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Takuma

Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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On 12/12/2016 at 10:40 AM, Takuma said:

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.

Original Teaser with footage not in the film
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@Karlos , @wigsplitta and I have discussed how this film almost feels like "the rest of" the first film, and that we almost always wind up watching both films back to back. A perfect double-bill!

I agree with you that plot-wise RETURN is inferior, but the plethora of action more than makes up for it. 

I looked on Youtube but had no luck... can you tell us where you saw the teaser trailer with the extra footage?

 

On 12/12/2016 at 10:41 AM, Takuma said:

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.

JP Poster 1
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JP Poster 2
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The most annoying thing for me was that they changed voice actors between RETURN and this one (the first two used the same voice actor), losing the perfect, gravelly voice for Tsurugi, for what I felt was a much less suitable suave-sounding English dub voice. I definitely wasn't thrilled about the James Bondish change in the character either, preferring his more down-and-dirty methods, but still find this film highly enjoyable.

I have the Japanese theatrical posters for all three STREET FIGHTER films (with RETURN being my favorite), and also the bottom half of the 2-piece LAST REVENGE poster you have pictured up above. It was given as a gift, but oh how I wish I had the top half too! :cry:

Here's that killer poster for RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER (plus a great "I'll stomp your guts out!" photo)...

 

 

On 12/12/2016 at 10:41 AM, Takuma said:

About the cuts

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.
 

- 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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Long ago I was incorrectly told that LAST REVENGE was released uncut by New Line, so seeing the additional footage when I watched the Optimum DVD release was a wonderful surprise. Though, as you said, it's not that much more graphic, the addition of the gut-pulling scene was such a "Tsurugi moment", and I was thrilled to see that.

Despite being used in each film, I never tire of seeing that flashback scene and hearing it's narration. For me it's akin to hearing the Superman music swell (in the original, '78 film) before he flies, except a much darker, here comes the bone-snapping sort of prelude. :xd:

RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER- Japanese poster.JPG

RETURN OF THE STREETFIGHTER- I'll stomp your guts out!.jpg

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4 hours ago, KUNG FU BOB said:

@Takuma does this film or its sequel contain any karate fighting, or are they mainly gunplay films? Looks like there's a bit of katana swinging...

 

The second one had a bit of martial arts, mainly Chiba getting beaten by a couple of enemy bodyguards (Chiba's character is given almost no fighting skills). The first film is just gunplay.

 

4 hours ago, KUNG FU BOB said:

I looked on Youtube but had no luck... can you tell us where you saw the teaser trailer with the extra footage?

It's on the Toei DVD. Many other Toei DVDs also contain teasers with unique footage, e.g. Shogun's Ninja, Roaring Fire, The Killing Machine.

 

4 hours ago, KUNG FU BOB said:

I've been enjoying reading this thread so much while I'm laid up. Thanks very much for creating it, and for re-posting everything that was lost when the server crashed.

Glad to hear that. I've still got more reviews coming up when I find time.

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Samurai Reincarnation (Japan, 1981) [35mm] - 4/5

Sonny Chiba plays legendary samurai Jubei Yagyu (for the 4th time) in this unique swordplay horror epic that seamlessly mixes historical characters with supernatural fantasy. Jubei has to encounter an army of evil made of defeated swordsmen brought back to life by fallen Christian Shiro Amakusa (Kenji Sawada).

The film was based on a novel by the frequently adapted ninja exploitation author Futaro Yamada (Kunoichi Ninpo, 1964; Ninja's Mark, 1968; Ninja Wars, 1982) and co-produced by Toei and Haruki Kadokawa, with a budget of 500 million yen (roughly 5 million USD in modern currency). Hideo Gosha was originally set to direct, but he was replaced by Kinji Fukasaku after Gosha was arrested for possession of illegal weapons.

Considering the large budget, it is amazing how dark and atypical the film is. From the "hell on earth" opening with thousands of decapitated bodies lying on ground to a storyline that spends its entire first hour following villains, and Jubei Yagyu fighting the beloved Musashi Miyamoto who has turned into a zombie, this truly goes against conventions.

Sonny Chiba designed the film's action scenes, including the stunning final duel against Wakayama in a burning castle that still makes audiences wonder how the hell did they do that? Reportedly, almost everyone suffered burns during the filming. Modern CGI spectacles look pathetic in comparison.

It's an atmospheric, unforgettable film that will not please all viewers. The slow pacing alone may turn out a challenge for some, but it also works to the film's benefit. When Jubei Yagyu , armed with a sword that would "cut even God were you to encounter him" finally encounters Musashi Miyamoto about 1.5 hours into the film, the tension has reached a level few swordplay films can match.

* Original title: Makai tensho (魔界転生)
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Starring Role
* Film availability: Media Blasters DVD (USA), IVL DVD (Hong Kong)

Kenji Sawada
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Chiba
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Jubei Yagyu vs Musashi Miyamoto
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Ken Ogata is almost unrecognizable as Musashi Miyamoto
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Tomisaburo Wakayama
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Ninja Wars (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 3.5/5
An enjoyable big budget ninja actioner with a relatively high exploitation factor for what is essentially an idol film. Hiroyuki Sanada stars, Kadokawa idol Noriko Watanabe is his ninja girlfriend who is captured and killed by evil monks who need a virgin's tears to produce a love potion that will help them rule the country. Sonny Chiba has a small but important supporting role as a mysterious ninja who is assisting Sanada. Violence and sex are prominent although not very graphic, but it's love that conquers all in a surprisingly romantic climax. As an 80s Kadokawa production it's a far more commercial film than the 70s genre flicks, and features far superior production values. The film was the year's 3rd most popular Japanese film at the box office (a double feature with Dirty Hero)

* Original title: Iga ninpôchô (伊賀忍法帖)
* Director: Kôsei Saitô
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Kadokawa BD (Japan) (no subs)

Sanada and Watanabe
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Chiba
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Yes, this is the film with monks throwing up acid!
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Chiba
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Legend of the Eight Samurai (Japan, 1983) [DVD] - 4/5
An extremely entertaining samurai fantasy based on the Satomi hakkenden story, which Kinji Fukasaku had already adapted into a disappointing sci-fi film Message from Space a few years before. It's unmistakably a Kadokawa production, with fine production values and superstar cast starring Hiroko Yakushimaru and JAC sweetheart Hiroyuki Sanada at the height of their idolhood. Sanada in terrific physical shape at the time and Yakushimaru, one of the cutest girls ever to grace Japanese cinema, had the kind of freshness about her performances that other idols couldn't even dream of. Sonny Chiba and Etsuko Shihomi are an added bonus. The sets are wonderfully over the top, the film is colourful and there is a genuine feel of a fantasy adventure. Special effects vary between great and amusingly cheesy. The soundtrack, with songs by Dan O'Banion, contains more greatness than is humanly possible to express in words. An utterly enjoyable (and enduringly popular in Japan) piece of pop samurai cinema for boys; only a notch behind Fukasaku's finest films.

This was the top grossing Japanese film of 1984 (released December 1983).

* Original title: Satomi hakkenden (里見八犬伝)
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Adness DVD (USA), Kadokawa BD (Japan) (no subs)

Chiba
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Hiroko and Sanada
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Hiroko taking bath
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Hiroko looking cute
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Evil woman bathing
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Kabamaru the Ninja Boy (Japan, 1983) [TV] - 2/5

Exploitation film favourite Norifumi Suzuki delivers one of his most family friendly films with this silly action comedy based on a manga. It follows a teenage ninja boy (Hikaru Kurosaki) from the mountains entering a Japanese high school, trying to charm a pretty girl (super-cute Kumiko Takeda) and competing against another school's sports team. It was a Japan Action Club production with their rising stars (Kurosaki, Junya Takagi, Hiroyuki Sanada) in the lead roles. Unfortunately most of the action is strictly comedic and rather underwhelming except for a few nice stunts. Sonny Chiba appears in a small supporting role as a ninja master, while Hiroyuki Sanada is a woman-like, long haired club leader. Another similar, slightly better Suzuki / JAC ninja comedy, Leave it to Kotaro, followed in 1984. Trivia: Kabamaru opened as a double feature with Jackie Chan's Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, and was the year's 10th most popular Japanese film.

* Original title: Kotaro makari tooru (伊賀野カバ丸)
* Director: Norifumi Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: VHS (Japan).  [Review format: TV]

Believe or not, that's Sonny Chiba on the left
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And that's Hiroyki Sanada
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Chiba again
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Leave it to Kotaro (Japan, 1984) [35mm] - 2.5/5
Another typical mid-80s Japan Action Club film, again based on a manga, directed by Norifumi Suzuki, starring Hikaru Kurosaki, and favouring comedy over action. It's about a mischievous modern teenage ninja (Kurosaki) who spends his days hanging upside down in front of girls' dressing room window. There are more panty shots than you can keep track of. Other students finally get sick of him and put a reward up for his beloved long hair. Then a blonde Caucasian girl arrives the school and falls in love with the pervert ninja, which leads to the film's best, and dumbest, laughs. It's a silly, mostly entertaining but a bit overlong comedy with some action and stunts. Hiroyuki Sanada and Etsuko Shihomi play supporting roles, and Sonny Chiba makes a quest visit in a fully English language role. Suzuki did much better with the more action oriented Roaring Fire a few years earlier.

* Original title: Kotaro makari tooru (コータローまかりとおる!)
* Director: Norifumi Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: VHS (Japan)  [Review format: 35mm]

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The Last True Yakuza (Japan, 1985) [DVD] - 2/5
Kosaku Yamashita was one of the best ninkyo yakuza directors back in the 1960s, but he never seemed quite that comfortable with contemporary films. This yakuza epic suffers from a typical 80s approach to the subject matter. It leans more towards human drama than yakuza mayhem. The production values are fine, but the film suffers from a lame delivery, bloated 125 minute running time, and an intended female audience appeal that never worked well with yakuza films - all symptoms of the decade. Sonny Chiba has small but decent supporting role as a simple minded, expendable gangster who is ordered to carry out a hit. Hiroki Matsukata is the real star, with other big names such as Koji Tsuruta (in his last role) and Tetsuro Tamba making brief appearances along the way.

* Original title: Saigo no bakuto (最後の博徒)
* Director: Kosaku Yamashita
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No Subs)

Matsukata
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Tamba and Tsurura
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On 1/16/2017 at 10:14 PM, Takuma said:

The second one had a bit of martial arts, mainly Chiba getting beaten by a couple of enemy bodyguards (Chiba's character is given almost no fighting skills). The first film is just gunplay.

 

It's on the Toei DVD. Many other Toei DVDs also contain teasers with unique footage, e.g. Shogun's Ninja, Roaring Fire, The Killing Machine.

 

Glad to hear that. I've still got more reviews coming up when I find time.

Thanks for the answers @Takuma.

Just caught up, reading the rest of this thread. I'm loving it man. Really awesome. :bigsmile:

Not sure if you saw where I asked about it earlier, but I was wondering if there's any chance you'd consider posting your longer, Finnish review of THE STREET FIGHTER here? :nerd:

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3 hours ago, KUNG FU BOB said:

Not sure if you saw where I asked about it earlier, but I was wondering if there's any chance you'd consider posting your longer, Finnish review of THE STREET FIGHTER here? :nerd:

Probably not. I'm pretty happy with the English version and I think it contains the most important points. The Finnish one is longer because it was written to be more "coherent" and also understandable for people who may not know anything about the film. The English version was intended for readers who already know something about Chiba and probably have seen the film. So, instead of the contents (that most people here would be familiar with) I focused on the production background.

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Yakuza Warfare (Japan, 1991) [DVD] - 2/5

A typical early 90s yakuza drama, made long after the genre's demise. Toei had ruled the yakuza cinema first with the chivalrous ninkyo films in the 60s, then with the documentary style jitsuroku films in the 70s. As genre cinema become something of a dirty word at Toei in the 80s, the yakuza films also transformed - to the worse. They became over-long, all-star character dramas which lacked the kind of explosive energy of the jitsuroku films or the unrealistic but charming tall tales of the ninkyo films. Instead they emphasized 80s greyness - some sort of everyday realism that forbid excitement - and melodramatic storylines that weren't all that interesting or original.

Yakuza Warfare starts well enough: two gangster buddies conduct an attack in enemy headquarters in favour of their clan. One manages to escape, the other is arrested and thrown in prison. Years later the when the latter is released from prison, the former has become a successful yakuza, but the game has changed. The yakuza are now suit wearing businessmen who don't want too much trouble with the authorities. Lots of slow-moving, un-engaging drama ensues before the predictable climax. The small amount of action featured in the film only reminds of what it lacks: balls and attitude. Sonny Chiba has a small and rather forgettable supporting role as one of the yakuza bosses.

* Original title: Gokudô sensô: Butôha (極道戦争 武闘派)
* Director: Sadao Nakajima
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No Subs)

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Chiba
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Chiba and Tamba
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Triple Cross (Japan, 1992) [DVD] - 3/5
Kinji Fukasaku returned to the streets after a long hiatus from gangster movies. A group of veteran criminals (including Chiba in a supporting role) receive tip about a money truck from a young hothead (Kazuya Kimura). Things go badly wrong. Unusual to Fukasaku, the film portrays the older generation in a positive light while the youngsters have gone completely crazy. Especially Chiba's young, attention hungry girlfriend (Keiko Oginome) becomes an endurance test for the audience. There's also a rock band/ rock music theme that feels out of place. Fukasaku fares much better with the veteran actors and in creating suspense and action. There is a long, brilliantly edited car chase near the end that is probably the second finest chase scene in Japanese cinema, only second to Fukasaku's own Violent Panic: The Big Crash (1976).

* Original title:  Itsuka giragira suru hi (いつかギラギラする日)
* Director: Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Mia DVD (UK), Shochiku DVD (Japan) (No subs)  

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Chiba on the left
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Chiba
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Keiko Oginome
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The car chases alone make the film worth seeing
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Edited by Takuma

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Iron Eagle III: Aces (USA, 1992) [DVD] - 3.5/5

The first of the three American films Sonny Chiba made in the early/mid 90s, following the box office disaster of Yellow Fangs that had bankrupted Chiba. He was no doubt looking for a new career path abroad. Hollywood did not discover Chiba, sadly, but his adventures in the States did produce three under-rated b-films, of which Iron Eagle III: Aces was the best. The underrated action adventure was helmed by Bond director John Glen in much the same a fashion as his Roger Moore films.

Louis Gossett Jr. makes a likeable hero as an air force pilot who discovers a drug smuggling plot by the Raiders of the Lost Ark villain Paul Freeman. He gathers a team of 4 pilots, including Japanese kamikaze Chiba, to take down the bad guys. Since it's a personal rescue/revenge mission, they have to rely on whatever equipment they can get their hands into, in this case WWII era planes.

It's a remarkably dumb, but very enjoyable film with some bravura action, stunt and comedy moments. Chiba is often left with nothing to do in the early scenes, but he becomes a major character towards the end. There are times when his English is a bit difficult to understand, though. Busty bodybuilding champion Rachel McLish is there as well to please the eye, and kick some ass as female Rambo.

* Japanese title:  エイセス/大空の誓い
* Director: John Glen
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), New Line DVD (USA), Maxam BD (Japan)

Louis Gossett Jr
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Chiba
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Rachel McLish
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Immortal Combat (USA, 1994) - 3/5
Roddy Piper and Sonny Chiba are two cops follow a seemingly supernatural serial killer to a small island, where some sort of crazy villains are developing immortal fighters. This is a B-movie in and out, with plenty of below the par acting and nonsensical writing. At the same time it's lots of fun with Chiba being great in the fight scenes, which are better than the film's straight-to-video roots would have you expect. Not only does get to do hand-to-hand fighting and swordplay, he also goes full on ninja mode towards the end. Sadly, he's absent most of the film's middle third. Roddy Piper, who is the main star, is less impressive. Limited production values don't stick out too much as the film uses its locations quite well. Interestingly enough, the film resembles Mortal Kombat (1995) quite a bit.

* Japanese title:  リゾート・トゥ・キル (Resort to Kill)
* Director: Dan Neira
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Simitar DVD (US) (OOP), Youtube (uploaded by the director)

Chiba and Roddy Piper
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The dude getting his ass kicked in Tommy 'Tiny' Lister
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Codename: Silencer (USA, 1995) [DVD] - 2.5/5
A pair of American cops (Robert Davi & Steve Bauer) are targeted by a crazy Asian assassin (Sonny Chiba) who managed to escape prison thanks to a big breasted fan (Brigitte Nielsen) helping him for God only knows why. Very much a product of the 90s, when a premise such as this could still pass for a movie plot. It's sloppily directed and features a piss poor score, but always remains moderately entertaining in a trashy way. Action ranges from slightly impressive (car stunts) to laughable ("high speed" tram chase), and technical execution is on the level "boom mics visible". Co-produced by Toei Video (who were quite active in the American b-action market), Chiba is given a good role and frequently steals the show. He almost becomes the main character in some parts of the film. The female cast is as follow: the bust (Brigitte Nielsen), the ass (Cindy Ambuehl), the nudity (random strippers). While no one would make the mistake of calling this a good film, it's got enough things of interesting to warrant a viewing if you're a fan of one of the stars. Otherwise, probably not.

* Japanese title:  ザ・サイレンサー(The Silencer). English aka: Body Count
* Director: Talun Hsu
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Ardustry Home Entertainment DVD (USA) (OOP), Allumination / Source One Entertainment DVD (4 Movie Pack) (USA)

Chiba
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Robert Davi & Steve Bauer
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The bust
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The ass (I really wish we had widescreen presentation)
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The random strippers
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Chiba and Nielsen
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I have no idea why Robert Davi('s stuntman) is hanging on to a tram when he could easily run faster
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Edited by Takuma

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The Storm Riders (Hong Kong, 1998) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Sonny Chiba has a surprisingly good and large role in this otherwise terrible big budget Hong Kong fantasy. Chiba is an evil lord who raises the sons of his dead enemies as his own. The kids grow up to be swordsmen who look just like boy band members. The film looks very much like a mixture of a 90s video game (with excessive use of primitive CGI) and television drama. Fights are mostly computer and wire assisted. If there is something good about it except for Chiba, it would be the way the film treats bad guys as central characters and makes them quite sympathetic. Chiba has plenty of screen time, as well as many fight scenes, but the Cantonese dub robs him of his charismatic voice. Frustrated with his, I was switching back and forth between Cantonese and Japanese audio tracks until I realized that while Chiba sounds better in Japanese, everyone else sucks in both languages, and it's better to watch the whole thing in Japanese.

* Japanese title:  風雲 ストームライダーズ
* Director: Andrew Lau
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: loads of dvd releases

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The special effects look a bit dated...
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Chiba steals your ladies
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This scene isn't quite as terrible as the rest of the film
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This is how Chiba does the X-ray punch
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Edited by Takuma

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Explosive City (Hong Kong, 2004) [DVD] - 3/5
Japanese female assassin sent by a gangster boss (Sonny Chiba) is captured in Hong Kong after she fails a political hit. Unremarkable but nevertheless enjoyable crime film works suffers from some fashionable fast editing and shaky cam used to speed up the pace (not just action). Plot and storyline are surprisingly functional despite lacking in originality, and the closing scene is very stylish. Alex Fong and the bilingual Hisako Shirata make uncharismatic leads, but Simon Yam and Sonny Chiba stand out in their supporting roles. Chiba doesn't have terribly much to do, but it's still nice to have him there. He speaks his lines in Japanese. Eddy Ko and Suet Lam also appear briefly.

* Japanese title:  爆裂都市
* Director: Sam Leong
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Deltamac DVD (HK)

Simon Yam
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Eddy Ko
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Chiba
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Alex Fong and Hisako Shirata
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Edited by Takuma

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Sushi Girl (USA, 2012) [DVD] - 3/5
Five criminals get together several years after a failed diamond gig. Their aim is to find out who took the diamonds, the prime suspect being the new guy who got caught by the cops and was just released from prison. A needlessly nasty, Reservoir Dogs meets Torture Porn variation is nevertheless an effective crime film with an underlying (very) black comedy aspect. It's well enough written to keep you attention till the very end, although it may not eventually make as much sense as it should. There are several good performances as well, with Mark Hamill being a standout as a disgustingly sadistic and (intentionally) irritating psychopath. The title refers to the wonderful Japanese tradition of using a naked woman as a human sushi plate, with the men's meal placed on her body by chef Sonny Chiba, who instructs the lady prior to the clients' arrival “don’t move a muscle, whatever you see.” It's adds a rather interesting element to the film. Chiba himself only has a couple of minutes of screen time.

* Japanese title: Sushi Girl
* Director: Kern Saxton
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Various DVD releases

Sonny Chiba
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Mark Hamill
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Danny Trejo and Michael Biehn
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On ‎19‎/‎02‎/‎2017 at 2:43 AM, Takuma said:

The Storm Riders (Hong Kong, 1998) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Sonny Chiba has a surprisingly good and large role in this otherwise terrible big budget Hong Kong fantasy. Chiba is an evil lord who raises the sons of his dead enemies as his own. The kids grow up to be swordsmen who look just like boy band members. The film looks very much like a mixture of a 90s video game (with excessive use of primitive CGI) and television drama.

Back in the early 2000s, a lot of reviewers, especially B-movie reviewers who were casual HK movie fans, couldn't stop singing praises for this movie. I watched it in the late 90s and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why people liked it so much. I watched again in 2004 and felt the same way. I watched a few scenes from it last night and still feel the same way. People praised the two duels between Sonny Chiba and Alex Fong--the bamboo forest duel and the flying sword fight around a Buddha statue--but there was very little actual choreography to them and they were rather short, too. I mean, there was probably 30 seconds of actual choreography from Dion Lam and the rest was "stylish" câmera work, posing, and stuff like that. I wonder what this film's backers say about it now.

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Great reviews as always @Takuma.  Considering some of Chiba's US efforts (which I didn't even know about until reading your reviews) are readily available in those cheap multi-pack sets, I may check them out.  You mentioned 'Yellow Fangs' bankrupted Chiba, will you be reviewing this one at some point?  (Yeah I know it's easy to do a Google search and find plenty of them, but I'd rather read yours)

17 minutes ago, DrNgor said:

Back in the early 2000s, a lot of reviewers, especially B-movie reviewers who were casual HK movie fans, couldn't stop singing praises for this movie. I watched it in the late 90s and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why people liked it so much. I watched again in 2004 and felt the same way. I watched a few scenes from it last night and still feel the same way. People praised the two duels between Sonny Chiba and Alex Fong--the bamboo forest duel and the flying sword fight around a Buddha statue--but there was very little actual choreography to them and they were rather short, too. I mean, there was probably 30 seconds of actual choreography from Dion Lam and the rest was "stylish" câmera work, posing, and stuff like that. I wonder what this film's backers say about it now.

Most of the fuss around this one was about it being Hong Kong's first CGI spectacle movie.  Which I'm pretty sure it was.  Nowadays they're a dime a dozen ('League of Gods', 'The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom' etc.), but back in 1998 it was a fairly big deal.  This, along with 'A Man Called Hero' (my personal favorite of the 3) and 'The Duel' were looked at as Andrew Lau's CGI wuxia trilogy.  I'm not sure it would stand up today, or even if it was even that good at the time it was released, but to see that amount of CGI in a wuxia movie, considering the direction the genre has gone it, I'm sure you could arguably make a case for it being ahead of its time.

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1 hour ago, One Armed Boxer said:

Great reviews as always @Takuma.  Considering some of Chiba's US efforts (which I didn't even know about until reading your reviews) are readily available in those cheap multi-pack sets, I may check them out.  You mentioned 'Yellow Fangs' bankrupted Chiba, will you be reviewing this one at some point?  (Yeah I know it's easy to do a Google search and find plenty of them, but I'd rather read yours)

Thanks.

Maybe. I'd need to see it again. It's been a long time since I saw it. I remember it being very good, though.

I'll start Chiba review Round 2 soon. I'm not trying to cover everything, though. Just films / TV shows that I have watched or re-watched recently.

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Shuryo no michi 8 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 2/5
This yakuza film series is the DTV equivalent of a low budget television series, with 75 minutes episodes that continue from where the previous one left off. To extend the comparison, they are not too different from women's TV dramas; they just replace housewives with grumpy old yakuza and love stories with yakuza conflicts. The films do not fare especially well as standalone films. There isn't much to speak of in terms of production values or high quality; however, this instalment at least, is more watchable than one might expect. The film also has at least two undeniable assets: Sonny Chiba as one of the yakuza bosses, and Asami as his daughter. And they do karate sparring together.

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 8 (首領の道8)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

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Edited by Takuma

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Before I begin Chiba Reviews Round 2, I'd like to correct this popular non-sense story about Chiba's English name. Basically every English language biography from Wikipedia to August Ragone's article on Henshin Online claims Chiba was named Sonny after the Toyota Sunny S -commercials he was famous for.

This story is easily debunked. First of all, no such car as "Toyota Sunny S" even exists. "Sunny" was a brand for Nissan (Datsun), and Chiba never did commercials for Nissan. He was famous for Toyota Carina commercials.

While I have not read the book, the Japanese language wikipedia contains an explanation for Chiba's English name, with a reference to Chiba's own book 千葉流 サムライへの道 . In the 1960s when Chiba was not yet as much an action star as a handsome actor / idol, he was given a nickname Chiba-chan (Chiba-boy or Chiba-darling). Apparently the English name Sonny was chosen because the name comes from the word "son", hence you could argue it has similar connotation the Japanese word "chan".

* Japan is a pretty formal society where everyone gets called Mr. or Ms. In Japanese that is "san", e.g. Chiba-san. There is a less formal version of "san", which is "chan". This is often used in situations such as when adults speak to children, a boyfriend speaks to his girlfriend etc. The meaning is kind of like "darling" or "boy" or "girl" depending a bit on the situation. With Chiba it became something of an official nickname. When Chiba released a sports / workout manual in 1977, he was called Chiba-chan in the cover. When Cinema Vera had a film fest in 2014, it was called Chiba-chan matsuri, and so on.

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Sonny Chiba Reviews Round 2

New 7 Color Mask (Japan, 1960) [DVD] - 3/5

Sonny Chiba landed his very first acting role with a bit of luck. Drafted by Toei in 1959, he replaced Susumu Namishima is Toei's first ever superhero TV show 7 Color Mask after Namishima dropped out after 31 episodes. Chiba took his role as Detective Ran (the show was then renamed as New 7 Color Mask), a master of disguise fighting all sorts of foreign super villains threatening Japan, including "Golden King" and a middle east terrorist group using poison gas emitting spiders. Ran's ace in the sleeve was turning into an invincible masked superhero, 7 Color Mask. It's a world where kilt-wearing masked villains are running around in broad daylight, the police bow to a private detective who solves all crimes for them, and everybody is always fooled by the silliest of disguises. A bit of  child-like mindset is required from the viewer.

Chiba himself looks self-assured as stylish as hell in black suit, also benefiting from solid production values (the series was originally meant to be released as edited movie versions in theatres as well, hence shot on 35mm, though only Namishima's episodes made it to the silver screen). Chiba did all of his own stunts and fighting, with no "suit actor" (stunt performer for the superhero scenes) utilized in the show. The show's main liability is its unimaginative writing. Ran's invincibility always saves him from any trouble, and storylines tend to drag a bit until it's time for the bad guys to get caught.

Toei produced a total of 26 episodes of the show. Episodes 1-13 are included in Toei's recent 4 disc DVD set. Episode 14 is also featured as an extra. The rest will probably never be seen as, according to Toei's announcement, the negatives are lost. This seems to have been the case already back in the 1980s when the same 13 episodes were released on video. The positive news is that the series is made of independent story arcs, 1-13 episodes each. The DVD release contains the first two stories (episodes 1-6 and 7-13) in their entirety. The final story arch (episodes 14-26) is missing except for the first episode (14). It's a shame because that story looked very cool, but at least the first two stories can still be enjoyed.

* Original title: 新七色仮面 (Shin nana iro kamen)
* Director: Toshiro Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Starring Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs)

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Can you guess who this guy is?
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That's right! Chiba in disguise.
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Before Planet Terror! Before Sukeban Boy! The original machine gun leg!
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Edited by Takuma

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Mid-August Commotion (Japan, 1962) [TV] – 2.5/5
Toei's early 1962 release The Escape, which was one of the many films depicting the February 26th Incident of 1936, must have been a success since this movie, released in August, is almost a carbon copy. It is, however, loosely based on a different true story. This one deals with Japan's surrendering in WWII. On August 14-15 the surrendering declaration had already been prepared for broadcasting; however, a group of rebel soldiers attempted a coup d'état (just like February 26th) by invading the emperor's palace. Koji Tsuruta is the hero trying to get the recording out of the house for public broadcasting. It's a standard film that works pretty well once the action begins; however there's a good 45 minutes of talk before things start rolling. Sonny Chiba, who had a tiny role as a solder in The Escape, has a few more minutes of screen time here as a doctor invited to the house as a part of the plot to get Tsuruta out.

* Original title: 八月十五日の動乱 (8 gatsu 15 nichi no douran)
* Director: Tsuneo Kobayashi
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: None / Review format: TV

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