Combustible Celluloid
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With: Starring Sonny Chiba, Chuck Connors, Glenn Ford, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, Masao Kusakari, Edward James Olmos, Henry Silva, Bo Svenson, Robert Vaughn, Callan Leung, Etsuko Shihomi, Emi Shindo, Elaine Sung, Ken Takakura, Kei Yamamoto, Eiji Go
Written by: Koji Takada, Gregory Knapp, Kinji Fukasaku, Takeshi Matsumoto, Nobuaki Nakajima, Ryunosuke Ono, Junya Sato
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku, Yukio Noda, Junya Sato
MPAA Rating: PG/Unrated
Language: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 363
Date: 03/19/2013

Sonny Chiba Action Pack (2006)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Sonny' Business

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Until Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to Sonny Chiba in True Romance (Christian Slater goes to a Chiba triple-feature on his birthday) and then cast him in Kill Bill - Vol. 1, probably only a handful of hardcore genre fans knew who he was. Things are different today, as BCI Eclipse has released this excellent, surprisingly high quality three-DVD set of classic Sonny Chiba movies.

The first, Kinji Fukasaku's international, widescreen epic Virus (1980) fell into the public domain and has only been available in edited, panned-and-scanned versions. This DVD restores the film, a futuristic morality play, to its full length. Chiba stars along with Chuck Connors, Glenn Ford, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, Edward James Olmos, Henry Silva, Bo Svenson and Robert Vaughn. It was reportedly the most expensive Japanese production to date.

The second disc is Yukio Noda's Golgo 13 (1977), a contemporary action film based on a comic book (by Takao Saitô). The DVD comes with both the Japanese-language version (with subtitles) and the English dubbed version.

My favorite, however, has to be Bullet Train (1975), a precursor to Speed in which a blackmailer straps a bomb to the title train. If it drops below a certain speed, kaboom! Chiba plays one of the train conductors and gets to dismantle the bomb. Director Junya Sato plays every card correctly, building the drama among the criminals, the administrators (safe in their control booth), the passengers and the train conductors. The film comes in a lovely widescreen transfer, but only in its dubbed English version.

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