Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread

Title: Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Released: 1974
Staring: Etsuko Shihomi, Tamayo Mitsukawa, Michiyo Bando, Hisayo Tanaka, Hideo Murota, Masashi Ishibashi, Kazuyuki Saito, Daikyo Rin, Yasuaki Kurata

Rating: 4 / 5
Plot: Koryu Lee (Shihomi) is back once again after her superior's daughter is kidnapped by diamond smugglers, she travels to Tokyo to rescue her, on a mission which will lead her head on to a confrontation with the dangerous Kazushige Osone (Mutota) and his trio of deadly bodyguards the Honiden Brothers (Ishibashi, Saito, Rin)

Review: Released the same year as the original “Sister Street Fighter” (1974) this sequel to the fun original film, sees the return of not only leading lady Shihomi, but also director Yamaguchi, who this time round manages to restrain his vision slightly, meaning that this sequel is slightly less insane than the original, but thankfully still remains the same sense of fun.
Despite the format being toned down slightly for this second entry, a lot still remains the same, as we are treated to yet another showcase of Lee’s martial arts prowess, once again set to a funk soundtrack, as the title credits roll before once again being reintroduced to the stereotypical Hong Kong title music, which it would seem has also survived from the original film. Still it mere seconds before we are thrown into the first fight scene and it’s comforting to see the same huge lettering exploding onto the screen whenever a new fighter is introduced, which despite being kind of cheesy really helps to keep things from getting overly serious, which honestly I’m not sure that these movies could even be accused of being in the first place. After all how seriously can you take a movie which not only has a mad doctor with questionable sanitary practices, which include him spitting vodka across recent surgical incisions, who also has a transvestite assistant with razor sharp fingernails, which is really nothing compared to the first introduction to Osone’s “Danger Room” which pretty much consists of Ninjas and his other assorted henchmen, putting themselves through various training regimes, while dressed in a black, which I can only really guess is Yamaguchi’s way of pointing out that these are the bad guys, while driving home the point even further by setting the whole scene to Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”, which it has to be said comes across perhaps slightly more comedic than what was no doubt originally intended, much like the idea of Ninja’s running around in black Ninja gear, during broad daylight only to never be seen again after they sole appearance during a train yard brawl. Still it also has to be said that the idea of using the bottoms of attractive models to smuggle diamonds is certainly a new one.

Shihomi now comes across more settled into her title role, even though she was impressive to begin with and thanks to the combination of having gained more screen fighting experience and the stylised direction of Yamaguchi she looks better than ever, whether using her fists or feet which this time now show a much stronger follow through than before, or while dealing out punishment with one the numerous weapons at her disposal, with the highlight once again being another demonstration of her nunchaku skill, which it’s true is a weapon that it is hard to shake it’s association with the legendry Bruce Lee, but here Shihomi shows great accuracy with what is certainly not an easy weapon to use, let alone show being used effectively on screen, as numerous films has shown in the past and thankfully a pitfall that she manages to avoid.
Sadly Shihomi’s mentor Sonny Chiba does not make a return here, despite his appearance in the first film being basically a glorified cameo appearance, but his absence is filled quite suitably by Kurata, who earned his screen credits appearing in numourous Chinese Boxer movies such as “The King Boxer” (1971) and is more than capable of taking Chiba’s place as he appears here as the freelance brawler Shunsuke, a character not so far removed from Chiba’s Terry character in the original street fighter movies.. It is also certainly an interesting choice, especially seeing how Kurata’s fighting style is a lot more frenzied, fast kicking style than Chiba’s powerhouse style, but here Yamaguchi makes full advantage of showing it off when given a chance, including a sequence during the finale which see’s a bare-chested Kurata taking on multiple opponents single, which under less skilful direction could have been seen as exploiting the Bruce Lee style, but thankfully Kurata brings enough raw skill of his own to make this scene not so exploitive, as was seen in so many of the Bruce-ploitation movies which would appear in the years following Lee’s tragic death, such as “The clones of Bruce Lee” (1977).
Thankfully this time round Lee finds herself up against slightly tougher opponents, especially with the three Honiden Brothers, who in many ways reminded me of the masters of death from “Babycart at the River Styx” (1972), with Ishibashi once again on great form as the Sai welding front man of the brothers and his appearance here is once again not wasted, especially as this time around he proves to be a much more challenging opponent and free of the burden of being followed around by wicker basket wearing henchmen, as his character Inubashiri was back in the original film, which really kind of removes any sort of threatening presence you might have when your opponent is more distracted by what you your henchmen wearing.

Gore wise nothing has been taken away here, especially seeing how the first film was filled with so many memorable sequences and here it is the same again, with highlights including eyeballs being skewered, an armpit being stabbed and a severed scalpel welding arm, which is still buried in another victim, which all add to the fun especially when the violence of these scenes is so dramatically over the top.

“Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread” is a great addition to the series and although it might turn down certain aspects of the original and at times have some overly shaky camera work, it is still a fun film to watch, especially when all expectations are left at the door.
True some Kung Fu elitists would prefer to write it off for its sleazy grindhouse style and continuous use of cheesy sound effects, but thanks to Yamaguchi’s direction it remains a run ride throughout and certainly worth watching if you were a fan of the original, as you will not be disappointed.

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