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The Street Fighter Collection (Blu-ray Review)

March 2019 has proven a bit of spoils to grindhouse martial arts fans, as the long awaited Street Fighter films have all finally hit Blu-ray. Earlier in the month, Arrow Video released the spin-off Sister Street Fighter set and now the big boss of them all, The Street Fighter trilogy that launched Sonny Chiba into stardom is coming from Shout! Factory. As these were a New Line distribution, it comes as a part of their little run with Warner Bros titles, and I couldn’t be happier. The three films have been given 2K restorations from the best given materials to work with and there’s a brand new interview with Sonny Chiba included on the release as well. This is also a case where the inclusion of trailers as bonus is cause for a flying kick in celebration as they are some of the best of the era. Speaking of, Jack Sholder cut said trailers and is here to interview and talk about his involvement with New Line at the time and their attachment to these movies. It can all be had when it comes out on March 26th. So don’t have your balls ripped off, get your pre-order in now using the Amazon link below!

The Street Fighter (1974) 

Martial arts master Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) may be an assassin-for-hire, but when he hears of a plot to kidnap Sarai (Doris Nakajima), the daughter of a dead billionaire, he offers her protection. As he attempts to keep Sarai safe, he also deals with a pair of siblings who refuse to pay up after Terry helps their convicted brother escape from prison. But it’s Sarai’s life he cares about, so when the mobsters manage to steal her away, Terry will battle whoever gets in his way to rescue her.

Since I was not around in the 1970s, my personal discovery of the film of Sonny Chiba didn’t come til later on. Unlike many of my contemporary youth and Tarantino appreciators, I did not discover The Street Fighter and his other works via a scene in the film True Romance. Instead it was on the VHS release for Jackie Chan’s Rumble In The Bronx. For whatever reason, there was a trailer pushing a VHS set of the Street Fighter Films + the first Sister Street Fighter. Hailed the “successor to Bruce Lee”, these things looked pretty tough and violent and young me just had to check them out. And they did not disappoint.

Sonny Chiba (Real name Shin’ichi) had been acting for many years in many films before this breakout sensation. Chiba a fascinating figure, especially in this movie. Is he likable? Is he completely heroic? That’s very questionable and his “Terry” character doesn’t apologize or feel remorse for any of his actions which makes him admirable. This takes place in a despicable world with many despicable people. Terry is probably the one who makes the best and most honorable decisions of all of them.

What Chiba brings to the table in his presence is an incredible sense of danger and unpredictability. There is a grace and finesse with which Bruce Lee introduced in doing his martial arts films. Shin’ichi brings us brute strength and fearlessness in his attack methods. There’s a sense that he’s there to win whether its in an honorable way or not. His punches and kicks look like they feel like they’d hurt. His presence and the looks and body language he gives would have been running the other way if he showed up at the other end of a long corridor. I love it, and enjoy like hell watching him do his thing, but part of that passion and enthusiasm comes from an absolute fear of the men. Few have ever been as much of a badass as one Shin’ichi Chiba!

Aside from its star, the film does offer its own flavor to the martial arts/karate/kung fu films of the 1970s. While I’m not sure if it was the first to incorporate a more exploitative aspect to the films, its certainly one of the first where people took note. This film takes no prisoners and apologizes for nothing. The violence is more fierce, wreckless and endlessly gory. Blood splatters everywhere, people are killed in shocking fashion and essential reproductive body parts are removed without warning. And its a hell of a lot of fun. Even when I first checked these out in the 1990s, being a horror fan and all, it was very surprising and I’d never seen anything like it. Most martial arts films were about finesse and acrobatics, almost a finely choreographed dance piece. This was grimey and ruthless. It felt street-level and very honest in its approach. The viewer felt more a part of the action and almost as if they were hit by the punches and swooping kicks.

Storywise, the film has enough to make for good through line between fight sequences. It works and definitely gives us a few memorable characters and relations. In these films, that’s really enough and all you need. You’re watching to be impressed by the fight sequences and shocked by their gory end. If you can’t give it that conceit and find appreciate on the core level, then I’m not sure its going to be for you. Though, this film does that so well, you probably would be able to overlook it for at least one film as opposed to trying for three. To this day, I still think the fighting work and Chiba’s presence carry this to historic heights and is THE ONE you must check out and see from the era. Its a terrific, brutal martial arts film and one of the best break outs for an action star.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  The Street Fighter transfer from Shout! Factory is comprised of 2 sources. A new 2K scan of the color reversal internegative of the shorter English language cut and an earlier HD master of the Japanese cut. The color has been matched for both sources for a balanced presentation. This looks a bit more rugged than the Sister Street Fighter films from Arrow that I’ve been able to check out before this, and they are obviously less colorful affairs, but it has an image that definitely suits it. Its has plenty of detail in a nicely defined image. As a compliment, it looks like a nice, polished up grindhouse film and carries that bit of appeal with it. My previous experience with these films has only been from crappy looking VHS tapes and then moving on to also crappy (4×3 letterboxed) DVD discs. Regardless of how this stands up against other releases or martial arts Blu-rays of this era, its a release to be able to see the film look this nice and keep its character intact.

Depth:  Dimensional work isn’t going to wow anyone here, but this does have some nice room to breath with confident movements from the character and camera work. its impressive because of all the rapid motions and shifty camerwork going on.

Black Levels: Blacks are very deep here and do carry a little more grain in darkened sequences. Saturation is solid and some details do get lost, but it does its best to keep as much texture as possible during its darkest aspects. No crushing witnessed during this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction: This isn’t the most colorful film, but this does its best to give a bold and full look to all the rustic, natural colors in the mix like grays, browns and the like. Blood does get to stick out and looks pretty rich and almost Argento-Italian like in moments where we see major splatters or puddles of it.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and find a consistency through the picture, surprisingly carrying zero flicker issues. Facial feature and details are impressive here as you can make out all textures, sweat, freckles, make-up, dried blood in the like from any reasonable given distance for the age and type of film this is.

Noise/Artifacts: There are some dust, specs and very slight streaks apparent in the print of the film but no digital related distortions appear in the frames.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Theatrical English Dub 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Japanese 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, ’90s Re-release English Dub 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: In terms of which to go with, aside from being a natural language purist, the Japanese mono track sounds the most fresh and well maintained of all three. The 90’s English dub is fine if you prefer not having subtitles, but lacks just a hair in comparison on the deeper end of the sound spectrum. The English theatrical dub is a nice contribution, but it has some tin can-esque moments, is really light and has some compression issues abound. Its pretty low and not of the greatest quality. If you want to feel the full force of punches, with the most rich, modern sounding of the bunch go with the Japanese audio.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocal clarity is pretty solid across all 3 tracks. Its much lighter in the mix in both English dubs, but the Japanese is really good an pronounced.

Return Of The Street Fighter (1974) 

When the wrong people find out about the illegal activities being conducted by yakuza big shot Otaguro (Hiroshi Tanaka), he calls in master street fighter Terry Tsugury (Sonny Chiba). Tsugury’s assignment is to kill the would-be informants, a task he initially accepts. However, when Tsugury realizes that one of his intended targets is a friend (Masafumi Suzuki), he finds himself facing a dilemma: Should he carry out his orders or fight back against the yakuza?

This second Street Fighter film, in which he makes his grand “Return”, is a sort of victory lap. Pretty much this is more of the same, understanding what people enjoyed about the original with events and characters either returning or giving off that feeling in the continued conflicts with the Yakuza. Overall, it delivers exactly what you’d want in a follow up and then some, never truly feeling like a complete copy or retread on the events that came before.

As mentioned before, in these films, the core element has to be that the fighting delivers and it does here. The plotting has to be just enough to get us through and provide stakes for the film and our lead character/villains. What I like about Return is that it opts to take the fighting, keeping it in tune with the original, but making sure we are seeing it in completely different environments that offer a change in pace and elements to the fights. We get to see the Street Fighter in the snow or taking out guys in a health spa. If anything, this one offers more open area, daylight or brighter room fighting than the previous film with good fun to be had in each.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The transfer for Return of the Street Fighter is comprised of 2 sources. A new 2K scan of the color reversal internegative of the shorter English language cut and an earlier HD master of the Japanese cut. The color has been matched for both sources for a balanced presentation. Overall, I’d say the quality of the picture, details and textures are quite comparable to the first film. They’ve done a good job in aligning the timing as I never noticed anything to question which shot came from which master.

Depth:  With much more well lit scenes, the film offers the appearance of a little more space, but ultimately its quite on par with the other film. Motions are pretty much the same as well with no really issue with distortions due to rapid action movements.

Black Levels: I’ll repeat what I said before. Blacks are very deep here and do carry a little more grain in darkened sequences. Saturation is solid and some details do get lost, but it does its best to keep as much texture as possible during its darkest aspects. No crushing witnessed during this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction: This one proved much more colorful than the previous film. Oranges and Blues stood out a little more than others.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout, impressive work on the timing matching here. Details and textures are quite visible to good degrees given any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Similar to the above, some definite print related specs and the like.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dub 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Japanese 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Both tracks prove quite useful and a good experience. By nature of the beast, the Japanese audio is a bit more full sounding and hits better on the LFE sounds. Its plenty loud and will give you a nice old school feel to the sound effects, music and such to sweep up your grindhouse fancying.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, carrying a bit of their little analog hiss with them.

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974) 

Terry Tsugury (Sonny Chiba) is a street-wise thief who agrees to help an underworld crime boss (Akira Shioji). For a fee, Tsugury will steal back a set of cassette tapes that contain precise instructions on how to manufacture cheap heroin. But when he realizes he’s been double-crossed, Tsugury makes off with the tapes. With a deadly assassin (Frankie Black) on his trail and an ever-widening circle of people he can’t trust, Tsugury finds help in a mysterious agent (Etsuko Shihomi).

The third and final film on the Sonny Chiba side of this series retains its ass kicking, but feels like its turning a corner in a new direction that would later be embraced by the Sister Street Fighter series. While the film still has its gore, brutality and ugliness to the villains, things are a little more lighthearted and goofy. This film wants to go in a bit more of a spy-film direction with Terry used more like a secret agent for hire and he also utilizes disguises and Mission: Impossible masks. The film offers more than just punches and kicks are there are car chases and the like to elevate the action. Its fun in a different way, but still delivers upon its fights and has a fun villain to face off with Chiba.

I should mention Etsuko Shihomi at some point here during these films and this one would be a good time to do it. She’s been a part of each of these films, starting out being a villain in the first movie and now paired as a sidekick. After this, she’d be handed the reigns and headline the Sister Street Fighter movies. She’s a pretty good presence and it feels like a good handing off making her the lead for the next step in the franchise. While she’s not in a whole lot of this film, she makes her presence felt with some pretty good moments, including getting to spar with Chiba.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The transfer for the English language cut of The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge comes from a 2K scan of the color reversal internegative. To be able to bring the Japanese version of The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Shout! Factory had to splice in about 4 minutes of standard definition footage into their transfer of the English language version. The cut footage was not in the Warner vaults. The inserts are pretty noticeable and aren’t of the best quality, but aren’t that distracting (Also quick) to be honest. I’m a reviewer, so I’m looking for them. Most aren’t going to care and the important thing is that this cut of the film is offered. The new scan overall is comparable to the first two, feeling the “grindhouse-film”-like quality to the print. Details, textures and film characteristics all come through to appreciative levels of quality.

Depth:  This one carries probably the most impressive depth of field on display in the three films. There are some moments, like the carnival and the finale that definitely show off a more free atmosphere and reflect good in the image. No problematic motion distortions occur.

Black Levels: Again, blacks are very deep here and do carry a little more grain in darkened sequences. Saturation is solid and some details do get lost, but it does its best to keep as much texture as possible during its darkest aspects. No crushing witnessed during this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction: Colors fall similar to the second film but all three are quite in line, its just whatever styles utilized in the films clothes and settings have to offer. Colors have a pretty well rounded saturation here and look quite natural and solid.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. When it comes to the SD inserts, they take a little bit of a greenish hue that is very light. Details and texture of facial features once again are quite admirable given the nature of these films.

Noise/Artifacts: Specs, dirt and some streaks show up in the print. Some of the SD scenes look a little like they could have been ripped from a low quality streaming video in one brief spot but aren’t too problematic.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dub 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, Japanese 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Both track sound pretty nice, but 3/3 the Japanese has been the better overall sounding of the bunch, mainly because it has a much better dispersal of deeper frequency sounds that can be felt. It certainly comes in handy when things get destructive and overall just engages your viewing experience better.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty audible with a complimentary analog hiss due to their source/origin.

Extras 

The Street Fighter is a 3-Disc Blu-ray set, each movie getting its own disc. The reverse side of the cover insert features original poster art for each of the 3 films.

The Street Fighter

Interview With Actor Sonny Chiba (HD, 27:10) – An interview with star Sonny Chiba. While he’s glad the film has been restored and put on Blu-ray, Chiba is quick to let everyone know that he has retired from his martial arts filmmaking and wants to both be hired and for people to see his more recent work. In this deep discussion, Chiba fascinating goes over different martial arts styles, techniques and such, how they work, what they mean to him and how they are utilized and put on display in the films. Its a terrific interview and the perfect cherry on top of this release’s cake. Sonny Chiba speaks in Japanese with English subtitles to accompany.

Interview With Trailer Editor/Filmmaker Jack Sholder (HD, 13:03) – Sholder is at the most candid I’ve seen him on bonus features and has a lot of fun discussing his early days and New Line with Bob Shaye as they served as mainly an acquisition and distribution house. He goes over trailers he’s cut, adorably quoting lines from them and also tells the tale of Bob Shaye and co sitting through 30 martial arts films at a theater before landing on Street Fighter and wanting to purchase that for US release. There is also a bit where he talks about how they used to just freely change the Japanese actors’ first names on their own accord to hopefully sell them to American audiences better.

US Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26)

Japanese Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:00) 

Still Gallery (HD, 6:32)

Blu-ray Credits (HD, :25)

Return Of The Street Fighter

US Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:10)

US Teaser Trailer (HD, :33)

Japanese Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:02)

Still Gallery (HD, 3:02)

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge

Features the US Cut and the Japanese Cut of the film.

US Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:06)

Japanese Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:04)

Still Gallery (HD, 1:37)

Summary 

The Street Fighter series seems like its always been more of cult martial arts film item, but its an important one nonetheless. Maybe its legacy didn’t loom huge as new eras came and went, but they truly are worth a look back to the uninitiated. Shout! Factory has put the trilogy out on Blu-ray for the first time with a presentation to the best of their ability that definitely delivers these in the best way they can. The new interviews are great and wild to say, but including all the trailers for them was a huge plus as they truly are classics on their own accord. A definite pickup for the fans and a great companion to the Sister Street Figther set!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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