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Thread: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

  1. #51
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Human Torpedoes (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 2/5
    Hiroyuki Matsukata plays the man who developed the Japanese human torpedo, a suicide weapon used in WWII. It's an interesting topic and makes good cinema for the first 30 minutes, after which the film turns into to a typical human relationship war drama with melodramatic and nationalistic undertones. It gets a bit better again towards the end when the human torpedoes are put into use. Sonny Chiba appears briefly during the last 15 minutes as a submarine captain, looking cool and charismatic with beard. It's too bad he only a has a couple of minutes of screen time, despite getting his name listed 3rd in the opening credits. The film would be much better if most of the middle third was cut out, and the focus was on developing and using the human torpedoes.

    * Original title: Ningen gyorai: Âa kaiten tokubetsu kogetikai (人間魚雷 あゝ回天特別攻撃隊)
    * Director: Shigero Ozawa
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)









    Junko Fuji




    Chiba on the left


    Chiba in the middle



  2. #52
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Army Intelligence 33 (Japan, 1968) [35mm] – 4/5

    Sonny Chiba waves good bye to serious war dramas in this criminally neglected mixture of spy-noir and kick-ass commando action. The film is loosely based on the Nakano Spy School which operated in Tokyo during the Second World War. It officially focused on correspondence, but in reality trained top spies for the government. Chiba portrays a promising young soldier who is framed for murder, and forced to become a spy after being found guilty in military court.

    After receiving a tough training in martial arts, weapons, explosives, and foreign languages (by Tetsuro Tanba), he is sent for his first mission, which is to gather secret information from a foreign diplomat. This is when the film takes a turn to a wonderful spy noir with gorgeous cinematography, great old fashioned score and terrific atmosphere. Chiba himself looks fabulous in long dark coat and black hat which immediately bring American noir stars like Humphrey Bogart to mind. This is one of those many things foreign fans never expected to find in Chiba’s filmography.

    Army Intelligence 33 isn’t entirely a spy noir, though. The final act sees Chiba sent for a Lee Marvin style commando mission to South East Asia together with his partner in crime Kenji Imai. The action packed final third can’t quite compare with the wonderful noir section, but it’s a tremendously entertaining climax nevertheless. The only weakness is occasional lazy screenwriting throughout the film, which has us believe that these young men forced to become spies would barely protest their destiny, and the enemy soldiers whose behaviour isn’t always all that logical. This is however a small gripe in a hugely entertaining film.

    Chiba later returned to the same training camp in another Nakano Spy School film: Military Spy School (Junya Sato, 1974). That film, however, couldn’t compare with the far more elegant and entertaining Army Intelligence 33, which remains one of Chiba’s best movies. A real gem waiting to be discovered.

    * Original title: Rikugun choho 33 (陸軍諜報33)
    * Director: Tsuneo Kobayashi
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)






















  3. #53
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    + here's some stills for Army Intelligence 33 (1968).





















    I'm praying Toei or some other company will put this out on DVD one of these days.

  4. #54
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    Delinquent Boss: Ocho the She-Wolf (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 1/5

    The second film in the Delinquent Boss series is a tiresome action comedy without a hint of inspiration. It was - for some reason - a phenomenally successful series for star Tatsuo Umemiya, who plays a silly biker gang boss surrounded by - at least in this entry - unfunny comic reliefs. The series went on for 16 instalments, in addition to which the character appeared in at least two unrelated movies, including a cameo in Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge (1972). The series also gave its the title and some minor inspiration for the far superior Delinquent Girl Boss series.

    Film connections are actually one of the few interesting things about Ocho the She-Wolf: the titular character is the same one Reiko Ike plays in Sex & Fury and Female Yakuza Tale, although those films were set in a different period and featured quite a different kind of Ocho. She's played by Junko Miyazono here, but the role is pretty small. Sonny Chiba also appears in a small supporting role, and while it's always a pleasure to see Chiba on screen, he has very little to do here. The same can be said about Bunta Sugawara. Even the massive end slaughter is an utter bore despite all the gunplay, explosions and bikes.

    * Original title: Furyô banchô: Inoshika Ochô (不良番長 猪の鹿お蝶)
    * Director: Yukio Noda
    * Chiba's role: Small supporting role
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Poster 1


    Poster 2


    VHS Cover

  5. #55
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Memoir of Japanese Assassins (Japan, 1969) [35mm] - 4/5

    This is an odd beast in Sonny Chiba's filmography, a powerful political thriller that chronicles real life assassinations from Japan's recent history. The film opens with a seemingly endless cavalcade of violent assassinations, with superstars like Ken Takakura, Tomisaburo Wakayama and Bunta Sugawara popping up just for a few minutes in their own segments to cut off someone’s head, stab someone to death, or blow someone into pieces.

    About 20 minutes into the film the storyline has finally reached the early 1930s, with Sonny Chiba standing in front of the court, accused of terrorism. This is when the bloodshed finally comes to an end. For the next 100 minutes there would not be a single killing as the film takes its time to show how an ordinary young man (Chiba) grew into a political assassin.

    Chiba's character, Sho Onuma, is an ill but loyal employee at a factory whose honest owner is driven to a bankruptcy by corrupt officials. Chiba is left without a job, and soon later his love interest dies from an illness. Following a failed suicide attempt, Chiba films a new home with a charismatic priest (Chiezo Kataoka). The man is Nissho Inoue, whom the world would later come to know as the leader of the ultra nationalist League of Blood organization.

    At 142 minutes, Memoir of Japanese Assassins packs quite a bit of interesting philosophical discussions on terrorism and offers a provocative, non-judgemental view on its extremist characters. It would be easy to see it as an ultra-rightist political statement, but that wasn't director Sadao Nakajima's intention according to his own words. In facts, he has expressed his disappointment over such interpretations. I tend to believe him as the film comes out much less a rightist statement than general antipathy for corruption and exploitation of the weak. It also helps that more than 40 years have passed since the film was made.

    That being said, it should be noted that nearly all historical figures killed in the film - that is daimyo Naosuke Ii, statesman Toshimichi Okubo, politician Shigenobu Okuma, communications minister Toru Hoshi, prime minister Tsuyoshi Inukai, and businessmen Zenjiro Yasuda, Junnosuke Inoue, and Dan Takuma - had something to do with the Japanese government's attempts to modernize Japan and open the country to foreign influences. The February 26 Incident, which is also covered in the film, also aimed at bringing down a Western-minded government. Those such political connections are never explicitly stated in the film, most audiences at the time would surely have been aware of them.

    What added to the films volatility was that its protagonist, Sho Onuma, was still alive as consulted the filmmakers (he had been sentenced for life, but pardoned in 1940). The Japanese Liberal Democrat Party tried to halt the film production and managed to censor parts of the final act, which contains passages from February 26 Incident leader Asaichi Isobe's diary. Toei took advantage of the controversy, releasing a teaser trailer that showed Onuma on the set advising Chiba.

    For Chiba Memoir of Japanese Assassins was no doubt what he had been looking for: a powerful crime drama with a very strong scrip and good characters. He had been in several mediocre crime dramas (North Sea Chivalry, 1967; The Tale of Kawachi Chivalry, 1967) where he tended to be best thing about an otherwise lazy production. In Memoir of Japanese Assassins Chiba gives one of his best performances, for which he won an acting award at the Kyoto Citizen Film Festival (Kyoto shimin eiga sai), where Hideo Gosha’s Hitokiri was awarded the same year.

    Director Nakajima was a highly uneven filmmaker who worked in almost any popular genre from pink films to samurai movies. Many of his movies are routine efforts, but some are genuinely inspired and well directed. Memoir of Japanese Assassins remains one of his best and most thoughtful films. Adding to the film's strength is composer Isao Tomita's epic score, which plays on repeat. The mix of politics, character drama and almost splatterific violence may be too much for some viewers, but for others this is an unpolished gem.

    * Original title: Nihon ansatsu hiroku (日本暗殺秘録)
    * Director: Sadao Nakajima
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: Toei DVD (Japan) (No subtitles)






















  6. #56
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    Yakuza Deka (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 2.5/5
    The first film in the Yakuza Deka series. Chiba is an undercover cop who infiltrates the yakuza. Action and comedy ensues. These movies were essentially a series of cheap but fun programmer pictures that brought Chiba's contemporary action formula from television (Key Hunter, 1967-1972) to the big screen, only with more comedy. The first movie is the sloppiest of them, with plenty of action that seems to have been filmed in great hurry by director Yukio Noda (he's best known for the outrageous pinky violence classic Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, which gives a false impression of him as a better director than he really was). Chiba is fun to watch and he has some great buddy scenes with friend/foe Ryuhei Uchida, who is also one of the film's strengths. However, the stunt work isn't nearly as accomplished as it was in some of the sequels, and more care should've been put into the production. Oh, and Chiba shows his ass. Twice.

    * Original title: Yakuza Deka (やくざ刑事)
    * Director: Yukio Noda
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK)



    Uchida




    Key Hunter co-star Yoko Nogawa








    Note: the original trailer features plenty of footage from Kamikaze Man (1966)


  7. #57
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Yakuza Deka: The Assassin [DVD] - 3/5
    The second film in the Yakuza Deka series. Sonny Chiba shows his ass again. This is an improvement over the sloppy original, even though the storyline is a direct copy of the previous movie and we once again have to suffer through a painful Toru Yuri comedy scene. Chiba is an undercover cop again, operating between two yakuza gangs trying to bring them both down. What is new is new is that the mayhem is much better executed this time. Action is wilder, stunts are bigger, comedy is funnier and Chiba sports one hell of a wardrobe in the film. It's obvious more care was put into the production than last time. It's still nothing more than a harmless time waster, but as such it delivers the goods. Ryuhei Uchida co-stars again as Chiba's friend/nemesis. He basically plays the exact same character as last time, only his name is different, but no one would complain because he's excellent as usual.

    * Original title: Yakuza deka: Marifana mitsubai soshiki (やくざ刑事 マリファナ密売組織)
    * Director: Yukio Noda
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: Optimum DVD (UK)



    Chiba and Uchida


    Fake Charles Bronson on the right


    Man with style




    Marihuana psychedelia




    Chiba doing some impressive stunt work dodging bullets in the air...


    ...and trying to get on that boat

  8. #58
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Yakuza Deka: Poison Gas Affair (Japan, 1971) [TV] - 3/5
    The 3rd Yakuza Deka film is yet another enjoyable time waster, as good as the previous film. This time much of the action is set in a snowy ski resort, allowing Chiba to orchestrate all kinds of action scenarios with skis, snowmobiles and other winter machinery. There's also a relatively decent amount of martial arts included considering the early production year. Chiba first needs to prove his skills in a brief fight against a tonfu-fighter, stick-fighter, dagger-man and karate fighter, and later fight for his life against two ninjas. Unfortunately some of the action seems a little hastily put together and the official tagline of "grand action where Chiba risks his life every 5 minutes" oversells the film a bit. It's still a good bit of fun and the storyline is probably the best so far, with some genuine dramatic tension and yet another fine supporting performance Ryuhei Uchida. Pinky violence star Yukie Kagawa appears as female ninja. Oh, and Chiba doesn't show his ass this time.

    * Original title: Yakuza deka: Kyofu no doku gasu (やくざ刑事 恐怖の毒ガス)
    * Director: Ryuichi Takamori
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: None (review format: TV)























    Poster A


    Poster B

  9. #59
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us (Japan, 1971) [VoD] - 3.5/5
    The 4th and final film in the Yakuza Deka series. It's another programmer picture, but this one does its job admirably, packing action, fights and great stunt sequences every 15 minutes and filling the gaps with Chiba riding a horse topless, robbing a jewellery store while dressed as Buddhist monk, and walking around in white suit while waving a Tommy Gun. Some of the stunts include Chiba hanging from a cable car 50m above the sea/ground, and jumping out from a car while it's flying through the air. There are many amusing comedy bits as well, especially with co-star Ryohei Uchida, and Chiba sings again. It was exactly this kind of movies that made Jackie Chan a fan of Chiba's work; indeed, the mix of action, stunts and humour often resembles the films Jackie would do in the 1980s. Easily the best film in the Yakuza Deka series.

    * Original title: Yakuza Deka: Oretachi ni haka ha wai (やくざ刑事 俺たちに墓はない)
    * Director: Ryuichi Takamori
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)

    Chiba!


    Chiba!


    Chiba and uninvited guests!


    Man with style








    Look carefully. That small white dot in the bottom is Chiba!




    Chiba!


    Poster

  10. #60
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    Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3.5/5
    Sonny Chiba is a silent, unshaven avenger in Ryuichi Takamori's violent yakuza western. Chiba plays a man who is after the yakuza who killed his father and sold his sister to prostitution. He's now taking out bad guys one at a time and agitating gangs against each other while making his way towards the syndicate boss (Koji Nanbara).

    There is an instantly obvious Django influence that goes all the way to the fantastic finale where Chiba, with both of his arms broken by the villains, uses a custom made shotgun attached to a severed steering wheel and a stand which he can he operate without hands. The film also sports a colourful, even surreal visual look that predates the Female Prisoner Scorpion films that unleashed similar images later the same year. The obvious connection is screenwriter Fumio Konami, who wrote this as well as the Female Prisoner Scorpion films. Furthermore, the scene where Chiba attempts to rescue his sister from an underground sex club is like straight outta the bizarre world of Teruo Ishii.

    Director Takamori is the weakest link as usual, managing the highlights quite well but sometimes failing to pump the kind of energy into the film that it really deserves. It's still a very cool film, though, with enough sex, violence and style to keep you thoroughly entertained. It also marked the beginning of a new, darker era for Chiba after a decade of clean hero roles.

    * Original title: Ookami yakuza: Koroshi ha ore ga yaru (狼やくざ 殺しは俺がやる)
    * Director: Ryuichi Takamori
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: None (review format: TV)

    Chiba the avenger




    Teruo Ishii, anyone?








    More Western stuff






    Un utterly awesome custom shotgun



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