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The Executioner Collection (Special Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (The Executioner)
The Film (The Executioner II: Karate Inferno)
The Video (The Executioner)
The Video (The Executioner II)
The Audio (Both Film)
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Two films from the mid 1970s starring Sonny Chiba show off the Japanese martial arts legend's skills as he plays Kouga, a ninja hitman collaborating with other low-level criminals for hire to take on yakuza and more.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Executioner Collection

In the 1970s kung fu film boom that followed in the immediate wake of Bruce Lee’s death, Sonny Chiba was Japan’s answer to fill the void left by Lee. The Executioner Collection, released by Arrow Video, brings together two of Chiba’s most popular films, directed by cult director Teruo Ishii.

Fists fly, blood spills, and the lines between the good guys and bad are blurred in The Executioner (1974). Sonny Chiba plays Kouga, a descendant of a long line of ninja warriors who has abandoned his legacy and now makes his living as a hitman. He is hired to take down a yakuza drug ring alongside Hayabusa (Makoto Sato), a corrupt narcotics detective inside the criminal underworld, and pervy Aikido master Sakura (Eiji Gō). As the three begin their operation tensions rise within the group. This doesn’t stop them from laying down some serious butt-kicking on their targets.

The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1975) sees Kouga returning, but this time the gritty crime drama with hints of humor has tilted all the way over into puerility. As the reunited gang plot to steal a priceless necklace from a master criminal that is in the possession of a paraplegic heiress, we are subjected to people digging their noses and dipping it into the other’s drink, shaking dandruff into each other’s drinks, and the perennial favorite for such films, flatulence. This second film turned what could have been a classic franchise into an enjoyable one-off with a forgettable sequel that ruins the legacy of the first film.

  • The Executioner Collection (Arrow Video AV463)
  • The Executioner Collection (Arrow Video AV463)
  • The Executioner (1974)

The Video

Arrow does not provide any detailed information on the transfers for the films in The Executioner Collection. Both films are provided in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p digital transfers. The Executioner has a lot of detail and texture. There is an astounding amount of contrast for a Blu-ray even if the overall image looks a little too dark. The sheen of sweat on faces really stands out in this film. The second film, The Executioner II, does not show this same sort of ‘pop’ in highlights, but it is roughly the same when it comes to textures and natural granularity in the film source.

The Audio

Both films in The Executioner Collection come with their original Japanese mono mix in LPCM 1.0. In addition to those mixes the original film also includes the original mono English dub in LPCM 1.0. These don’t sound great – there is some sibilance on dialogue – but they are more than adequate. The dialogue is intelligible and sound effects have good enough punch – no pun intended.

The Supplements

Arrow Video does not include a lot in this collection; however the brand-new audio commentary, featurette, and collector’s booklet are more than enough. They will fill in newcomers to Sonny Chiba on this incredible star and his works.

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Lucas Peverill
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Mark Schilling

On Disc:

  • Audio commentary on The Executioner with Chris Poggiali (NEW)
  • The Karate King (1080p; 00:29:51) – A featurette on the legendary Sonny Chiba featuring Grady Hendrix, Tom Mes, Chris Poggiali, Marco Joachim, and Seiji Anno of the band Guitar Wolf.
  • Teruo Ishii Filmography
  • Trailers:
    • The Executioner (Japanese Version) (1080p)
    • The Executioner (English version) (1080p)
    • The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1080p)
  • Image Galleries (1080p):
    • The Executioner Image Gallery
    • Karate Inferno Image Gallery

The Final Assessment

Sonny Chiba was the grittier answer to Bruce Lee and he did a lot of exiting, action-filled films for genre fans. The Executioner Collection is a great way to see him on top of his game, even if the sequel included here is of far less quality than the original film.


The Executioner Collection is out on Blu-ray January 10, 2023, from Arrow Video


  • Rating Certificate: The Executioner: R | The Executioner II: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Toei Tokyo | Arrow Video
  • Director: Teruo Ishii
  • Written By: Teruo Ishii | Shinichi Hashimoto & Teruo Ishii (The Executioner II)
  • Run Time: 183 Mins.
  • Street Date: 10 January 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Japanese LPCM 1.0
  • Secondary Audio: English LPCM 1.0 (The Executioner II)
  • Subtitles: English
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Two films from the mid 1970s starring Sonny Chiba show off the Japanese martial arts legend's skills as he plays Kouga, a ninja hitman collaborating with other low-level criminals for hire to take on yakuza and more. The Executioner Collection (Special Edition) (Blu-ray Review)