September 10th, 2011: The Streetfighter (1974)

What It’s About: Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is an amoral mercenary whose martial art skills are available to the highest bidder.  When he refuses a job kidnapping Sarai (Yukata Nakajima), the young heiress to an oil fortune, his prospective employers try to kill him.  This is not really a great idea given that Terry is the kind of guy who will sell you to human traffickers if you don’t pay his fee. Terry immediately begins playing for the other team, fighting his way through the karate school of Sarai’s uncle Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki) to prove he is able to protect her.  Soon Tsurugi is battling a variety of bizarre opponents resulting in much bloodshed, right up until the final fight on the decks of an oil tanker during a huge rainstorm.

Why Watch it Today?: Sonny Chiba was largely forgotten (in the United States, anyways) as another “also ran” in the attempt to find the next great martial arts movie actor after the death of Bruce Lee until Quentin Tarantino came along and gave Chiba and The Streetfighter a big boost by having the protagonist of True Romance watch this moving and sing Chiba’s praises in the film’s opening scene.  True Romance was released today in 1993.

The Streetfighter features some great action and a good performance by the always fun to watch Chiba. Viewers used to martial arts movies being violent but not particularly gory may be surprised by the graphic eye gouging, organ and bone smashing, and flesh ripping that goes on here.  The Streetfighter features plenty of silliness and bad dubbing for fans of the ridiculous, and a great, funk tinged soundtrack.  Tsuguri is one of the most anti-heroic anti-heroes I’ve ever seen, never redeeming himself or changing his focus from his bizarre interpretation of his father’s last words to him:  “”TRUST NO ONE! You can count on no one but YOURSELF. Improve your skills, harden your body, become a NUMBER ONE MAN!”

Where to Get It: Watch online at The Internet Archive

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