Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Well, you asked for it (not really) and here it is... AN ASSORTED LOAF ORIGINAL FILM REVIEW! (and you'll get it whether you want it or not)

Well, I'm sort of embarrassed to say that before I watched this film recently, I had not seen it before. I think I started it some years back, but as I am prone to do with many things, I did not finish it or go back to it for whatever reason. I guess some shiny something else caught my eye. Boy was I missing out...

(Not a big fan of this poster... anyone know where to find an image of the Japanese one??)

Original Title: Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken
Year: 1974
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Writer: Kôji Takada, Motohiro Torii
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073756/
Genre: Crime Action

imdb synopsis: Terry is a tough, mercenary, master of martial arts. When an important business magnate dies, leaving billions to his daughter, the Mafia and Yakuza try to hire Terry to kidnap the daughter. When they refuse to meet his exorbitant price, then try to kill him to conceal their secret plans, he promptly offers his services to protect her. Much ultra-violent martial-arts fighting action, as expected, ensues.

Let's not call him Terry... let's call him Tsurugi since I watched this in the original Japanese with English subtitles where his name is Takuma Tsurugi, played by the great Sonny Chiba.


Ahhh, that's better

Tsurugi is an interesting character. I'm sure much to the chagrin of his martial arts instructors from the past, he uses his martial arts to make a buck by helping people escape from prison and blackmailing martial arts teachers. He is pretty nasty and cocky for a "hero" (I'll use the term loosely for him).

Don't put it past this guy to do whatever he needs to do to get by or make a buck... even beat up women and sell them into sexual slavery.

He does have his limits, however, as we see him refuse a kidnapping job when he discovers that it is the Yakuza that wants the job done. Come to think of it, maybe he just doesn't want to get involved with the organized crime as a means of self-preservation. He asks for ten times what they offer because he does not trust them.

Chiba plays the part pretty sinister and nasty at times. His facial expressions and sounds while fighting I'm sure are now legendary, and they would often make me smile or even chuckle to myself while watching. If you don't want to make your own karate noises after seeing him in action, then you may not have a soul. So awesome! He is super charismatic and carries this film on his back with his performance.

Unlike a martial arts actor like a Bruce Lee, Chiba here is not about the flash and high flying. What we get instead is a fighter that is direct, brutal, and not afraid to take a bump or two or three. One thing I really enjoyed about this one is the style of fighting I am speaking of here. In kung-fu films, we are often treated to almost a dance between the actors, with parries, blocks, and leaps. Tsurugi on the other hand uses very blunt karate, pummeling his opponents with vicious effect. As opposed to super-duper spinning roundhouse, not only will Tsurugi kick the shit out of you, he will grab your hair and make sure that boot is really planted in there!


And I have to mention this one move that opened the fight scene pictured above. For those that know me, it is no secret that I am a big fan of professional wrestling. There is this one particular move that Keiji Mutoh does (the wrestler formerly known as the Great Muta here in the United States) called the Shining Wizard. The attacker rushes toward a usually stunned opponent that is crouched onto one knee, jumping off this opponent's knee and smashing his knee into the opponent's temple area.

Well, Tsurugi rocks the Shining Wizard on one of his would-be attackers! I was more than happy to see this... and thought it had to have been the first appearance of this put to film.

Here's Mutoh doing one:


I have read that this is the first film that was given an X-rating due to the violence alone. Make sure if and when you track this film down that you can find an uncut version (my version clocks in at 87:18) to be privy to teeth getting knocked out, skulls crushed, and even a man getting his dick torn off.

Oh yeah, that's what I said.

The story in the film is so-so I think. It got a little difficult for me to follow, but not due to complexity. The motives behind some characters (in particular the actions were just a touch confusing upon my first viewing. It makes sense after reading up after the fact, so perhaps I just missed something the first time through.

It feels overall like a standard style martial arts story even though it is set in modern day. The "hero" here going through a big trial to ultimately confront the most powerful leader of the opposition, and Tsurugi having a troubled, haunted past which leads him to strive to be the best and honorable (even though he is cutting corners and making a buck however he can).

All this said, though, it is a much more interesting story than a lot of martial arts films out there.

Despite my issues with the story, there is the fighting and Chiba as I mentioned, but I feel there are some elements in the direction that really help this be a successful and classic film. The little flourishes I will mention from time to time that add a nice sense of style to films.

Shigehiro Ozawa had a relatively short directorial career, and the Street Fighter series films were amongst his last. I've never seen any of his other work, so unfortunately I have nothing to compare technique to.

The film opens with a moody, well shot sequence where Takuma is helping a man sentenced to death to escape from prison. Right off the bat with the lighting and interesting angles, and throughout the entire film I was impressed and excited about it.

There was one scene in particular that made me think of fighting video games I have seen. Tsurugi punches a man in the head, crushing his skull. Instead of showing a normal shot of fist striking head, we are treated to a blue-tinted x-ray shot of the man's skull itself. It was really cool and I wish the technique was used a little more as it felt a little stuck in there as is.

I really feel like it was shot like a film with a budget much higher than most martial arts films of the time. Maybe it did? I am very inexperienced with Japanese martial arts films compared to those of Hong Kong for example.

Overall, see this film for Chiba and his badass character. And see it for some nice filming, lighting etc. Most of all, see it for the history! The storytelling probably isn't going to blow you away, but this is a classic that I imagine has been very influential for action films to follow.

Highest recommedation from me. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would see it again.

9 out of 10


Matt-suzaka said...

Great post Loaf and a great film to cover! I love The Street Fighter and all of the sequels right up through the Sister Street Fighter series that followed. They are films that are yet again, shining examples of the great film making techniques and capabilities to be found it what would be somewhat considered Grindhouse cinema.

A lot of these old films like The Street Fighter put a ton of current action films to shame. And they did it with very little as far as money and without the aide of our current technology.

pickleloaf said...

Cool thanks! I figured if it was going to be my first blog-specific review I should at least make it one I liked a lot

I'm pretty sure I am starting back my random movie then review thread also