The Street Fighter: Sonny “Shinichi” Chiba

When I was a kid there were only two types of movies I wanted to see. What came to be known as Blaxploitation films (Superfly, Shaft, Buck & the Preacher, Uptown saturday Night, Let’s do it again, etc etc etc) and martial arts movies, or rather Karate flicks. Bruce Lee was of course the biggest and most famous of the martial artist of that time, and he was indeed my favorite. But, number two would be Sonny Chiba.

I remember the first time I saw “The Street Fighter.” It was playing at a rinky-dink movie theatre in Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn, on Fulton Street, called The Banco. The theatre was one good huff and a puff from being condemned as you can see in the natsukashi (fondly remembered) picture I was able to find on the net (God I love the net!)

It wasn’t much to look at but it was in the neighborhood and cheap and a good way for my Moms to get me and brothers out of her hair for the day. The theatre had rats so there were cats on patrol and occasionally while you’re watching a film you’d feel a cat brush by your leg or even hop in your lap if it were a slow day and it was feeling friendly.

A dollar or so (can’t remember the price well) would get you in to see two or three movies. One was the main attraction and the other two would be throw ins. These were the kind of movies that influenced Quentin Tarantino’s career. Car chases, motorcycle chase, B-movies that probably don’t even have a surviving print let alone be found on DVD.

In “The Street Fighter” Sonny Chiba burst on the scene and immediately kicked ass. He had incredible charisma and a round house kick that would send the opposition flying in all directions. While Bruce Lee usually played good guys on revenge kicks, Sonny was just a mean motherfucker and his movies were much gorier than Lee’s.  On the strength of the success of “Street Fighter” two sequels came later: “Return of Street Fighter” and “The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge,” as well as a spinoff: “Sister Street Fighter.”  (Gotta love the 70s. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.)

Chiba-san was born in Fukuoka and studied Kyokushin Karate in university. He later became a huge Television star here in Japan. (I’d love to see some of those old Japanese TV shows starring him. If anyone knows where I can pick them up, don’t be shy.)

Recently he was in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” though not as a fighter. He reprised the role he played in “Kage no kundan” or “Shadow Warriors” where he played the famous true life samurai Hattori Hanzo.

I hear Chiba-san lives in Yokohama now. Man would I  love to run into him at a café.

Here are the original trailers from Street Fighter and The return of the Street Fighter…


PS: I know I already made a post for the January Matsuri. This was just an afterthought…a good one!


5 Responses to “The Street Fighter: Sonny “Shinichi” Chiba”

  1. January 31, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Hey there Brother Baye..first off I hate wordpress…LOL
    Second I’m glad to see ur writing a blog again. How did I miss these?
    I wish I had been allowed to see the Sonny Chiba flicks. I would hear the guys talking about them when we were little and I’d pretend that I knew what they were talking about. I was restricted to Bruce Lee but loved him more for his looks than his fighting ability. My love for that came later. This theatre you spoke of sounded worse than the Duffield or Loews on Fulton. Cats in the theatre??? OMG I woulda died!!
    Stay safe!

  2. 2 Cedric Domani
    February 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Loocooo! Thank you for this little trip down memory Lane. Around the same time, in Africa, they showed the same movies in the same type of decrepit movie theaters with the only difference being that we also got to see lots of Hindu movies from India and spaghetti westerns from Italy. Nowadays expensive distribution rights, satellite dishes and cheap DVD players put most of movie theaters out of business.RIP.

    I too, loved Sonny Chiba and Bruce Lee movies growing up, and though Bruce’s where always a bit political. He was always fighting for the Chinese cause against western or Japanese imperialism (I can’t be mad at that…that’s what blaxpoitation flicks were all about), while Sonny Chiba just kicked ass because well…that’s how he got down.

    I do hope you DO run into him someday. I met many people I have great admiration and respect for (Chuck D, hurricane Carter, missed Mandela by a hair, Afeni Shakur, Bobby Seale, KRS-1 just to name a few), but for me, meeting Sonny Chiba would be the icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing. Your blogs are as entertaining as they are educational. Keep up the good work.


  3. February 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Funny Loco – in my part of LA we had a movie house similar to the one you described in BK -ours was “The Baldwin.” Same set-up, two or three B movies for a dollar – you could escape the smog and heat of a Southern California summer day in there for cheap. Hope you do run into Sonny – tell him that he was a hero to little Black kids in the 1970’s.

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