Kung Fu Krazy Fest – The Street Fighter (1974)

***SPECIAL “GUEST BLOGGER” NOTE*** I haven’t done this for awhile, but today seemed like a good day for it. What follows is actually a reprint, of sorts. A couple of years ago, under the guise of “Professor Michael Damian”, I was writing and running a blog called “Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest” in which I attempted to highlight movies that were available for free legal download, streaming, remix, what-have-you, thanks to the Public Domain. The site hasn’t been updated for awhile now, but if you like what you’ve read here so far, or if you enjoy this post, or have an interest in the public domain or even just want to check out some really good (and, admittedly, some not-so-good) free movies, I encourage you to go check it out.

Anyway, from time to time, when it’s relevant or when I’m under a kind of time crunch, or maybe just when the fancy strikes, I’ll be re-presenting some posts that originally appeared there. The post below first ran there a couple of years ago, on August 31. 2011. At first I considered rewriting or editing this some for its presentation here, but ultimately decided, for better or worse, to just let it stand on its own, as is, though I have changed/updated some of the links so they will work properly. I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past. ***END NOTE***

Streetfighter1It’s really part of the nature of this blog that most of the time I’m writing about “classic” films – older, black and white, even silent-era movies that have moved into the public domain because of the time that they were created. And since, due to the changes made in copyright law over the years (especially since the late 70’s) no new movies (or books or music or anything else for that matter) will enter the public domain until at least 2019, it’s likely to be that way for awhile. Still, there are some more recent films that over the years have in various ways “slipped through the cracks” and made their way into the public domain, and some of those movies could even be considered modern-day classics. Such is certainly the case with today’s entry, the rousing Sonny Chiba martial-arts flick The Street Fighter.

Actually, The Street Fighter is notable for a number of different reasons. Though it was not Chiba’s first movie, (he had been making science fiction and crime films and appearing on television in his native Japan for at least a decade before) it wasn’t until this film that he became an internationally known superstar. The film also gained notoriety because it was the first movie to garner an X-rating from the MPAA solely because of its violence. It is also noteworthy because of the number of spinoffs and sequels that it spawned.

1974 was, of course, just the right time for Chiba to make his mark in the US. Bruce Lee had just made a huge splash in the American market with Enter the Dragon, and American cinemas (and moviegoers) were eager for more. This was also a time when the so-called “exploitation” and “grindhouse” films were at their peak, so the atmosphere was ripe for Chiba’s brand of two-fisted (and two-footed) action.

Chiba was not however, merely a Lee clone looking to cash in on the times. No, there was something that definitely set him apart from many of the other martial arts stars of the time. Whereas Lee brought a certain tightly contained elegance to his on-screen fighting style, and fellow fan-favorite Jackie Chan brought a definite sense of comic playfulness to his film persona, Chiba’s style showed much more of a barely restrained fury. There is something in his performance as Terry Tsurugi that suggests whenever he cuts loose in the film not only are his enemies in danger, but everyone around him might be as well. As a matter of fact at one point in the film, one of the other characters calls him “an animal”, and Chiba, at that moment all snarls and growls does absolutely nothing to contradict her assessment.

streetfighter2It is also this animalistic fury that gained the film it’s second bit of noteriety. Containing scenes such as one in which Chiba castrates a rapist with his bare hands and another which shows Chiba striking a blow to an opponent’s head and then quickly cuts to an x-ray like shot of the opponent’s skull being completely shattered before showing the audience the devastating effect of the blow with the man on the floor with blood gushing from his mouth (actually quite an interesting stylistic decision by the filmmakers), the film was, as noted, given an X-rating on its first review by the MPAA. Subsequently, a full 16 minutes were cut from the film in order to finally garner it an R. Fortunately, those scenes have been restored to the film, and it is now available in an uncut “unrated” version, but those scenes are somewhat noticeable in this version as they were dubbed into English at a different time using different actors. Still, that’s a small price to pay to see Chiba’s full fury unleashed.

Of course, fans of the genre can (and do, I’m sure) argue over whether the inclusion of those scenes upon its initial release would have made the movie more or less popular with American moviegoers, but one thing that definitely cannot be denied is that the film was a definitive success. As a matter of fact, it was so successful that it not only spawned two direct sequels, Return of the Street Fighter and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, but a four film mostly in-name-only spin-off Sister Street Fighter series.

So, let’s quit talking about all the action in the film and take a look at some of it, shall we?

And here’s the skinny:
Titile: The Street Fighter
Release Date: 1974
Running Time: 91 minutes
Starring: Sonny Chiba
Directed by: Shigehiro Ozawa
Distributed by: Toei Company (Japan), New Line Cinema (US)

The Japanese version of The Street Fighter (with English subtitles) is available to watch or download for free here. There is also a dubbed version here. (Fair warning: the dubbed version is not downloadable.) It is also available on DVD from Amazon.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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