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Takuma

Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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On 4/6/2017 at 5:22 AM, Takuma said:

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

I actually happened to watch this not long ago. While the movie is indeed chockful of amusing wackiness, just about everything else in it is dreadful, and by Sonny Chiba standards, I felt it was a whole lot wasted potential. In particular the plot annoyed me more than it should've, and I would've been perfectly content with it merely serving as background like it usually does with martial arts flicks, but the convoluted and pointless mixture of too many subplots was straight up overbearing and detrimental to the whole experience.

Considering how Chiba went through the trouble of filming in Thailand for whatever reason, I personally think he could've used the opportunity to crafted a flick combining elements of Bruce Lee's The Big Boss and Angela Mao's The Tournament, thereby the resulting product would've been a loose Japanese remake of both. I even have a very basic outline of what it could've been: Chiba stars as a Shorinji Kempo master who wears a ragged monk uniform and who, for his own personal reasons, relocates to rural Thailand. Even thought his character is supposed to resemble the Shaolin mold, he is a heavy drinker, a flirt and a regular brothel visitor, but also dedicated to his loved ones and to his mission. Early on in the movie, he faces off against Muay Thai fighters.....because reasons, and he doesn't so hot, so he starts training on their art instead and incorporating it to his fighting style. I know I'm veering too much into wishful thinking territory, but Soul of Chiba could've been just as great as Wolfguy had Chiba put more through into the production, because again, he went to Thailand yet made very little to o practical use of the local scenery, so he may as well could've stayed in Japan instead.

On a quick note, I reckon that the movie was released with the title of "Soul of Bruce" in certain markets, which leads me to believe that the movie, much like many of Chiba's 70s flicks for Toei, is for all intents and purposes public domain. Which stands to reason since there is not a single reference to Bruce Lee in the movie that I can remember.....like, not even a half-assed comment of one character comparing another one to him like in Image of Bruce Lee/Storming Attacks!

Edited by lonesome space

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Jitsuroku Kyushu yakuza retsuden kyoken to yobareta otoko (Japan, 2003) [DVD] - 1/5
Shot on video DTV "true account" yakuza film with almost nothing of interest on offer. It's surprising how often these films refrain from sex and violence (as is the case here), which are the two things they could use to try and bump the entertainment value up even by a tiny bit. Instead they tend to go for 90 minutes of talking heads. Sonny Chiba has a small supporting role as a yakuza boss, but he's given almost nothing to do. Rikiya Yasuoka has a similarly dull supporting role. Add a really irritating narrator and you've got a truly unremarkable film.

* Original title: 実録 九州やくざ烈伝 兇健と呼ばれた男
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

I did not take screencaps of this film. Here's the dvd cover that is far more action packed than the film.
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Shuryo no michi 6 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 1/5
This is the first film in the DTV yakuza film series that features Sonny Chiba in a supporting role as one of the yakuza bosses. His daughter, later played by Asami, does not yet appear. I watched the films with Chiba (6-9) out of order and have/will give a brief overview of the series with my reviews of parts 8 and 9. This one is weaker than them; a dull and talkative gangster film with insufficient production values. Chiba appears in a couple of dialogue scenes but has next to nothing to do. The series has no English title but the Japanese one translates as "The Boss' Way" or "The Leader's Way".

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 6 (首領の道6)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs

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Shuryo no michi 7 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Quest star Sonny Chiba did his entry into the series in the previous film. This movie is where things star moving as yakuza boss Chiba orders a couple of hits that get him into a conflict with the series' regular gangsters. Chiba has three or four scenes and gets to do a bit of angry acting. Otherwise the film is as underwhelming as these modern zero-budget DTV yakuza flicks tend to be. There's a fair bit of gunplay but the action is strangely lifeless and dull. The next two movies in the series, however, would be a bit better.

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 7 (首領の道7)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

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note: I reviewed Shuryo no michi 8 already before as a part of the first review round.

Shuryo no michi 9 (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 2/5
Part 9 in this DTV yakuza film series that is basically the men's equivalent of a TV soap opera. Each film continues the story from where the previous one left off, much like TV show episodes. It's cheap and poorly made but not entirely void of minor merits. The positives are Sonny Chiba, whose presence and one brief swordfight alone add something to the film, Asami, who looks very pretty here and does a bit of fighting as well, and a yakuza romance between Asami and young guy that against all expectations you begin to care for a bit towards the end. That being said, the film is barely worth watching. This was the last instalment with Chiba and Asami.

* Original title: Shuryo no michi 9 (首領の道9)
* Director: Hiroyuki Tsuji
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: All In Entertainment DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Chiba
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Asami
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Asami
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Asami
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Boring random guys
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A guy who was fired from a TV drama for over-acting
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Chiba
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Chiba Reviews: Round 3

So far I have reviewed 118 Chiba films, including all of the starring roles in films that I've seen, and most of the supporting roles. From now on the reviews will become infrequent. I will only post reviews when I see something new, or re-watch something I haven't reviewed yet. Also, the rest of the reviews will not be in chronological order.

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9 hours ago, Takuma said:

Chiba Reviews: Round 3

So far I have reviewed 118 Chiba films, including all of the starring roles in films that I've seen, and most of the supporting roles. From now on the reviews will become infrequent. I will only post reviews when I see something new, or re-watch something I haven't reviewed yet. Also, the rest of the reviews will not be in chronological order.

Will you do me the pleasure of reviewing Legend of the Flying Swordsman?

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17 hours ago, DrNgor said:

Will you do me the pleasure of reviewing Legend of the Flying Swordsman?

Man, I had already forgotten about that film's existence. Must be some kind of subconscious self defence mechanism :laugh

Let's see...

Edited by Takuma

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6 hours ago, Takuma said:

Man, I had already forgotten about that film's existence. Must be some kind of subconscious self defence mechanism :laugh

That's why I'm here, to remind. H-Man is a trickier creature to deal with than a Kappa on speed.

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Toei just announced The Gorilla Seven (1975) DVD Box Set for December 6, 2017. 6 disc set, with all 26 episodes.
- https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B074H2WXR6

I wasn't expecting this because Toei just finished broadcasting the series on Toei Channel and it was the old, poor quality TV masters. The DVD set, however, says "digitally remastered version".

I'll be writing more about the series soon. I just finished watching episode 24. Basically, it's a sort of follow up to superior The Bodyguard, with almost the same cast. Stars Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Jiro Chiba, Yuuki Meguro, Isao Natsuyagi, and Akira Nishikino. Teruo Ishii directed a couple of episodes.

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On 4/6/2017 at 4:22 AM, Takuma said:

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

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.

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.   

How did I miss this write up? I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!! If only that sequel had been made. Probably would have loved that, too.

On 4/10/2017 at 8:50 AM, Takuma said:

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...There's a terrific mix of comedy, martial arts and amazing stunts...Supporting cast includes Etsuko Shihomi, Abdullah the Butcher, and Masashi Ishibashi in perhaps the only good guy role of his career. Highly recommended!

Sigh. I still need to find this.

On 4/12/2017 at 7:29 AM, Takuma said:

Young and Dangerous 6: Born to be King (Hong Kong, 2000) [DVD] - 1/5

Leading man Jordan Chan has the charisma of a pubic hair.

This could possibly be the best remark ever in a review I've read.

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King of Gangsters (Japan, 1967) [TV] - 2/5
The 11th and final film in the Gang series. Most of the films had different directors and cast, and were only connected by the title and Toei's marketing department. Unlike the early entries, which were jazzy capers, this final entry is a prototype jitsuroku yakuza film. Just back from the war, Noboru Ando leads a gang of war vets turned gangster in the US occupied streets of Tokyo. They get into a conflict with a Chinese gang as well as the military police. Tetsuro Tamba appears as a police chief trying to bring peace to the streets; 1st wave pinky violence star Masumi Tachibana is a girl grieving his dead gangster father. Like many of director Yasuo Furuhata's films, this is light on action and relatively realistic in characterization to the point becoming dull. It is more interesting as a somewhat nationalistic peek into the history of Japan and modern yakuza than as a gangster flick. Sonny Chiba plays one of Ando's men, but like most supporting roles in the film, his part is ultimately minor despite getting a decent amount of screen time.

* Original title: Gyangu no teiô (ギャングの帝王)
* Director: Yasuo Furuhata
* Chiba's role: Minor Supporting Role
* Film availability: None. Review format: TV

Ando in the middle. Hideo "I'm in every gangster flick" Murota in the backround
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Ando and Tachibana
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Tamba
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Sonny Chiba (right) and Shingo Yamashiro (in a relatively non-comedic role)
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Chiba again
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Wandering Ginza Butterfly: She-Cat Gambler (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3/5

The first Wandering Ginza Butterfly movie (which did not feature Chiba) was a bit of a mishmash that brought Meiko Kaji, who had just quit Nikkatsu, to Toei. Toei saw her as potential heir to Junko Fuji, their biggest female yakuza star whose retirement earlier in 1972 had ended the Red Peony Gambler series and put another nail in the soon-to-be-buried ninkyo yakuza genre which Toei was reluctant to let die. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who was fresh off from his trendy and contemporary Delinquent Girl Boss series, turned the film into a hybrid between modern and old school yakuza films. The movie had its share of exhilarating scenes, but was also too routinely written with silly comedic relief and standard yakuza trappings to be a classic.

This slightly superior sequel gets off to a very good start with boobs, sunset, a Meiko Kaji theme song, and an excellent gambling duel before the film has even hit the 12 minute mark. A moment later Sonny Chiba shows up as a goofy entrepreneur running a small prostitution business! Unfortunately the rest of the film is not as good, save for the finale. The film comes with the usual yakuza film clichés, including Chiba's comedy sidekick (Toru Yuri), an evil gang harassing girls, and an old ex yakuza (Junzaburô Ban, who played identical role in Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess) trying to do something good for once. However, the tale comes back to life big time at the end where Kaji and Chiba, armed with swords and pistols, finally decide they've had enough of it! This isn't a movie that utilizes Kaji's talent, but she's gorgeous as usual. Chiba looks like he ran off from the set of a Yakuza Deka film and started dealing girls instead of catching bad guys. It's nice to have him here, although the finale is his only real standout. Unlike in the 1st film, there's not much of ninkyo influence left in this production, and perhaps that was for the best.

* Original title: Gincho nagaremono mesuneko bakuchi (銀蝶渡り鳥 牝猫博奕)
* Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
* Chiba's role: Major Supporting Role
* Film availability: Synapse DVD (USA), Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Kaji playing againts Shingo Yamashiro
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Club scene reminiscent of the Delinquent Girl Boss and Stray Cat Rock films
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Yuki Kagawa on the fight
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Chiba and Toru Yuri
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Chiba's had it
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Detonation: Violent Riders (Japan, 1975) [DVD] - 2.5/5

The first film in the Detonation series focusing on bosozoku biker gangs. The bosozoku were all over the news in the mid 70s. They were mostly aimless young men seeking excitement in gang life and tuned bikes. Toei had already done a whole bunch of biker films with the comedic Delinquent Boss series with Tatsuo Umemiya in the late 60s and early 70s. In the mid 70s it was time to cash in with a more sensationalist exploitation take on the phenomenon. Much like with karate films (The Executioner 1&2), Teruo Ishii got assigned to the job despite his lack of interest for the genre.

Ishii was known for easily getting bored with conventional films, and had the habit of throwing whatever he thought might be entertaining to the screen. The first 20 minutes of Violent Riders is exactly what you'd expect from a Teruo Ishii bosozoku film. Black dressed bikers speeding on the streets, performing stunts on bikes and causing public outrage. There are also wild parties with topless dancers and sex in the outdoors. When conflicts arise between gang members, they are solved via Rebel without a Cause style "who's got bigger balls" race towards a cliff.

Unfortunately, it is not long after that when problems begin to arise. The biggest issue is the sloppy screenplay that feels like it's about to fall apart any time. If there is any actual plot to be found, it would be the romance between the wild hearted mechanic boy Iwaki (Kouichi Iwaki) and the innocent but gang tied Michiko (Tomoko Ai). The newcomer is quick to make enemies while at the same time his old pals are tempting him to re-join their gang. None of this is very interesting, and the storytelling feels very fragmented. To make matters worse, the film's action climax, a major gang war, is little more than a messy display of bikers riding in circle and kicking and punching each other on the way.

What Ishii does well throughout the film is the motorcycle money shots. Close ups, sunsets and fast scenes on streets are plenty. Worth a mention is also a cool truck crash escape "stunt" that on closer look turns out to be a trick shot. The cast is also fine. Real life rocker / bike maniac Koichi Iwaki was born to play roles like this, and beard-faced Sonny Chiba has a small but enjoyable role as the girl's charismatic, ex-biker brother. Most of the other supporting actors are unknown stars and one-timers, possibly real gang members.

Three sequels followed, the first two of them helmed by Ishii. In Detonation! Violent Games (1976) Ishii drew inspiration from West Side Story and even introduced slight musical elements, resulting in the best film in the series. In Season of Violence (1976) Ishii tried to do a modern sun tribe film in the lines of Crazed Fruit and other 50s classics, but the film turned out quite boring and lacked in action. The relatively decent last film, Detonation! 750CC zoku (1976), directed by Yutaka Kohira (Dragon Princess), shifted some of the focus to cars but still managed the best bike chase in the series. All of the films starred Iwaki. Chiba only appeared in the first film.

* Original title: Bakuhatsu! Boso zoku (爆発!暴走族)
* Director: Teruo Ishii
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs)

Iwaki
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Chiba
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The Gorilla Seven (Japan, 1975) [TV] - 2.5/5

An initially disappointing follow-up to Sonny Chiba's badass 1974 TV shows The Bodyguard (*). Chiba leads a private 7 man team specializing in miscellaneous protection and crime solving missions. Jiro Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi and Yuki Meguro return from The Bodyguard, Isao Natsuyagi,  Akira Nishikino and Maria Elizabeth are new additions to the team. JAC is responsible for the stunts as usual.

Despite the great premise, the show suffers from excessive poor comedy and a laidback tone that is in stark contrast with the violent, even nihilist The Bodyguard. The storylines tend to be very forgettable, and so are the characters who spend half of their time fooling around. Shihomi's character supposed to be a ninja descendant, but that is merely a bit of trivia you'd never figure out based on what her character is doing in the series.

There is much less fighting than in The Bodyguard, and too much of it is left for the less capable members such as Meguro and Natsuyagi. As a slight compensation, there's more focus on stunts, including Chiba grabbing on to a plane about take off (he did the same stunt in Key Hunter) or hanging from a ropeway wires. Not all of the stunts are as exciting, though.

Thankfully halfway into the 26 episode show the crew seem to have realised they need to get a grip, and they do. The last 10 episodes are quite enjoyable, with better action and better stories, the highlight being a terrific episode that co-starts Masashi Ishibashi as a hitman armed with a machine gun. Other cool episodes include Shihomi going undercover, and a storyline with Jiro where two rich douche bags are hiring proxy fighters (and bikers) and betting money on whose fighter survives.  

Big name quest stars are quite few in the show, and most of them appear during the late episodes. Pinky Violence star Yumiko Katayama makes a 2 scene appearance in one of the two episodes directed by Teruo Ishii, Yuriko Hishimi has a central role in one episode, and Roman Porno actress Yuri Yamashina plays Ishibashi's girlfriend.

It's a shame the show is so uneven since it does come with rewards towards the end. In case one starts getting bored after the first few episodes, I recommend jumping straight to episode 17 (perhaps via episodes 11 and 13) as from there on almost every episode is a good one. There is no harm in doing that, thanks to nonexistent character development and lack of any kind of story connections between the episodes.

* Chiba had his own TV slot on NTV in 1974-1976. He starred in five shows in total starting with the karate actioner The Bodyguard (1974), followed by the action/crime shows The Gorilla 7, Blazing Dragnet (1975-1976) and Emergency Line (1976), and finally the family drama Nanairo tongarashi (1976).

* Original title: The Gorilla 7 (ザ・ゴリラ7)
* Director: Various
* Chiba's role: Starring Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subs) (December 2017). Review format: TV.

The Gorilla Seven screencaps: Part 1
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One of the worst episodes. The Gorillas use small radio-controlled planes to...
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... fight gangsters who are comedic idiots
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Thankfully there's good stuff too, like Chiba with a gun
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Jiro with a bike
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Shihomi vs. Ishibashi
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Chiba vs. Ishibashi
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I gave this a very brief review before, but felt like it deserved a more thorough examination, especially in regards to why the original Japanese version Iron Sharp is 100 times better that the butchered US version known as Invasion of the Neptune Men.

Iron Sharp (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 rarely drags. The alien costumes are leave something to be desired, though: they're not even men in rubber suits, but men in plastic suits with iron helmets. Unfortunately in 1964 the film was licensed, and butchered, by American distributor Walter Manley Enterprises who not only cropped and dubbed, but also re-cut and enhanced it with extensive stock footage, eventually earning the film - or rather its American version Invasion of the Neptune Men - a reputation as one of the worst films ever made.

* 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) (Iron Sharp version), Dark Sky Films DVD (USA) (dubbed, cut, re-edited Invasion of the Neptune Men version)

Here's a brief summary what Walter Manley Enterprises did to Iron Sharp when they created the Invasion of the Neptune Men version:

1) The film was originally released in the US in TV. For this purpose, it was cropped from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to 1:37:1, making its battle scenes incomprehensible. The DVD release by Dark Sky Films widens the presentation to 1.78:1, which is still missing plenty of image.

2) The film was given a nerve shatteringly bad English dubbing. Many people familiar with the English version would be very surprised to learn the kids in the film are not irritating at all in the original Japanese version.

3) The film was heavily cut, which made the storyline extremely incoherent. They even deleted the two scenes where Iron Sharp is originally introduced, the 1st one being a scene where the boys talk about him and the 2nd being the opening credits scene where the character makes his first appearance.

4) Other than just deleting scenes, the film was re-edited. The film's last 15 minutes originally consisted of three battle scenes played in order and taking place in three different locations. In the US version they are all edited together into one big battle that takes place all over the place and makes absolutely no sense.

5) Speaking of the films last 15 minutes, it's actually 21 minutes in the US version. While there is about one minute worth of stock footage stolen from a different film, the rest was achieved by recycling the same shots from the battle scenes over and over again every few minutes. None of this happens in the original Japanese version.

Speaking of stock footage, it always cracks me up when I see reviewers calling the film's special effects crappy, and the in the same review criticising the film of bad taste for using WWII stock footage of a "Hitler Building" being blown up. That's not stock footage, it's a special effects shot made for this film. The building in question, or should I say the miniature in question, is Tokyu Culture Hall in Shibuya. The "Hitler" on its wall is an advertisement for the Swedish documentary film Den blodiga tiden. This documentary about Nazi Germany was released in Japan in February 1961 (5 months before Iron Sharp) under its Japanese title Waga tôsô, which btw is written in there in Japanese.

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Here is the real building in Tokyo
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Title screen
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Chiba the superhero and his mobile!
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American deem the odd accidents taking place around the globe as Soviet Union's attempt to start WWIII
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Kids who are only irritating in the dubbed version.
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Evil aliens
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Oh, and a piece of trivia. According to Toei, Iron Sharp was as a follow-up to the TV superhero series National Kid (1960-1961). National Kid was produced by Toei but initiated by Matsushita aka Panasonic who wanted to encourage kids to science with a superhero TV show. They changed the characters and introduced a new hero in Iron Sharp, but the premise remained similar (a superhero who is also a scientist who teaches science to a group of children).

Chiba and the kids. In the Japanese version he says his idol is Yuri Gagarin (who had become the first man in space about three months before the film's release)
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I just re-posted the reviews that went missing with the forum failure last week.

As randow news, Toei Channel started airing Blazing Dragnet (1975-1976) this week. The show ran 14 episodes. Stars Chiba, Shihomi, Hayato Tani, Isao Natsuyagi.

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Next month Toei Channel will start airing Emergency Line (1976), which ran only 10 episodes. Stars Chiba, Shihomi, Tani, Yuriko Hishimi

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You can probably expect to see me writing something about them in the coming months.

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Toei will release Shadow Warriors IV and V on DVD. No subs of course. New HD masters.

Shadow Warriors IV: Part 1 (2017/12/06)
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Shadow Warriors IV: Part 2 (2018/02/07)
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Shadow Warriors V (2018/4/11)
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Extras are 12 page booklets for each. In addition, Shadow Warriors IV episodes 1 and 27 will be the original 90 minute versions, not the 45 minute versions seen on TV "during re-broadcastings". Toei says they have recently discovered the original 16mm negatives. I can't check my recordings from Toei Channel from last year right now, but I think those were the 45 min versions as well.
- https://www.toei-video.co.jp/special/kage-no-gundan/

Edited by Takuma

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Four Sisters (Japan, 1962) [16mm] 2.5/5
Fans of Sonny Chiba's violent action movies may find it surprising that there were a few occasions early on his career when he was cast as "love interest". Such is the case in this film, which is a bit unusual movie in Toei's generally very masculine body of work. It's a family drama (adapted from a novel by Fumio Niwa) about four sisters and their mother who wants to marry them off to respectable and successful men rather than to the ones they really love. The protagonist (Yoshiko Mita) is being arranged to businessman Fumio Watanabe although her heart belongs to handsome but poor Chiba. Chiba has only four or five scenes but he's bursting with youthful energy as he often did in his early roles. The film itself is decent in a genre that is not exactly my cup of green tea.

* Original title: Sanroku (山麓)
* Director: Masaharu Segawa
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: None. Review format: 16mm

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I've added a Review Index to the 1st post of this thread. It's still very much work in progress, and while I cannot provide direct links yet, the reviews are in the below mentioned order, which should help you find them. I will also try to add more original titles in kanji when I have time.

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)

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Legend of Seven Monks (Japan, 2006) [DVD] - 1/5
Though Sonny Chiba and Yasuaki Kurata had appeared in a couple of films together in the mid 70s, it wasn't until this sad stinker that they actually fought each other on screen. The problem here is not the three minutes the gentlemen spent brawling, but the remaining 87 minutes which focuses on a bunch of irritating teenagers (plus the most hilariously racist black comic relief in recent memory) who must train in martial arts to defeat a bargain basement demon and his martial arts underling. Terrible music, horrible acting, worthless story and miserable filmmaking with idiotic effects makes this almost impossible to sit through. It ranks alongside Storm Riders, Born to Be King and some 2000's DTV yakuza flicks as one of the worst films Chiba ever appeared in.

* Original title: Master of Thunder: Kessen!! Fuuma ryuuko-den (マスター・オブ・サンダー 決戦!! 封魔龍虎伝)
* Director: Kenji Tanigaki
* Chiba's role: Small Supporting Role
* Film availability: Some DVDs...

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Battle Royale 2 (Japan, 2003) [VoD] - 2/5
Universally hated sequel is a bit better than its reputation suggests. While the original film was a biting action satire on Japanese society, the sequel tries to do something similar with the post 9/11 world politics. The survivor of the original Battle Royale program (Tatsuya Fujiwara)  has become a terrorist leader, and a new class of school kids (this time armed with assault rifles) is sent to an island to take him down. With constant references to terrorism, Al-Qaida, freedom fighters, American imperialism, and even with parts of the movie filmed in the Middle East, it's an ambitious mess with little coherence or maturity to its satire. It's also terribly acted throughout. That being said, with tons of action and provocations, it remains a somewhat watchable piece of trash minus the first 30 minutes that pisses on the first film so hard it hurts. Sonny Chiba has a 60 second cameo as a "terrorist". Riki Takeuchi plays Riki Takeuchi (yes, you read that right).  

* Original title: バトル・ロワイヤルII
* Director: Kenta Fukasaku and Kinji Fukasaku
* Chiba's role: Cameo
* Film availability: Lots on DVD and BDs

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Adventurer Kamikaze (Japan, 1981) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Sonny Chiba's last starring role in a theatrical release (excluding the 2007 film Oyaji) and a swansong to his stunt driven "modern action" era that had started in the mid 60's with Kamikaze Man and Key Hunter. The romantic caper co-stars Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada in equal roles as two adventurers who by chance both try to rob the same money van. After an unfortunate mishap the money ends up with the yakuza, and it's time to team up to get it back. The film was a long time dream project for Chiba who had been waiting for Sanada to grow old enough to play the second starring role. He based the storyline on his two favourite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and the Alain Delon flick Les Aventuriers (1967). Being an 80's film, exploitation is gone and romance is in, but it's all surprisingly enjoyable with likeable performances by all principals. Action is relatively sparse but there is a major stunt at the end and tech credits are ace. 70's idol Kumiko Akiyoshi plays the charming girl between the two men that Sanada goes horse riding with in amusingly sappy scenes. Her presence only barely counterbalances the enjoyably, unintentionally homoerotic male bonding between Chiba and Sanada.

* Original title: Bokensha kamikaze (冒険者カミカゼ)
* Director: Ryuichi Takamori
* Chiba's role: Starring Role
* Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

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Apologies in advance to @Takumaif t looks like I'm co-opting his thread. I had this review wrapped up for a while and this is about the only thread where it's fitting to post.

Killing Machine/Shorinji Kempo (Japan, 1975) 

Director: Norifumi Suzuki

Written by: Isao Matsumoto

Starring: Sonny Chiba, Yutaka Nakajima, Makoto Satô, Naoya Makoto, Sanae Kitabayashi, Akiko Mori

A reappraisal of sorts for the Sonny Chiba film based very loosely around the real martial artist and founder of the Shorinji Kempo school, Nakano Michiomi (Later to be known as Doshin So). So loosely that in fact he may as well have been an entire fictional character. On the first viewing, I found it underwhelming, but that was partially by wanting something comparable to no-brainer Hong Kong martial arts films or even Chiba's previous work, with no regard to the potent underlying philosophical backbone. Second and subsequent views, it stands out a lot better, and oh boy does it stand out!

Considering it's main theme of 'peace through strength', it could be initially viewed as a one-dimensional onslaught of contradictory machismo and unbridled nationalism as Chiba beats up foreigners. However, despite being very much an exploitation film where the (vast majority of) men are either brute soldiers or unscrupulous yakuza thugs, and the women are - at best - left fending off to themselves, its not as straightforward as that.

The film's protagonist is a Japanese man who, despite his fervent patriotism and his fighting role in World War II, also holds much respect respect for Chinese culture and, thought means that are only hinted upon, eventually became a Kung Fu master, which is hardly an uncommon duality for Japanese Empire veterans. He, too, eventually becomes world-weary and tired of fighting for the sake of fighting, which is exemplified in the very first scene, when Nakano is spying on Chinese commanders in a derelict house at the front, get's found out, and fights for his life with his own fists and feet. Nakano stumbles into a Japanese office, only to be met with his weeping fellow soldiers’ announcement that Japan has surrendered. This evidently sets off a fuse in Nakano, as he proceeds to machine gun everything around him, with fellow Japanese soldiers diving for cover. He concludes in the narration, “The Japanese Empire may have been defeated but I am not defeated.” He is clearly distraught that the years of marching on and fighting were (mostly) for naught, but in a way also relieved that it's all over and that he can walk down a new path for himself.

Nakano's troubles are far from over, as his next struggle is on a train in Japan during his return. Chinese gangsters, dressed in black suits and fancy sunglasses look forward to shellacking the spirit-crushed Japanese passengers. Nakano, dressed in ragged Chinese garb, easily subdues them with his unique fighting style but does not beat them into a pulp. Instead, he reminds them that they're all in the same predicament regardless of nationality and they should get along, if only for the sake of survival. He finally returns to Japan to run a gang of street urchins and cook noddles in his occupied home country. Despite being a formidable martial arts master, Nakano at first wishes nothing more to lead an ascetic life and assist his comrades with making ends meet. This is reflected on the outfit Nakano uses for the rest of the movie; a ragged white karate gi with a ragged dark blue robe over it, and a length of rope rather than a black belt to tie it all up. Such outfit, which reckons back to the uniforms donned by Shaolin monks, suggests a humble yet mighty nature within Nakano, and that his mind is just as intensely trained as his body. 

Just going off of Nakano's personality, and what the film shows and has in its dialogue, he doesn't come off as a straightforward nationalistic hero, but rather someone who always stands up to incredible hardship, who is willing to surpass any challenge no matter how insurmountable it may be, is as willing to have peace for all people of all backgrounds, and there are references to Koreans living with the Japanese and both being badly off post-WWII, and that, while the American occupiers are almost all seen as bad, the character is just as inclined to kick the tar out of his fellow countryman for exploiting the misery of the innocent and being overall horrendous fiends.

Nakano even admits at one point, whilst being interviewed by a police officer after his skirmish with American soldiers, to regularly clashing with his own Japanese military because of his disgust of seeing Chinese civilians being needlessly abused. Later on, when Nakano had already established his school, two Judo masters arrive in one of his training sessions for the sole purpose of chastising him for practicing and teaching an art primarily rooted in Chinese boxing. Nakano easily defeats them with their own Judo techniques, demonstrating again his eclectic martial arts skillset, and they quickly flee. Nakano truly has a patience of a monk, as everyone appears to give him flak for not subscribing to an identity other than his own. There's still a flair of exploitation but its not simple My Country = Good, Everyone Else = Bad, something that Asian cinema in general suffers from.

Nakano Michiomi is something of a living Bodhisattva, in that he figured his way to nirvana but delays doing so out of sheer compassion and unbridled desire to help his fellow humans. He is very persistent in getting a fallen woman (Yutaka Nakajima) to refrain from resorting to prostitution, even slapping and giving her and earful when she expresses a desire to be (properly) deflowered by him. His first formal student is also a female, in the form of the eternal Sister Street Fighter herself Etsuko Shihomi, and as one can expect she is a formidable force of her own, beating up lots of yakuza even as a side character. Romance is hinted upon with both ladies but never fully explored, an indication that the path Nakano treads is a lonely one, even if a romantic subplot certainly would've been a good fit in a movie filled with dire circumstances.

The martial arts, while not quite sporting too much of the trademark brutality that Chiba is known for, is still bone crunching, and while Nakano Michiomi's fighting style is more acrobatic and more elaborate, he still retains a certain attitude and impact to his style, reflecting on both his Shaolin training and his subsequent nature as a war-hardened street fighter (see what I did there?). In some ways this movie is the prime of Chiba's fighting prowess, as he incorporates aspects of many different martial arts forms into his own fighting style, and he even makes Kung Fu stances in a few scenes.

The standard Chiba film splatterhouse fest is still present that includes, among blood spurting, a rapist getting castrated by Nakano with a pair of scissors, a guy getting stabbed to death and getting soaked in his own blood, and one of Chiba's students getting his arm sliced off. The movie is also visually bold noticing, with a bigger focus on colors and visuals than what one would expect of a Chiba flick. It definitely has lots of creative flair to burn on that department. 

The film's main flaw, you ask? The lack of a main villain, as neither the Korean/Yakuza gangsters, occupation soldiers or even the rival dojos make for long-term formidable opponents. There's no one to give Nakano a run for his money as far as skill set is concerned. The flaw definitely shows at the tail end of the movie, as we are met with boring series of battles with local gangsters. Perhaps a final baddie in the form of Masashi Ishibashi (Who had brilliantly played the main antagonist in Karate Bullfighter) would've made for an intensely more satisfying conclusion, but I suppose I'm getting too ahead of myself.

Another observation to make is that the movie is kind-of-but-perhaps-not-really disowned by the Shorinji Kempo organization? The real Doshin So worked with lead star Sonny Chiba throughout production of this movie. The Shorinji Kempo teachings are still there, even if they're conveyed in a hard-hitting manner. A disclaimer at the beginning of some versions of the movie shows the wariness that the organization had for the final product; but then an ending title card tries to justify all the onscreen brutality with a Blaise Pascal quote, "Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is violence". For what it's worth, the quote is definitely a perfect summary of the movie's themes. 

Lastly (for now) but not least, I have no clue why this called The Killing Machine when Nakano pretty much actively tries to do the opposite. The alternate title of Hired Hand also doesn't fit. This movie deserves a better English title.

Edited by Fist of the Heavenly Sky

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