The Street Fighter

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The Street Fighter

Martial Arts, Drama, Action | 91 mins | Released: 1974
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Starring: Shin'ichi Chiba, Goichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajima, Tony Cetera, Masafumi Suzuki, Masashi Ishibashi, Akira Shioji
Our Rating: 7
Color

The film begins as Takuma (Terry) Tsurugi meets the condemned murderer Tateki (Junjo) Shikenbaru while disguised as a Buddhist monk. Tsuguri applies his “oxygen coma punch” to Junjo, causing him to collapse just before he can be executed. As Junjo is rushed to a hospital, Tsurugi and his sidekick Rakuda (Ratnose) ambush the ambulance and free him. As Tsurugi and Ratnose watch the incident on the news, Junjo’s brother Gijun and sister Nachi arrive and plead for more time to pay for Tsurugi’s help. Outraged, Tsurugi refuses and attacks the siblings. Gijun accidentally kills himself when Tsurugi dodges his flying kick, causing him to go out of a window, and Nachi is sold into sexual slavery through Renzo Mutaguchi.

Mutaguchi and his associates attempt to hire Tsurugi to kidnap Sarai, the daughter of a recently deceased oil tycoon. Tsurugi refuses after discovering that the gangsters are Yakuza. He escapes, but the Yakuza gangsters resolve to kill Tsurugi as well as kidnap Sarai. Tsurugi immediately seeks out Sarai, who is being protected at the Nippon Seibukan dojo by her uncle, Kendō Masaoka, a Karate master. Tsurugi captures Sarai and challenges the entire dojo to a fight. He brutalizes the rank-and-file students before Masaoka fights him to a standstill–then recognizes him as the half-Chinese son of a karate master he knew long ago. Ultimately, Tsurugi offers to protect Sarai, and Masaoka agrees, against Sarai’s protests. Meanwhile, the Yakuza’s allies in Hong Kong, led by Kowloon boss Dinsau, recruit Junjo Shikenbaru to avenge his siblings by killing Tsurugi.

The gangsters make several attempts to kill Tsurugi before they successfully kidnap Sarai. Tsurugi manages to rescue her, but gets captured himself. Ratnose gives up Sarai’s location to save Tsurugi, causing Tsurugi to forsake him. When Tsurugi faces a blind swordsman working for the Hong Kong gangsters, Ratnose dies in a reckless attempt at redemption. Tsurugi finally tracks the gangsters down to a shipyard and fights his way through their guards. In the end, Dinsau permits Tsurugi to duel Junjo. Nachi sacrifices herself to give her brother a free shot with a sai, but Tsurugi survives and rips out Junjo’s vocal cords. Critically wounded, Tsurugi is helped to his feet by Sarai and Dinsau in the final shot of the film.

To see other movies starring Shin’ichi Chiba, click here.

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Movie Notes:

The Street Fighter (激突!殺人拳, most literally translated as Clash, Killer Fist!) is a Japanese martial arts film released in 1974 and produced by Toei Company Ltd. It was released in the US by New Line Cinema and became one of the first films to be a commercial success for the distributor.

It is notable as the first film to receive an X-rating in the United States solely for violence.

In the UK it was originally released as Kung Fu Streetfighter, presumably to avoid confusion with the Charles Bronson movie Hard Times which was initially released as The Streetfighter in the UK.

The Street Fighter inspired two sequels, Return of the Street Fighter and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge. Additionally, the film Sister Street Fighter and its sequels is a spin-off series of The Street Fighter. There was another spin-off entitled Kozure Satsujin Ken, which was brought to the US by a different company under the title Karate Warriors. The video game The Darkness has the entire movie available, to watch, on any of the in-game TVs.

The Street Fighter was the first film to receive an X rating solely for violence. The film was especially controversial because of a scene in which Tsurugi castrates a rapist with his bare hands; it is this scene (among others) that reputedly gained the film its ‘X’ rating. A similarly violent scene involves Tsurugi delivering a powerful punch to an henchman’s head, followed by a cut to an x-ray shot of the skull being completely shattered and blood gushing from the man’s mouth. 16 minutes were later edited from the film in order to get an R-rating. This was the version initially released on home video by MGM/CBS Home Video in 1980. Since then, the film was re-released in its entirety. Consequently, the English dub of the uncut version suffers from inconsistencies to the soundtrack quality, as the restored footage was dubbed by a different studio using different voice actors.

In the English dubbed versions of The Street Fighter and Return of The Street Fighter, Chiba’s character is identified as “Terry Sugury” in the credits but dubbed by the voice actors as “Terry Tsurugi”. In The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, however, the voice actors call him “Terry Sugury.” Rakuda is named “Ratnose”; The villain Tateki’s name is also mistranslated as Junjō.

In 1993, the film (and its sequels) received mainstream exposure in North America when they were featured in Tony Scott’s True Romance (written by Quentin Tarantino), which had the two lead characters spending time at a Sonny Chiba Street Fighter marathon.

Quentin Tarantino listed The Street Fighter as number 13 on his top 20 grindhouse films list. Sonny Chiba was also cast as Hattori Hanzo in the film Kill Bill.

First film to ever get an X rating for violence.

The blind assassin wielding a cane sword appears to be an obvious reference to the Zatoichi blind swordsman films starring Shintarô Katsu.

Notable Quotes:

Terry Tsurugi: “Tell that bitch who sent you how sorry I am I can no longer be her friend.”

Terry’s Father: “Listen my son, TRUST NO ONE! You can count on no one but YOURSELF. Improve your skills, son, harden your body, become a NUMBER ONE MAN! Do not ever let ANYONE beat you!”

Terry Tsurugi: [after punching Junjou in the back] “Soon you’ll be unconscious through lack of oxygen; it’s an ancient technique.”

Watch Shin’ichi Chiba in Bodyguard.