The Streetfighter's Last Revenge (1974)
Typically almost any series of films takes years to make. The average time between the main Star Wars entries is three years. While there are typically two or three Marvel films a year, sequels to the actual individual films are sometimes three to five years apart. Imagine blowing through an entire trilogy of movies in the space of a year.
The Street Fighter series did just that. Toei studios had a sudden surprise hit, if a controversial one, with The Street Fighter and the character Takuma Tsurugi, played by Shin'ichi "Sonny" Chiba and directed by Shigehiro Ozawa. It was quickly followed by Return of the Street Fighter, and then this final entry, The Streetfighter's Last Revenge. Meanwhile, another companion series, Sister Street Fighter, launched to cash in on the original, starring Etsuko Shihomi in the title role, with Chiba making a cameo. Shihomi returns the favor in this film as a gangster's bodyguard that decides to switch sides.
The problem with this one not being as popular as the first two was that it never got a proper release in the United States until 1979. Because of that even Shout Factory had to deal with the cut version that New World had to release to avoid an X rating. The current version available outside of Japan still has the English dubbing, changes the McGuffin from a tape exposing political corruption to a formula for making synthetic heroin and originally had many of the scenes in a different sequence. To their credit Shout Factory has added in some of the cut scenes where they could, but it is obvious that this film, even by Toei, was considered just a way of getting the whole series out of their system. That's too bad because it's still pretty good.
When a labor protest turns violent Takuma Tsurugi is called in to save Gô Ôwada (Akira Shioji), the son of Seigen Ôwada (Eizô Kitamura), the head of a powerful family. Gô is in possession of a cassette tape with incriminating evidence on a politician, whom Seigen hopes to blackmail. When Tsuguri returns Gô and the tape he is double-crossed, resulting in him turning against Seigen's men, only to be deterred by Huo Feng (Shihomi). However, Shihomi soon turns against Ôwada when his sister Aya (Reiko Ike) hires a former mob henchman, Frankie Black (Dorian Howard), to kill Tsurugi.
The real threat is Takera Kunigami (Kôji Wada), who confronts Tsurugi after he escapes from Black's attack. Kunigami initially defeats him and takes the tape he had stolen from Ôwada, but soon Tsurugi takes it back and attempts to sell it to Ôwada, only to once again be double crossed. As Kunigami tries to strike a deal with Ôwada to split the money resulting from the blackmail, Tsurugi decides to take out the whole family.
The plot of The Streetfighter's Last Revenge is pretty straightforward, and one of the complaints I've seen mentioned about the film is that it is concerned more with story than with action, thus not providing as many memorable scenes as the first two. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, because the action sequences are still great, even if they do sometimes get a bit outrageous. Chiba gets to play Tsuguri more as a James Bond character this time around, with secret rooms in his apartment and a number of high-tech disguises, while Frankie Black wears a giant sombrero and uses a laser to attack is victims. I really wish the Japanese version was available in the U.S., because the synthetic heroin plot that replaces the political corruption angle was unneeded.
It is obvious that Chiba enjoyed playing the part, and after seeing Shihomi I look forward to watching the Sister Street Fighter films as well. Toei churned out movies faster than even the Italian studios did, and the ups and downs in quality are obvious, but the 1970s are still an interesting period where it felt like almost everything the studio did was for the grindhouse circuit. If anything this is one of their more mainstream entries, but I can understand how after three movies in less than a year everyone involved decided it was time to move things along. Besides, there were always more yakuza for Chiba to kick around.
The Streetfighter's Last Revenge (1974)
Time: 83 minutes
Starring: Shin'ichi Chiba, Kôji Wada, Reiko Ike, Eizô Kitamura
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa