It’s a wonderful time for fans of grindhouse cinema and collectors of physical media. Great studios are all rushing out to offer collectors some of the rarest and under seen movie titles of all time, including some of the best martial arts films ever made. With Arrow Video releasing the pristine Sister Street Fighter Collection on Blu-ray recently, Shout! Factory follows up from the rear unleashing the Street Fighter Collection. If you loved both series, now is the time to grab them, as they’re finally on Blu-Ray, with the original article starring Sonny Chiba in a great box set with a ton of extras and restorations.
In “The Street Fighter (1974),” Sonny Chiba plays martial arts master Terry Tsurugi, an assassin for hire who hears of a plot to kidnap Sarai, the daughter of a dead billionaire. Concerned for her, he offers to protect her, and while keeping her safe, he Sarai is kidnapped by a group of mobsters. Now Terry has to get Sarai back and will destroy anyone who gets in his way. Around the seventies, and well, for much of the seventies, many studios scrambled to find the new Bruce Lee, and Sonny Chiba proved to be so much more. While Lee was amazing in his own right, Chiba brought his own trademark of raw action and power to action cinema that helped him stand apart. Chiba’s approach to martial arts is so much rawer and makes his explosion on to film something different and wholly unique. “The Street Fighter” is a good actioner with Chiba at his best.
The follow up “Return of the Street Fighter (1974)” finds Chiba returning once again as Terry Tsugury. When bad people find out about illegal activities being conducted by a Yakuza member known as Otaguro, he calls upon master street fighter Terry for help and protection. Terry is assigned to kill the informants snitching on Otaguro, but when he learns one of the informants is an old friend, he is soon conflicted. Should he defy his mission or carry out his orders no matter what? This is a solid sequel to “The Street Fighter” with Sonny Chiba doing a bang up job as Terry Tsugury once again. While the plotting and narrative is thin, as most of the “Street Fighter” movies, the action and martial arts is pretty awesome with Chiba at his coolest. It’s a good second chapter in the series.
Finally, there’s “The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974)”, the last chapter in Terry’s saga that introduces something of a new direction. The narrative seems to lean more toward ushering in the “Sister Street Fighter” movie series that would branch off, after the end of this trilogy. Terry is a thief who agrees to help and underworld crime boss for a fee. He agrees to steal back a set of cassette tapes that instruct its listener on how to manufacture cheap heroin. But when Terry realizes he’s been double crossed, he flees with the tapes. With a vicious assassin on his trail, Terry begins to wonder who he can and can’t trust and must confide in an enigmatic agent, played by Etsuko Shihomi. There are some great fight scenes and a nice ushering out of Chiba, and ushering in of the inevitable “Sister Street Fighter” movie series. Chiba is great in all three films, even if the trilogy is slim on narrative and story.
The box set some with a twenty seven minute interview with actor Sonny Chiba, who is frank about his past work and his new work, and how he wants to be hired as an actor and performer. Chiba discusses his various styles of fighting, techniques, etc., how they work, how they’re utilized, and displayed in his films. It’s a wonderful interview, especially if you’re just learning about the one and only Sonny Chiba. There’s a thirteen minute “Interview With Trailer Editor/Filmmaker Jack Sholder,” who discusses his early work, his days at New Line with Bob Shaye, various trailers he’s cut, and quoting lines from them. He also discusses sitting through thirty martial arts films in a theater with Bob Shaye before getting “Street Fighter.” He talks about changing the Asian actors’ names to appeal to American audiences. There’s the original US theatrical trailer, the Japanese Theatrical trailer, there’s a still gallery, and the Blu-Ray credits. Discs two and three include the original US theatrical trailers, the Japanese Theatrical trailers, and still galleries for each film. “The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge” includes the US Cut and the Japanese Cut.