Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread (Japan 1974)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/11/14
Cast: Etsuko Shiomi (Sue Shiomi), Yasuaki Kurata, Hisayo Tanaka

Etsuko Shiomi returns as Koryu from "Sister Street Fighter" (1974). Having returned to Hong Kong after the events in the first film, she soon finds herself investigating a gem smuggling operation and the kidnapping of her friend, Birei (beautiful Hisayo Tanaka). And how are the gems being smuggled? They're surgically implanted in the buttocks of kidnapped girls, who are then sold as prostitutes to Japan. Okay, I guess that's one way to go about it. Koryu's investigation leads her back to Tokyo where she reunites with her sister, who just happens to be a gem cutter at a diamond store. Hmm... As Koryu gets closer to the truth, she once again has to confront a large assembly of bizarre and increasingly dangerous foes before coming face to face with the leader of the organization. Taking over Sonny Chiba's role is a shaggy Yasuaki Kurata, who has his own agenda with the villains.

It's a fun action showcase for Shiomi that's very similar to the original. In fact, the climax of the film is exactly the same. The villain gets chased into a dark and narrow passage, where he inexplicably changes clothes. He then runs out into the open where he and Koryu leap into the air and have an extended aerial battle before falling victim to his own weapons. Then Kurata hands Koryu a keepsake, after which she runs away and stares out to sea, mourning the loss of yet another sibling. Most of the villains are played by the same actors who were in the first film, and in very similar roles, which is a little disconcerting. The fight scenes are well staged and executed, and Shiomi is a pure joy to watch. Sadly, the majority of the action scenes are spoiled by overly shaky handheld camera work, which makes the action hard to follow at times.

The film ups the ante in the exploitation department, and is full of sex, nudity, torture, and graphic violence. Eyes are gouged, limbs are hacked, and bodies are impaled with bloody excess. One of the strangest scenes involves a bull's head which is inexplicably sitting on a table at the bad guy's headquarters. One of the fighters hits the head so hard that a blood geyser erupts out of its forehead, leaving you to ponder what just happened and why. Another strange, but very memorable scene is when Koryu snaps and sets out for revenge, which is visually and symbolically depicted as her walking into Hell. It's a powerful and unsettling scene that really sets the tone for the unbridled flurry of rage and punishment that she's about to unleash. The film also has its humorous moments (whether intentional or not), including some VERY bad Chinese dialog at the beginning of the film. Now, I'm not a Chinese speaker, but even I could tell how badly the language was being butchered. The funniest moment is when three of the bad guys storm Koryu's karate school and threaten to kill everyone if they don't hand her over. Much to their leader's surprise, the students call his bluff and turn on him, at which point he realizes how incredibly stupid it was to challenge 50 or so karate experts without the muscle to back up his empty threats. "You'll be sorry!" he yells, as he and his brothers quickly run away with their tails between their legs. Overall, if you're a fan of the first film and of the genre in general, "Hanging By A Thread" is a pleasant surprise and a worthy sequel in the series.