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Movie Going Madness in Japan

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  • Thank you Takuma, these posts are much appreciated. One day I hope to be able to catch some screenings in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Been here since Aug but not in a position for any movie exploration so haven't even looked beyond my local mall theater.


    • Originally posted by Oily Maniac View Post
      Thank you Takuma, these posts are much appreciated. One day I hope to be able to catch some screenings in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Been here since Aug but not in a position for any movie exploration so haven't even looked beyond my local mall theater.
      Thanks and yeah, if you get a chance you should certainly pay a visit to those Tokyo theaters... Laputa Asagaya, Shin bungeiza, Jinbocho Theater, Cinema Vera, Film Archive... I don't think film prints will be around for much longer so it's now or never.


      • Tokyo-Osaka, part 3/3, the first half

        Saturday's plan was five films in three different theatres around Tokyo, which I somewhat surprisingly managed to pull off.

        My first destination was Meguro Cinema, one of Tokyo's few remaining double feature theatres with a distinctly 90s atmosphere. I like how they ring bells every time a film is about to begin to let people know it's time to get seated. They were also giving small printed program brochures with some hand-drawn, false God worshipping British villagers with animal heads on the cover.

        The Britons were from The Wicker Man: Final Cut (1973), which was playing together with Friedkin's Sorcerer (1977). Both were DCP, but since I had nothing better to do at 10:30 am (other than sleep) decided to give Wicker Man a go. I had not seen it since a TV broadcasting when I was a kid. Great film! I didn't have time to stay for Sorcerer, but I've seen that theatrically already and have the BD in my shelf, so no biggie.

        Meguro was also doing a one night only 35mm screening of Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967) but I sadly had no chance to attend since I had other plans for the night. More about that later.

        Upcoming program: The Man Who Stole the Sun, Bullet Train and Family Game

        Next up was a trip to Jinbocho, a district perhaps best known for its 5 million small book stores. But I was going to Jinbocho Theater, a pretty cool place with a futuristic design - a bit of a mismatch with their programs which focus on 60s dramas, comedies musicals. They seem to be very popular with the elderly audiences and the screenings are nearly always well attended. I got there 25 min prior to Yagyu Secret Scrolls (1957), and got ticket number 54.

        Photos stolen off the internet

        Yagyu was a good, although slightly pale 35mm presentation of a passable Toshiro Mifune film - I prefer the more action packed and pulpy 60s Toei films (nine films in 1961-1964) however. The film was playing in a jidai geki novel adaptation retrospective, that also included films like Tai Kato’s Warrior of the Wind (1964), Hideo Gosha’s Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron (1978) and Norifumi Suzuki’s Ninja's Mark (1968).

        The latter was the reason for my visit. It was my 2nd time seeing Ninja’s Mark in 35mm, but I didn't remember how gorgeous the print was! Another example of why home cinema will never equal a fine 35mm presentation. The film is a good bit of fun, starting from the opening scene where an evil ninja turns a woman having sex into a fish! Someone should release this on BD in a box set with other ninja films based on Futaro Yamada novels (e.g. Female Ninja Magic, Ninja Wars, Samurai Reincarnation).

        Ninja’s Mark also has some historical relevance for being the 1st movie Toei head Okada had producer Amao make in order to milk the eros boom. The film failed at the box office ("men don't forgive eros that only goes half-way", Okada said) and has since been largely forgotten. Their follow-up try History of the Shogun's Harem (1968), however, was a huge hit and went down in history books as the official start of Pinky Violence.

        Stay tuned for Tokyo-Osaka, part 3/3, the second half (I know, I screwed up)


        • Tokyo-Osaka, part 3/3, the second half

          My final destination was one of my favourite places in the whole wide world: Laputa Asagaya. The lovely theater located in a building made of stone and wood, and named and modelled after the Miayzaki anime, does nothing but Japanese film retrospectives from morning to night. The Morning Show is usually golden oldies, the Late Show is genre films from yakuza to pink, and the massive Main Program is anything between. That means there are usually six 35mm screenings every day.

          Some stolen photos and image glued together.

          Note that the camera really lies here. The screen looks very small. In reality, there are 4 rows and the back row is the only place where the screen (in 2.35:1) won't fill your entire field view. Any closer and it will either fill the entire field view (3rd row), or you won't be able to see the entire screen (1st and 2nd row).

          This time the main program was called "50 Film Directors' Debut Movie", which was accompanying a recent book release of the same name (which is something Laputa often does). A lot of the best stuff in this retro (Nakajima's Female Ninja Magic, Murakawa's Delicate Skillful Fingers, Ito's Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion, Ishii’s Red Vertigo etc.) was unfortunately saved for later dates.

          The film I caught was Hideo Onchi’s Young Wolf aka Hidden Fangs (1961), a complete blind watch for me, but I figured Toho plus delinquents minus home video release would warrant a viewing. That’s how I discovered the great cop docudrama Car 33 Doesn't Answer (1955) years ago (why hasn’t Criterion released this yet?!). The film was a low key, semi-documentary style drama about a young man trying to go straight after a stint in youth prison (Kunie Tanaka plays fellow inmate), only to find out his gal (Yuriko Hoshi) had developed an attitude and a delinquent girl hairstyle while he was away. Good film and gorgeous print!

          Following Young Wolf was the awesome “Toho Pinky Violence” Rica (1972) in the Late Show, which was dedicated to manga artist Bonten Taro. Other films in the retro were the Rica sequels, Sex and Fury, and Female Yakuza Tale. A couple of Roman Porno films + Irezumi also accompanied the program in the neighbouring theater space Zamuza Asagaya. I think the program was split like this because the latter ones only had BDs available for screening whereas Laputa screens everything from film prints. Speaking of which, Rica had sadly been beaten to pulp and turned all pink. I hope they will discover a better print for future screenings.

          Laputa went a bit overboard with Bonten Taro merchandise this time

          Plus their usual other film books and CDs

          These books are for sale, but you can also browse them to kill time


          I was too lazy to scan it myself, so I just stole it from here:

          Rica finished around 22:30. Then it was time to head back to my capsule for a quick shower and too little sleep. I had to get up at 5:45 to head to the airport and fly not home but to work - yes, I had work on that day. Thank god it was a busy day, I'd have fallen asleep otherwise. Couldn't get any sleep during the flight thanks to Jetstar's "hang your head frontwards" type seats (seriously, who the hell designed those seats?) either.


          • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
            Tokyo-Osaka, part 3/3, the second half

            So close but so far. Telling myself to use the hotel/train/food money to buy a TV while trying to keep my composure.


            • I was in a local small multiplex (*) watching Night of the Living Dead (1968) (4K DCP) the other day, and found myself having a private cinema.

              In all honesty, two other viewers did show up on the last moment before the film started.

              Also, good to see A Serbian Film is going for a nationwide theatrical re-release. Touted as new 4K remaster. Obviously gonna be optically censored for some of the nudity, however, so no watch for me.

              * 4 screens, with program catered for the young and trendy adults.
              Screening now:
              Coming soon:


              • I had 9 hours to spare between flights in Tokyo, so of course I headed to Jimbocho to catch a movie. They were doing a series for actors and filmmakers celebrating their 100th anniversary. I watched the stylish Daiei noir Escape Man (脱獄者) (1967), which I don't think has been ever released on video. Slightly damaged but perfectly watchable 35mm print.

                Poster on the right, ad for the upcoming Fujita & Kumashiro joint retrospective on the left


                Escape Man in the middle


                • Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I’ve done two big Tokyo trips in the last three months, and married an incredible Japanese beauty between those, so I haven’t had much time to post.

                  June - Part 1/2

                  I had been eying a June Tokyo visit ever since Laputa Asagaya announced an impossible-to-see-at-home Sonny Chiba screening (more about that in a moment), with the “50 Director’s Debut Films” program still running at the same venue as well as a Pink Film 6th Anniversary Program. Then when Shin bungeiza dropped the bomb - they’d be doing a Shintaro Katsu mini retro at the same time – it was decided in a split second. Flights, capsule, films, here I come.

                  The primary reason for the trip was Love School (1962), a charming little love comedy playing in Laputa’s Morning Show in the Mayumi Ozora program. In the film 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 Sonny Chiba, driving a vintage vehicle that looks like a slightly upgraded version of T-Ford. This is quite a progressive youth film for Toei, from trendy English title (spelled Renai gakko in kanji, but Love School is the intended furigana reading) to a charmingly modern heroine, and an underlying message 'follow your heart, not your family'. For Chiba fans these romantic films predating his tough mofo reputation by a decade are a most pleasant discovery. Fantastic print too!

                  Love School

                  Love School (alternative poster)

                  Love School wasn’t the only thing to see in Laputa. I ended up with quite a pink streak watching Virgin Breaker Yuki (50 Debuts program), Angel Guts: Red Vertigo (50 Debuts program) and Bondage Tattoo on Wet Skin (Pink Film 60th Anniversary series) in a row. Virgin Breaker Yuki was better than I recalled, a mean little film that also contains the kind of visual poetry that only a 35mm screening does full justice. Great Takuzo Kawatani turn as angry castrated hobo and yes, Masumi Jun’s breasts are a sight to behold.

                  Red Vertigo about as good as I recalled – a near excellent psychological erotic drama with Takashi Ishii’s instantly recognizable visual neo-noir flair. The screening was affected by unintended melancholy as Ishii had passed away just a few weeks earlier. Oh and just for the record, while the print was a little scratched, I think the blue push in the colour front was intentional.

                  Last and absolutely least was Bondage Tattoo on Wet Skin. I felt obliged to watch this Mamoru Watanabe Shintoho S&M film just because it was screening in 35mm (*). A soldier (Shiro Shimomoto) comes home from war, only to find his sweetheart (Mai Hana) missing. She's actually in the attic, tied up on ropes and tattooed from ankles to neck, under intensive yakuza care. What's curious is that she's fully engaged in self-torture, tying herself up and even pulling herself up in the air on ropes by herself when there's no one to whip her. It's slightly spectacular to look at and supposedly adds a psychological layer to the sleaze. Meanwhile he proceeds to bang other women... a lot. That’s it. Watching this back to back with Toei's Virgin Breaker Yuki and Nikkatsu's Red Vertigo, and it's painfully evident how much lower the production values and filmmaking quality are here.

                  * With most pink theatres having gone tits up, and the few remaining ones gone fully digital, Shintoho pinks have become nearly impossible to see in 35mm outside of Laputa's retrospectives.

                  I also grabbed a few photos inside the screening room.

                  And outside. Lobby is on the right, screening room up the wooden stairs in the 2nd floor


                  • Bloody excellent post, Takuma. Wish I could join you for these.

                    Congrats on your marriage.


                    • Originally posted by AngelGuts View Post
                      Bloody excellent post, Takuma. Wish I could join you for these.

                      Congrats on your marriage.
                      Japan is finally open, so time to reserve flight?

                      And thanks!


                      • June - Part 2/2

                        It seems I haven’t picked up much pace with these reports. Let’s see what I can still remember about this trip.

                        My 2nd destination was Shin bungeiza, who had a theater renewal last year (but I forgot to mention about it). They upgraded their equipment (sound system, 4K projector), set up online ticket store, and moved the cash register’s place. In practice the place looks much like before, and they kept their 16mm and 35mm projectors as well. The online seat reservation system is convenient, but takes something away from the more traditional theater experience, plus I feel bad for all the tech handicapped ojiisans. The program is the same as before: a mix of Japanese film retrospectives played in double features (mostly 35mm), special screenings of Western films (digital), and semi-recent films that have just left mainstream theaters (DCP).

                        I've never been a big fan of their lobby. It's functional but too modern and cold compared to something like Laputa Asagaya. Recently they've also started displaying less and less original posters, replacing them with self-printed copies. At least they have some movie books to browse and an ice cream vending machine!

                        The screening room however is great. The seats are very comfortable (even for an all nighter) and the 4.2 x 10m screen does justice to Hanzo's manhood. The photo really lies here: the screen looks small, but in fact if you sit any closer than row H (row 8) you won't be able to see the entire screen.

                        Bungeiza were doing a mini Shintaro Katsu retrospective with 35mm screenings of the Hanzo the Razor trilogy, a couple of Zatoichi films, Kayoyaku, as well as digital screenings of the entire TV show Keiji K. I couldn’t afford to miss the Hanzo films since I had already done just that. About 5 years ago I had flights and capsule reserved for a Tokyo trip (Hanzo in Bungeiza, Sukeban films in Laputa) when I got sick just before the trip and couldn’t go. This time I was fine.

                        Not much to post here, just self-printed mini posters.

                        Hanzo the Razor is a film that just keeps getting better as the world around us gets more sensitive. Katsu is the Dirty Harry of Edo, who takes no shit from corrupt officials and uses his giant dick as interrogation tool against evil women (there are some great training sequences, too). All this via solid production values and master Kenji Misumi’s helming, set to blaxploitation inspired score (most likely inspired by the April 1972 release of Shaft. Japan didn’t experience much of a blaxploitation boom, but Shaft was influential, especially music-wise, and the theme song still plays on radio frequently). I wonder if any company in the West would dare to release these films on BD (Toho has HD masters ready). The 1st sequel is even better, adding ninjas and better (and bloodier) action sequences, and the 3rd film is enjoyable even though it brings little new to the table.

                        For some reason there were not many women in these screenings...

                        I also caught Zatoichi Goes to Fire Festival... for the 2nd time. I had seen this before from Film Archive's dead drop gorgeous print. Bungeiza played the standard studio print which wasn't as good but still solid. Speaking of prints, the Hanzos varied from good to very good. The first film was missing some frames and was slightly murky but otherwise solid. The sequels both looked beautiful.

                        That was it for my Tokyo trip. Two days of Hanzo, Zatoichi, debut films, rare Chiba and crap pinku, all from 35mm prints.

                        And finally, here's a street snapshot with some suspicious business promotion activity in front of a girl bar and an adult dvd shop located across the street from Shin bungeiza.

                        Senior Member
                        Last edited by Takuma; 11-01-2022, 12:12 PM.


                        • Thank you for this excellent entry. I'd love to see the HANZO films in 35mm like you just did. Love the series so much, especially the second THE SNARE.

                          Appreciate the bonus final shot, too. :-)


                          • Two weeks ago I found time to visit Tokyo briefly for a one night / six films trip to Laputa Asagaya’s massive Ninkyo Yakuza retrospective and Cinema Vera’s Umetsugu Inoue retrospective. A couple of photos + chirashi scan below.

                            When you've got four movies ahead, you better start your day with proper yaro don.


                            The Viper Brothers: Just Out of Jail (侠客列伝) (1971). I’ve been a bit critical about this film before, and I still think its main characters are a bit mean spirited and the movie isn’t among Nakajima’s best. But I quite enjoyed how it captures the 70s landscape on film, something that came through much better via organic 35mm presentation than it did on DVD.

                            Histories of the Chivalrous (懲役太郎 まむしの兄弟) (1967) was likewise second viewing. I’m not a huge Masahiro Makino fan, and I often get the feeling he was more interested in making melodramas focusing on period detail within the studio mandated yakuza film frame than straight genre pics. But in this one his approach works, the storyline (partially inspired by Chushingura) is good, and Tomisaburo Wakayama has a fantastic supporting role.

                            I had seen Chivalrous Woman: I Request Shelter (女渡世人 おたの申します) (1971) before as well and remembered it was good, but I didn’t remember it was this insanely good! Emotionally draining late ninkyo masterpiece which strips the genre of its trademark romanticism, and features what I might consider Junko Fuji’s best performance ever. One of the TOP 5, maybe even TOP 3 ninkyo films for me.

                            “The yakuza are flowers that bloom in the shadows. If you try to bloom under the sun, you will only bring misery to yourself”. This line by Bunta Sugawara in Chivalrous Woman really stuck to me.

                            Oh and if you're wondering what was the 4th film, it was Terror Beneath the Sea (海底大戦争) (1966) in Laputa's Late Show Science Fiction retrospective.


                            • Thanks, Takuma, for this always wonderful coverage. I've been missing your reviews, so am grateful for this. Must try to catch CHIVALROUS WOMAN : I REQUEST SHELTER.


                              • Thanks. I'll try to remember to post more mini-reviews soon.