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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Street Mobster (1972)

"God, what a bore. Everything's a bore. The dames, our new clan, everything!"
- Isamu Okita (Bunta Sugawara)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: September 07, 2004

Stars: Bunta Sugawara
Other Stars: Noboru Ando, Mayumi Nagisa, Asao Koike, Noboru Mitani, Nobuo Yana
Director: Kinji Fukasaku

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong graphic violence, sexuality, rape, language)
Run Time: 01h:27m:40s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 037429197325
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+B-C+ D+

DVD Review

The Japanese yakuza films certainly have a well-earned reputation of being violent and chaotic. Some are more frenetic than others and Street Mobster is unbelievable high on savagery and energy. It dawned the re-birth of the genre, telling the story of low-level punks who will do anything without compromise and little sense of honor. It also, however, is so brutal that it might be off-putting to many viewers.

As the movie begins, Isamu Okita (Bunta Sugawara) narrates his life story, which consists of lots of violence and mayhem, all of which he is good at (except gambling). He begins his life in crime after assaulting his prostitute mother and eventually his rowdiness lands him jail. The filmmaking by director Kinji Fukasaku is almost overwhelming, with handheld cameras chronicling Okita's exploits to great effect. Sadly, though, it almost seems like Fukasaku and his cinematographer, Hanjiro Nakazawa, are enjoying the long line of rapes and beatings. At no time is there a sense of remorse in the characters, which makes it very difficult for the audience to relate to Okita on a human level.

After several years in prison, Okita returns to Tokyo where he starts his old habits up again. After a group of young hoodlums attack him, he singlehandedly beats them all and becomes their leader. The young men are so devoted to him they even give him their best prostitute, Kimiyo, who was actually one of the young girls Okita raped before he was incarcerated. The fact that these men treat Kimiyo as a sex slave is not explored for the evil that it is, which again makes the film difficult for non-yakuza film fans to digest.

As Okita and his following grow out of control, the Takigawa clan clamps down on their activities. In a last ditch effort for survival, Okita reluctantly joins the Yato clan. The results, however, are bad for all involved. Mr. Yato sees Okita as a wild youth, which reminds him of the good old days. Yato's nostalgia allows him to be soft on Okita and all hell lets loose, with Okita causing a mob war. The action scenes are very exciting and Sugawara does an excellent job of playing the tough, amoral Okita. Director Fukasaku has made a rousing portrayal of a world in which decency and order are irrelevant commodities.

The problem is that such a world, although probably very true to the real life of the yakuza, is too harsh for cinema. Fukasaku and his crew have successfully made a film that hits you in the gut, but it never speaks to the viewer on an emotional level. Films like Scarface and GoodFellas are equally brutal, but they add a more removed level to the story that allows the viewer to understand the true horror of such a lifestyle. Street Mobster is completely engaged in the street and not interested in reaching a higher place. This is, of course, Fukasaku's right, but it also means that the film will not be accessible to many audience members.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision has created a new digital transfer, preserving the original aspect ratio in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The age of the footage is obvious, with some minor dirt and varying qualities of contrast. Grain is noticeable, especially in lowly lit scenes, but all of this gives the film a good context. After all, who wants to watch vintage Japanese yakuza films that look like they were made last year?

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Street Mobster is presented with a 2.0 mono Japanese sound mix. The sound effects of the fight scenes sound great, but the mix is noticeably not dynamic. The rest of the mix is average, as one would expect from a mono track. As a matter of film preservation, it is nice to have the mono.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Graveyard of Honor, The Yakuza Papers (Volumes 1-5), HVe Zatoichi Trailer
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:02m:47s

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert—contains DVD credits and an essay by Patrick Macias.
Extras Review: Home Vision has provided an insert that features the DVD credits and an essay by Patrick Macias about the history and impact of Street Mobster. The trailer for the feature is also supplied here in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. The trailers for Graveyard of Honor, The Yakuza Papers series, and Home Visions Zatoichi DVDs are also shown in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen (except for Zatoichi, which is in the academy ratio). The Yakuza Papers' trailers can either be played separately or all together (totaling 16m:36s). Additionally, there is a filmography of director Kinji Fukasaku.

The final extra on this set is a featurette, Street Mobsters: A Conversation with Former Yakuza (10m:43s). Two men are interviewed, though their faces are not shown for obvious reasons. They talk about the nature of living as mobsters (not surprisingly they condemn the lifestyle) and how the yakuza films represent the way of life. One of the two men works in the film industry now and coaches actors on how to behave.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Street Mobster is an essential movie for fans of yakuza films, but its harsh violence will likely limit its appeal. The image and sound mix are a nice representation of 1970s filmmaking, with the age being apparent (but properly placing the film in its context). The interview with former yakuza is pretty bland, as are the other extras. Highly recommended, however, for fans of the genre.


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