Martial Arts movies hold a very special place in my heart. I have been a fan since I was about 5 years old. Now, 40 years later I still watch them. The styles have changed but the films remain the same in many aspects. When I a kid I was always a huge fan of the old Ninja Movies. The violence was always mind blowing. Sure all martial arts films were violent but these ninja movies were rated R. Then one day when reading a karate magazine I saw an ad to buy an uncut (Bootleg I’m sure) copy of a film called The Street Fighter. It was, according to the ad the first film to receive an X rating for violence. Now this was before the internet so I had to do my research the hard way. It was a legit movie so I dropped 15.00 and got a film that was clearly edited. I was pretty upset. Many many years later The Street Fighter got a VHS re-release and it was in fact the Uncut print. I bought it and immediately fell in love. Sure the print was not that great but I saw things that blew me away. Throats getting ripped out, heads breaking, even a guy getting his testacies ripped off. I had never seen a movie like it. When I found out there were a few sequels I became even more captivated. I had to see them all. Well now thanks to the amazing folks at Shout Factory, under there Shout Select Banner we can all enjoy these films uncut, and on Blu-ray in a special Collector’s edition box set.
I’m going to break down these films just a little bit for you. The first is of course the one I have just praised, The Street Fighter. Sonny Chiba stars as Takuma (Terry) Tsurugi he’s essentially a mercenary for hire, at least that’s what I always got out of it. He is the Street Fighter. He is a martial arts master who in the beginning breaks a death row inmate named Shikenbaru out of prison. He was hired by this man’s brother and sister. Problem here is they don’t have all the money they owe Terry, so as he is the hero of the film he kills the brother and sells the sister to a human trafficker. As he is so good at his job he get hired to kidnap an oil millionaires daughter. He refuses the job as the people who want to hire him are the Yakuza, and due to his heritage he wants nothing to do with them. The Yakuza do not like to be turned down, and they plan to kill Terry for his refusal. They hire the man he broke out of prison in the beginning to kill him.
This film really is a violent as it claims to be. Sure the blood looks a bit goofy by todays standard but this does have it all. A punch in the mouth causing teeth to spill from an attackers mouth. A throat is ripped clean out on a boat battle. A head is caved in from a blow to the top. A man falls from a window and splatters on the cement. And yes I can say the legend is true as Terry does indeed rip off a man’s testicles and hand them to him.
Chiba oozes charisma and simply chews each and every scene in this film. He’s a man of few words, but a man of many facial expressions and grunts. He became a huge grindhouse star in America with this film, and was an instant legend in Japan. Quinten Tarentino is a huge fan and even cast Chiba as Hitori Hanzo in his Kill Bill films. I’ve probably seen close to 20 of his films (he’s made a lot more) and I can honestly say this is my favorite. It really is a cult classic that deserves the reputation it has earned over the years. The fact Chiba holds black belts in Karate, Ninjutsu, Kempo, Judo, and Kendo all add, even though its over the top, to the realist down and dirty fight scenes. Not to spoil anything but the scene where Chiba takes on an entire dojo is one of the best fight scenes I’ve seen in films. This film alone is worth the price of the box set. It looks and sounds simply amazing. It looks like it was just made yesterday. And it’s loaded up with special features.
Up next we have the follow up The Return of the Street Fighter. Chiba is back as Takuma (Terry) Tsurugi. He’s also back to create problems for the Yakuza. Terry is hired by a mob boss named Otaguru. He needs Terry to take out a couple of his men who he is afraid may tell the local police about his criminal operations. Terry agrees to this but becomes conflicted when one of these men is an old friend of his. Not wanting to off his old buddy the Yakuza, who this time are working with the American mob put a hit on Terry causing him to again fight for his life. Now I don’t want to spoil the first film but one of the men Terry killed buy ripping his throat out has been hired by the Yakuza to kill him. How you ask? Well its simple. He now has a robotic throat.
Obviously this one is a bit cornier than the first but its still fantastic. And yes very violent. A punch to the head causing eyeballs to pop out, slashing by pins, and the old fashioned throat rips make this one a must see for the violence crowd. My only complaint is that a nice chunk of this film is a flashback to the first one, and there are a good handful of scenes that Chiba is not even in. It’s still a great film, and Chiba is outstanding, and yes it looks great and contains special features as well.
Finally we come to the last film in the collection The Street Fighters Last Revenge! Chiba returns as Terry Tsurugi and this time he has a sweet James Bond type set up for his Street Fighter for hire business. This time he is hired to save a man named Owada during a chemical plant riot. He retrieves the man with no problem but when he gets his payment he finds it to be newspaper instead of actual cash money. He’s not happy and after beating up a handful of men steals a tape from the family. The tape, as it turns out contains a formula to make heroine. They don’t take kindly to their drug recipe being stolen and go after Terry. They even hire a Mexican hitman named Frankie Black to help kill Terry. Terry realizes that he needs to learn a few new tricks for this fight and heads to an old master he knows for some new training.
This one is full of multiple twists and turns. Unfortunately the multiple turns are the same, they just happen multiple times. Terry has the tape stolen, gets it back, stolen again, gets it back, rinse repeat. The film really does throw lots of over the top characters your way James Bond style. In fact the Frankie Black charter wears a giant sombrero, dresses like a mariachi, and shoots laser beams when he fights. There is a lot of action including a great fight sequence containing a coffin and some fire and yes it is very violent, but not near as much as the others. This one, to me plays out like a kung fu spy film. That’s not a bad thing by any means just different then what you may expect from this series. It’s still a fun watch and it also has a nice amount of bonus features. The American version and the original Asian version are a bit DIFFERENT BUT shout Factory is providing you with both.
So overall this is a must own box set. The prints of all these films are amazing. They are all presented fully uncut. The artwork on the box is fantastic, and if you order from Shout Factory you even get one of their great posters for this release. It’s 3 classic films in the martial arts genre that will never be duplicated again. If you are a fan of these films, or even if you have never seen any of them I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Do yourself a favor and order it today.
Overall Box Set Review 4 out of 5 Stars!