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Toei Genre Films (1960s-1980s) Available in HD but Not Released on BD/UHD

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  • #16
    Just for one post, I thought I’d do something different. Here are some TOEI GEMS THAT DO NOT HAVE AN HD MASTER. Any label that has the power to influence Toei, or the resources to conduct their own scan, should consider these titles.

    1. School of the Holy Beast (聖獣学園) (1974). Dir. Norifumi Suzuki.
    Norifumi Suzuki’s masterpiece might be the greatest nusploitation film ever made. In the DVD era two different masters were in distribution. Toei’s own master (also released on US DVD) had a strong blue/green tint, while the beautiful French Studio Canal DVD (likely derived from a French print) had a neutral color timing that elevated the film’s beautiful visuals to a new level.

    Toei DVD

    Studio Canal DVD

    more detailed comparison (NSFW):

    2. Army Intelligence 33 (陸軍諜報33) (1968). Cast: Sonny Chiba & Mako Midori.
    This incredibly stylish WWII neo noir / commando action cocktail is a true Sonny Chiba gem. Chiba stars as a suave government spy first tasked with stealing secret information from a foreign diplomat in Japan (in the film’s hugely atmospheric film noir part), and later sent on a jungle commando mission in the action packed climax.

    3. Female (牝) (1964). Dir. Yusuke Watanabe.
    This astonishing Mako Midori passion noir that feels like something co-directed by Wong Kar Wai and Shinya Tsukamoto. It’s a convoluted, but breathtakingly filmed tale of a disturbed young woman (Midori) spending her nights with a married man and jealously spying on his wife during the daytime. This film, along with other Midori gems like Two *****es (aka Night Ladies) (二匹の牝犬) (1964), are long overdue international discovery. They were the first wave in Toei’s b-film production line focusing on erotically charged urban tales, which later gave birth to Pinky Violence.

    4. Bullets of Slacker Street (aka Operation Diamond) (遊民街の銃弾) (1962).
    This mind-blowing pulp action thriller resembles Fukasaku's High Noon for Gangsters, and is just as exciting. A hard core criminal of unknown nationality (Tetsuro Tamba) learns about diamonds hidden inside a US army base from a cellmate / army deserter (Issac Saxson), and starts planning a prison escape. He puts together a pack of international convicts and receives help a second group (Ken Takakura, Harumi Sone, Yoshiko Sakuma) outside the prison who are also after the diamonds. A thrilling gangster actioner packed with style, suspense, and fantastic gunplay. At 82 minutes it isn't ruined with excess length either.

    5. Secret Information (密告) (1968). Dir. Masaharu Segawa.
    Perhaps Noboru Ando's best film. Superb revenge noir with a heavy Melville vibe. Ando plays a bitter gangster just out of prison, quietly searching for the traitor who sent him behind bars eight years earlier. There’s an evident European new wave vibe to the film, which is almost experimental in its editing, sound design and minimalism. That being said, it’s still a Toei gangster picture with the expected gunplay, car chases, and a shade of romance.

    6. Red Flowers of the Harbour Mist (霧の港の赤い花) (1962). Dir. Shinji Murayama.
    Another hidden gem of Japanese noir here. Koji Tsuruta plays a yakuza who falls in love with married woman (Kyoko Kagawa), whose husband is away on a trip. The relationship starts out platonic, but Tsuruta wants to take it a step further, much to the confusion of Kagawa who is not quite sure of her feelings. A supremely stylish and atmospheric tale of doomed lovers, packed with lyrical scenes full of lights and shadows, and drawing from Tsuruta's melancholic, tortured persona.

    7. Hanjiro, A Great Philanderer (下苅り半次郎 マル秘観音を探せ) (1975).
    A crazy ninja exploitation film based on a Kazuo Koike (Lady Snowblood, Lone Wolf and Cub) manga. An Iga ninja is tasked with finding a mating partner for the shogun. The previous girl the shogun slept with gave birth to a snake, so he was understandably upset. A magician tells them them they need to find a woman with a special womb. She will have a mole in her forehead, and her vagina will shine brightly when she's at the peak of her pleasure (seriously, I'm not making this up). A lavish Toei production without a hint of self irony! There are some unbelievable scenes like Ibuki having sex with a woman who is about to be executed, hanging upside down on a cross, and Ibuki is throwing bombs to keep the guards at bay until he'd done with her. Wow!

    (p.s. somebody please get similar manga exploitation films out of the Toho prison. Hanzo the Razor 1-3, Demon Spies, Shadow Hunter 1-2, and Rica 1-3 all have HD masters available)

    8. Love School (恋愛学校) (1962).
    Finally, a bit of an outlier, but this super stylish modern girl's love comedy co-starring Sonny Chiba is so cool! Best friends Yoshiko Sakuma and Mayumi Ozora go boy hunting (looking for dates) with the former at one point finding herself harassed by an old geezer. To rescue comes young man Chiba, driving a vintage vehicle that looks like a slightly upgraded version of T-Ford. This is quite a progressive youth film all the way from trendy English title (though spelled Renai gakko in kanji, the intended furigana reading is Love School) to a charmingly modern heroine and an underlying message 'follow your heart, not your family' advocated by the protagonist's "love radical" grandma (Tokyo Story’s awesome Chieko Higashiyama). For Chiba fans these romantic films predating his bad mofo reputation by a decade are a most pleasant discovery.

    Sorry for any typing mistakes and incoherence, I typed this in a hurry. Gotta jump on a plane and fly to Tokyo to catch 35mm screenings of Nuns that Bite, Hairpin Circus, super rare "Toei New Porno" films from mid 70s, and more.


    • #17
      I still find myself scrolling through that first page just looking at the screenshots. Roaring Fire! I'm so jealous. I can't imagine we're ever going to get a Girl Boss blu-ray set but I sure hope so.

      Have you seen any mention of Reiko Ike's Violence Sweeper streaming in HD?


      • #18
        Well, it's streaming on Amazon, but I don't know if it's in HD. I'll check the next time when I have Prime.


        • #19
          First, a bit of bad new. For some damned reason, neither Game of Chance 3 nor Judo for Life 2 are in Toei Channel's August schedule. Both series will be left incomplete for now.

          Then the good stuff:

          Pinky Violence and Eros
          Neon Jellyfish: Shinjuku Flower Streetcar (ネオンくらげ 新宿花電車) (1973). Dir. Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. HD premiere on Toei Channel in August 2024.

          Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Yasuaki Kurata and Tadashi Yamashita Action
          The Karate 2 (ザ・カラテ2) (1974). Batshit crazy karate film with Tadashi Yamashita and Bolo Yeung. HD premiere on Toei Channel in July 2024.

          Other Martial Arts Action
          Student Yakuza (学生やくざ ) (1974). Yakuza / martial arts hybrid. Cast: Tsunehiko Watase, Rika Aoki, Bunta Sugawara. HD premiere on Toei Channel in August 2024.
          Wicked Kempo (The Karate Man and the Spy) (極悪拳法) (1974). Cast: Tsunehiko Watase. HD premiere on Toei Channel in August 2024.

          60s Action and Crime
          Industrial Spy (産業スパイ) (1968). Cool spy action. Dir. Eiichi Kudo. Cast: Tatsuo Umemiya. HD premiere on Toei Channel in August 2024.

          Ninkyo Yakuza
          Kanto Street Peddlers Clan: Violent Loyalty (関東テキヤ一家 喧嘩仁義) (1970). Dir. Norifumi Suzuki. Cast: Bunta Sugawara. HD premiere on Toei Channel in August 2024.

          Also so some bad. After taking a closer look, I've:

          Crazed Beast aka A Savage Beast Goes Mad (狂った野獣) (1976). Ancient HD master airing on Toei Channel, looks like a bad upscale.


          • #20
            Originally posted by Takuma View Post

            Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Yasuaki Kurata and Tadashi Yamashita Action
            The Karate 2 (ザ・カラテ2) (1974). Batshit crazy karate film with Tadashi Yamashita and Bolo Yeung. HD premiere on Toei Channel in July 2024.
            Bolo Yeung in a 70's Japanese film !?! Its a "Martial Arts Tournament" film! His character's name is "Dracula Jack"! My head just exploded.


            • #21
              Originally posted by Jason C View Post

              Bolo Yeung in a 70's Japanese film !?! Its a "Martial Arts Tournament" film! His character's name is "Dracula Jack"! My head just exploded.
              I don't remember exactly. I think he was one of the bad guys sent to kill Yamashita. It's not a major role, but noteworthy anyway.

              edit: here's my old mini review

              Originally posted by Takuma
              The Karate 2 (ザ・カラテ2) (Japan, 1974) [VoD] – 3.5/5
              A mentally insane sequel with blinded Tadashi Yamashita chased by a legion of vengeful martial artists, including Chinese Hercules Bolo Yeung as a fighter called Dracula! There’s also a Swedish assassin who tries to kill Yamashita on the surgery table before he can get his eyes fixed, resulting Yamashita going Zatoichi for the rest of the film. The whole film is built on such shaky grounds that it could collapse any moment, but somehow the insanity keeps it together. There’s more comedy, but also moments of gut ripping brutality, and a constant uncertainty about whether Yamashita looks brain-dead on purpose or by accident. But it’s American assassin Jerry Samson who gives one of the most ridiculously over-the-top performances you’ll ever see. The action nevertheless remains good, at times ridiculously good with loads of good moves by Yamashita, Samson and Korean double kicker Kim Jin-pal (Bolo goes partially wasted, unfortunately). Also interesting to see All Japan Karate Federation’s Masafumi Suzuki (who’s also in The Street Fighter and a few other films) returning in a rather large acting and action role.