoic hero roles he later became famous for. The middle part is quite talkative, but there’s some energy to the visual style. Sonny Chiba appears in a small supporting role as a helicopter pilot. He has a couple of good scenes near the end, but the screen time is limited to a couple of minutes.

* Original title: Koi to taiyo to gang (恋と太陽とギャング)
* Director: Teruo Ishii
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Tamba
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Takakura and Tamba
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Gang vs. G-Men (Japan, 1962) [DVD] – 4/5
The young Sonny Chiba is fabulous in this wildly entertaining Kinji Fukasaku film. It’s the 4th movie in the very loosely related Gang series. This instalment sees former gangster (Koji Tsuruta) brought back to action when the police needs his help to bring down a dangerous gang lead by Tetsuro Tamba. Chiba plays an enthusiastic young man who goes undercover even though it's obviously more than he can handle. Critic Mark Schilling aptly described his character as "the seventh samurai" of this story. Though not an all time classic like some of Fukasaku's later movies, it's a very stylish and entertaining film full of 1960s cool. Chiba, bursting with youthful charm and energy, is the film’s biggest asset. This is one of his best performances, often leaving superstars like Tamba and Tsuruta in his shadow, and marked the beginning of his best era as an actor.

* Original title: Yakuza tai G Men (ギャング対Gメン)
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Tsuruta and his gang
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Bad guy Tamba
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Enter Chiba
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Chiba the cool
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Chiba and Tsuruta
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Superb shot
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Tale of A Company Boss: Part 5 (Japan, 1963) [VoD] - 2.5/5
The 5th (or 6th, depending on how you count) part in a series of salaryman comedies. Old man Eitarô Shindô, young fella Katsuo Nakamura and future pinky violence comic relief Toru Yuri run a travel agency whose latest customer turns out to be bunch of mischievous elementary school kids. They end up travelling the country with the singing and goofing kids while Nakamura falls in love with their teacher (Hitomi Nakahara from Hepcat in the Funky Hat) and Shindô and Yuri have the hots for a geisha. It's not a bad film for what it is: fans of the genre should be entertained, even though the film is hardly exceptional. Fans of Chiba should be warned, though: his role as Nakamura's old student pal is only about 45 seconds.

* Original title: Jirocho shacho to Ishimatsu shacho: Yasugi bushidochu (次郎長社長と石松社員 安来ぶし道中)
* Director: Masaharu Segawa
* Chiba's role: Cameo role
* Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

Shindô
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Yuri with a geisha
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Customers
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Shindô and Yuri
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Chiba
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Chiba with Nakahara
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Nakamura and Nakahara
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The Loyal 47 Gangsters (Japan, 1963) [VoD] - 2/5
A modern gangster film reworking of the 47 Ronin story, where an innocent lord is forced to commit harakiri, but his loyal samurai swear for revenge. In this version Ken Takakura is a young gang boss tricked by the villainous Toru Abe. His underlings, lead by Chiezo Kataoka, start planning for revenge after Takakura dies in jail. Fans of the original story may be interested in seeing how the modern aspect is executed, but otherwise this is a relatively uninspired yakuza film. It doesn't help that it's remarkably slow paced, originally intended as the first half of an epic; however, part 2 never surfaced. The biggest point of interest is probably setting some of the scenes in Paris. Sonny Chiba plays one of the gangsters, but his role is sadly very small and forgettable.

* Original title: Gang Chusingura (ギャング忠臣蔵)
* Director: Shigero Ozawa
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

Takakura and Abe in Paris (see the background)
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Chiezo Kataoka
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Chiba loses his temper
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Yakuza's Song (Japan, 1963) [VoD] - 3.5/5
This is one of Chiba's best early starring roles, an enjoyable crossover between Toei's old fashioned yakuza cinema and the kind of youthful love story set in the criminal world you'd find in Nikkatsu's films. Sonny Chiba plays a low ranking yakuza who spends more time enjoying life than doing the yakuza work. He falls in love with a pretty student girl, whose brother (Saburo Kitajima) later gets drawn into the yakuza business against his own wishes. The film is charmingly old fashioned, utilizing many studio sets and Showa era music; however, the film's real strength is the breezy romance between Chiba and lovely Chiyoko Honma. Early/mid 60s was the time when Chiba was at his best as an actor, and here he finds just the right balance between youthful energy and seriousness. It also doesn't hurt the dressing department seems determined to make Chiba look as cool as possible, and that composer Tooru Funamura provides a cool, highly spaghetti esque score. The film may not add anything new to the genre, and the storyline is strictly standard stuff, but as an enjoyable programmer picture the film delivers!

* Original title: Yakuza no uta (やくざの歌)
* Director: Miki Wakabayashi
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Video on Demand (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Kaigun (Japan, 1963) [DVD] - 3.5/5
A tale of two best friends in the WWII era Japan. Takao (Sonny Chiba) is a young man enthusiastic about joining the navy to fight for his country. He convinces his best friend Shinji (Kinya Kitaoji) to join him. As it turns out, however, Takao's poor health prevents him from entering the navy while his friend is chosen instead. As time goes by, Takao becomes a painter and changes his mind about the meaningfulness of war and fighting, while his friend goes the opposite path. Meanwhile Takao's sister falls in love with Shinji. This is a well made war time drama with decent characters and good performances. It is especially enjoyable to see Chiba in a very atypical quiet drama role. This is by far one of his most restrained performances, yet his usual energy and youthful charm are constantly bubbling under. Although he is not the film's main character - that is Shinji - his role is pretty major and easily the film's best.

* Original title: 海軍
* Director: Shinji Murayama
* Chiba's role: Major supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

Young men eager to fight for their country
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But only Kitaoji gets chosen
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Disappointed Chiba...
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who later finds a few life as an artist
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unfortunately we do not get see when he drew that picture...
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I'm gonna be heading for Christmas holidays soon, and I'll be leaving my laptop behind, so Chiba reviews will become irregular for the next few weeks. I'll save a few in my email so if I have time, I may post a few every now and then. Expect more next year. I still have more than 3 dozen reviews left...

 
 

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Thank you for reviewing these films, I never knew about these earlier 60's chiba films.  Are any of these available with english subtitles?

A few of them may have subbed bootlegs (possibily the 2nd Funky Hat and 1st Drifting Detective); official releases, no (unless I've mentioned otherwise).

 
 

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