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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Classic Sonny Chiba Movies (BFS)

Classic Sonny Chiba Movies (BFS/American Home Treasures)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Films: C+



Sonny Chiba fans wanting more than just another set of the Street Fighter films will want to consider (for its content and price) the three-film, single-DVD Classic Sonny Chiba Movies from BFS.  It features Sister Street Fighter, which happens to be on the VCI Street Fighter set to begin with, despite the fact that Chiba is not in it much.  That set is reviewed, along with BFS’s own Street Fighter set on this site. Since Sister Street Fighter was already discussed in the VCI review, we will not summarize them again.  They are obviously of interest to anyone interested in the Karate/Kung-Fu cycle of the 1970s and Hong Kong action films today.  Quentin Tarantino, lately with both volumes of Kill Bill, has pumped up interest further.


Like the VCI set, Sister Street Fighter is here in a 2.35 X 1 letterboxed frame, but not anamorphic and the transfers are only so good.  The difference is that the VCI transfers have better color, while definition differences are negligible and make little difference, though the VCIs have better night images.  The sound is the same amusingly bad dubbing on both; all in Dolby Digital 2.0 from both companies.  Both sets also have bio/filmography extras, with little difference.  These are barely regular stereo at best, if you can call it that.


The new additions are Shogun’s Ninja and The Bodyguard.  Ninja is here in a non-anamorphic 2.35 X 1 transfer, except that is not totally unsqueezed quite right, so those with widescreen TVs could experiment with this one a bit.  However, there is some unrecoverable cut-off throughout.  It is set in the 16th Century, but barely has a budget to look like it was made right today.  Silly as it is, including the gray ninjas who look overdone dress-wise, versus their more efficient counterparts in Lewis Gilbert’s 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, are not too convincing.  It is more comical than expected and has its share of kickin’ energy.  A Robin Hood clone is also at work in the plot.  As Shogun, Chiba is put in the villain role, more or less.  You decide.


Bodyguard (1976) is obviously not an original draft of the increasingly bizarre Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston vehicle, but a modern-set Gangster film which has the Ezekiel passage Quentin Tarantino made famous in Pulp Fiction (1992) his way.  The film is full screen, and it looks like the film was shot that way in full frame, including the option of matting it widescreen (1.75/1.78/1.85), so those with widescreen TVs can again experiment.  Only a few shots make me question that.  This tale of the Japanese Yakuza vs. New York mob (read Italians and probably Jewish mobsters, plus a few African Americans for good measure?!?) may not be a genre classic, but at least it is not the politically correct mess all such films since Michael Cimino’s ever great Year of the Dragon (1985) have been.  Like Cimino’s film, this has a few politically incorrect moments, barely running 90 minutes.


This offers missing links to Chiba’s career and influence on the genre and its revival, so it is worth a look for all concerned, while fans will really like it.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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