Remember the bit in True Romance when Christian Slater asks a girl in a bar if she wants to go to a kung fu marathon? The 1974 Street Fighter Trilogy is that marathon, give or take a film, consisting of The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (in Tony Scott’s Tarantino-scripted picture, the third instalment is the spin-off flick Sister Streetfighter).
The Street Fighter was the breakout hit for martial arts cinema legend Sonny Chiba, who had previously starred in crime dramas and tokusatsu films. Chiba plays Tsurugi, an assassin who is asked to kidnap Sarai, the daughter of a dead oil executive, so they can lay claim to her inheritance, He refuses after finding out his prospective employers are Yakuza, and is tasked to protect Sarai by her uncle, eventually facing the full force of the Yakuza as well as Shikenbaru, who has a vendetta against Tsurugi after the assassin murdered his brother and sold his sister into sexual slavery. Understandable really.
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That last part may indicate that Tsurugi is not your typical hero, and indeed, he’s a pure antihero and a violent misogynist who is as brutal as they come – the dark shadow of Bruce Lee. It’s one thing that keeps your mind running about his motivation, whether he’s doing everything for money or some vague idea of redemption. Much of the film runs on his pure bravado and determination. There’s also his propensity for extreme violence, including some brutal moments of castration and eye gouging, along with a seriously shocking throat rip that doesn’t go cheap on the claret.
Being quite over the top is one of the reasons why The Street Fighter is so good, with Chiba’s animalistic charisma and vicious fighting style carrying his deeds through. The fight scenes are spectacular and incredibly fun, with Tsurugi always having an escape route that is inevitably painful, usually through a high window. All of this is helped along by a supremely cool and brassy funk score by Toshiaki Tsushima.
Return of the Street Fighter sees Tsuguri asked to kill Kendō Masaoka – a karate master and Sarai’s uncle in the previous film – because he’s getting in the way of a mafia incursion into Japan. Tsuguri refuses and it’s another case of him being chased by men whose eyeballs are gouged out, with a little bit more humour from his girl sidekick, Boke. There’s also the matter of the return of Shikenbaru, who may not have any vocal chords left but still has a healthy sense of revenge. This flick has a great style and some amazing costumes, including a purple suit on mafia George Harrison.
The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge is a bit like All The President’s Men, with Tsuguri on the run from mobsters because he has a cassette tape that would incriminate one of the mob bosses, who, of course, betrayed him in the first place. Recruited to stop Tsuguri is a huge white dude called Mr Black, who the mob sees on TV breaking a chain with magic powers while wearing a mariachi outfit. He’s from Chicago, so we know he’ll be badass. Will Tsuguri be able to beat this new menace?
All three movies are a lot of fun, and Arrow Video have done a great job with this set collecting the trilogy. The trio all have new 2K restorations from the original camera negative, and Arrow has included both the Japanese and English versions. They all look and sound great, and you can see the artistry away from the grindhouse.
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Bonus features include an interview with Chiba, a piece on how he was introduced in the States with Jack Sholder (director of cult classic The Hidden), and Japanese and US trailers. There are also informative audio commentaries on the first two films, and as usual the booklet has new writing on the film, but this was not provided for review.
The Street Fighter Trilogy is as much fun as you can get without being able to dragon punch someone, and Arrow have done another top-notch job with this Blu-ray. Recommended.
The Street Fighter Trilogy is out on Blu-ray on 17th April from Arrow Video.