Street Fighter (1974)

Toby Baldwin's Film Review Home

6 out of 10

This camp-classic martial arts opus is cheesily directed, misogynistic, abominably acted, and altogether absurd. Itís also extremely fun to watch. Rating: 6 out of 10.

This is hilarious stuff! Although Sonny Chiba surely was only the latest in a long line of short-lived 'next Bruce Lees,' he comes off more as a parody of Lee and other serious martial arts-movie stars. His facial contortions and chirping/yelping/wheezing sounds take the cake. Perhaps even more funny, though, is his behavior.

The movie opens with an Junjou, an Okinawan baddie (usually I would mention actors' names throughout, but since the acting was uniformly ridiculous, I think I'll skip it), about to be executed. A holy man shows up to do some kind of last rites, and is unwisely left alone with the baddie. The monk turns out to be our hero, Terry Tsurugi (Chiba), in disguise, and he busts Junjou out. We next find Tsurugi in his apartment with his annoying partner Ratnose. We overhear a news report he's watching on TV that says an owner of an oil company has died and left everything to his daughter (this becomes important). Presently Junjou's brother and sister, who have hired Tsuguri to spring Junjou, show up looking for their brother. Tsurugi explains that harboring Junjou would be illegal, and furthermore, he has only received half of his money. The sister says they don't have any more money and begs for mercy. Chiba says something about "collateral" and cops a few kisses. A fight ensues, and the brother ends up flying out the window, landing on the street below (which sends literally gallons of too-bright red liquid spreading across the street). We soon learn that Chiba has SOLD THE SISTER INTO SLAVERY to recoup the rest of his promised fee.

I have only gone into such detail to show the kind of character Chiba plays--very antiheroic--hilariously so if you have the right sense of humor (or are in the right mood). The movie goes on with the Tokyo mob attempting to hire Chiba to get Sarai, the girl who inherited the oil company, and him refusing their offer and going after her on his own, apparently motivated by her money, and finds her at her uncle's martial arts school (and steals a few more kisses). Her uncle, who turns out to have know Tsurugi's father (in a supremely badly-acted scene we see Tsurugi as a boy witnessing his father's execution), rather implausibly convinces Chiba to join the 'good guys' in protecting Sarai against the mob. This all eventually leads to a showdown between Chiba and Junjou, who has been promised his sister's freedom if he defeats Chiba. A few other plot twists are thrown in, and I won't spoil them for you (on the odd chance that you won't see them coming a nautical mile away).

There is one implied rape of the woman our 'hero' sells off as a prostitute. There is another near rape of Sarai, but Tsurugi gets there in time to rip off the guy's package (yep...clean off). Let's face it; women are pretty much shown as helpless and/or worthless in this one. A far cry from Ang Lee's popular wuxia film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to say the least. That said, however, if anyone gets their views on gender issues from low-budget chop-socky flicks made in 1974, there's no helping you.

Everything is pretty standard here for a low-budget 1970s movie. Director Shigehiro Ozawa's idea of innovation seems to be rotating the camera anywhere between 45 and 90 degrees during the fight scenes.

If this ain't good, ain't nuthin' good. And it is pretty decent; at least enough that I could tell that Chiba had real skills. The fights are often not shown from a wide enough angle (that could be partially a function of my non-letterbox copy), and they have slow moments within them as Chiba chirps and squeaks.

Extreme. One of the trademark moves is a karate chop from Chiba that splits people's skulls open (one time we see a quick x-ray shot of this as it happens, in case we haven't gotten the point) and yields wellsprings of orange blood.

See category SEX above; if you live in a thin-walled apartment and play this movie loud, your neighbors will think you're a perv. Catch my drift? This kind of music sounds like it belongs in one of those movies.

Unless you're a martial arts flick die-hard, this is probably worth it only for the schlocky entertainment value, and I confess I found that more than enough. Chiba's character is such a jerk it blows the mind, and his posturing during fights had me in stitches. For those offended by misogyny or gore, stay well away. You've been warned!

One character gets all his teeth punched out, and is later seen trying to hide them with his lips, and failing. His teeth can clearly be seen. Nowadays makers of crappy movies can digitally erase things like that...

Worth renting? For fans of chop-socky or camp cinema, yes!
Worth buying? See above; it will likely be cheap if you can find it.
Suitable for kids? Not in any way I can imagine.
Year: 1974
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Running Time: depends on what version you find.
Rated R (or unrated, also depending on what version).

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Review Copyright 2003 by Toby Baldwin

Originally written August 19, 2001.

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