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B-Movie of the Week: Sister Street Fighter

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Living your life as a self-proclaimed pack rat and an insatiable film fiend can take its toll on even the strongest members of the human race after a while. Rummaging through dump bins and dollar stores and flea markets for cheap DVDs and obscure VHS titles can quickly become a full-time job if you’re not too careful, though there are worse occupations to have, I’m sure.

For instance, I don’t think I would enjoy collecting garbage for a living unless I was granted permission to dig through neighborhood trash receptacles for unwanted motion pictures. That’s how pathetically addicted I am to wonky cinema, dear readers. It’s very, very depressing at times.

If anyone wants to give me a Bahamavention, I promise I won’t struggle or bite you.

Anyway, after discovering that the beady-eyed folks at Brentwood Home Entertainment had remastered and re-released the Sister Street Fighter franchise in a snazzy little box set sometime last fall, I decided it was time to blow the dust off my budget-line version of the first film in the series to see if this collection was worth its questionable forty-dollar price tag. It’s not that I’m unwilling to shell out this kind of dough on a high-quality collection, mind you, but I haven’t had much success with Brentwood and their so-called “products” in the past. No, if I’m going to give this shady corporation more than five dollars of my hard-earned dividends, I need to see what kind of kung fu madness awaits those brave enough to gamble on this four flick set. The ghosts of Spirited Killer continue to haunt me, I’m afraid.

Curvy karate expert Etsuko Shihomi stars as Tina Long, the sister of an undercover narcotics agent who just up and disappears while investigating a nefarious Japanese drug-smuggling ring stuffed with colorful characters and devious yakuza types. Since no one else is willing to do the job, Ms. Long decides to unravel the mystery all by her lonesome, a decision that will thrust her into the heart of a non-stop karate adventure. Be it Asian beanpoles armed with Nunchukas or elderly men wielding metallic claws, our lovely heroine will crush anyone who tries to prevent her from rescuing her brother from the clutches of these vile villains. Will Tina accomplish her dangerous mission, or will she fall prey to a gaggle of bizarro death-dealing oddballs? No less than three sequels suggest that she will live to fight another day.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, Sister Street Fighter isn’t something you’d invite your mom’s elderly sewing group over to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. There’s really not much of a story to speak of, leaving Kazuhiko Yamaguchi no choice but to overload his film with dozens of frantic fight sequences that don’t shy away from excessive bloodshed. The thoroughly enjoyable cast of bad guys are properly pummeled, broken, bludgeoned and destroyed by the very capable Etsuko Shihomi, student of 70’s karate guru Sonny Chiba. The girl could easily wipe the floor with you and your entire family without breaking even the hint of a sweat. What’s more, she’d probably get an enormous kick out of dealing endless agony to you and yours.

A fine woman, indeed.

Since this is essentially a spin-off of the oh-so successful Street Fighter series, it comes as no surprise that the iconic Sonny Chiba leaves his mark on more than a handful of the film’s bad guys. Unfortunately for fans of the charismatic hero, Chiba really doesn’t have that much screen time to speak of. No complaints here. Shihomi is more than capable of carrying this delightful movie on her sizable shoulders without the needless assistance of her legendary sensei. Watch this flick for Etsuko, not Sonny. Yes, dear readers, it’s that good.

It’s also worth noting that the Diamond Entertainment DVD release of Sister Street Fighter — which comes packaged with The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge — is the dreaded R-RATED VERSION of the film. The cuts made to obtain this rating are quite obvious, especially when characters suddenly vanish before their respective showdowns have concluded. It also sports a horrible English dub soundtrack, which adds an element of camp that was probably missing from the original print. Locating an uncut, undubbed version of the picture might be in your best interest, especially if you consider yourself to be a martial arts purist.

Will I spend my wrinkled papery greenbacks on Brentwood’s The Sister Street Fighter Collection? No doubt. The first entry in this series is a thoroughly entertaining cornucopia of martial arts mayhem worthy of a proper DVD release. And though I do have my issues with Brentwood and their dubious marketing techniques, there are enough positive reviews floating around on the web for this set that I’m willing to take a chance on it. I’m more than a little anxious to see what’s missing from the version I own, not to mention finally getting to experience the other pictures featuring the irresistible Etsuko Shihomi.

After all, any chick who can make “The Chiba Face” while breaking someone’s spine is a-okay with me.

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