All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Fowler’s Flix 3.29.19: Sonny Chiba’s Brutal Vengeance!

Shout! Factory
Karate badass Sonny Chiba kicks everyone in the face in The Street Fighter series
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

When it comes to 1970’s martial arts action, most people will immediately invoke the name of Bruce Lee, but I will always take the measured-breathing and brutal fisticuffs of the grindhouse legend, Sonny Chiba, and his killer karate flicks.

Earning a name for himself with the release of The Street Fighter series, Chiba was cast as a down and dirty mercenary named Terry Tsurugi, a two-fisted anti-hero that bested the then-likes of McQueen and Eastwood in the annals of badassdom, always using his highly-trained iron appendages as deadly weapons against both the cops and the mafia. Tsurugi didn’t give a damn.

I first picked up the VHS tapes of these movies in the 90s—all English dubs, by the way—when a fandom by Quentin Tarantino made them popular with cult fans, so it’s great that Shout! Factory has not only reissued them, but is releasing both the Americanized and original Japanese versions; both cuts offer similar plotlines but with wholly different interpretations of the material and the man that’ll make anyone a surefire Chiba fan.

The legend of Tsurugi begins in the 1974 cult classic The Street Fighter, the first film rated X specifically for all of the bone-crushing violence that he deals out to the underworld for 91 full minutes. A bad-to-the-bone dude, Tsurugi will give anyone that gets in his way the fist-or-foot smack-down, be it man, woman, or, in the case of an angry pack, a group of German Shepherds.

When he’s hired by both the yakuza and the mafia to kidnap a wealthy heiress, he delivers as promised and is, of course, double-crossed by both sides; it’s all out war as Tsurugi delivers manic blow after manic blow, including two notorious shots that made this film famous: an X-ray of a skull being crushed by a fist and, even worse, a would-be rapist getting his junk ripped off in a fit of sheer karate rage.

Tsurugi’s campaign of pain continues in the short and sweet Return of the Street Fighter; this time he’s hired to kill off a couple of mob informants. When he learns, however, that one of the men is his old karate teacher, he flat-out refuses. Not taking no for an answer, an army of karate killers comes after him, some with an extensive army of tools designed for slaying the Street Fighter. Good luck.

Finally, we have the tonally strange but infinitely watchable conclusion, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge. In this final outing, Tsurugi is less a total thug and more of a Japanese James Bond, utilizing clever disguises, fancy gadgets and quick getaway techniques to collect a couple of cassette tapes that hold the secret to synthetic heroin and get them to the vice squad.

There are even more back-breaking betrayals and neck-cracking hits, with a rogue’s gallery that almost gives Batman a run for his batarang; the villains are even more colorful then before, including a Mexican killer named Mr. Black—in a full-blown mariachi uniform with sombrero—that shoots a deadly laser from his chest.

Having done such a bloody good job with these masterful remasters, here’s to hoping that Shout! Factory will release more of Chiba’s filmography in the future, including lost flicks like The Bodyguard, G.I. Samurai and the one strange flick where he’s a high-kicking werewolf on the prowl. To quote the old ad-line, “Viva Chiba!”

Next week: Dog-umentaries!

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd
Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK