Color, 1974, 85 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Starring Etsuko Shihomi, Sonny Chiba, Asao Uchida, Sanae Ôhori, Bin Amatsu

Color, 1974, 85 mins. 25 secs.
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Starring Etsuko Shihomi, Tamayo Mitsukawa, Michiyo Bandô, Hisako Tanaka

Color, 1975, 76 mins. 56 secs.
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Starring Etsuko Shihomi, Akane Kawasaki, Chang Mei-Ho, Cho Miwa, Mitchi Love

Color, 1976, 76 mins. 50 secs.
Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa
Starring Etsuko Shihomi, Mitchi Love, Ken Wallace, Masafumi Suzuki
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD), BCI/Eclipse (DVD) (US R1 NSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

After Sister Street Fightercranking out three Street Fighter Sister Street Fighterfilms starring Sonny Chiba within a year, Toei was already thinking of ways to keep the franchise going with another martial arts star. The immediate answer was found in Etsuko Shihomi (dubbed "Sue Shiomi" in the U.S. in the usual New Line fashion), a teenage martial arts pro who had appeared with her friend and colleague Chiba in small roles in the first and third Street Fighter productions. For Sister Street Fighter, she took center stage as Li Koryu (or Tina in the U.S. version), who's enlisted to use her investigative and combat skills when her undercover cop brother gets abducted by drug dealers while on an assignment between Japan and Hong Kong. She ends up getting help from dojo master Hibachi (Chiba) and others as she ends up facing off against a criminal organization fronted by dummy company Central Export, run by the evil, claw-handed Kaki (Amatsu). Numerous kidnappings, double crosses, and violent deaths ensue as she closes in on her prey and tries to find out exactly what happened to her brother.

As with its predecessors, this film doesn't skimp on the violence and brutal fight scenes with plenty of mayhem involving spikes, bullets, and bladed weapons sprinkled throughout, albeit nowhere near as explicit or lingering as the legendary first Street Fighter. Shihomi makes for a terrific action star and commands the screen well, fighting off an absurd number of enemy combatants to a funky music score and proving Toei is in good hands with Chiba on his way out the door for projects with this level of violence. The pace is also well handled by a new director, Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Wolf Guy and multiple Delinquent Girl Boss and Wandering Ginza Butterfly films), who would also helm the next two films. Plus, how can you resist any film with lines like "The lady dragon just attacked our wig warehouse?"

Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread Speaking of Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread which, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread sticks to the formula as Koryu takes time out from her busy apple eating to beat up a gang of rough Korean smugglers. The man she saves, a Hong Kong cop who has one clear eye, gasps that "You have to tell Professor Emmei Oh..." before getting shot by a deadly dart. The dead man's eyeball turns out to be an implanted clue pointing her to a martial arts fortress where her high school friend, Birei, is being held. The mission ends up pitting her against more gangsters, this time nefarious diamond smugglers who use women as their mules by, uh, surgically embedding the gems into their posteriors. As usual, the bad guys are a bizarre bunch including a scalpel-wielding doctor and a few others who won't be spoiled here. Completely ridiculous with a plot that isn't too far off from a Chesty Morgan movie, this one's also lots of fun and finds everyone clearly trying to outdo the prior film on the outrageousness scale.

On the other hand, things were obviously scaling down a bit by the third film, The Return of Sister Street Fighter, which essentially scrambles elements of the first two films into a cheaper but still daffy stew. This time Koryu is summoned by her old detective friend Sho in Hong Kong to find his cousin, Shurei, who's gone missing after being targeted by a The Return of Sister Street Fightersinister corporation. Clues point to a Yokohama nightclub, and on top of that, Sho's murder has our heroine transporting little girl The Return of Sister Street FighterRika, whose mother is tied up in the criminal gold smuggling plot as well. Interestingly, this is probably Shihomi's best performance in the series as she's obviously grown as an actress, particularly when it comes to nonverbal expressions. Essentially this one's another collection of energetic action sequences and bizarre characters, making it a worthy send off for the film series proper.

That leaves an unrelated fourth film, Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist, a much lighter comedy action film with Shihomi as Kiku, a perky martial arts enthusiast who tends to disobey her family's orders. Her best friend, Michi (Love, who played an unconnected character of the same name in the third film), has a stepbrother, Jim (Wallace), whose very bad judgment has him working for some smugglers, and when Michi herself falls into their clutches, it's up to Kiku to infiltrate a movie set where the drugs are being passed through under the noses of Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fistproduction bosses. Strangely, the action scenes are the least interesting aspect of this odd duck of a film; instead it's the film production sequences that really make it stand out, along with the commentary on racism with Wallace cast as a rare black main character in a '70s Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level FistJapanese crime film.

In 2006, BCI/Eclipse issued the four films on DVD as The Sister Street Fighter Collection, looking fairly decent and featuring Japanese audio with English subtitles (plus the English dub for the first film). The first film also appeared on DVD in 2007 as a co-feature with the Chiba vehicle The Bodyguard, and both films can be watched separately or as part of the "Grindhouse Experience," which sprinkles in trailers for Crown International titles like Ninja War, Burnout, Killpoint, and Kidnapping of the President. The first two films then made their Blu-ray bow in 2009 on a single disc, looking better than the SD predecessors and again featuring English subtitles.

However, the one to get is the 2019 two-disc Blu-ray set from Arrow Video (simultaneously released in the U.S. and U.K.) which collects all four films in HD with masters supplied by Toei. There's a definite improvement over the earlier edition with better compression and more stable black levels, though some age-related flaws pop up from time to time. (The studio logo looks pretty ragged on all of them.) The first film comes with both the Sister Street FighterJapanese and English tracks with English subtitles, either translated or SDH for the dub, in LPCM mono; both sound very good. "Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 3" (10m10s) is another installment in Arrow's multi-part Chiba interview, this time focusing on his memories of Shihomi, who was initially passed over by the powers that be as an actress because of her unorthodox physique (for a movie star, that is). However, her remarkable prowess immediately caught Chiba's attention, and she was a valuable member of his Japan Action Club. Then the director gets his say in "Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Sister Street FighterKick Ass Sisters" (10m6s) about his own collaborations with his star, who was brought to him by Chiba, and the varying levels of action expertise among his cast as well as the need to create increasingly outlandish weapons and other films like Karate Bear Fighter. Finally, "Masahiro Kaketuda: Subversive Action" (10m51s) features the film's screenwriter chatting about his work on the first three films with his director, collaborator Norifumi Suzuki, and his penchant for writing erotic films versus action ones. He also explains his process of coming up with villains, with the second installment being his favorite. Between the three featurettes you get a solid, entertaining view of how the series came about, and you can easily watch any of them before heading on to the other films. A section for "International Releases" features a reconstruction of the film's U.S. R-rated version with a few SD inserts for footage with English text (81m13s), the U.S. trailer, and German opening titles and trailer (Die Karate Tiger). Also included is a reel of isolated score highlights (11m43s), the Japanese trailer (which is fantastic and must have packed 'em in), and a poster and stills gallery. The second disc features the remaining three films, all in Japanese LPCM mono with English subtitles; quality is consistent and generally quite good all across the board for each of them with most of the age-related damage minimized or removed entirely. Isolated score reels are included here for the second (19m26s) and third (10m15s) films, plus Japanese theatrical trailers for all three titles. The reversible sleeve features a new design by the appropriately named Kungfubob O’Brien, and the first pressing also comes with an insert booklet featuring liner notes by Patrick Macias and a Chris Poggiali overview of Toei's martial arts output.

Reviewed on March 31, 2019.