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What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

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  • Bad Angel (ずべ公天使) (Japan, 1960) [TV] - 3.5/5
    Toei's first delinquent girl film? Five minutes into it, and we're already treated a massive street brawn between two delinquent girl gangs. Charming chap Ken Takakura is a young intellectual of a modern business oriented yakuza group whose game centre the delinquents populate. Takakura comes up with a plan: take the gals on a hot springs trip and educate them in arts - could rehabilitate them and turn into a profit in the long run. Surprisingly innocent and naí¯ve - Takakura's group comes out like a bloody social support organization at times - and lacking the more exploitative edge of Shintoho's similar films from the same era. But Shigehiro Ozawa helms it with such energy and breeze, even inserting a musical scene in the middle of the film, that you can't help but to be highly entertained by it. The girls are cute and cool, punching bad guys and doing yakuza greetings when they're not singing or bathing (in a scene that actually features a brief glimpse of topless nudity!) although as a typical concession of the era it's Takakura who gets to play the hero of the show.

    Nothing But Bones (骨までしゃぶる) (Japan, 1966) [VoD] - 3/5
    Poor daughter Hiroko Sakuramachi is sold off as courtesan in Tai Kato's convincing adult drama. It's impressively cold and critical (particularly one scene with Sakuramachi in the foreground and men casually discussing her as merchandise in the background off-focus) but it also has decent enough characters to care for. Quite a bit better than Sadao Nakajima's later, similarly themed Ooku / Secret films.

    The Shogun and His Mistresses (大奥(秘)物語) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] - 2/5
    Lavish women's cinema by Sadao Nakajima. This is exceptionally feminine for a Toei film and void of any notable male characters. Reportedly the costumes alone cost over 30 million yen, which is about the same as many other films' entire production budget, because Toei did not have a tradition of grand scale women's jidai geki. Indeed, this is one film that more than the average Toei fan, his mother is likely to enjoy. Toei of course advertised it as a peek into the women's hidden world, even if suggestive sensuality was as far as the film went. That was still enough for Eirin to slap it with an “adult” rating. There is also some evidence to suggest that Toei's period eros line may have actually initiated from here, and sometimes Teruo Ishii's History of the Shogun's Harem has been seen as the 4th film in the "Secret" series that this film started. Shigeru Okada was the producer on all of them.

    The Karate (ザ・カラテ) (Japan, 1974) [VoD] - 4/5
    A batshit insane martial arts film with Tadashi Yamashita, the unholy crossbreeding of Goofy and Charles Bronson. Yamashita plays a man hoping to attend a martial arts tournament in hopes of winning $50 000 for his foster mother. When he gets turned down by karate authority Masafumi Suzuki, he joins the yakuza as their representative. Director Yukio Noda helms this with the same aura of madness as Soul of Chiba, but with even more action. Yamashita looks like a Sister Street Fighter villain who somehow landed a movie of his own. His accent and ridiculous moustache alone are priceless. But as a martial arts film performer he is superb, doing excellent choreographies in much longer takes than was commonplace in Japanese cinema. The opponents are top notch as well. The whole film is tons of fun, even Shingo Yamashiro is hilarious. Released in the US as Bronson Lee, Champion, which is probably cut based on the reported 79 min running time and the PG rating (the Japanese print is 86 min, and features some violent bits like ripping off a man's arm). The UK distributor and BBFC then snapped another 2 minutes from that already-cut print, bringing the runtime to only 73 minutes ('15' rated PAL video).

    Kyomaiko satsujin jiken: Kyofu no uwaki shutcho (京舞妓殺人事件 恐怖の浮気出張) (Japan, 1980) [TV] - 1.5/5
    Teddy bear family man Hiroyuki Nagato visits Kyoto on business, soon has a dead geisha in his hands and the police on his tail. Annoying TV film / Kyoto travel advertisement full of "funny overacting" and "old man does silly mistakes" scenes as Nagato tries to hide from the police. Awful musical score completes the wreckage. Phenomenal waste of talent in the casting: pink hip girl Kahori Takeda as travel guide co-star (also does a tiny bit of awful karate), fellow Roman Porno star Junko Miyashita as older (alive) geisha, Escape From Reform School runaway Fujika Omori as younger (dead) geisha, Tatsuo Endo is in the film too, and even Etsuko Shihomi appears for about one minute as a lady cop. And the film is directed by bloody Yuji "Shogun's Sadism" Makiguchi! And written by Atsushi Yamatoya! Shows how Japanese TV can turn men into pale shadows of their former selves, except there's not even a shadow left here. The title translates roughly as The Kyoto Geisha Murder Case: Horrifying Illicit Business Trip. Should've been The TV Viewer Suicide Case: Horrifying Boring Movie Experience.


    • Originally posted by Takuma View Post

      Kyomaiko satsujin jiken: Kyofu no uwaki shutcho (京舞妓殺人事件 恐怖の浮気出張) (Japan, 1980) [TV] - 1.5/5
      Teddy bear family man Hiroyuki Nagato visits Kyoto on business, soon has a dead geisha in his hands and the police on his tail. Annoying TV film / Kyoto travel advertisement full of "funny overacting" and "old man does silly mistakes" scenes as Nagato tries to hide from the police. Awful musical score completes the wreckage. Phenomenal waste of talent in the casting: pink hip girl Kahori Takeda as travel guide co-star (also does a tiny bit of awful karate), fellow Roman Porno star Junko Miyashita as older (alive) geisha, Escape From Reform School runaway Fujika Omori as younger (dead) geisha, Tatsuo Endo is in the film too, and even Etsuko Shihomi appears for about one minute as a lady cop. And the film is directed by bloody Yuji "Shogun's Sadism" Makiguchi! And written by Atsushi Yamatoya! Shows how Japanese TV can turn men into pale shadows of their former selves, except there's not even a shadow left here. The title translates roughly as The Kyoto Geisha Murder Case: Horrifying Illicit Business Trip. Should've been The TV Viewer Suicide Case: Horrifying Boring Movie Experience.

      lol ...that's too bad considering the talents involved!


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        Chi-n-pi-ra (チ・ン・ピ・ラ) (Japan, 1984) (TV) 3/5

        Bubble years Japan film with all the groove and style reflected in the music, clothes and general vibe of living life like there's no tomorrow that characters have. Two best friends, after moving to the big city make their living as small hoodlums running a betting bussines for the yakuza. Youthful and free spirited they go, until one of them is draged into becoming more serious as yakuza, abiding with the loyalties and responsabilities, breaking appart the "bromance" .... Conflicting situation eventually put his yakuza duties in conflict with his best pal' .
        Of course the story could have gone rougher on the yakuza department, but well I guess it simply wasn't that kind of film.
        Junior Member
        Last edited by metalosaurio; 07-16-2020, 06:50 PM.


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          Siblings of the Cape (岬の兄妹) (Japan, 2019) (TV) 4/5

          Maybe because of the subject been treated this little gem of a flick went rather unnoticed in the websites and shows where I usually listen about new films; though it recieved acclamation on many film festivals I think still is without release on the west and haven't heard about any plans for that to happen any time soon either.
          The plot and the general mood of the film is rather unnerving. A couple of siblings, with the older brother having a limp, struggling to do physical labour and the younger sister been mentally handicap, requiring constant care, find themselves living in dire conditions with the brother struggling to gather enough money to cost their basic expenses. Suddenly the sister is lost one night, and is found the next morning having some pocket money and suggesting stains in her underwear. After the initial freakout, the brother starts considering pimping his sister as a way of securing some income, and well, here's where the movie shines in keeping you unconfortable enough with the topics been presented, and yet developing the circunstances in which you are able to sympathize with their struggle. Nice landscape scenes from the port city they live in, great acting, specially from Misa Wada, performing the sister Mariko. Really glad I picked this one, it didn't have reruns the rest of the month and went again out of schedule on film channels.
          This is debut film for director Shinzo Katayama and I'll certainly be looking for his next one.
          Junior Member
          Last edited by metalosaurio; 07-24-2020, 06:14 PM.


          • Welcome to the forum, metalosaurio. Looking forward to more reviews :up:

            New Abashiri Prison Story (新網走番外地) (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 2.5/5
            Part 1 in the reboot series. This initially looks like it's going to break new ground with Takakura sent not to Abashiri Prison but a US/JP joint military prison camp in snowy Abashiri, governed by American guards and packing international prisoners like Osman Yusuf! Unfortunately the segment only runs 20 minutes after which it's sunshine and standard yakuza plotting in Honshu for the rest of the pic. There is a cool ending though with Takakura raiding the villain headquarters with hand grenades and sword, earning himself a ticket to you know where.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: Harbour Duel (新網走番外地 流人岬の血斗) (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 2/5
            Part 2. Weak summer-set entry with a handful interesting scenes, including strange opening with Toru Yuri breaking the fourth wall and introducing the film and cast. Later we get bare-assed Takakura in a bath fight - I'm not sure how many girls got their kicks out of it, but nice to see it wasn't just the ladies who had to strip. Finally, there's a beautiful, poignant closing scene. Not very much for a severely over-long (typical to director Furuhata) 109 minute film. One additional note: Takakura's character is worse behaving, a bit less chivalrous than usual here.

            New Abashiri Prison Story - Vagrant Comes to a Port Town (新網走番外地 さいはての流れ者) (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 2/5
            Part 3 in the “New” series. There comes a point in the Abashiri Prison series where you start wondering just how many times the audiences were be willing to pay ticket price just to hear Takakura's theme song and enjoy his charisma in otherwise mediocre pictures. It's also a reminder that these weren't cult cinema or anything like that, they were mainstream in the purest. This film is the same affair as the rest, with a fisherman theme this time. Takakura's theme song and the chilly white landscapes are the assets, the story and characters are not.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: Duel in the Forest (新網走番外地 大森林の決斗) (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 2/5
            Part 4. Another summer-set by-the-numbers entry with one distinctive feature: Takakura spends the entire film on a prison camp as opposed to being released after the first reel as usual. Little of interest happens (aside Nikkatsu refugee Joe Shishido being one of the prisoners). But once again, when you hear the fabulous theme near the end when Takakura rides to enemy headquarters to whop ass you almost forgive the long road that took you there. The climax also features two of the most brutal kills yet, the latter one downright absurd as Takakura pushes a full size freight train car over a wounded enemy.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: A Wolf in the Blizzard (新網走番外地 吹雪のはぐれ狼) (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 2.5/5
            Part 5. Alright but pretty silly entry with Takakura joining the church after making friends with a charismatic prison priest, then struggling with the “Turning the other cheek” idea! He usually punches back right away! Chris D. praised this as "one of the best in series... with skilful, patient handling of the narrative" but I'm really not seeing that in the film. For the first 90 minutes winter landscapes and the lack of overt goofiness is what it's got going for it. Fantastic, bloody ending makes it all feel worthwhile, however.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: Stormy Cape (新網走番外地 嵐を呼ぶ知床岬) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 1.5/5
            Part 6. Summer set Abashiri with no Prison, but instead much ado about a horse. Another sub-par entry in a series that ceased to be serious yakuza cinema when the filmmakers figured they could have Takakura and others goof around at a farm most of the film (as in here) and then throw in some namely-yakuza bad guy (Rinichi Yamamoto) to create conflict leading to final reel action sequence. And a comedy sequence where Takakura has forgotten how to ride a horse! The saving grace and the only real yakuza here is Noboru Ando as determined yet honourable avenger lining up with the bad guys. I can only repeat myself that the popularity of the series had less to do with cinematic quality, and more with it being as-mainstream-as-it-gets entertainment for mass (probably blue collar) audiences.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: Escape in the Blizzard (新網走番外地 吹雪の大脱走) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 2/5
            A welcome, if not particularly good back-to-basics entry set entirely in the Abashiri Prison + immediate surroundings (the first time since the original in 1965, I think). It is just too bad this is another 90 min stretched into 105 for no apparent reason, especially considering how dull the drama is. That's typical of director Furuhata. What it does have is a small number of ironic and anarchic moments: the court failing to keep track of Takakura's crimes, Takakura offering to guide the new prison official because it's his “17th time here, ask me anything”, the first boobs in the series (those of a nun, none the less), and a pretty good last 15 minutes with some action set in the snowy wilderness. Noboru Ando appears briefly in a typical lone wolf / badass role. The rest of the usual suspects are on board as well: Murota and Imai (evil guards), Tanaka and Tani (inmates), Yamamoto (evil nemesis) etc.

            New Abashiri Prison Story: Honor and Humanity, Ammunition That Attracts the Storm: (新網走番外地 嵐呼ぶダンプ仁義) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 1.5/5
            More fourth wall jokes in the opening with Takakura, Shishido and palls cheering and sobbing to a Brutal Tales of Chivalry film in a prison screening. Shishido gets himself killed before the opening credits roll, and Takakura goes on to work for a dump truck company once he's out. More comedy and tiresome yakuza shenanigans ensue. The truck plot is simply a variation of the usual good labourer gang vs. evil labourer gang plot done before with dock workers, railway builders, horse breeders etc. This was the 8th and last NEW film, made when the series was way past its prime and void of any inspiration. It still ranked 3rd at the annual box office, but the B-film that opened with it, Girl Boss Guerilla, had frankly much more vitality.


            • Oh... your reviews came just when I'm on the third one of the series and you've pretty much confirmed my fears regarding the next ones. Yesterday I was watching "Vagrant Comes to a Port Town" and I felt like Groundhog Day featuring Ken Takakura, a few townsman and the Yakuza "folks". So next five are same formula w/ slightly different script, huh? :think: .... I might just skip to the last scene of each then. :gory:

              I'll add more review surely, specially if my VPN works for watching some of those Japan Cuts Film Festival's flicks that are still running :up:


              • Originally posted by metalosaurio View Post
                So next five are same formula w/ slightly different script, huh? :think: ....
                Very much, yes.

                Did you watch the original 10 by Ishii? I liked parts 1, 3, 8 and 9, and 4 was alright too but I didn't really care for the rest. Part 2 was the worst of them.

                The entire series was (13 of the 18 films were TOP 10 box office hits on their respective release years) and still remains hugely popular in Japan, but I think that has mostly more to do with the films being nostalgic relics and Takakura vehicles, than any exceptional cinematic quality.


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                  Extro (エキストロ) (Japan, 2019) (VOD) 3/5
                  Part of the last Japan Cuts films festival selection, a mockumentary about the behind the scenes work that a company of "extras" do in several films. Many seemingly absurd situations related to the film production aspect makes you wonder how much fiction there's is to it all. It felt like watching "Fall Guy" for a while, mixing most likely exaggerations of actual daily situations happening on Japanese sets.


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                    Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (0課の女 赤い手錠) (Japan, 1974) (TV) (3/5)

                    Toei had this Pinky Violence candidate in its August lineup. The film really allure me with the promise of endless violence and a character that felt right in tune with the ones from Female Prisoner #701, which is one of my favorite sagas. The violence is all there, there's no denying in that, both directed to the usual suspects, those pigs with little or no morality, as men are usually depicted, and a fair share also aimed at the protagonist, who felt strangely passive, quite masochistic actually, which wasn't really what I was expecting given the declaration of "toughness" from the lead we get quite early in the film.
                    The plot (the rescue of a rich kidnapped girl) is extended to an absurd point and felt as the lowest point in what it could have been a great film, given the cast and resources. Nudity, violence, gore and a great sountrack help to bring the film alive. Again, a better storyline would have put it into my favorites probably..... too bad it didn't happen.


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                      Lone Wolf and Cub (子連れ狼) (Japan 1972-1974) (Bluray) (5/5)

                      I heard about this saga in a must watch Japanese films from the 70's video ranking some weeks ago. Watched the first one and the next five just keep comming; the experience was entertaining in every delivery of the series (6 films). A renowed samurai stripped from his rank and fallen into disgrace will walk the path of the hired assassin alongside with his toddler of a son, long swordfighting scenes and the proper bloodbath that goes with set the tone for the saga.
                      There're other samurai sagas that struggle at keeping the momentum and fail to keep the storyline advancing while staying true to the elements that make the first film work, it was my case with Zatoichi for example, couldn't go pass the 4th film of the saga and that 20 something collection still remains unseen in my shelf. As for Lone Wolf, they managed to build momentum and add a few elements in every successive film, so it keeps it fresh while revisiting the strong points of the saga in each delivery. Tomisaburo Wakayama really shines in the role as Okami Itto. Deffinetly I'll look more into his films after watching this saga.
                      Most likely I'll give the TV series version a shot as well ;)
                      Junior Member
                      Last edited by metalosaurio; 09-01-2020, 06:58 AM.


                      • Originally posted by Takuma View Post
                        Very much, yes.

                        Did you watch the original 10 by Ishii? I liked parts 1, 3, 8 and 9, and 4 was alright too but I didn't really care for the rest. Part 2 was the worst of them.
                        Oh, sorry for the late reply. I'll give the original saga a go too, as the new one has left me with this feeling of sameness that it's just preventing me from picking up the last films from the series that came this month on TV.


                        • Scoundrel vs. Delinquent Boss: Round 2

                          The Scoundrel Takes a Trip (旅に出た極道) (Japan, 1969) [VoD] - 3/5
                          Part 5. Gokudo goes Hong Kong. Junya Sato took helm of this entry. It's not up to his usual level, but as a harmless time waster it's not too bad. Gokudo tries to take down the Hong Kong international drug syndicate to save the daughters of China (whom he's been shagging), bonds with Chinaman gangster Minoru Oki and does less comedy stuff than in some other entries. Sugawara, Oshida, Yusuf, old battle axe wife are in, Yumiko Katayama appears briefly, too. But what really saves the film is a single stunning scene of characterization for villain Watanabe that director Sato seemingly pulls out of nowhere 15 minutes before the film ends. Some decent location work, too but also the irritating action cliché where machine gun shooters don't shit no matter how many bullets they spread. Anyway, the best of the seven Gokudos I've seen.

                          The Scoundrel Returns from Kawagasaki (極道釜ヶ崎に帰る) (Japan, 1970) [VoD] - 2/5
                          Part 6. Gokudo goes home only to find his hometown occupied by Americans and terrorized by Chinese gangsters. Orphan kids are there too for the melodrama factor. A dull post-war entry, hopping back in time after the present day set Scoundrel Goes on a Trip, and solely lacking its exotism and artistic touches. Supporting cast provides some minor delight: Tomoko Mayama, Takuzo Kawatani in a blink twice and you'll miss him role, and Osman Yusuf doing double shift acting one role and dubbing another. The English title is a mistranslation: it should be The Scoundrel Returns to Kawagasaki.

                          Fugitive Scoundrel (極道兇状旅) (Japan, 1970) [VoD] - 2/5
                          Part 7. Gokudo goes politics. Gray-haired Bin Amatsu has Wakayama assist a politician, meaning trashing the opponent. But of course the opponent has a pretty daughter to have a crush on. Enter protective Bunta Sugawara and Gokudo's gotta settle for a cheaper Toei nude actress (in a rather gratuitous scene; a sign of the change of times). The old battle axe wife Nijiko Kiyokawa (wasn't she already killed in one of the earlier films?) is back too. A standard entry with nothing much to write about, for or against. Approach with low expectations and you may enjoy it. The rating could be a notch higher on a good day.


                          Delinquent Boss: Take Your Chance (不良番長 出たとこ勝負) (Japan, 1970) [VoD] - 1.5/5
                          Part 8. An amusing overload of Nazi drooling in the opening 10 minutes with Umemiya's goofballs dressing and gesturing like SS men, but the rest of the film evades the memory. By the time it was over, I could no longer remember what the plot was about, or if there even was one. Makoto Naito helmed this one instead of Yukio Noda, but you wouldn't know if the name wasn't in the credits. Reiko Oshida appears in a few scenes as "beauty queen" (gets dragged into the competition and wins it instantly). She neither rides a bike nor wears that groovy underwear (bikini?) from the gorgeous hand-drawn poster. Watase appears in the film as well, and is likewise wasted. These films feature some of the only bland performances on his career.

                          Delinquent Boss: The Swindlers (不良番長 口から出まかせ) (Japan, 1970) [VoD] - 2.5/5
                          Part 10. This one has an utterly idiotic opening with Umemiya and the hoods as pirates trying to sail to America, but of course ending up back in Japan. They arrive on an island populated by only women, a fun idea that doesn't produce anything fun... until the gals are tricked into working at a sex club. Things get even more interesting when France returnee beauty Reiko Oshida (in her 3rd and final appearance in the series) enters the pic, gets kidnapped, then does strip tease in a "first to get boner loses" competition between Umemiya and rival gang leader Harumi Sone. The rest of the film is episodic to the point of having little continuity, and often silly, but kind of entertaining. There's a lot of Oshida, Bunta Sugawara does a cool guest appearance and the film moves at a good pace. Not quite "good", but better than most entries in the series.

                          Delinquent Boss: Wholesale Roundup (不良番長 一網打尽) (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 1.5/5
                          Part 15. This one starts out well and gritty, only to soon descend into Z-grade idiocy full of pee, poo and gay jokes. It's Looney Tunes meets the Farrelly Brothers, minus the quality. Admittedly there are moments when the humour gets so surreally bad that you can't help but to laugh in disbelief, such as priest Toru Yuri's moustache which looks like a bucketful of pubic hair glued to his face, but most of the film is just painful to sit through. Notable for being Yuriko Hishimi's Toei debut - her main function is to run around naked. At least she gets to hop on a bike. Typical to the series, the last third is more watchable than what preceded, with one particularly mad, out-of-the-blue Shingo Yamashiro martial arts moment.

                          Delinquent Boss: Pierced to the Bone and Sucked Dry (不良番長 骨までしゃぶれ) (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 1.5/5
                          Part 16, the last in the series. Umemiya's goofballs steal a suitcase full of diamonds from the yakuza and try to hide in holiday resorts in Kyushu. In one scene they almost manage to slip out by posing as little kids on a school trip, but get caught when they stop to grope the female teacher. Also after the diamonds is a small, merely silly girl gang who keep yelling “viva bancho” at every turn. One of their members is a dark skinned chick (Vera Sims, or something like that, she was also in Delinquent Convulsion Group) whose sole function is to distract enemies by showing her boobs, which happens about half dozen times in the film. Good, because priest's (yeah, Toru Yuri, who else?) daughter Yuriko Hishimi holds on to her clothes this time. This one is comedy from start to finish, with some irritating breaking-the-third-wall jokes adding to the insult. And there's barely any biker stuff in it. But it's somehow slightly more watchable than some other entries in the series, maybe because of the boobs and the swift pace.

                          I think I'm going to call it quits with the Delinquent Boss series. Going through the films has been an exercise in masochism greater than the entire body of work of Oniroku Dan.


                          • Broken Blossoms (戦場のなでしこ) (Japan, 1959) [DVD] - 2/5
                            A sappy hospital melodrama about a bunch of Japanese nurses in Manchuria under soviet command immediately after losing the war. Tears, flag waving and 'oh Japanese are such good people after all' moments. Later a handful of them are forced to serve as soviet comfort women (yeah, this didn't age well) but nothing juicy ensues. There are quite a few foreign actors in the cast and loads of Russian dialogue, though none for Osman Yusuf in a minor, non-speaking moustache role. Teruo Ishii helms it all with professionalism, but there is no spark. Had he directed it 8 years later, it could've been an amazing exploitation picture. Now it's merely toothless.

                            Thirst of Love (愛欲)(Japan, 1966) [VoD] - 3.5/5
                            Beautifully old-fashioned, grand melodrama with quite a bit of resemblance to the 90s and 2000s Wong Kar-wai films. Advertising company employee Rentaro Mikuni is the doomed hero who is one step away from marriage with kind, long time darling Yoshiko Mita when he falls in love with melancholic Kyoto widow Yoshiko Sakuma. Boss Tetsuro Tamba tries to talk sense to him but love has no ears. There's an overwhelmingly romantic score, classy cinematography and fantastic performances that make the film feel like something from the 1950s. Although old-fashioned to the bone, the melodrama also wisely focuses on the main characters and their feelings only (one of the best scenes featuring quilt-ridden Mita telling the innocent, desperate Sakuma that she's really sorry but she's not going to give Mikuni back to her) and largely avoids the kind of conservative moral judgement that could easily be present. A bit surprisingly, this was helmed by soon-to-be yakuza film maestro Junya Sato.

                            Underworld Betrayal (裏切りの暗黒街) (Japan, 1968) [VoD] - 2/5
                            Four gangsters (lead by Koji Tsuruta rob) a bagful of yakuza money. They agree to lay low for three years before touching the money. But a kid (Ken Sanders) who witnessed the robbery thinks he can either redeem a membership in the gang (and a share of the money) or sell the information to the yakuza whose money went missing. This is a standard modern day gangster picture with energetic opening and closing reels; the rest is routine, though at least free of any comic relief. Yasuo Furuhata directed.

                            Japan's Underworld History: Futile Compassion (日本暗黒史 情無用) (Japan, 1968) [VoD] - 2.5/5
                            The fictional account of Noboru Ando's underworld activities, part 2. Ando does not actually play himself here, but him being an ex-gangster and gang leader, there was often ambiguity about how much his characters were based on reality even in fictional films. This movie has a curious low-key approach to the protagonist building his gang and conducting businesses, with action toned down to the minimum. But director Eiichi Kudo's unenthusiastic handling keeps it from becoming truly interesting. It's not until the action packed ending that the film truly comes alive. Curiously, Kudo later directed one of the most stylish, energetic and psychologically interesting jitsuroku-style yakuza films of the 70s: Yakuza vs. G-Men: Decoy (1973).

                            Beautiful, Goodbye (ビューティフル、グッバイ) (Japan, 2018) [Nippon Connection Online] - 1.5/5
                            A stuttering introvert on the run from the police picks up a pretty girl who's been killed by her boyfriend but came back to life as a zombie. I do not wish to be too hard on this because it was clearly made by young, perhaps still student filmmakers. But the romantic arthouse road movie with one revisionist zombie suffers from the same problems as a lot of modern Japanese indie films. It's way bloody too long at 2 hours, feels pretentious and ultimately quite unoriginal despite the somewhat original premise (that doesn't lead anywhere). You can tell the filmmakers would disagree, like someone who invented the wooden wheel in the year 2018 thinking he was the first. Someone should have told them the rest of us have already got Pirellis. At least the film looks pretty solid from a visual point of view, particularly for an indie.

                            Shape of Red (Red) (Japan, 2020) [Nippon Connection Online] - 4/5
                            Excellent, progressive gender role critique dressed up as a trendy love story. Kaho (from Gentle Breeze in the Village and Puzzle) is devastatingly good as a young mother who realizes her happiness may not be with her daughter and husband, but in an extramarital affair with ex-boyfriend Satoshi Tsumabuki. Her dilemma cracks open the traditional belief of home, marriage and children as the basis of woman's happiness: a way of thinking so deeply rooted in Japanese society it's rarely questioned even by women. There is a key scene where she is asked why she started a family, but can't answer because she never realized there was another way to happiness. Most people around her still don't. Another incredibly powerful and well acted scene sees tears of happiness and guilt flow down her face at the same time as she has sex with Tsumabuki. One can't help but to wonder how director Yukiko Mishima managed such an intimate, poignant portrayal of a young woman. Perhaps she's just a damn good director. Or maybe women making a film about women is, after all, an equation that can bear more fruit than male directors guessing what women must be thinking. Anyhow, the film is so strong you forget it's yet another tale of someone dying of cancer! And so non-judgemental of its protagonist it won't be well received by all audiences, even women.

                            Under Your Bed (アンダー・ユア・ベッド) (Japan, 2019) [Nippon Connection Online] - 4/5
                            A great opening scene in this one: a lovelorn hero lies under the bed and feels the mattress as the love of his life has sex on top of it. When he isn't under the bed, he's peeking into the house from the opposite building… until his zoom lens catches something more threatening than himself. The premise is Hitchcockian, the shocks DePalma (this is rated R18+), but the social context strictly Japanese with an otaku-like protagonist who has fallen outside the social circles and destined to live alone as an invisible man. The film draws an overly romanticized image of the (stalker) hero, which is something sure to rub foreign audiences in the wrong way, but also a way to create an interesting character and “a cleaver love story” (as praised by Kiyoshi Kurosawa). But a true otaku he isn't as he's got fishes instead of video games, a cool hair instead of a terrible one, and he's played by the boy from the girls' daydreams: Kengo Kora. Perhaps that was female director Mari Asato's input. She helms the film with style, pace and loads of sympathy towards her two protagonists, creating something not too unlike the mix of love, naivety and brutal violence in True Romance (1993).

                            Beautiful Escape (ファンファーレが鳴り響く) (Japan, 2020) [Yubari Fanta Online] - 3/5
                            “Adults are full of lies, so we have to kill them”. A bullied schoolboy and a girl who likes to kill small animals find each other and embark on a journey to change the world by brutally murdering bullies and rotten grown-ups. An interesting youth film by new director Kazuki Morita, slightly amateurish in parts, but also energetic and focused with a clear vision, which is something most Japanese indie productions are solely missing. Morita does a meaningful drama about social problems, but does not shy away from throwing in severed limbs, a zombie musical dream sequence (somehow neither particularly over-the-top nor out of place) and opening shot of God being decapitated (two bare-breasted angels accompany him). It's all done with practical effects as well (considering Asuka Kurosawa's casting as the protagonist's mother, I wonder if her husband Soichi Umezawa had an assisting hand in the gore). Someone might call the mix of social drama, gore and nudity pretentious, but a good argument could be made that this is the exact opposite (particularly when compared to many of the amateurish, stiff art films made by similarly inexperienced filmmakers). Director Morita is Yubari 2019 Grand Prix winner and made this film with the award money. Theatrical release coming Oct. 2020.

                            Senior Member
                            Last edited by Takuma; 09-22-2020, 07:34 AM.


                            • I can see why Kinji Fukasaku is so well regarded but its surprising how so many of his masterpieces just don't work for me. I appreciate the cinematography and camera work. I see what critics/historians are saying when they praise him for his originality. Even though the stories are well told I just don't seem to enjoy them. In the case of STREET MOBSTER and GRAVEYARD OF HONOR, I vehemently dislike the lead characters. It wasn't a problem until about halfway through the films when their over-the-top histrionics and cartoonishly unbelievable self-destructive behavior wore me out. It becomes unbelievable that the other characters tolerate them to the extent they do. The men should have put a bullet in their heads sooner and no way the women would give them a second look. More importantly, 45 minutes of their ridiculous behavior was all I could tolerate sitting through. (I have the same criticism of another great film, Sadao Nakajima's Aesthetics of a Bullet). All that said, there are some Fukasaku I absolutely adore, like COPS VS THUGS.

                              Noboru Ando plays a mob boss in both STREET MOBSTER and GRAVEYARD OF HONOR. He is so damn cool and is easily one of my favorite Japanese actors. Oh how I wish he was the main mob boss in the original BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR films. Nobuo Kaneko ruins those great films. A cool and reserved Noboru Ando in those films would have been amazing.


                              • Lone Kanto Yakuza (関東やくざ者) (Japan, 1965) [TV] - 3/5
                                A standard ninkyo film with honourable yakuza Koji Tsurura going against merciless, but not entirely rotten businessman gangster Tetsuro Tamba. There are too many talking heads scenes and a storyline that isn't awfully interesting, but also solid filmmaking and drama that sneaks into the film almost unnoticed. Tamba is always interesting, and the bloody final sword duel against him is quite powerful. There's also some old fashioned charm stemming from an extensive use of songs, which shouldn't necessarily be surprising since Toei's prominent enka singer actors Hideo Murata and Saburo Kitajima are both in the film. This was the 2nd movie in the Kanto series, one of Toei's early ninkyo series. Shigehiro Ozawa wrote and directed them all five of them. While I have not seen the others, it appears Tsuruta plays the same character only in the first two, and different characters in the rest.

                                Expelled from the Kanto Mob (関東破門状) (Japan, 1965) [TV] - 2.5/5
                                Kanto yakuza Koji Tsuruta is expelled from his clan after wounding rotten bastard boss Nobuo Kaneko in a fight he didn't start. It's all for preserving underworld harmony. One gets the feeling there was great potential for a watadori film here. The filmmakers, however, went for a standard ninkyo romp that doesn't do much with its premise (in their defence, the genre was still young). Tsuruta merely relocates himself while tearful sweetheart Junko Fuji produces tears at home, and Kaneko does more evil things until it's time for Tsuruta to right wrongs. This was part 3 in the Kanto series. Not to be confused with the Nikkatsu / Tetsuya Watari film of the same title (1971).

                                Kanto Yakuza Storm (関東やくざ嵐) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 2.5/5
                                The 5th and last in the series. There's a good Shakespearian start with the 'in love with the rival boss' daughter' Koji Tsuruta ordered to go nagurikomi on old man to settle gang accounts that don't even involve him. Can't escape the damned giri. This is another film that could've been interesting had it focused on the above mentioned humanity / obligation tragedy. Unfortunately Tsuruta soon drifts off to digging holes and bonding with a loud-mouth construction worker yakuza Rin'ichi Yamamoto while the film largely forgets the opening premise. There are still some beautiful scenes, a nice use of umbrellas (a romantic genre cliche that never got old), and a strong ending, but too much time is spent on unessentials.

                                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.

                                The Karate 3 (ザ・カラテ3 電光石火) (Japan, 1975) [VoD] - 3.5/5
                                Yamashita starts this film by doing some Truck Yaro'ing well before Bunta made it a thing… until he realizes he's been smuggling guns for the yakuza, and the black dude Danny Williams napping at the back is a vicious karate killer. Yamashita also wears a red suit and a blazing red hat, has a 27 second romance with a Chinese girl (18 year old Emi Hayakawa, housekeeping school graduate AND a Shorinji Kempo practitioner!) and a little longer bromance with her kung fu father. What a great, breezy start! The rest of the film holds up alright, but suffers from weaker villains than the previous movies. Yamashita has again brought together a set of attention hungry martial arts buddies to make a movie, but they come off even more as comic buffoons than before. Williams is the only one who manages to challenge Yamashita in fighting and stupendous facial impressions. The last in the series.

                                Tokyo Fundoshi Geisha (東京ふんどし芸者) (Japan, 1975) [VoD] - 1/5
                                An absolutely horrible geisha sex comedy that is sometimes considered a 7th film in the Hot Springs Geisha series, just without hot springs. It certainly was a production follow-up, courtesy of producer Kanji Amao and writer Masahiro Kakefuda. But this is even worse that the worst of the Hot Springs films. Yukio Noda helms it in much the same way as the most unbearable of his idiotic Delinquent Boss films, with retarded comedy mixed with boring drama and silly sex scenes. The film climaxes with a 25 minute geisha vagina duel (Shingo Yamashiro is the judge, of course) where two contestants perform tricks with their pussies, e.g. calligraphy, rope pulling and playing a trumpet (ok, I laughed there). The actual storyline I'm not too sure about since the film is unwatchable and I could only make it to the end with extensive fast-forwarding.