Martial arts movies from Japan, especially the empty hand variety have never had the number of releases in the west that the kung fu movies from Hong Kong did, but a few exceptions came with the Street Fighter set of films starring Sonny Chiba as well as Sister Street Fighter which is one of the spin-offs, released in 1974 and starring Etsuko Shihomi.
After a Shorinji Kempo champion goes missing during an investigation, his sister embarks on a mission to find and rescue him but comes up against a gang that may be more than even she can conquer.
The plot is basic revenge stuff but done in a very campy and outrageous way that only early 1970s cinema can deliver. Etsuko Shihomi has great screen charisma and handles most of her non-action scenes well. The martial arts on display range from the very good, from Shihomi and Chiba, to awful from some of the many eclectic villains. The fights get more and more dramatic and gory as the film progresses and this has all the hallmarks of a Grindhouse classic and you can see why it became a cult favourite in the USA. (I don’t think it ever got a cinema release in the UK). Sister Street Fighter was initially rated X when first presented to the American ratings board, the MPAA. New Line then cut 6 minutes of graphic footage, removing all shots with considerable amounts of blood and gore. It has since been released on home media fully uncut.
The film was obviously heavily influenced by the Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon released a year earlier, as this also has an underground lair where the heroine fights off multiple attackers and even the main villain has a clawed hand as a weapon.
Sonny Chiba has a great supporting role and when he does appear his martial arts skills shown are very crisp and powerful. Many varied weapons are used in the action scenes such as nunchuku, spear guns, and tonfa and the various opponents are certainly bizarre and campy.
Fans of 70’s sleazy action cinema will find a lot to enjoy in this cult classic and it is definitely one of the great beer and film night movies. Shihomi is great as the lead and Chiba almost steals the show when he does appear, especially at the climax.
The film has been released onto Blu-ray by Arrow in the UK and the USA and the transfer is great and properly remastered. You have the original Japanese language with English subtitles or the hilarious English dubbed option. Extras include an interview with Sonny Chiba. This is part of a box set with 3 other movies in the series, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread, Return of The Sister Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist (although this one is not an official sequel). While some may be uncomfortable with the explicit sexuality and gore in some scenes, Sister Street Fighter is definitely worth checking out.
FILM – 7 OUT OF 10