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DVD Title
Sonny Chiba Action Pack
International Title
Virus / Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon / The Bullet Train
DVD Length Original Length
156 / 93 / 115 minutes 156 / 93 / 152 minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
BCI 2006
Language Subtitles
English, Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 3
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.85:1/2.35:1 (Anamorphic) 2.0 Stereo, 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Mono
Extras
. Menus (English)
. Chapters (12/18/8)
. Trailers: Shogun's Shadow, Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter, Karate For Life, The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy, The Killing Machine, Shogun's Ninja, The Executioner, The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno, Legend of the Eight Samurai, G.I. Samurai, Ninja Wars, Legend of the Eight Samurai (English), Ninja Wars (English)
Captures
Review

The Sonny Chiba Action Pack contains three very different films, all of which feature The Streetfighter himself. The first, is Kinji Fukasaku's mega budget apocalypse epic Virus, followed by the wonderfully sleazy, manga derived and super grindhouse-ish Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon and the very Irwin Allen disaster flick-like The Bullet Train. While boasting fine video quality and with the presentation of all three films being miles ahead of any of the previous DVD releases of them (such as the horrific public domain versions of Virus), the Sonny Chiba Action Pack is still, to me, a bit of a disappointment for several reasons. First, it's distressing to see Virus billed as a "Sonny Chiba action film" as Sonny's total screentime in that film is three minutes tops and the film is more of a pessimistic disaster drama about the death of humanity than an actioner. Even more distressing is the fact that the version of The Bullet Train presented here is the 115 minute US version, which deletes about 45 minutes of footage that not only features more panic and insanity but brings some of the motivations of Ken Takakura's character to light far better than the US version does. That said, this DVD set still provides the first ever R1 release of Virus is it's amazing 156 minute Japanese cut and the first release of Golgo 13 fully uncut and with its original Japanese dialogue as well.


 Video:

The presentation of Virus is more or less a direct port of the transfer on Kadokawa's two disc special edition on region 2. Same window boxing. Same slight level of grain. The MPEG-2 compression looks slightly different though, as the video on the DVD doesn't look quite as sharp as on the Kadokawa R2. It runs just a few seconds longer due to the fact that the Kadokawa logo appears before the film, which is not the case on the R2. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is anamorphically enhanced for 16:9 TVs.

Golgo 13 looks great, a tremendous improvement over the ugly Crash Cinema DVD. There is no doubt that this is the best the film has looked. There's some slight grain here and there, but otherwise it's damn near perfect, bringing the nostalgic streets of 70's Hong Kong that this film is set in to vivid life.

The Bullet Train fares the worst of the bunch, while it looks considerably better than it's earlier Crash Cinema counterpart, the print is quite grainy and has an almost washed out look to it, though the color is far more vibrant than the highly muted looking Crash Cinema DVD. That said, the R2 DVD from Toei is much cleaner looking.


 Audio:

The audio quality is decent. Sadly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS remixes on the Kadokawa Day of Ressurection DVD are not included here, all we get for Virus is the 2.0 stereo track, which sounds totally fine.

Interestingly enough, even though Virus, the real film deserving of it, was robbed of a 5.1 sound mix, Golgo 13 gets one. The DVD comes complete with 5.1 Japanese, 2.0 Japanese and 2.0 English soundtracks. The 5.1 sounds good, with the music pretty much spread along the six channels and luckily no tacky added sound effects as far as I know. The 2.0 Japanese track is quite competent, but the English soundtrack sounds quite earsplitting by contrast, with for some reason the dialogue and sound effects coming from the back speakers.

The Bullet Train's audio (English dubbed only) sounds okay, though you can hear a slight hiss every so often.

The DVD offers removable English subtitles for Virus and Golgo 13.


 Extras:

Sadly, there are no extras at all save for a myriad of Sonny Chiba Collection trailers, which, while entertaining, are no substitute for say, the incredible extras on the R2 Kadokawa Day of Ressurection box or the trailers for the actual films. I found the menu for Virus to be quite tacky as well, making it look like a cheap horror movie.


 Overview:

Overall, this is still worth buying if you have never seen the Japanese version of Virus before or badly want to see the Japanese segments subtitled. Any fans of Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon are bound to be happy with this release too, but those who aren't and own the region 2s of Virus and The Bullet Train are better off holding onto them and skipping this until, hopefully, BCI decides to release them separately.

- J.L. Carrozza  
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