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Takuma

Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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Special Tactical Police: Part 2 (Japan, 1963) [TV] - 3/5
The second and final Special Tactical Police film. This time the detectives are investigating the poisoning of a diva-like fashion model. Plenty of talk ensues until the case is solved. What makes the sequel a notch better than the first movie is the final 10 minutes, which packs the kind of emotion and intensity that were largely missing from the first film. The movie also comes with occasional beautifully shots that capture the early 60s urban landscapes via black & white widescreen cinematography. Sonny Chiba's role is unfortunately once again minor. Although he has a decent amount of screen time, he only has a handful of lines.

* Original title: Tokubetsu kido sosatai: Tokyo eki ni harikome (特別機動捜査隊 東京駅に張り込め)
* Director: Koji Ohta
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: None. Review Format: TV  

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Abe
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Chiba in the background
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I think this is a simple, yet beautiful shot
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Chiba
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Decree from Hell (Japan, 1964) [TV] - 2/5
While Toei's gangster movies are best remembered for the chivalrous ninkyo movies (roughly 1963-1972) and the documentary style jitsuroku movies (roughly 1969-1977), there also existed a third sub-genre that we might simply call "contemporary gangster film". Decree from Hell belongs to this genre, and like many others of its kind, it suffers from the lack of strong genre identity. Chiezo Kataoka is a gangster boss who barely escapes an assassination attempt by Toru Abe's evil gang. A gang battle ensues. This is a forgettable time waster with a fairly routine storyline, a bit of action and some humour. There's quite a bit of focus on the gangsters' families and gangs, including Sonny Chiba as Kataoka's teenage son who wishes to gave no part in the criminal business. The film is a part of a very loosely related series of "Hell" movies, all starring Kataoka.

* Original title: Jigoku meirei (地獄命令)
* Director: Shigero Ozawa
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: None. Review Format: TV  

Kataoka
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Tale of Japanese Burglars (Japan, 1965) [DVD] - 3/5
A bit slow, but eventually powerful tale of a professional burglar who witnesses a far bigger crime. Years later, after he has gone straight and started a family, he discovers innocent men have been sentenced for death for a crime they didn't commit - but he cannot testify in their favour without revealing his own crimes. Despite the thriller plot, the film is in equal parts a family drama and a critique on police and government corruption. Rentaro Mikuni is quite excellent in the lead role and keeps the film interesting even during the very long build-up. Sonny Chiba appears as assistant defence lawyer - his role, which comes during the last half an hour, is brief but very good.

* Original title: Nippon dorobô monogatari (にっぽん泥棒物語)
* Director: Satsuo Yamamoto
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (JP) (no subs)  

Mikuni
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Fantastic shot
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Chiba
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Chiba
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Bitches of the Night (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 3/5
A well made, atmospheric, although remarkably tame exploitation melodrama about a playboy bartender (Tatsuo Umemiya) who pretends to be gay in order to approach women. He is in cahoots with another opportunist, a young woman (Mako Midori) who trying to seduce a rich married man. Their attempts at making easy money can only end tragically. This is a rather aged morality tale about the sinful life in urban metropolis, but captures the era, the bars and the cityscapes very nicely. It's also becomes quite interesting and touching when Umemiya fools a naive country girl (heartbreakingly played by Reiko Ohara) into living with him. Sonny Chiba makes a very brief appearance as a policeman looking for his sister. He only has two scenes. The film was part of the "Night / Yoru" series, which consisted of very loosely linked movies where Umemiya plays pimps or other such characters.

* Original title: Yoru no mesuinu ( 夜の牝犬)
* Director: Shinji Murayama
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: None. Review Format: TV  

Umemiya on the right
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Chiba as a policeman
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Chiba
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Ohara
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Midori
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Edited by Takuma

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Game of Chance 2 (Japan, 1967) [TV] - 3.5/5
This is an odd series for each of the three films represent a slightly different breed of yakuza films. The first movie was an off-note ninkyo drama about a somewhat dishonourable yakuza gambler and single father (Chiba) looking after his 6 year old son (Hiroyuki Sanada). The sequel is a much more typical ninkyo film with all the usual genre elements and themes, but oddly enough Chiba has now gone from a gambler (bakuto) to a street vendor (tekiya), which is a different sub-genre of yakuza films. The father-son relationship between Chiba and Sanada works wonderfully again, and although Chiba may not have been a yakuza film star comparable to Takakura or Tsuruta, his youthful energy distinguished him from most other actors. Only Chiba could pull off such extremes as wild snow fight with his son only moments before a melancholic ninkyo walk to enemy headquarters and near certain death. The film's snowy winter setting also adds its own flavour to the film and helps it overcome some uninspired, occasionally incoherent screenwriting.

* Original title: Zoku rokyoku komori-uta (続浪曲子守唄)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None. Review Format: TV

Taro Hitofushi. The films were inpired by his song, which was also used as the theme song
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Chiba
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Kunie Tanaka
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Reiko Ohara
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Chiba and Sanada
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Edited by Takuma

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Game of Chance 3 (Japan, 1967) [TV] - 3/5
This must be only yakuza film series where each film focuses on a different breed of yakuza. This time Chiba's character, who was a gambler in the first movie and a street vendor in the second, becomes a forestry worker with a small honourable clan harassed by a villainous gang. The ninkyo tension rises from conflict between the hero's will to set things right and his promise to stay away from yakuza life. Another typical ninkyo element walks into the film in the shape of Tetsuro Tamba who is after Chiba to avenge his brother. "It was a fair duel and I hold no grudge, but I cannot let the man who killed my only brother live" he says. The film is well made, but it does feel very familiar after the previous two entries. The continuity seems a bit confusing at first until Chiba's dead wife walks into the frame and the viewer realizes the series has rebooted itself at some point. Hardly rare in yakuza films of the era, but usually the filmmakers remembered to inform the viewer of it.

* Original title: Shusse komori uta (出世子守唄)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: None. Review Format: TV  

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Chiba and Sanada
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Tamba
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Sanada
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Posters
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Here is the theme song for the Game of Chance films, performed by Taro Hitofushi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exGprMKGZ1I

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Key Hunter (Japan, 1968-1973) [DVD/TV] - 3/5
This was Sonny Chiba's most important, although not best, work in the 1960s. The detective TV series focusing on Japan's International Secret Police was created by Chiba and Kinji Fukasaku as a starring vehicle for Tetsuro Tamba. Hayato Tani, Eiko Okawa, Yoko Nogiwa and Chiba, who was in charge of creating the action scenes, co-starred. Although the whole cast appeared together in some episodes, most of the 262 episodes highlighted one or two characters with the rest either supporting or taking a rest. It's an uneven but enjoyable series that contained action, thriller and comedic storylines. Today it's best remembered for Tamba's cool charisma and Chiba's wild stunts, that include breathtaking moments like Chiba climbing out of a speeding car and grabbing on to a small aircraft that is about to take off.

The series made Chiba an action superstar in Japan and earned him fans in Hong Kong, including Jackie Chan who admired Chiba's stunt performances. Chiba himself later stated that the series was a goldmine for him to practice his skills as action performer. He also established Japan Action Club during the production of the series. That being said, most of the best action scenes are during the show's later episodes; the earlier ones feature some cool stunts but also plenty of standard action. In total, Chiba appeared in 177 episodes of which in more than one third he was the main star.

The storylines often leaned towards fantasy, the best ones usually written by Yuichi Ikeda. One of the best episodes features a criminal who has changes his face with a plastic surgery trying to escape. His girlfriend, the detectives, and a bunch of assassins all infiltrate the same flight with him but no one knows each others' identity. Other great stories include Chiba forced to double a race driver who is targeted by assassins, and a episode where a young German boy is trying to resurrect the Third Reich in Japan. Many of the comedic episodes with the female cast fare much worse. Also, it's a bit a shame that most of Chiba's episodes were written not by Ikeda, but Susumu Takaku, who mainly penned pretty standard storylines.

Note: the review is based on Toei's 20 episode DVD Collection as well as on a couple of dozen early episodes I caught on TV.

* Original title: Key Hunter / Kii hantaa (キイハンター)
* Directors: Kinji Fukasaku, Ryuichi Takamori, Hajime Sato, Yasuo Furuhata etc.
* Chiba's role: Co-starring role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (5 x 4 = 20 episodes) (no subs). Review Format: TV + DVD  

Key Hunter screencaps part 1: black & white episodes (1-104)

Tamba with a blonde girl in the opening episode (directed by Kinji Fukasaku)
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The whole team. Chiba on the left
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Chiba and Tamba looking cool as hell
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Chiba looking cool as hell
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Although not a martial arts series, Chiba also threw in a few fights
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One of my favourite episodes: Chiba has to attend a car race in disguise instead of a race driver who is being targeted by assassins.
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Edited by Takuma

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Key Hunter screencaps part 2: colour episodes (105-262)

Tamba
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Another one of my favourite episodes: a German boy is preparing the return of the Third Reich in Japan
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Insane Chiba stunt
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Another insane Chiba stunt. That is really him, not a doll.
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Unfortunately the show also features this kind of silliness
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Thankfully also this kind of coolness
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Oh, and if you're looking for more information about Key Hunter (in Japanese) I highly recommend these two great sites:
http://gmen75.la.coocan.jp/k/khentry.htm
http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~tik2003111/keyhunter/key.html

Not only do they contain lots of basic information, there are also complete episode guides with synopsis, cast, and main stars listed for each episode. The second site also lets you know which episodes feature major actions scenes and by which actor.

I find the episode guides highly useful since at 262 episodes of varying quality, watching the entire show is not really an option for me. I'm watching the episodes where Chiba is a major player as well as selected other episodes that seem interesting (elements that might contribute to my interest include being written by Ikeda, starring Tamba, directed by Fukasaku etc.).

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The Bodyguard (Japan, 1974) [TV] - 4/5

Not to be confused with the unrelated Bodyguard Kiba (aka The Bodyguard) films, this karate packed TV series is an undiscovered gem that features some of Sonny Chiba's best action. Chiba stars as a member of a private bodyguard company established by Ko Nishimura (the priest from Lady Snowblood), brought to Japan after hammering a roomful of Arab villains to death in Middle East. His colleagues are played by karate girl Etsuko Shihomi, Chiba's brother Jiro Chiba, young nice guy Yuuki Meguro, and dirty fellow lone wolf Yoji Takagi who occasionally joins the gang.  

The series, produced briefly after the release of the first Street Fighter film, is basically combination of martial arts action and traditional Japanese detective series format where we often had a group of 4-5 detectives solving crimes. Although not strictly a martial arts series, for these guys karate is usually the solution to any problem, and the action only gets better and more frequent as the series advances. Most episodes feature at least one fight, but many feature two or three fights.

Chiba is fantastic in the series. The fights ar as good as in his films, and are always clearly filmed without shaky camera. They are little short, though. And while the series may lack the excessive bloodletting and sex of Chiba's mid 70's films, the action looks and sounds painful. It also says something about the series' grittiness that a lot of the time the bodyguards fail to keep their client alive till the end. Adding to the effect is a fantastic, badass score.

The 18 year old Shihomi makes perhaps an even bigger impression than Chiba. She has never looked as cute and energetic as she does here kicking guys in the face. She doesn't get any fights in the early episodes, but becomes a major attraction later on. It's pretty difficult to curb your enthusiasm when an episode title that roughly translates as "The Roaring Female Dragon of Hokkaido" appears on screen and a miscellaneous bunch of martial arts villains that look like the cast of Sister Street Fighter (released towards the end of the show's production) are introduced. Hell yeah!  

Jiro Chiba gets his share of action as well, and while Yuuki Meguro is not a fighter he turns out to be a sympathetic young guy in suit. Yoji Takagi isn't too bad either although it takes a while to warm up to him. Guest stars include Pinky Violence actresses Reiko Ike, Ryoko Ema, Yukie Kagawa, and Yumi Takigawa, Roman Porno starlets Yuri Yamashina and Moeko Ezawa, kick boxing legend Tadashi Sawamura, and of course Chiba & Shihomi's eternal karate nemesis Masashi Ishibashi.

If there is something negative about the series it the uneven and mostly unremarkable writing. Most storylines are decidedly routine, save for a few stand outs. There are also episodes that try too much with drama at the expense of action (e.g. the closing episode), and one rather unbearable comedic episode. Generally speaking the series is relatively free of comedy, except for some funny dialogue between Nishimura and older lady Izumi Yukimura (the owner of a tiny fashion shop operating in the same premises with the bodyguard office). However, in episode 16 some idiot came up with the idea of switching Yukimura for a hyperactive comedic young woman (the actress is credited as "Beaver"). Thankfully she only causes damage to a couple of episodes.

Despite its flaws, The Bodyguard is one of the seminal karate products of the mid 70s. For a Chiba fan it's a truly exciting discovery that deserves far wider recognition than it has been getting.

* Original title: The Body-Guard / Za bodigaado (ザ・ボディガード)
* Director: Kazuyoshi Yoshikawa, Hideo Tanaka, Koichi Takemoto, Yasuo Furuhata etc.
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Availability: Toei DVD (to be released May 2017) (no subs). Review format: TV.

Screencaps part 1

Nishimura and Chiba
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Chiba!
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Etsuko Shihomi and Jiro Chiba
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Shihomi and Yuuki Meguro
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Shihomi kicking arse
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Shihomi vs. Masashi Ishibashi
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Chiba being his usual mean self
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Edited by Takuma

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The Bodyguard screencaps part 2

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This double-episode was shot in the US
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Chiba being mean in Nevada
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Jiro Chiba
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Yuri Yamashina
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Reiko Ike
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Tadashi Sawamura
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Shihomi!
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13 Steps of Maki (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 4/5
This is perhaps Etsuko Shihomi's most enjoyable, and certainly sleaziest, film. Shihomi is a girl gang leader straight out of a comic book, spending half of her time saving her delinquent karate girls from trouble. It's basically a pinky violence movie with karate action instead of gun and knife fights. Although there is little plot, the film is well paced. Lots of solid action, no irritating supporting characters or comic reliefs, very little in terms boring side plots, and just when you might start getting a bit tired of it they throw Shihomi in prison and the film goes all WIP. Great theme song too! Sonny Chiba has cool cameo as Maki's brother, and Roman Porno actress Meika Seri appears as assassin in the prison segment. Someone really need to put this film out on DVD and BD immediately.

* Original title: Wakai kizokutachi: 13 kaidan no Maki (若い貴族たち 13階段のマキ)
* Director: Makoto Naito
* Chiba's role: Cameo
* Film availability: None. Review format: 35mm.

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The Visitor in the Eye (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 2/5
Nobuhiko Obayashi's second feature film (following House, 1977) is a manga adaptation of Osamu Tezuka comics. There's a fair amount of movie magic to be found here, some with amazing visuals, a stunning 3 minute tracking shot, and an awesome turn by Joe Shishido as the medical genius Black Jack who is the manga's hero. So what gives? Well, Black Jack is not the main character here, in fact, he's a minor character. The relatively uninteresting main story follows a girl who receives an eye transplant - and odd visions of a mysterious man with it. Etsuko Shihomi appears as her best friend in a major supporting role; Sonny Chiba has a 60 second cameo as drunken man. Other cameos include director Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood) and Obayashi himself. The film certainly has its moments, but those moments alone are not enough to keep it from sinking.

* Original title: Hitomi no naka no houmonsha (瞳の中の訪問者)
* Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
* Chiba's role: Cameo
* Film availability: Pioneer DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Black Jack
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And here we have the character portrayed by Joe Shishido
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Lovely Obayashi visuals
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Shihomi
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Unfortunately neither Shihomi nor Shishido is the main character, but rather this guy...
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... and these guys
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This little girl is impossible not to love
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Chiba
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Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (Japan, 1977) [DVD] - 3/5
It took Toei 4 years to follow up their first Golgo 13 live action (with Ken Takakura) despite that film having been a major box office success. Director Junya Sato said the studio was not keen on the franchise because the films were too expensive to make due to their international nature. This one takes place almost entirely in Hong Kong, with Sonny Chiba in the lead. The film is generally considered underwhelming considering its potential, but with expectations kept in check the film is actually pretty cool. Chiba is pretty badass in the role, adding ultra violent karate moves to the smooth master sniper's repertoire. There's also a bit of Chiba's modern action influence with some cool stunt work. One assassination in the film greatly resembles a similar scene in The Killer (1989). Another highlight is Golgo's final kill, which may be very brief, and not have a hint of realism to it, but it looks cool as hell. The film's main liabilities are Yukio Noda's mediocre direction, a storyline that could've easily lost 10 minutes, and charisma free supporting actor Chia Lun in a major role as a Hong Kong cop. Etsuko Shihomi has a decent supporting role, and eye-patched Koji Tsuruta of all actors appears in two scenes.

* Original title: Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi (ゴルゴ13 九竜の首)
* Director: Yukio Noda
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK), Toei DVD (no subs).  

Chia Lun
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Chiba
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Shihomi
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Edited by Takuma

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Soul of Chiba (Japan/Thailand/Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1977) [DVD] - 4/5

This is a strangely intoxicating trash classic filmed in Thailand, and produced by Chiba with no participation by Toei. Some sources claim he was frustrated with Toei execs and directors who didn't really understand about martial arts movies, but whether that is true remains a mystery. Tadashi Yamashita, Etsuko Shihomi and Bolo joined him for the relatively nonsensical, sloppily made but very entertaining flick. The film hit the theatres in early 1977 when karate films were already going out of fashion.

The film opens with just about the quickest introduction you could possibly do. Chiba is a kid in Thailand, vowing to avenge his parents' death to soldiers who killed them. A white bearded martial arts master accepts him as his student. 20 years later the man has learned to fight, but before the film has run three minutes, the old master is also dead. The killer's name is either Someone or Sam Wan, it's quite hard to say which.

By now, Chiba and the audiences alike have forgotten all about the dead parents (never to be mentioned again in the film) as Chiba goes after someone who killed his master. Same time elsewhere an undercover cop Tadashi Yamashita is searching for the same man with an intention to bring a drug cartel down. The two heroes will eventually encounter, but only after the film has introduced a whole load of sub-plots and supporting characters, including one with a long lost, thought-to-be-dead brother, and jungle girl Etsuko Shihomi who treats injured Chiba's wounds.

Soul of Chiba enjoys the reputation of being Chiba's most insane picture. Personally I feel that honour belongs to Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975), but Soul of Chiba puts up a good fight. Their breeds of insanity differ a bit. Wolfguy features a secret organization trying to mass produce werewolves using Chiba's blood. Insane perhaps, but perfectly logical and understandable! Soul of Chiba features a drug dealer crashing his boat through another boat and flying through the air for no apparent reason.

Soul of Chiba really gets to the core of madness when Chiba begins torturing with electricity while doing karate moves to make his body stronger. He treats the pain with drugs (cocaine?) of course develops a severe drug addiction! Yep, this is just about the only martial arts flick where the hero fights under the influence of hard drugs. And all that leads to a terrific ending that is one of the best in Chiba' filmography.

Even better than the electric torture is the psychedelic monkey fight where Chiba encounters four Thai fighters (JAC stuntmen actually) possessed by monkey magic, which makes them four times stronger. While the film may not be a technical triumph - it is downright sloppy a lot of the time - this sequence is filmed and edited with true inspiration. You also get the wonderful slow-mo effect priory utilized in Karate Warriors as an added bonus.

As you may have figured out by now, the action in Soul of Chiba is at least satisfactory. While Chiba uses karate, there's quite a bit of Chinese influence to the action choreography. There's plenty of action and quite a few duels as well, including Chiba's final fight, and another fight featuring Tadashi Yamashita and Bolo. The filming took 2 months, which is more that Toei would allow Chiba in his domestic productions. Some of the fights also use under-cranking, which would normally be a shame, but in this intoxicating feast of visual insanity it almost works in the film's benefit.

If you're into trivia, there was quite an interesting bunch of people involved in the production. Aside Chiba, Yamashita and Shihomi there is Bolo, who is also credited with the story concept. Someone is played by Luk Chuen aka Yasuhiro Shikamura, who played small parts in Wang Yu films and went on to choreograph the amazing The Boxer's Omen! White beard master is played by Fong Yuen, who was a make-up artist that worked on more than 350 Hong Kong films. The young boy who wishes Chiba would teach him to fight is none other than Peter Chan, the future Hong Kong director of films like Wu Xia, Perhaps Love and The Warlords. And would you ever have guessed there's a connection between Soul of Chiba and the Japanese FM Towns version of the video game Lemmings? That is composer Takashi Otani, who created the film's excellent score.

The directorial duties were dived between the mediocre Japanese workhorse Yukio Noda (Yakuza Deka, The Delinquent Boss series) and Chan Tung Man. It is unclear who did what, but that probably matters not, Their primary tasks seems to have been to film whatever Chiba and Yamashita asked for, without stressing about such things as logic or continuity.

The relatively high production values of Chiba's Japanese films are nowhere to be found here. In fact, the film often looks and sounds more like a cheap Taiwanese kung fu flick. Some of the performances are hilariously bad, the quality of cinematography varies from scene to scene, and continuity is nowhere to be found. One amusing goof is how Bolo's character is said to have had his tongue cut out by bad guys, yet it seems to have grown back since its very much visible whenever he opens his mouth. Such issues work either for or against the film, depending on the viewer. Yet, there is little doubt that the filmmakers were inhaling true inspiration (among other substances) while filming and editing. Those viewers who don't get it, have fully deserved every painful second they spend with the film.

In a nutshell: you don't need beer, you don't need weed, you just need Soul of Chiba. I made the mistake of combining Soul of Chiba with wine, and it almost made my head explode. Try at your own risk.

Soul of Chiba opened in Japan in February 1977 as a double bill with Ikuo Sekimoto's soft porn flick The General and His Empire of Joy. Toei was the theatrical distributor, but the Japanese VHS was later released by Fox, which suggests Toei does not own the rights. Outside Japan the film toured theatres from France to USA. The Italian release, which features the film's title in German for some reason, claims the prints were manufactured in Rome. Sure, why not?

According to August Ragone's (error ridden, but understandably so for dating back to the 90s) article "Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba: A Real Mean Bastard!" Chiba and Yamashita were planning a sequel that never came true that was to be shot in Mexico. The story may be true - or not.   

* Original title: Gekitotsu! Jado ken (激殺!邪道拳)
* Director: Yukio Noda & Tung Man Chan
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: NEW DVD (Germany) (Eng dub with 1.66:1 aspect ratio), Rarescope DVD (Eng dub with 1.66:1 aspect ratio + JP with 1.56:1 aspect ratio). The original aspect ratio seems to be 2.35:1. Thankfully, the original framing does not appear to have been as tight as in many of Chiba's other movies, making the fights rather watchable even in 1.66:1 presentation.

Chiba
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Old master
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Yamashita. His moustache alone deserves the film a viewing
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Shihomi
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Chiba and Shihomi
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Electric shock training. This too, alone deserves the film a viewing
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One of the many great shots from the spychedelic monkey fight scene
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Monkey fighters
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Yamashita vs. Bolo
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The Oscar for the best over-actor goes to...
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Why this guy decided to crash through a boat instead of going around it is anyone's guess
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Chiba vs. Someone
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1 minute ago, Karlos said:

Takuma, you are doing almighty work.

Thanks.

I figured with Soul of Chiba a capsule review just wouldn't do :laugh

I only own the German DVD but from screencaps it seems obvious it's better than the US DVD. Same aspect ratio (in the ENG version) but the German disc is anamorphic and the image looks generally a bit crisper. It's not a huge improvement, but it's certainly a better transfer.

Soul of Chiba screened in 35mm in Finland in 2004 on a film fest. Damn I wish I could've been there. I still keep hearing stories about that screening... apparently no one who went there could ever forget it.

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1 hour ago, Takuma said:

Soul of Chiba screened in 35mm in Finland in 2004 on a film fest. Damn I wish I could've been there. I still keep hearing stories about that screening... apparently no one who went there could ever forget it.

I think Soul of Chiba is experienced, rather than watched, so yeah, that sounds like an event! 

When your reviews are finished, Takuma, I'm going to print them all off and keep them - they're that good.

 

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7 hours ago, Takuma said:

Soul of Chiba (Japan/Thailand/Taiwan/Hong Kong, 1977) [DVD] - 4/5

Great review, the old white haired master pitured with the snake. Looks like an actor who appears in Bruce Lee The Man The Myth. Toward the end of the movie an old man just like him tell's Bruce Li(playing Bruce Lee), that he only has months to live. Don't know the actors name though.

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Yes! Nice, was awaiting the inevitable Soul of Chiba review. It's all a bit nonsensical(in a wonderful way) but I believe he was eating heroin to kill some kind of pain and dies of withdraw at the end, love that crazy flashing Chiba face close up, made a gif -

 

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Roaring Fire (Japan, 1981) [35mm] - 4.5/5
A mentally insane, turbo charged action comedy that is one of Norifumi Suzuki's most enjoyable films. Hiroyuki Sanada stars as a Japanese-American cowboy travelling back to Japan on family affairs only to discover a drug smuggling operation ran by a Japanese neo nazi. Except for the bloody violence and a monkey that steals a girls' bikini top, this is very much the kind of movie Jackie Chan would begin to make a few years later. There's a terrific mix of comedy, martial arts and amazing stunts. The highlights are too numerous to list, including Sanada running from ninjas in broad daylight in Kyoto, a double-decker fight scene shot in Hong Kong, and Sanada escaping on foot a helicopter that is dropping hand grenades on him. Quest star Sonny Chiba was responsible for the action design, and indeed, this is like a supercharged version of his own "Modern Action" era films from the 60s and 70s, with added Hong Kong influences to the fight choreography. Supporting cast includes Etsuko Shihomi, Abdullah the Butcher, and Masashi Ishibashi in perhaps the only good guy role of his career. Highly recommended!

* Original title: Hoero tekken ( 吠ろ鉄拳)
* Director: Norifumi Suzuki
* Chiba's role: Small supporting role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No Sub), German DVDs (Eng subbed and non-subbed versions exist)

Sanada and Ishibashi
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Sanada and his monkey
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Mikio Narita
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Etsuko Shihomi's foot. That looks painful.
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Nazi bitch
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Hong Kong
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This stunt is just insane
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Abdullah the Butcher
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Chiba
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Edited by Takuma

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A bit more about Roaring Fire

Still
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Teaser Trailer

The text says "directed by Norifumi Suzuki". Action director Chiba sitting in on the right.
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Promo footage not found in the film
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Minefield (Japan / Thailand, 1992) - 3/5
Sonny Chiba is an ex-mercenary and explosives disarm specialist vacationing in Thailand when his family is captured by his former foe who, with his men, is on the run. They are caught between a minefield and approaching army forces. A surprisingly effective straight-to-video action melodrama despite some shabby filmmaking and limited production values. Chiba is excellent as a tormented man forced to clear a path in the middle of a minefield - a painfully slow process that takes several days to complete. Meanwhile his wife and underage daughter live under a constant threat of sexual violence by the ridiculously evil villain and his troops. Manipulative but quite original and entertaining with some solid action, and comes with an unexpectedly strong emotional punch. Based on an original concept by Chiba.

* Original title: Jiraigen (地雷原)
* Director: Kenichi Sakita
* Chiba's role: Starring role
* Film availability: VHS (Japan)

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Edited by Takuma

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Young and Dangerous 6: Born to be King (Hong Kong, 2000) [DVD] - 1/5
The last film in the series that started in 1996. Not having seen the earlier entries I'm unable to put this into a context, however, this TV-like triad melodrama is abysmal on its own right. It's a talkative wanna-be epic of a Hong Kong gangster (Jordan Chan) who marries a Japanese gangster boss' (Sonny Chiba) daughter, then becomes boss in Taiwan and gets in trouble with the local gangsters who don' trust him. The government seems to be involved as well. Director Andrew Lau, probably the most over-rated hack in Hong Kong, caters the film to young audiences by using nonsensical flashy editing, pretty boy Ekin Cheng and a truly horrible soundtrack. Leading man Jordan Chan has the charisma of a pubic hair. Not counting the ridiculous ending, the only funny thing about the film is the protagonist marrying a Japanese woman despite not speaking Japanese. Well, that is not funny, but the fact that the actress who plays his wife also can't pronounce a single Japanese word is funny in an awkward way. Sonny Chiba is the only good thing about the film. He has a handful of scenes, the first few of them rather worthless but his charisma is somewhat utilized during the film's second half.

* Japanese title: 狼たちの伝説 亜州黒社会戦争
* Director: Andrew Lau
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Universe DVD (Hong Kong)

Jordan Chan
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Ekin Cheng + Chiba on the right
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Shu Qi and Ekin Cheng
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Chiba
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I guess these random street thugs are the "young and dangerous".  No one else in the series was young anymore.
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Chiba
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Tough guys! This is scene is pure accidental comedy
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Edited by Takuma

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