• The Street Fighter Collection (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: March 26th, 2019.
    Director: Shigehiro Ozawa, Teruo Ishii
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shiomi, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Claude Gannyon, Frankie Black, Waichi Yamada
    Year: 1974-1975
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    The Street Fighter Collection – Movie Reviews:

    Inspired by the international success of Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon, Toho Studios decided that it would release its own martial arts action films, and cast in them the man who at the time looked like the successor to Bruce Lee's crown, Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba (star of The Executioner, Bullet Train). Chiba had been well known in Japan for a while, having starred in quite a few successful action, comedy and drama films, as well as numerous television shows. And so was born The Street Fighter (known in Japan as Gekitotsu! Satsujin-Ken) in 1974, the film for which Chiba remains best known for to this day, almost thirty years later. It's also one of historical importance as it was one of the first films to receive an 'X' rating for violence, rather than sexual content.

    With black belts in multiple forms of Japanese martial arts, his brutal fighting style would bring an air of savage and intense brutality to the screen that hadn't really been seen before. Where Bruce Lee's characters fought with honor and an even-tempered mind, Chiba's Takuma (Terry to his English-speaking pals) Tsurugi was more likely to rip out your throat and steal your woman when you weren't looking. He was a complete and utter bad ass in these films, and it's this role that put him in the same tough guy league as Death Wish's Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood's classic tough cop, Harry Callahan from the Dirty Harry films.

    In 1993 the three Street Fighter films received a bit of a resurgence in popularity in North America when they were featured in Tony Scott's True Romance (written by Quentin Tarantino). The film featured an extended sequence that had the two lead characters spending time at a Sonny Chiba Street Fighter marathon.

    The Street Fighter

    “If you’ve got to fight, fight dirty!”

    Takuma Tsurugi is a tough mercenary with amazing karate skills who isn't afraid to take on the dirtier jobs that come his way as long as the price is right. He tools around with his buddy/assistant Rakuda No Cho (Ratnose in the English versions, and played by Waichi Yamada).

    Shortly after Takuma busts out of prison, a very wealthy business man dies and leaves his fortune to his only daughter. A pair of gangsters hire Takuma to kidnap her – morals be damned, this man is in it for the money. The only problem is that they don't want to meet his price, and instead, they decide to try to knock him off to keep him quiet. This is obviously a bad move on their part, and Takuma quickly turns around and starts working for the daughter, and protects her from the gangsters who are out to steal her inheritance. Meanwhile, a brother/sister team (Masashi Ishibashi and ‘Sister Street Fighter’ herself, Etsuko Shiomi), want to collect a blood debt from Tsurugi after he kills their father.

    “Tell that bitch who sent you how sorry I am I can no longer be her friend!”

    Carnage ensues - throats are ripped out, skulls are crushed (in riveting x-ray vision!), and limbs are torn off of torsos as Takuma punches and kicks his way through the Japanese underworld, all to the beat of one of the greatest soundtracks in all of the martial arts films.

    The first (and best) of the films, The Street Fighter has a fast-moving plot (sure there are a few holes, but it's not hard to overlook them) and some solid direction from Ozawa, but the crowning achievement of the film is Chiba and his tough as nails performance. This is the film that made him the consummate Japanese tough guy – no one is badder than Takuma Tsurugi in all the annals of action moviedom. He movies through the film like a beast, getting into one scrap after another and having to find and fight his way out of some interesting predicaments. The last half hour is action movie bliss, culminating in a killer scene set atop an oil tanker.

    Chiba is the main attraction here, of course, but the presence of Shiomi is also very welcome. She’s really solid here, getting into some scraps of her own and holding her own against the guys. Waichi Yamada provides some amusing comic relief as the lead’s sidekick,

    The Return of the Street Fighter:

    Chiba teamed up again with director Ozawa shortly after the first film for an almost immediate sequel, aptly if unoriginally titled The Return of the Street Fighter.

    Starting off with a bang, we find Takuma involved in a brutal fight with the local police that culminates with Tsurugi jumping out the window. The cops are after him for taking out a key witness for a less than legitimate client, and he obviously doesn’t want to do time for this. He then has to finish the job by killing a Yakuza accountant who betrayed the gangsters, all while avoiding the police and various underworld factions out to for his blood.

    While it's not as good as the original film, The Return of the Street Fighter still has some really great moments, highlighted by a crazy fight scene on top of a snow-covered ski slope. Unfortunately, the film relies too heavily on flashbacks from the first movie, and also suffers from 'lack of Chiba syndrome' as Sonny is only featured in about 40 - 45 minutes of the film. 'Lack of Chiba Syndrome' would also plague the other sequel as well. He just doesn't have enough screen time in the later parts and the films do suffer for it.

    Despite that major strike though, The Return Of The Street Fighter continues the grand tradition of exploitative violence and balls out action that the first film handled so very, very well. There’s plenty of blood action here, and Chiba is involved in much of it. The story is no great shakes – it’s basically Chiba against the mob with intermittent police involvement, but it keeps the action moving at a quick enough pace that you don’t mind so much. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and nicely staged and once again serve as a showcase for Chiba’s impressive martial arts skills and brutal fighting style. We get a pretty slick fight that takes place in a snowy mountain locale and a scene where Sonny takes on a naked lady!

    The Street Fighters Last Revenge:

    The next entry in the series is noticeably softer than the first two films, as we find Takuma involved in a scheme to obtain one of two tapes containing a secret recipe for making cheap but high-quality heroin. But of course, things get complicated when he gets cheated by the Owada Yakuza clan, so he wants the tape back to keep the crooks who hired him from profiting from his work. He winds up collaborating with Huo-Feng (Shiomi again), a Taiwanese martial artist in the employ of the Owada family, in hopes of bringing them down.

    While very entertaining in its own right, Street Fighters Last Revenge is closer to a violent James Bond movie than the other two entries are, as we find Chiba playing less a mercenary type and more a master of disguise. Still, if you enjoyed the first two films, you'll probably be into this one as it's still a lot of fun. This entry is also considerably campier than the first two films, and is played with a more tongue in cheek attitude and has noticeably toned-down violence compared to the earlier entries in the series so don’t expect the over the top fights and gratuitously gory moments that punctuated the first two films in the series, cause it ain’t gonna happen here, though some of the fight scenes are still pretty strong.

    The movie also benefits from the presence of lovely pinky violence queen Reiko Ike as Ayo Owada, the member of the Yakuza clan who winds up in the thick of all of this, and from the presence, once again, of Etsuko Shiomi. These two go a long way towards making up for the fact that Chiba isn’t in this as much as most of us would have liked, and they’re both quite good in their roles.

    Note that for this third film, the American version isn’t just a trimmed down version of the original Japanese film (although some of the violence was cut from the U.S. edit), but it actually has a few plot changes and scenes that take place in a different order.

    For those understandably intrigued by such things, each of the three films in the set opens with the New Line logo and then the Toei. Opening and closing titles are presented in English for all versions of the movies except for the uncut version of the third film (the U.S. cut features English titles).

    The Street Fighter Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory advertises their transfers of the first two films as follows:

    The Street Fighter comes from two sources: a new 2k scan of the color reversal internegative of the shorter English language cut and an earlier HD master of the Japanese cut.

    Return Of The Street Fighter also comes from two sources: a new 2k scan of the color reversal internegative of the shorter English language cut and an earlier HD master of the Japanese cut.

    The English version of The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge is taken from a new 2k scan of the color reversal internegative. The uncut version is taken from that same scan, with four-minutes or so inserted from a standard definition source.

    The transfers here, are pretty solid. Each film is presented on its own 50GB Blu-ray disc, with the movie presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen – just as it should be. There is some mild print damage noticeable throughout, but it’s all in the form of small white specks, not glaring scratches and what not. Could this his been cleaned up more? Maybe, but by and large the quality of the image is strong. A natural amount of film grain is present, as it should be, and this is accentuated during the slow-motion scenes that are used here and there, but there’s really nice depth, detail and texture present throughout each of the three movies. There are no noticeable issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement, these, thankfully, look quite film-like. The discs are also nicely authored, there are no problems with any compression artifacts here. Skin tones look good and colors, while a little flat here and there in a few random sporadic shots, generally fare quite well and look very nice. We also get solid black levels too, and there are no problems with any crush or what not during the darker scenes.

    As to the audio, the first film gets DTS-HD Mono tracks in Japanese, and with two English versions – the theatrical audio and the New Line Home video dub. The two sequels offer you the choice of watching the film in Japanese or English dubbed DTS-HD Mono. Optional subtitles are provided for all three films in the set and they translate the Japanese audio tracks.

    There are no problems with the audio to note. The films play better in Japanese but for some of us, those English dubbed tracks are the way that we first saw the films so it’s great that both options have been included here in lossless audio. Typically, balance is fine and tracks are clean, clear and easy on the ears. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about, the movies sound just fine. The iconic and instantly identifiable theme music also sounds really nice in DTS-HD format!

    Extras are spread across the three discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One:

    The main extra on the first disc is Street Fighting Man, an all-new interview with the bad man from Japan himself, Mr. Sonny China. Here he speaks quite openly and candidly about the situations surrounding the movies in this set. He discusses his martial arts training and explains why Terry ‘breaths’ the way he does during the fight scenes. He also talks about his co-stars, crediting Waichi Yamada with what he feels is some important comic relief, and talking about his relationship with Etsuko Shiomi. He also discusses how he came to be ‘Sonny’ Chiba in the states and is quite vocal about his distaste for violent and cruel martial arts films, noting that he really only got involved with films like this because the producers pressured him to do it. He also discusses his relationship with Quentin Tarantino and a few other details. It’s a good piece. Chiba’s an interesting guy and this interview helps his English-speaking fans get to know him a little better.

    Also included on the first disc is Cutting Moments, a thirteen-minute interview with editor/filmmaker Jack Sholder, the man who cut the American trailer for the film. He speaks here about working for New Line Cinema in the seventies, how that came about, dealing with the MPAA, what his duties were and, yes, what was involved in putting together that awesome U.S. theatrical trailer. Interesting stuff.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s U.S. Theatrical Trailer, the original Japanese theatrical trailer, a nice still gallery of photos, poster art and home video art, menus and chapter selection.

    Disc Two:

    Extras on this second disc are made up of a U.S. teaser trailer, a U.S. theatrical trailer, a Japanese theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    Disc Three:

    Last but not least, the third disc includes the U.S. theatrical trailer, the Japanese theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, all three discs fit inside a standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase that in turn fits inside a nice slipcover. The reverse side of the cover sleeve shows off the three original U.S. one sheets for the films, which is a nice touch.

    The Street Fighter Collection – The Final Word:

    It’s been a long wait for fans, but the Street Fighter films are now finally available on Blu-ray. They remain some of Chiba’s most entertaining and enjoyable pictures, offering up plenty of bone-crushing, ball-ripping action, insane characters, quirky humor and solid suspense and Shout! Factory has done a nice job giving them their high definition debut. More extras are always welcome, of course, but the interview with the man himself is well done as is the shorter piece with Sholder. The trailers and still galleries are also appreciated. All in all, a really solid release for a fantastic set of films.

    Comments 10 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Not the 1st X for violence. Headless Eyes got one in 1973.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Is that actually confirmed anywhere? I know Street Fighter has marketing materials. ads etc with the X on it but haven't ever seen that for Headless Eyes.
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Didn't The Gore Gore Girls get an 'X' in '72? Or did that one just go out unrated?
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      As of its 3/26 release date, Amazon (u.S.) has marked Shout's Street Fighter Collection Blu-ray set as "Unavailable".

      I pre-ordered it months ago. Yesterday I got an email from Amazon stating they would ship it IF and when they're able...
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by SuperDevilDoctor View Post
      As of its 3/26 release date, Amazon (u.S.) has marked Shout's Street Fighter Collection Blu-ray set as "Unavailable".

      I pre-ordered it months ago. Yesterday I got an email from Amazon stating they would ship it IF and when they're able...

      It's on ebay for like 100 bucks. Did Shout do a short run of these and they're now OOP?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Shout's site says sold out but this was never advertised as a limited edition so they'll probably do another pressing. I think this sold better than they expected, which, if they're smart, might mean more Chiba in the future?
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      I hope you're right!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Looks like it's actually just the poster version that's sold out on the Shout! site. So if you don't care about the poster, it's in stock there.
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      I used some Amazon credit card "miles" to pre-order the set for 20 bucks... so I gotta wait for it.
    1. SuperDevilDoctor's Avatar
      SuperDevilDoctor -
      New/revised Amazon release date announced: April 17th.