Grindhouse nuts and martial arts fans can finally rejoice as The Street Fighter Collection makes its debut on Blu-ray thanks to Shout! Factory. Sonny Chiba stars as anti-hero Takuma Tsurugi in three classic exploitation films that changed the face of action cinema forever. Whether it’s the yakuza, the mob, or bribed government officials, no one is safe from The Street Fighter! New 2k scans, multiple audio tracks, multiple cuts, and newly produced special features make this box set an essential addition to your cult collection. Highly Recommended.
“I don’t care if you’re a firebird or a grilled chicken.”
Legions of martial arts fans around the world owe some of their obsession to witnessing the savage action rampant in The Street Fighter. Sonny Chiba became an overnight sensation once the film received an American release. Though famously given an X rating by the MPAA for violence, even the edited version captivated grindhouse fans and home video collectors for years. Where Bruce Lee’s films provided a measured elegance and discipline to the martial arts, director Shigehiro Ozawa created a raw and animalistic character with Sonny Chiba that forever changed action cinema. Cashing in on the success of the film two sequels were produced that allowed the director and star to stretch into even bloodier and crazier ideas for their anti-hero.
Fighter for hire Takuma Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is an imposing figure clothed all in black that is hired to kidnap an oil heiress by the mob. When he learns that she is being protected by a friend of his father’s, Tsurugi changes sides and tracks down the woman in hopes of protecting her from the yakuza. With his sidekick Rakuda (Goichi Yamada), he tears through bad guys from Japan to Hong Kong and back again. The final showdown on an oil tanker is an excellent showcase of the cruel motivations behind our protagonist. Tsurugi isn’t a virtuous man by any means! There is no remorse when the bodies hit the floor and various liquids pour out of them. Though hired because he melds with the criminal element easily, our protagonist is always attempting to redeem himself until the next big job comes around and throats need ripping. For audiences, the experience of watching this animalistic brutality unfold feels, to me at least, more satisfying than the elegance of Bruce Lee, but comes at the horrifying price of seeing the grisly consequences.
In Return of The Street Fighter Sonny Chiba reprises his character but this time with a little more self-awareness. When the Yakuza set up a phony charity to raise money for a martial arts school, Tsurugi steps in to save his friend Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki) who is caught up in the scheme. Unfortunately, we’re treated to loads of padding with flashbacks and weapon introductions that grind the film to a halt. Chiba carries the character through this sequel easily with some exaggerated shenanigans that are bonkers, but acceptable given the film’s crazy tone. A literal eye-popping punch from Tsurugi signals a bit of fun leading the audience to chuckle before more arterial blood spray. It’s clear this film knew what the audiences wanted and just filled in the gaps around it.
The Street FIghter’s Last Revenge retains the ultra-violence, ups the sleaze/nudity quotient, but takes a departure tonally. Here Takuma is “the man of a 1,000 faces” with the film drawing on Mission:Impossible-style disguises and a high tech home straight out of James Bond complete with white tuxedos. Tsurugi busts through the room like the Kool-Aid Man and grabs an audio tape of officials discussing a government payoff scheme from Toko Chemical Company worth billions. Ultimately, Revenge is a confusing mess of double crosses once more parties join the hunt for Tsurugi and vow to either work for him or kill him. Thankfully the action scenes are great and the uptick in sleaze and nudity distract you from it all. You get the sombrero-wearing, laser shooting, Chicago mob fighter Mr. Black as the oddest combination of words ever to describe a villain. When a mob hand-off goes awry Tsurugi puts the hurt on everyone, but one fighter stays to finish the job. She says “I’m a fine bird from Taiwan. A lone wolf killer like you.” Huo-Feng is her name but we know her as Sister Street Fighter. Etsuko Shiomi has shown up in the other Street Fighter films in small parts but here we get to see her fighting skills in full view. It’s one of the few times you think Tsurugi has met his match.
Essentially crime exploitation films with bloody karate action administered by a hyper-violent underworld mercenary, The Street Fighter and its sequels are often imitated but never duplicated. Utilizing a blend of Karate and Chinese boxing, Chiba’s fighting style is under constant evolution to fit within the framework of each bloody exploitation flick that needs audience appeal and a heavy WOW factor added to the proceedings.
Beneath the bloody fury, we see a self-loathing, psychologically damaged young man who is considered the deadliest fighter around. The fallout of his youth being the child of a Japanese father and a Chinese mother. There is anti-immigrant sentiments throughout the trilogy and “half-breed” racism running rampant. Thus, our hero sees himself as an animal and becomes one as his way of expressing his anger. The visceral appeal of the films keeps you in anticipation of Chiba’s next face contorting burst of violence while layers of painful emotions boil underneath. Thankfully he infuses enough camp and goofiness that audiences will bounce between giggling and recoiling in disgust.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Street Fighter Collection slams its way onto Blu-ray thanks to Shout! Factory and their Shout Select line. This release is supplied with spine #65. The three discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a hinged double-sided tray and the third disc sitting in the back of the case. Newly commissioned artwork from Robert O’Brien adorns the case with the reverse side featuring original posters from the three films. All this sweet revenge is stuffed into a slipcase featuring the same new artwork. The discs are Region A and load directly to a static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
The Streat Fighter Collection debuts on Blu-ray with 1080p transfers presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratios for all three films. The first two films are UNCUT, featuring Frankenstein combinations of the Japanese and American cuts spliced together with very pleasing results. For the third film, you can choose either the American or Japanese version from a menu screen.
The Street Fighter
According to Shout!, “This presentation of The Street Fighter comes from two 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. We have matched the color for both sources for a balanced presentation.”
This new 2k scan delivers an impressive transfer with fine film grain and dynamic colors while still retaining the film’s grimy aesthetic. Contrast is high with vivid colors peeking out nicely. Facial features are prominent with lifelike skin tones and fine detail. Dirt, scratches, and marks appear within the image rendering it exactly as it should be for this type of film. It’s enough dirt to make it interesting and cool, but not enough to ruin the presentation. Black levels are stable without crush giving the image a great sense of depth. Terry's black outfit looking fine in the depths of the oil tanker or in bright sunlight. It isn’t the end-all-be-all presentation for this film but it looks remarkable given previous outings on home video.
Return of the Street Fighter receives the same note at the beginning regarding the assembly of the cut.
This transfer looks solid with lots of fine film grain. Specks and other artifacts are prevalent but not distracting from the presentation. Primaries are full and bright with contrast levels mostly stable. Bright red blood and costume elements pop in nighttime scenes with inky blacks dominating the frame. Terry’s all black outfit never strays from an absolute midnight tone. Close-ups reveal facial details and costuming elements I haven’t seen before this presentation. Inserted elements in the cut don’t take a nosedive in quality but a dip in clarity and color saturation is noticeable.
The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge
According to Shout!, “To be able to bring you the Japanese version of The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge we had to splice in about 4 minutes of standard definition footage into our new transfer of the English Language Version. The cut footage was not in the Warner vaults.”
The transfer here looks smashing! Bright bold colors with plenty of film grain and fine detail. Contrast is balanced with black levels holding strong. Very few artifacts are visible and virtually no dirt or specks apparent. Of the three films, this is the best image presentation. Clean and clear image quality. Sunlight on faces reveals even skin tones with detail from makeup lines to the fine stubble on Chiba’s face. The SD elements inserted into the Japanese Cut here look like a standard VHS image that’s been cleaned up a bit and smoothed out. Image flickering apparent on the sunny mountaintop scenes with Kunigami and Terry fighting. Most of the SD inserts have appeared in the dock fight scene with the infamous helicopter kick sequence. The Japanese version is the one to see but don’t worry the SD inserts don’t take you out of the film.
I was very pleased with the results here. I expected hefty levels of grain and artifacts like previous home video versions, but thankfully we’re given a better color presentation and levels of detail beyond my expectation. Fans should upgrade for the new transfers, but superfans might wanna hold on to their import discs if the notion of these assembly cuts changes their view of the film.
Here’s the breakdown for all three films:
The Street Fighter is provided with three audio tracks: Theatrical Dub DTS-HD MA Mono, Japanese DTS-HD MA Mono, and a ‘90’s Re-release English Dub DTS-HD MA Mono.
Return of The Street Fighter is armed with two tracks: English DTS-HD MA Mono and a Japanese DTS-HD MA Mono track.
The Street FIghter’s Last Revenge burns the sombrero in English Dub DTS-HD MA Mono and a Japanese DTS-HD MA Mono for their respective cuts.
Generally speaking all the DTS tracks in this collection are very good but still stuck in the scratchy confines of a dated Mono mix. I wasn’t surprised, but also felt there was a significant shift in clarity from track to track. Shifts in quality also appear when the various cut sequences show up rendering the already vintage sounding audio a muffled mess. All Japanese tracks have dialogue that slots within the audio mix nicely rather than the English tracks which dominate so much effects and music are minimized. FYI: Subtitles for the English Dub tracks are not translations of the original Japanese. Both The Street Fighter and Return of the Street Fighter retain a tinny audio track with too much treble for this reviewer. Dialogue is mostly stable while effects are dull and nearly half the volume. Audio on The Street FIghter’s Last Revenge still isn’t up to snuff, but it isn’t too bad. You’d think the film with the best visual presentation would offer up a better DTS. I admire Shout! for providing so many vintage audio tracks but none are a stand out above the rest. Just keep the volume up for that groovy theme from Toshiaki Tsushima and you’ll be fine.
While the bulk of the special features in this collection are trailers, the newly-produced interviews featured on the first disc are ones to watch. Shout! Factory has put together a fine selection of elements for this collection though more content on the two sequels would’ve garnered higher marks from this reviewer.
The Street Fighter
Return of the Street Fighter
The Street FIghter’s Last Revenge
Shout! Factory unleashes The Street Fighter Collection in a box set worth adding to your collection. From the gory violence to the rewind-worthy fight scenes and beyond this set will please many fans waiting to upgrade their DVDs. Sonny Chiba and Shigehiro Ozawa created something truly unique that influences action cinema to this day. Though not for every audience these films endure like most 42nd street fare because of their nostalgia and the desire for fans to share the sheer insanity of these films. I had a blast revisiting them on Blu-ray! There is no better thrill replacing old DVDs with a new Blu-ray, right?! Become a number one man and pick up The Street Fighter Collection. Highly Recommended.