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Sonny Chiba Mega Review Thread

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    • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
      Toei will be releasing a Toei Action Film Collection with the Yakuza Deka films (4 movies) and the Yakuza Wolf films (2 movies) on DVD 2021/1/13. Oddly enough, it will be a single 3 disc set with two movies on each disc...

      And yes, on DVD for heaven's sake! No BD! Despite all of these films streaming in HD on Amazon, and on TV in HD as well.

      https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B08KK3CTZQ/

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      • Happy birthday Chiba! The man turned 82 today!









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        • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
          Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle (Japan/Korea/Thailand/Hong Kong, 1973) - 3/5

          Sonny Chiba stars in this major Asian co-production based on the thoughts and ideas of the anti drugs/prostitution/sexually transmitted diseases campaigning businessman / political figure Tsusai Sugawara, who had previously inspired the two Narcotics / Prostitution G-Men films (1972). Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was a loose follow-up, with Chiba playing an ordinary man instead of a narcotics detective, and the storyline taking place in four Asian countries: Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan. Co-stars came from each country, and multiple edits of the film were produced for different markets.

          The film opens in South-Korea, with truck driver Chiba arriving Seoul to receive his dead sister's ashes. While there, he discovers the death may not have been an accident after all, and has something to do with international drug smuggling. Chiba receives help from a Korean detective (Choi Bong, delivering the film's only martial arts moves) to track down his sister's runaway gangster husband (Hiroki Matsukata) and his Korean lover (Kim Chang-Suk). The chase takes Chiba first to Hong Kong and eventually Thailand, where Chiba hooks up with a bilingual woman (Nora Miao) and a local tough guy (Chaiya Suliyun).

          Tokyo Seoul Bangkok has long been a sought-after movie for its fantastic cast, but those few who have seen it have sometimes been left a bit underwhelmed. This is more due to false expectations than the film, although the latter is also at fault. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok is not a martial arts movie, and it's not even very much an action movie as the filmmakers aim for more realistic crime drama/thriller. While that's quite fine, it is also true that with the level of action talent involved, the viewer can't help but to wish there were some more outrageous action sequences. This is especially true when some of the scenarios are, in fact, a little too wild to feel entirely realistic. Also, as a drug thriller, it is not as good as for example A Narcotics Agent's Ballad (1972).

          On the positive side, the storyline is very good and the film remains interesting from start to finish. Locations are well used, especially in the Thai sequences, which are both exotic and atmospheric. This is partly due to the beautiful score by Ichiro Araki, which is also used to create some powerful images when the camera lingers on Chiba's desperate, badly bruised face. The supporting cast is interesting as well, the real stand outs being Nora Miao and Hiroki Matsukata. The latter's portrayal of an ultra-stylish gangster may be at odds with the film's intended realism, but he's so cool the viewer won't mind. The same can be said about one great action sequence in Thailand.

          There's a lot of history to the production. First of all, it was the first film Chiba made after finishing the Key Hunter TV series (1968-1973), marking the beginning of a new era on his career that allowed a stronger focus on films. Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was also one of the two major drug trafficking themed Asian co-productions that had been planned for 1973, the other having been The Shrine of the Ultimate Bliss. The latter was to star Bruce Lee, Sonny Chiba and George Lazenby, but by the time Chiba arrived Hong Kong, Lee had just passed away (the project was eventually completed in heavily modified form and with a new cast as "Stoner"). It is likely (but unconfirmed) that the planned meeting between Chiba and Lee was scheduled to take place while Tokyo Seoul Bangkok was filming in Hong Kong.

          The Lee connection is probably the reason why the film co-stars Nora Miao, whose open cleavage may come as a delightful surprise to the fans of her Hong Kong films. It's a lot of fun to see Chiba and Miao act together, although the kiss suggested by one of the promotional stills is not found in the film, at least not in the Japanese cut (which is the only cut is available at the moment). If it did take place, it would surely make Miao the only woman in the world who has kissed both Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba!

          Tokyo Seoul Bangkok Drug Triangle is a fascinating, even if slightly underwhelming piece of cinema that can be quite enjoyable when approached with realistic expectations. It's not the lost action classic some wished it to be, but it's an atmospheric and entertaining crime drama with a good storyline.

          * Original title: Mayaku baishun G-Men: Kyofu no niku jigoku (Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok: Jitsuroku Mayaku Chitai)
          * Director: Sadao Nakajima
          * Chiba's role: Starring role
          * Film availability: VoD (Japan) (No subtitles)





          Toei Channel finally did this film HD justice. The screencaps exhibit the usual TV recording compression; it actually looked better when I watched it live on TV last week. Also enjoyed the film quite a bit, I'd be inclined to round up the rating to 3.5/5 now.















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          • Nice upgrade! Hopefully Toei will release it on a triple-feature DVD5 with the other two films in the series soon.

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                • Originally posted by Ian Jane View Post
                  [ATTACH=CONFIG]26862[/ATTACH]
                  Got this on my wall, btw!

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                  • Toei just announced they will be releasing The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (逆襲!殺人拳) (1974) and Karate Warrios (子連れ殺人拳) (1976) on DVD in Japan in December 2021. More importantly, however, they will also be releasing the incredible The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy (柳生一族の陰謀) (1978-1979) TV series on DVD in March (Vol. 1, with EP 1-19) and April (Vol. 2, with EP 20-39) 2022. This series is sometimes / often considered the greatest work of Chiba's entire career.

                    - https://www.toei-video.co.jp/special/chibashinichi/

                    * if you're wondering why The Street Fighter's Last Revenge and Karate Warriors are coming as a pair, it's because A) those are two films Toei had not yet released on DVD in Japan and B) in Japan Karate Warriors is (often, as in here) considered the 4th film in the Street Fighter series.



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                    • I was revisiting some of Takuma's Chiba reviews and it compelled me to finally catch up with Bodyguard Kiba 2. My opinion isn't too different from Takuma's but I wasn't quite as let down by its lesser qualities. That might be because I haven't been watching as many Chiba films over the couple of years as I should, and I'm in a more forgiving place right now. The beginning of the film kinda floored me. It was so cool and interesting. While the film does slow down and gets less interesting as it goes on, I didn't get bored and there was plenty of cool moments. I especially enjoyed Chiba stopping a throwing knife with the bottom of his shoe. I was also digging a lot of the cinematography. There are so many really cool shots and use of shadows. I picked up on a lot of Spaghetti Western style shots that made me happy as well. I do wish there had been more Shihomi and while Eiji Go looked amazing the entire film, the fight with him at the end didn't live up to the buildup. Still Bodyguard Kiba 2 might be one of my favorite Chiba flicks as I dig his character in this film more then some of his other more popular films, like The Street Fighter.

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                      • OL sennyu! Nippon fuzoku meisho (Japan, 1989) - 2/5
                        Sonny Chiba and Jun Miho are tabloid reporters uncovering a murder case in a mostly miserable, but strangely watchable TV film. The opening sees Chiba taking newcomer Miho to a love hotel for educational reasons (but of course), just in time to see a murderer flee and leave a dead prostitute behind. The key to solving the case is fellow paid woman Momoko, who had introduced the dead girl to her customer, but isn't willing to speak for she's got her own tale of love, deception and corrupt corporate politics to keep out of daylight. In true travel show fashion, the mystery takes them through Japan's sightseeing spots (and red light districts) in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyushu. The 91 min movie aired on June 17, 1989 in TV Asahi's famed "Saturday Wide Theater" slot that ran from 1977 to 2017. Poorly acted (by Miho in particular), shot on video and composed by someone who wouldn't qualify for elevator music, there isn't much to recommend here aside the somewhat functional storyline, Chiba's amusing interactions with his wife, and the relevance to the era (made just before the bubble burst, and when love hotels were becoming a mainstream phenomena). Cinematically it suffices as evidence of the change of times: former top action star paired with the cutest girl of the just-buried Roman Porno, and all they do is talk (the brief JAC action bit at the end doesn't involve Chiba). There's not even nudity (which once used to be commonplace in Japanese TV) despite the topic matter.

                        * Original title: OL sennyu! Nippon fuzoku meisho (OL潜入!ニッポン風俗名所)
                        * Director: Yuichi Harada
                        * Chiba's role: Starring role
                        * Film availability: None (review format: TV)

                        Saturday Wide Theater




                        Chiba and Miho








                        Miho undercover




                        JAC action
                        Takuma
                        Senior Member
                        Last edited by Takuma; 01-06-2022, 09:12 AM.

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                        • Sounds pretty horrific. :-)

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                          • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
                            More importantly, however, they will also be releasing the incredible The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy (柳生一族の陰謀) (1978-1979) TV series on DVD in March (Vol. 1, with EP 1-19) and April (Vol. 2, with EP 20-39) 2022. This series is sometimes / often considered the greatest work of Chiba's entire career.
                            A spectacularly amateurish artwork for Vol. 1.


                            - https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B09FJPH1D5/

                            And yes, I believe it really will be that low resolution. I saw The Gorilla 7 DVD set in a shop and the cover looked like crap. The explanation here is that while "Toei releases" (sales agency), these come via a company called Best Field (publisher). They've been putting out a lot of Toei stuff in the recent years. The only releases that I own are The Bodyguard DVD set and New Seven Color Mask DVD set. They also had some cover art issues (though not that bad) but the content on the discs was fine.
                            - https://www.bestfield.com/product-list?c=toei&q=

                            There is another topic of concern besides the artwork. The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy is currently airing on Jidai Geki Channel on TV and while the HD image looks nice, the audio track has a lot of hiss on it (a lot more than the old SD broadcastings on Toei Channel had). Also, the opening credits sequence has been shortened. The original airings apparently had sponsor info played at the end of the opening credits, while the later Toei Channel SD airing deleted the sponsor info but left the footage otherwise intact, resulting in a super-epic musical interlude. The Jidai Geki Channel HD version cuts that part out entirely.

                            Will either of those be fixed for this DVD release remains to be seen. Also what about Toei Channel? Surely they will air the show in HD at some point as well. They already showed the two follow-up shows Yagyu abaretabi (1980-1981) and Yagyu Jubei abaretabi (1982-1983) in HD this and last year, but bizarrely skipped the first show. Perhaps they sold the HD premiere rights to Jidai Geki Channel?

                            Speaking of Yagyu abaretabi, Best Field also announced they will be releasing that on DVD on May 11, 2022. It will be a 6 disc set will all 26 episodes.
                            - https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B09RK3VYCP/

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                            • Love School (Japan, 1962) – 3.5/5
                              A charming love comedy with young Sonny Chiba in a solid supporting role. Best friends Yoshiko Sakuma and Mayumi Ozora go boy hunting (looking for dates) with the former at one point finding herself harassed by an old geezer. To rescue comes young man Chiba, driving a vintage vehicle that looks like a slightly upgraded version of T-Ford. It's crush at first sight for Chiba, but Sakuma is torn between a wealthier businessman advocated by her conservative mom, and penniless Chiba who gets blessing from the liberal grandmother (Tokyo Story’s Chieko Higashiyama as a totally awesome character frequently taking a piss out of her nervous daughter). This is quite a progressive youth film for Toei, all the way from trendy English title (though spelled Renai gakko in kanji, the intended furigana reading is Love School) to a charmingly modern heroine and an underlying message 'follow your heart, not your family'. For Chiba fans these romantic films predating his tough mofo reputation by a decade are a most pleasant discovery. He’s a little inexperienced and less convincing than his co-stars, but he's such pretty boy serial-smiler Duracell bunny that he instantly wins over the audience's sympathies. It's no small part either, with lots of screentime and good scenes (as ‘cute love interest’). Best of all, it comes in a thoroughly enjoyable, fun and stylishly shot city romance film.

                              * Original title: Love School / Rabu sukuuru (furigana title), 恋愛学校 (kanji title)
                              * Director: Setsuya kondo
                              * Chiba's role: Major supporting role
                              * Film availability: None (review format: 35mm)







                              Takuma
                              Senior Member
                              Last edited by Takuma; 06-23-2022, 08:39 AM.

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