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Thread: Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

  1. #61
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3/5
    A strange follow-up for having almost nothing to do with the original film. This one is more in line with the Yakuza Deka action comedies, albeit with a little less humour and action. Chiba is a clean shaven, suit wearing small time goon betrayed by a big shot yakuza. After his release from prison, he and pal Tatsuya Fuji start planning a heist/revenge plot against the yakuza. Former Nikkatsu director Buichi Saito (who also directed the 4th Lone Wolf & Cub film) keeps the film in constant move, but he doesn't have a the kind of unique script the first film had to work with. Hence, no spaghetti western imagery or surreal visuals here. There is still plenty of fun to be had, though, including some nice stunt work and a catchy theme song by Chiba. Reiko Ike, finally 18 for real (she had been lying about her age when she appeared in her first movies), plays Chiba's ex-girlfriend. She doesn't have much else to do than sing and show her breasts, but it's nice to have her in the film.

    * Original title: Ookami yakuza: Tomurai wa ore ga dasu (狼やくざ 葬いは俺が出す)
    * Director: Buichi Saito
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: None (review format: TV)

    Chiba has lost his beard


    Tatsuya Fuji, who became homeless when Nikkatsu went Roman Porno






    Reiko Ike


    Tsunehiko Watase




    Chiba stunt work.


    Yeah, it's the same bridge Shihomi fell from in Sister Street Fighter


    Flying Chiba

  2. #62
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Two posters for Yakuza Wolf: I Perform Murder




    And one for Yakuza Wolf: Extend My Condolences

  3. #63
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 4/5

    This terrific, atmospheric neo noir is one of Chiba's finest films. The gritty crime movie kicks off from a gangster run sex club where one of the customers is murdered. It turns out the victim is a policeman. Older detective Yamamoto (Asao Sano) and his partner Tamura (Hiroshi Miyauchi) begin investigating, only to find out Yamamoto's own daughter is involved in a prostitution ring. Yamamoto kills himself and his daughter, leaving Tamura alone with the case.

    Tamura later crosses paths with Kikuchi (Chiba), a narcotics detective so deep undercover that it's no longer clear on which side of the law he is operating. Kikuchi's wife awaits at home while he's working his way deeper into the underworld by hanging out with pimps and drug dealers, and having one night stands heroin addicts. His real identity kept secret even from the police.

    Director Shin Takakuwa does excellent job helming the film. He goes for character driven crime drama supported by a terrific screenplay. There's a lot of attention given not only to the main characters, but also their loved ones, and how their work affects everyone around them. Pitting Chiba and Miyauchi against each other works especially well. The bets keep getting bigger as the film goes on until the tension reaches a hair-rising level towards the end. Action scenes are few, but very well executed. An atmospheric score by Toshiaki Tsushima (Battles without Honor and Humanity; The Street Fighter) completes the package.

    The film was based in an idea by senior businessman Tsusai Sugawara, who had been campaigning against drugs, prostitution and sex diseases in Japan. Sugawara himself plays Chiba's superior in the film. Fear not the filmmakers going soft due to his involvement: A Narcotic's Agent's Ballad is gritty and borderline sleazy 70s crime cinema with no happy ending, very much comparable to Kinji Fukasaku's films in content and quality.

    * Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men (麻薬売春Gメン)
    * English aka: Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men.
    * Director: Shin Takakuwa
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: None (review format: TV)







    Asao Sano and Hiroshi Miyauchi


    Chiba


    Chiba


    Tsusai Sugawara







  4. #64
    Quote Originally Posted by Takuma View Post
    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
    Wasnt this one released on Fox video as THE ASSASSIN?

  5. #65
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scorpion View Post
    Wasnt this one released on Fox video as THE ASSASSIN?
    Yes.


    - http://vhscollector.com/movie/assassin-2

    I also wonder if the 4th film, No Grave For Us, came out on VHS? There's an English language trailer for it on youtube:

  6. #66
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men: Terrifying Flesh Hell (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3/5
    An entertaining, but a slightly underwhelming sequel to A Narcotics Agent's Ballad dispatches undercover cop Chiba to Okinawa. The poster and title suggests of sexploitation, but that is in fact just advertising promises. In reality the film tones down the sex and nudity from the first film and focuses more on narcotics than prostitution. Unfortunately the film also lacks the tension and superb characterization of the first film. This one is more of a basic cops vs. thugs flick, with Chiba teaming up with local cop Tsunehiko Watase and befriending dark skinned, half-Japanese small time goon (Ken Sanders). The Okinawa location brings some colour to the production, including a lot of foreign faces (amusingly always presented as criminals!) but is not as well used as you'd wish. That's not saying it's a bad film, though, quite the contrary. While unable to live up to its predecessor, it's a fast paced crime film with solid tech credits, occasional sex and violence, and Chiba smoking three lung cancers' worth of tobacco.

    This was the last of the two Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men films; however, next year there was a movie called Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle. Chiba played a different character, but the film was again based on Tsusai Sugawara's anti narcotics/prostitution campagn, making it a loosely linked follow-up for the two Narcotics/Prostitution G-Men films.

    * Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men: Kyofu no niku jigoku (麻薬売春Gメン 恐怖の肉地獄)
    * Director: Shin Takakuwa
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: None (review format: TV)





















    Poster
    Last edited by Takuma; 04-22-2016 at 10:42 PM.

  7. #67
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Also, here's two posters for the first film, A Narcotics Agent's Ballad



  8. #68
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle (Japan/Korea/Thailand/Hong Kong, 1973) – 3/5

    Sonny Chiba stars in this major Asian co-production based on the thoughts and ideas of the anti drugs/prostitution/sexually transmitted diseases campaigning businessman / political figure Tsusai Sugawara, who had previously inspired the two Narcotics / Prostitution G-Men films (1972). Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was a loose follow-up, with Chiba playing an ordinary man instead of a narcotics detective, and the storyline taking place in four Asian countries: Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan. Co-stars came from each country, and multiple edits of the film were produced for different markets.

    The film opens in South-Korea, with truck driver Chiba arriving Seoul to receive his dead sister's ashes. While there, he discovers the death may not have been an accident after all, and has something to do with international drug smuggling. Chiba receives help from a Korean detective (Choi Bong, delivering the film's only martial arts moves) to track down his sister's runaway gangster husband (Hiroki Matsukata) and his Korean lover (Kim Chang-Suk). The chase takes Chiba first to Hong Kong and eventually Thailand, where Chiba hooks up with a bilingual woman (Nora Miao) and a local tough guy (Chaiya Suliyun).

    Tokyo Seoul Bangkok has long been a sought-after movie for its fantastic cast, but those few who have seen it have sometimes been left a bit underwhelmed. This is more due to false expectations than the film, although the latter is also at fault. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok is not a martial arts movie, and it's not even very much an action movie as the filmmakers aim for more realistic crime drama/thriller. While that's quite fine, it is also true that with the level of action talent involved, the viewer can't help but to wish there were some more outrageous action sequences. This is especially true when some of the scenarios are, in fact, a little too wild to feel entirely realistic. Also, as a drug thriller, it is not as good as for example A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972).

    On the positive side, the storyline is very good and the film remains interesting from start to finish. Locations are well used, especially in the Thai sequences, which are both exotic and atmospheric. This is partly due to the beautiful score by Ichiro Araki, which is also used to create some powerful images when the camera lingers on Chiba's desperate, badly bruised face. The supporting cast is interesting as well, the real stand outs being Nora Miao and Hiroki Matsukata. The latter's portrayal of an ultra-stylish gangster may be at odds with the film's intended realism, but he's so cool the viewer won't mind. The same can be said about one great action sequence in Thailand.

    There's a lot of history to the production. First of all, it was the first film Chiba made after finishing the Key Hunter TV series (1968-1973), marking the beginning of a new era on his career that allowed a stronger focus on films. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was also one of the two major drug trafficking themed Asian co-productions that had been planned for 1973, the other having been The Shrine of the Ultimate Bliss. The latter was to star Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba and George Lazenby, but by the time Chiba arrived Hong Kong, Lee had just passed away (the project was eventually completed in heavily modified form and with a new cast as "Stoner"). It is likely (but unconfirmed) that the planned meeting between Chiba and Lee was scheduled to take place while Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was filming in Hong Kong.

    The Lee connection is probably the reason why the film co-stars Nora Miao, whose open cleavage may come as a delightful surprise to the fans of her Hong Kong films. It's a lot of fun to see Chiba and Miao act together, although the kiss suggested by one of the promotional stills is not found in the film, at least not in the Japanese cut (which is the only cut is available at the moment). If it did take place, it would surely make Miao the only woman in the world who has kissed both Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba!

    Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle is a fascinating, even if slightly underwhelming piece of cinema that can be quite enjoyable when approached with realistic expectations. It's not the lost action classic some wished it to be, but it's an atmospheric and entertaining crime drama with a good storyline.

    * Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men: Kyofu no niku jigoku (Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok: Jitsuroku Mayaku Chitai)
    * Director: Sadao Nakajima
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)









    Choi Bong




    Hiroki Matsukata






    Chaiya Suliyun and Nora Miao






    Last edited by Takuma; 04-30-2016 at 07:52 AM.

  9. #69
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5

    The second film in the Battles without Honour and Humanity series strays from the main storyline to focus on a low rank henchman Yamanaka (the reason for this was that some of the source material - articles based on the life of gangster Kozo Mino - had not been published in its entirety by the time the production begun). The result was a narrower focus than most other instalments in the series, some of which were overloaded with complicated gangster politics. This allowed a greater focus on one of the series' main themes: the disposable young men blindly taking orders by no-good superiors.

    Hiroshima Death Match was a career changing moment for Sonny Chiba, who had originally been cast as Yamanaka. The role would've been a logical next step for Chiba, who was a popular actor know for playing handsome action heroes, but had also begun to appear in some darker themed crime films such as A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972) in the early 70s. Kinya Kitaoji, another young actor with record of playing good guys in movies, was set to play the the maniac yakuza Otomo. However, realizing just how vile and rude the character was, Kitaoji found himself unable to play the character and asked if he could have a different role. Chiba and Kitaoji then switched roles at the last moment. The rest is history.

    For Chiba, Otomo was a career changing role. Having never played a villain before (in fact, he was one of the top selling idols at the time), Chiba decided to give all he's got to portray the ugliest human being imaginable. Director Fukasaku was taking turns encouraging ("scratch your balls!") and restraining ("don't smell your hand after scratching your balls! Overkill!) Chiba, whose performance was as memorable as over-the-top. Even more importantly, it was the role that directly contributed to Chiba's later characters, such as the classic anti-hero in The Street Fighter (1974 (a slightly more heroic karate version of Otomo) and the even crazier villain in Okinawa Yakuza War (1976) (a psychopath version of The Street Fighter).

    The role switch worked for Kitaoji as well, who did excellent job portraying a tormented man who had even been denied the right to die (when he was too young to join the kamikaze during WWII). The film's setting, Hiroshima, played both a symbolic and concrete role in the film. In real life Hiroshima was the only place where the yakuza conflicts got so violent even innocent bystanders were caught in the line of fire. Symbolically speaking, director Fukasaku has always portrayed the modern yakuza as a side-product of the post war misery.

    To counter-balance the character focus, Fukasaku inserts several montage-like sequences of violence erupting on the streets, gangsters killing each other off in realistic scenes that are a far cry from cinematic cool, and the police and the press getting involved, all enhancing the image of a city taken over by violence. Toshiaki Tsushima's amazing score, which is at its most effective in this movie, adds the final touch. Probably the best film in the Battles without Honour and Humanity series.

    From Chiba's perspective it's interesting to speculate what might have happened had Chiba and Kitaoji not switched the roles. It's a fascinating thought that Chiba could've have played the starring role; on the other hand his later filmography might've become very different. Without Hiroshima Death Match would he ever have created the unforgettable character he played in The Street Fighter, which not only lead him to international fame but also influenced the kind of characters he played in various other mid-70s action films?

    * Original title: Battles without Honour and Humanity: Hiroshima Death Match (仁義なき戦い 広島死闘篇)
    * Director: Kinji Fukasaku
    * Chiba's role: Major supporting role
    * Film availability: Arrow BD (UK/US)



    Chiba


    Chiba






    Kitaoji


    Chiba again


    Meiko Kaji




    * The screencaps selection above is a mess. I left my BD on a different continent, forgot to take more than 2 caps from the rental dvd I viewed recently, and was unable to find a good quality trailer online. I used HVE DVD caps that I had saved on my computer (1-4), a Toei DVD cap (6), and Arrow BD screencaps from bonus features on Proxy War and Police Tactics discs (7-9).

  10. #70
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Bodyguard Kiba (Japan, 1973) [35mm] – 2.5/5

    Sonny Chiba is as a Japanese karate fighter taking on the mafia in this mediocre grindhouse action film, which is notable for foreshadowing the karate film boom that would begin a year later. The sequel, Bodyguard Kiba 2 would be even more important in this respect.

    The first Bodyguard Kiba film exists in two different versions. The American version is called "The Bodyguard" and it was released in 1976. This version not only removes some scenes, but also adds new ones. The additions include the famous Ezekiel speech that Quentin Tarantino quoted in Pulp Fiction, a modified opening credits sequence accompanied by Viva! Chiba! chanting, and a scene featuring US martial artists Aaron Banks and Bill Louie discussing who’s a tougher guy: Sonny Chiba or Bruce Lee? Yes, Chiba plays himself in this version, and he appears to be busier fighting crime than making movies!

    The original Japanese version of the film, Bodyguard Kiba (1973), isn't really a better movie, but it does contain interesting context missing from the American version. In the Japanese version Chiba plays Kiba, a karate fighter who becomes a bodyguard in order to promote karate to the world, rather than just fight criminality like in the US version.

    One of the key differences between the two versions is the long press conference sequence where Kiba explains in detail about his master's karate philosophy. We also see short clips of Kiba's master training with his students. Everything Kiba says in this scene actually refers to Sonny Chiba's real life master Masutatsu Oyama. The training footage we see also features the real Oyama and his students. The American version alters this scene heavily by removing the Oyama footage (it's actually used as the opening credits scene, lacking the context of the Japanese version) and using a heavily altered dub that doesn't make any reference to Oyama or karate philosophy.

    The Japanese version features an entirely new scene at the end of the film, where, after killing about 40 people and seeing several others lose their life, Kiba speaks one more time to the press and concludes it has all been great promotion for karate. The character actually comes out as a bigger asshole in the Japanese version thanks to this scene!

    The reason why the Japanese version is heavy on karate context is that the film was based on a manga by Ikki Kajiwara. The author was simultaneously publishing two comic books loosely based on Masutatsu Oyama's life. Karate Kiba was aimed for adult readers while the slightly more true-to-reality Karate Baka Ichidai (which was later adapted to screen as Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life) was intended for younger readers. As a results, Karate Kiba features more sex and graphic violence.

    It's just too bad the film was helmed by the walking definition of mediocre, Ryuchi Takamori. The action scenes, while somewhat entertaining, are sloppily edited, the storyline is quite messy, and there are some slow patches. Nevertheless, there is some memorable ultra-violence and enjoyable spaghetti western imagery. Also, look out for Etsuko Shihomi as a stunt double for Yayoi Watanabe, who plays Chiba’s sister. In the sequel, Shihomi would inherit the acting role.

    Neither version of Bodyguard Kiba are especially good, but both have their merits. The Japanese version is more interesting from the karate philosophy perspective, but the trashy US edition comes with some amusing new scenes.

    * Original title: Bodigaado Kiba (ボディガード牙)
    * Director: Ryuichi Takamori
    * Chiba's role: Starring role
    * Film availability: Japanese version: VoD (Japan) / US Version: BCI DVD (US) (Eng Dub)



    Chiba talks about karate... or international crime, depending on which version you're seeing.


    US exclusive: Aaron Banks and Bill Louie


    Oyama!








    Last edited by Takuma; 05-11-2016 at 10:46 PM.

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