Sister Street Fighter (1974) — Campy martial arts

“It’s as much fun as a carload of gorillas!”

Shalen’s rating: Four out of five reasons why karate is less popular than kung fu. (No, honestly, why? Is it all the bad eighties moves?)

Shalen’s review: Here we are in our ongoing endeavor to find a film even sillier than Lord of the Wu Tang. I have yet to succeed, but we have a worthy candidate in Sister Street Fighter. I would have known this instantly had I looked up its other translated titles before viewing it, because they are Female Fighting Fist in Danger and Woman Certain Kill Fist. Sonny Chiba is in this movie, but it took me a while to figure out who he was. He was much younger and didn’t point his chin quite as far upwards, so that confused me.

In fact, confusion is something you can expect a lot of, watching this movie. The best strategy is just to sit back and let it roll over you until you laugh so hard that your diaphragm ruptures, necessitating the intervention of emergency personnel. The plot, as near as I’m able to tell, is about a Japanese girl named Tina Long who is a champion fighter of some kind. They say “street fighter,” but I’m going to guess, based on the pristine state of her nose,* that this is a mistranslation for “tournament involving lots of protective equipment.”

Tina is a good girl who dresses in practical, loose-fitting clothing that I could easily picture someone fighting in, so it’s not hard to see why this film wasn’t popular. She also has the gall to tie her hair back so she can see rather than having it flowing loose over a vinyl corset. There IS a dominatrix torture expert in this film at one point, but she wears a full-length skirt and high-necked blouse. There is toplessness, but it’s not only gratuitous but utterly random.

Apparently Tina’s brother has gone missing, and the police, being roughly as competent as the police in American movies, can’t find him without her help PLUS they need her to infiltrate a dope ring. That’s about as much plot as the film ever has. Most of it cuts between Tina running around fighting random men and the drug kingpin** who goes by “Cocky” plotting to undo her by, hm, mostly by sending more guys after her. He’s kind of a slow learner. He does know enough to vary the henchpersons he sends, from guys in pointy wicker hats (no, really) to “Amazon Thai Kickboxers” (stuntmen in obvious drag, featuring leopard-print minidresses and fishnet tights) to the incredibly shrieky and loud nunchuku expert in the pimp-style mesh shirt.

The action in this movie is better than I’d expected based on American karate flicks, which, let’s face it, have been very sad action-wise. It was fascinating to watch a woman who actually was chosen for the role based on her physical skills rather than her willingness to dress like a high-end prostitute. The action isn’t bad at all, once you get used to the incredible amount of shrieking everyone does.

The attitude toward scene composition is something like “Narrative continuity? What’s that?” Sib1 and I were occasionally left scratching our heads as to whether a character was actually dead or not. A typical example involves our heroine fleeing through a dark basement away from some henchmen, and then the scene cuts to… a brightly lit corridor with totally different henchmen! There is also a random cut to and from stock footage of seagulls during the final fight scene.

Oh, and I forgot to mention Cocky’s basement lair is full of bats. Highly realistic ones. You can literally see the strings that are used to fling them around the actors’ heads.

The overall effect is quite campy, and it’s occasionally also quite entertaining. This one really deserves a Mutant Viewing of its own, if I could convince anyone else to watch it. If you’re interested yourself, you can find it in some collections of Sonny Chiba DVDs at a local Wal-Mart. Why wait? Get Cocky!

*Ever looked at Jackie Chan’s nose in closeup?
**We can tell who he is because he always wears sunglasses. Always. We’re talking in the pool, in bed with his bimbo, at night while watching the heroine being tortured, etc.

Didja notice?

  • Considerate druglord, letting his partner watch TV during sex.
  • The revolving bed: every bad guy needs one.
  • The Pointy Wicker Hat Club.
  • The aquamarine alligators attached to the ceiling during the torture scene. Also the floor spikes are made of transparent plastic. Trendy.
  • Getting whipped across the breast region = ow ow ow.
  • How Cocky entertains himself: Playing chess while drinking, smoking, listening to classical music, AND watching his bimbo swim and his minions work out.
  • There is no projectile in existence that cannot be dodged with a dive roll.
  • Tina’s brother Li carried a musical locket. Manly.
  • The blowpipe expert who looks like a Mexican wrestler?
  • The peace-and-love karate school students are all festooned with swastikas. Sib1 informs me it’s a traditional Eastern religious symbol. Still funny, though.
  • If you’re with a friend and a gangster has a gun on you, run right at him. He will fail to shoot either of you at point blank range and you can easily subdue him.
  • The “Karate Champion of Australia” has no scenes other than the training one. What happened to her, anyway?

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