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Takuma

Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

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Samurai Assassin (1965: Kihachi Okamoto)

The Japanese title for this this Jidai Geki tragedy, is literally Samurai. The second film from Mifune Productions Co. Ltd and directed by Kihachi Okamoto (The Sword of Doom, Kill!) is a showcase for Toshiros acting as well as Okamotos direction and Hiroshi Murais (The Sword of Doom) cinematography. I love when you put off a film for a long period, for whatever reason, and when you actually watch it you wonder why you did not see it earlier (as opposed to watching a film you put off only to find that you could have waited longer to see it.)

Toshiro is Tsuruchiyo Niiro, a ronin and a bastard son of an unknown high official, who has blown one chance at becoming an important samurai for a lady and is desperately looking for another opportunity to prove his worth. He is so desperate that he attaches himself to a dangerous plot.

The non-diegetic narration was probably not needed, though some of it is excused because the first time you watch the film the amount of characters, history and situation can be hard to follow (at least for me.) But when it appears it takes some of the flow away from the film. But the story itself is fascinating as it takes some of the most important themes of the Meiji Restoration, which ultimately is the end period of the samurai, and places it within the realm of a heartbreaking story of the flawed Niiro. Mifunes character is multifaceted though his monomania and happenstance makes this movie feel like a Shakespearean tragedy. However, like most of his roles he is an excellent swordsman. The ending among the snow is a sublime example of how to end a tragedy.

The Animego R1 release is OOP in both the single release as well as in the boxset Toshiro Mifune: The Ultimate Collection. Could this possible mean a future Criterion release? The subtitles are good for the Animego release, but the picture is a bit hazy and could/should easily be improved if there is a BD release.

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Nice little write ups. You've obviously seen many of Japanese movies - Thanks for sharing -

I always thought Tokyo X erotica was like what would happen if Wang Kar Wai made a soft porn in Tokyo. It's just like his hongkong movies Chungking Express and Fallen Angels in style.

Hey, why not do a review of one of my fave Japanese movies. 'All night long 2'

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I've found Takahisa Zeze an extremely uneven director. He does original pink films, he does worthless mainsteam romcoms, and he can be wonderful as Heaven's Story proves.

But he's too much into building cult following for Heaven's Story. It's been three years and there's still no dvd (even in Japan). I saw Zeze last year in the premiere of another movie and the cast seemed to be suggesting that he's keeping Heaven's Story out of DVD distribution (for now) to allow it to play exclusively on festivals and in theaters...

Well, that's how I understood it anyway, don't take my word on it.

I think it's available for US customers via some streaming service, though. Hulu maybe?

Hey, why not do a review of one of my fave Japanese movies. 'All night long 2'

Good idea. You can do it! I haven't seen it :sad:

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A Certain Killer (Japan, 1967) - [35mm] 3/5

Raizo Ichikawa stars as a Japanese assassin in a French new wave influenced film. The stylish, but slow paced film spends most of its time following an assassin running a sushi shop and coming across a hippy girl who wants to hook up with him. The film is no match for films such as Le Samourai, but has its own limited charm. Ichikawa plays his role with a bit too much cheekiness, leading to a strange non-balance between realism and cool.

13 Steps of Maki (Japan, 1975) [35mm] – 4/5

Toei’s attempt to have karate super star Etsuko Shihomi star in a pinky violence film resulted in one of Shihomi’s best movies. The film is a shameless crossover of Toei’s most popular girl exploitation genres: karate, girl gang, and women in prison. It doesn’t take more than 30 seconds from the film’s beginning that two women’s shirts are ripped off – a fate that awaits nearly all supporting characters in the film. What places 13 Steps of Maki apart from real pinky violence films is replacing slapping and knife fights with first grade karate action. The lack of strong villains is the biggest shortcoming. In addition, some scenes are cheesy enough to resemble c-grade superhero movies.

Rape and Death of a Housewife (Japan, 1978) [35mm] – 3/5

Noboru Tanaka’s docudrama based on true story of three youngsters raping and killing the wife of their newly made friend. Although a Nikkatsu Roman Porno production, the film is a serious coming-of-age drama. It serves as an example of the extraordinary freedom the studio occasionally granted to its most valuable directors, allowing Tanaka tone down the usual sex and sleaze and focus on storyline. Tanaka uses docudrama tools effectively and captures the spirit of the time on film. The cast and characters are also reasonably good, especially Hideo Murota as the victim’s husband. The ending, however, comes somewhat abrupt. With so much build up, a stronger ending would have been sufficient.

Irezumi: Spirit of Tattoo (Sekka tomurai zashi) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] – 4/5

An excellent drama starring Tomisaburo Wakayma as an old tattoo artist. He is visited by a beautiful woman who is obsessed with having her back tattooed. The charismatic Wakayama is excellent in his role, supported by detail loving direction by Yoichi Takabayashi. The tattoo scenes are brutally powerful and unique. A beautifully shot and atmospheric film.

Mosquito on the 10th Floor (1983) [DVD] – 2/5

Rock star Yuya Uchida plays a piece of shit cop who owes money to everyone but intends to pay no one. ATG-style slow paced misery-drama focusing on dislikeable people who rarely do anything worthwhile. A strong film in its genre, but not my cup of tea. Takeshi Kitano appears in small supporting role.

Hakuchû no onna gari (Japan, 1984) [35mm] – 3/5

Three psychotic and heavily armed soldiers engage in woman hunting in a rare Nikkatsu violent pink. Men are executed art sight; women are played with before killing. The roughie is deranged entertainment from the outlaw years of Japanese cinema, but does not reach the level of style and nastiness found in the genre’s best efforts. Compared to Rape! 13th Hour and Whire Rose Campus: And then Everyone Gets Raped, the film is relatively standard stuff. The most memorable moment comes at the end with the fully naked victim grabbing an assault rifle from one of the assaulters. Director Chusei Sone was one of the studio’s most consistently good directors, but he has done much better films than this.

Love Hotel (Japan, 1985) [35mm] – 4/5

The unexpected pairing between erotic manga author Takashi Ishii and eccentric genius director Shinji Somai resulted in one of the best films ever released under Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno banner. The character drama is full of Somai’s trademark tracking shots, but even more important is Ishii's staggeringly good screenplay. The ending is one of the most beautiful in movie history. The film deservedly cleaned the table at the Yokohama (mainstream) Film Festival: best film, best director, best screenplay, best cinematography, best leading actor and best new actress. Cinematographer Noboru Shinoda later become Shunji Iwai’s frequent collaborator with films like All About Lily Chou Chou. Ishii himself made his own directorial debut Angel Guts: Red Vertigo based on the same storyline.

Ready to Shoot (Japan, 1990) [35 mm] – 2.5/5

Koji Wakamatsu’s mainstream effort with Yoshio Harada as a former 60’s radical running a bar and ending up protecting a Vietnamese girl from the Shinjuku mafia. The jazz tuned film hasn’t aged especially well, with Harada’s brace jeans being the biggest offender. Wakamatsu inserts interesting bits of his own politics, especially towards the end, but the screenplay is mediocre. A proficient zeitgeist, nevertheless.

Angel Gust: Red Flash (Japan, 1994) [VHS] – 2/5

A weaker film from Takashi Ishii’s most creative neo noir period. The late entry into the Angel Guts series is not a Nikkatsu production – the Roman Porno series came to an end in 1988. The film is a relatively ambitious pink thriller with heavy psychological undertones, but Ishii has done similar themes with more success before. The director’s trademarks are obvious – as well as those of Brian De Palma – but the storyline comes out messy with all its twists, and Ishii doesn’t reach the level of visual style that could be expected from him.

Score (Japan, 1995) [DVD] – 4/5

V-cinema gone big screen in a B-cinema classic. Atsushi Muroga’s action film shamelessly rips off Reservoir Dogs, throws in John Woo action, and mixes with nonsensical “cool” dialogue. The film lacks a single idea of its own, but it’s incredibly energetic and action packed with non-stop gunplay, explosions and car chases. The cast is a collection of V-cinema tough guys playing Tim Roth look-a-like, Anthony Wong –look-a-like, and a couple of Michael Madsens + and local Filipino stuntmen performing insane stunts. The film is set in Nevada, but the police are driving cars that have Manila’s logos on them!

Score 2 (Japan, 1999) [DVD] – 3/5

Actor Hitoshi Ozawa takes over the directing duties in a very passable, though less stylish sequel. The film adds an original storyline and a pair of boobs to the gangster death match set in an amusement park. Solid action non-sense, but lacks some of the outrageousness of the original.

Dead Run (Japan, 2005) [DVD] – 3.5/5

Sabu’s gritty youth film falls somewhere between Akihiko Shiota, Ryuichi Hiroki and Shunji Iwai. The film suffers from silly and overly dramatic plot turns, especially when Ren Ohsugi enters the film, but also comes with wonderful moments of fresh air. The beautiful gray look, some wonderful moments in the outdoors and the performances by Yuya Tegoshi and Hanae Kan are spot on. With better screenplay (although Kiyoshi Shigematsu’s original novel is certainly to blame as well) the film could’ve been terrific.

The Bicycle Thief Was Bad (Japan, 2006) [DVD] – 1.5/5

A man steals bicycle and travels Japan for 7 days. The indie film comes with some magnificent landscapes, but is so clumsy and pretentiously artistic that even the great images cannot save it. Koji Wakamatsu’s Bicycle Chronicles is a far superior film of the same theme.

Evil Ninja (Japan, 2009) [DVD] – 2.5/5

Another standard Seiji Chiba outing, saved by an excellent action design by Yuji Shimomura. The film looks cheap and was shot in the same locations as half of Chiba’s other films, including Kunoichi, Nukenin and Alien vs. Ninja. The screenplay, however, is slightly better than expected, and Shimomura’s action choreography comes with some of the best katana fights in recent Japanese cinema. Chiba’s most famed film Alien vs. Ninja remains in a league of its own, but for a cheaply made V-chambara one could do worse than Evil Ninja.

From Here to Nowhere (Japan, 2012) [Yubari Fanta 2013] – 2/5

23 year old Ken Kawai’s road movie is a humoristic coming of age story where no one really comes of age. The good meaning slacker film follows a good-for-nothing boy who meets an eccentric prostitute in Tokyo. The film has its moments, but the style has already been mastered by directors such as Nobuhiro Yamashita and Yuya Ishii. Kawai’s film feels too derivative in comparison, and is weakened by stiff acting. Nevertheless, Kawai and his 24 year old main actors put their hearts into the film and don’t try to fish laughs with loud and childish slapstick. A graphic sex scene comes as a surprise.

Winter’s Alpaca (Japan, 2012) [Yubari Fanta 2013] – 3.5/5

Japanese culture worships anything cute and sweet. It is no wonder Alpaca, the bad smelling mixture of sheep and camel, has become a local favourite. Yuji Harada’s black comedy Winter’s Alpaca casts alpacas in a supporting role in a yakuza blackmail story. The half-hour short film roughly resembles the early comedies of Nobuhiro Yamashita. Drama is well made and humour unexpectedly dark, cleaning the floor with the audiences sympathies. Acting and tech credits are also good enough to raise the film above amateur productions.

Hello My Dolly Girlfriend (Japan, 2013) [Cinema] – 2/5

Takashi Ishii officially joins the dirty old men club. Though know for having a thing for sex and violence – and sexual violence – his latest is a shameless otaku epic like no other. The doll-come-alive love story goes straight for the rapes and fan service: the girl spends half of the time bottomless, including when kicking ass with roundhouse kicks, and the hero has sex with her for the first time before she even comes alive. What is missing from Ishii is that brilliant direction and screenwriting that produced a number of gems in the 80’s and 90’s (Love Hotel, 1985 ; Original Sin, 1992 ; Black Angel Vol. 2, 1999). Instead the pic runs out of steam before halfway, and becomes a never-ending series clumsy fantasies, ridiculous “satire”, and boobs. Digital mosaic courtesy of Japan’s film censorship accompanies most of the film.

tdol1_zps4cea7e2c.jpgtdol2_zpsb3baa600.jpg

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13 Steps Of Maki, Evil Ninja and Hello My Dolly Girlfriend look like good stuff. :xd:

BTW, is there something going on with dolls in Japanese cinema ? Not to spoil too much, but an episode of the Shokuzai series (one of the segments from the film if you prefer) features a really creepy guy who has a strange fascination for dolls. :squigglemouth:

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BTW, is there something going on with dolls in Japanese cinema ? Not to spoil too much, but an episode of the Shokuzai series (one of the segments from the film if you prefer) features a really creepy guy who has a strange fascination for dolls. :squigglemouth:

It's not that much of a recent thing. Doll fantasy movies have kept appearning in Japan for decades. Just a few examples include Mischievous Lolita: Attacking the Virgin from Behind (1985, by Death Note director Shusuke Kaneko), Legend of the Doll (2006), and Air Doll (2009, by Hirokazu Koreeda).

There's probably a lot of reasons. One is that dolls are to some extent a part of traditional Japanese culture and art. You could use thousands of $US / Euro on a small doll... and some people do. Also, a lot of Japanese guys grew up with anime and anime figures and toys...Actually many adults are also collecting them.

Dolls came alive also make a popular sex fantasy in a country where a lot of modern men have pretty bad social skills when it comes to girls. In fact, one of the reasons why lolicon is so common is Japan is that many Japanese men don't feel comfortable with women of their own age. Japan used to be a very masculine country where men ruled and women submitted with no questions asked. Nowadays women are getting stronger and men weaker. As a result many men can only feel they are in power when they are with a junior high school girl, or a hostess club girl / kabakyura girl. Or in their dreams, with a doll come alive.

One of the best selling books in Japan in the recent years was a quide on how to date a girl. It advices you not take her to a computer store on the first date, and that real sex usually doesn't not end with the guy coming on her face :tongue: I'm not kidding you. This is vital information for thousands of men whose knowledge of women is based on anime and adult videos...

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It's not that much of a recent thing. Doll fantasy movies have kept appearning in Japan for decades. Just a few examples include Mischievous Lolita: Attacking the Virgin from Behind (1985, by Death Note director Shusuke Kaneko), Legend of the Doll (2006), and Air Doll (2009, by Hirokazu Koreeda).

Thanks for the other examples of films. I'll try and see if I can catch those, they look interesting. BTW, is Mischievous Lolita an anime ? I'm asking because Death Note is an anime and I don't think there's been a live-action film based on that.

There's probably a lot of reasons. One is that dolls are to some extent a part of traditional Japanese culture and art. You could use thousands of $US / Euro on a small doll... and some people do. Also, a lot of Japanese guys grew up with anime and anime figures and toys...Actually many adults are also collecting them.

Dolls came alive also make a popular sex fantasy in a country where a lot of modern men have pretty bad social skills when it comes to girls. In fact, one of the reasons why lolicon is so common is Japan is that many Japanese men don't feel comfortable with women of their own age. Japan used to be a very masculine country where men ruled and women submitted with no questions asked. Nowadays women are getting stronger and men weaker. As a result many men can only feel they are in power when they are with a junior high school girl, or a hostess club girl / kabakyura girl. Or in their dreams, with a doll come alive.

Thanks for the clarifications.

Trying to avoid spoilers but the second paragraph a reminds me a lot of the Shokuzai segment I mentionned earlier - the doll fascination, the "little girl" side of the female character (she didn't sexually mature so she's not really a woman but still a little girl or a sort of doll), the male authority of the husband on his submitted wife, it's all right there. Damn, I thought this part was creepy - if not disturbing - as hell but it's actually a sort of social commentary.

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Thanks for the other examples of films. I'll try and see if I can catch those, they look interesting. BTW, is Mischievous Lolita an anime ? I'm asking because Death Note is an anime and I don't think there's been a live-action film based on that.

Both live action. There was a two part live action of Death Note - it's quite popular, too. Some anime fans dislike it, but I found it excellent (haven't seen the anime). Great mix of clever plot twists and unintentionally cool/corny teen cinema. Get yourself a bag of candy or popcorn and drinks and you should enjoy it - or not.

- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758742/

- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0810827

(yes, both live action, even though some idot always puts an anime poster there thinking it's the anime series)

Later they made a third one - L Change the World. Hated by everyone except me. I found it somewhat amusing, especially the maid cafe scene. Speaking of maid cafes, Kenta Fukasaku's completely retarded Perfect Education 7: Maid for You is pretty good fun. I'm getting too mature to visit maid cafes, so at least I can keep that film in my dvd shelf, haha :tongue:

Mischievous Lolita is a live action, too. Nikkatsu Roman Porno production. Cute girl, but that's pretty much it. Found it quite boring. Then again, I only like Nikkatsu fake pinkus (those films that were produced as pink films, but turn out to be something else... horror, violence, political, character studies etc.), so I'm not supposed to like that one.

Trying to avoid spoilers but the second paragraph a reminds me a lot of the Shokuzai segment I mentionned earlier - the doll fascination, the "little girl" side of the female character (she didn't sexually mature so she's not really a woman but still a little girl or a sort of doll), the male authority of the husband on his submitted wife, it's all right there. Damn, I thought this part was creepy - if not disturbing - as hell but it's actually a sort of social commentary.

Yeah, sounds like it.

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Your mention of the live-action Death Note films picked my interest. I guess I'll have to be more careful when I come across Death Note DVDs now. Maybe one of them will turn out to have one of the live action films - as I guess these may come in a wrong packaging making them look related to the anime series. :tongue:

Thanks for the little review on Mischevious Lolita.

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Asia-Pol Secret Service (Japan / Hong Kong, 1966) [35mm] – 3.5/5

A gloriously stupid but superbly stylish 007 rip full of sexy cars, cool agents and femme fatales. This Japanese version of the Nikkatsu – Shaw Brothers collaboration features no Wang Yu in it. The co-production was filmed in two versions, with Hideaki Nitta playing the lead role in the Japanese print and Wang Yu doing the exact same poses for the Shaw Brothers version, with the rest of the cast remaining the same. The film plays much like the hundreds of ultra-hip action Nikkatsu movies that preceded it, but the collaboration with Shaw Bros. allowed a larger, multi-national scale. Despite being very much a Nikkatsu action film, the Chinese print is superior thanks to Wang Yu’s wonderfully energetic and campy lead performance.

Violence without a Cause (Japan, 1969) [DVD] – 3/5

Koji Wakamatsu’s angry social commentary on late 60’s Japan. Three penniless and woman-less university students rape random women, blaming the society for their own crimes. The 70-minute film is slow in places, but is also a provocative political statement and a fascinating portrayal of the era. Sex is sparse enough to keep regular pink film audiences at bay.

Shinjuku Mad (Japan, 1970) – 4/5

A mesmerizing zeitgeist showcases Koji Wakamatsu in top form. A desperate father tries to track down the killers of his son in Tokyo. His only clue is “Shinjuku Mad”, who supposedly killed the young man for “betraying the city”. Wakamatsu and screenwriter Masao Adachi were both active participants in the late 60’s / early 70’s political turmoil. Wakamatsu’s earlier films sympathised with the student movement, but in Shinjuku Mad Wakamatsu takes a more critical stand. The film captures the spirit of era wonderfully and comes with a terrific soundtrack.

Serpent’s Path (Japan, 1998) [DVD] – 4/5

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s pitch black thriller/comedy follows two men taking revenge against a scum who murdered a child... even though they’re not entirely sure they’ve got the right man. Excellent characters, good screenwriting and minimalist humor make this one of Kurosawa’s best films, despite a poorly executed shootout scene near the end. The film requires patience and concentration – Kurosawa doesn’t explain everything inside out.

Eyes of the Spider (Japan, 1998) [DVD] – 3.5/5

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s slow paced yakuza film first pretends to be a revenge tale, but soon after takes an entirely different direction. The odd film shares some resemblance to Kitano and Miike, but is far more minimalist. Kurosawa’s own, better known but inferior movies Cure and Charisma also make a good comparison. The gray visual look, use of open outdoor locations, and Sho Aikawa’s performance are spot on.

Meatball Machine (Japan, 2005) [DVD] – 3/5

Yudai Yamaguchi’s splatter punk film was originally directed by Junichi Yamamoto based on his late 90’s short film, with creature design by Keita Amemiya. When the production ran out of money, Yamaguchi took with heavy participation by Yoshihiro Nishimura. The result is a slightly underwhelming but relatively entertaining Tetsuo esque mutant battle movie with surprisingly good characters. Nishimura’s main contribution is make-up effects and mutant suits; bloodletting is given less attention.

Reject of Death (Japan, 2006) [DVD] – 4/5

Yoshihiro Nishimura’s spin off short film for Meatball Machine is in some ways more successful than the main feature. The fast paced 10 minute flick is a treat to Nishimura fans, with numerous characters Nishimura would later re-use in films such as Tokyo Gore Police making an appearance. Short in length, Nishimura packs enough gore and special effects to fill five average horror films. Asami and Takashi Shimizu co-star.

Yukuharu (2012) [sapporo Short Fest] – 2.5/5

Jason Gray’s directorial debut, shot in Tokyo with a Japanese cast. Two elementary school students with a crush on each other share the walk home and discover they know each others’ secrets. The 13 minute short film is very “Japanese” in its colourful and effective visual style contrasting spring (cherry blossom) and fall. The young cast is quite good and the film holds the attention well. Ultimately, however, the film is not quite as successful as it could be. Gray uses music and visual effects to underline moods too much, and the storyline becomes predictable towards the end. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasing small film for the most part.

River (Japan, 2012) [sapporo Short Fest] – 3.5/5

An interesting psychological short film (23 min) by the potential future promise Ikuro Tomeda. The director combines quiet youth drama and slight mystery, with the emphasis firmly on the former. Above all, the film is a portrayal of alienation and lack of communication between teenage brother and sister. Captivatingly directed, Tomeda cuts the dialogue to the minimum. Cinematography would benefit from better quality digital video, though.

Transferring (Japan, 2012) [sapporo Short Fest] – 4/5

A beautifully filmed short film follows two alienated high school girls who become friends. The 20 minute film is a Shunji Iwai / Jun Ichikawa esque addition to the distinctly Japanese sub-genre of high school films focusing on friendship between girls. Director Junichi Kanai handles the material as skilfully and delicately as the genre’s masters. Aoi Morikawa, who also starred in this year’s not-so-good Schoolgirl Complex movie adaptation, and Riko Masuda portray the main characters skilfully. Director Kanai has his feature length debut, Yurusenai, aitai (2013) hitting the Japanese theatres later this year. A director to keep an eye on.

Land of Hope (Japan, 2012) [DVD] – 2/5

Sion Sono’s second 3/11 film is a TV-level nuclear disaster drama. Sono uses a fictional Nakashima prefecture to re-create the Fukushima disaster. Strong criticism on the government aside, the film is a restrained family drama, playing much like a sentimental TV film. Sono’s usual bite is nowhere to be found. Isao Natsuyagi’s performance is the film’s strongest asset.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Japan, 2013) [Cinema] – 3/5

Sion Sono’s welcome return to blazing pop cinema is a mixed bag. The film that plays as a tribute cinema gets off to a good start with romance, violence, and heart pounding soundtrack. Unfortunately the film loses its pace towards the halfway; and the climax is a horrifying CGI disaster of a bloodbath that is a disgrace to traditional action cinema! Even then, most of the film is solid entertainment with wonderful performances by Fumi Nikaido and Tak Sakaguchi as a Japanese Bruce Lee wanna-be!

Garden of Words (Japan, 2013) [DVD] – 4.5/5

High school boy and a 27 year old woman skipping work meet in a park on rainy days in a breathtakingly beautiful 45 minute film by the world’s best anime director, Makoto Shinkai. Wonderful story and characters, with typically gorgeous Shinkai visuals, and unfortunately an industry standard mediocre J-pop theme song. Product placement (Kirin beer, Ghana and Meiji chocolate) comes out a bit amusing in animated context, but is probably just a part of Shinkai’s realism: the locations are also real and depicted with accuracy.

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Kenjū mushuku datsugoku no blues (Japan, 1965) [35mm] – 2.5/5

A young man is standing in the harbour at night. Another man in the shadows is blackmailing him to accept a gig. No deal, the young man says and shoots the gun out of his hand. A partly successful Nikkatsu b-actioner with Tetsuya Watari in one of his early leading roles. The screenplay is routine trash, but Watari’s passionate acting and some stylish scenes make it a good enough genre effort.

Secret Report from a Woman's Prison (Japan, 1968) [16mm] – 2.5/5

Akira Kato, better known as a Nikkatsu Roman Porno director of the 1970’s, helms the opening instalment to Daiei’s women’s prison series. The period film is a mediocre exploitation drama with little violence and only partial and off-focus nudity. The prison segment makes the main chunk of the film, followed by a revenge climax. Nicely shot in black and white, but ultimately forgettable despite some nostalgia values.

Decapitation Island (Japan, 1970) [35mm] – 3.5/5

Daiei soft-exploitation with a surprisingly strong screenplay. The historical women’s prison movie gets off to an instant good start with original setting. Instead of a seedy prison, the bad girls are dispatched to a small island where they can move relatively freely under the supervision of a handful of male guards. The film is relatively tame by exploitation standards, only featuring a small amount of violence and nudity, though a certain steamy punishment scene is a genre classic. Acting, story and cinematography are all above genre standards, making this a small discovery among less exploitative genre films.

Demon Spies (Japan, 1974) [DVD] – 3.5/5

Another blood soaked ninja-movie released at the height of Toho’s exploitation chanbara wave. While a cheaper production that the Lone Wolf and Cub sries, or the Hanzo the Razor films (the final one of which served as the A-feature in the double bill that Demon Spies was released in) it’s very much a solid genre film. With loads of severed limbs, gratuitous nudity, and well handled action choreography, it delivers smutty b-movie goods in a technically competent package.

Death Powder (Japan, 1986) [VHS] – 3/5

Humans and mutants fight for a female humanoid locked in an underground lab. Shigeru Izumiya’s rarely seen film is a predecessor to the films of Shozin Fukui, but even less accessible to anyone except hard-core cyber punk aficionados. The one hour film is extremely hallucinatory and challenging, but also pulsing with that unique 1980’s Japanese ultra-underground spirit. Tetsuo and other Shinya Tsukamoto films look like Disney productions in comparison.

Fudoh 2 (Japan, 1997) [DVD] – 2/5

The straight–to-video sequel to Miike’s original fails to realize its potential. Riki Fudoh takes a backseat in the film which focuses on a machine gun wielding high school girl gang. Enjo kousai, arcade gaming, and yakuza mass slaughtering would make for good entertainment were the technical execution better. Action scenes are underwhelming, the soundtrack is lame, and the Sonatine tribute embarrassing to say at least.

Hell of the College Girls (Japan, 2012) [Yubari Fanta] – 2/5

A misleadingly translated faux documentary / satire from Naoya Tashiro (the original title “College Girl Bizarre Club” describes the contents slightly better). The film is a collection of “true stories” that vary from killer lobsters to a silly parody on Japanese anti piracy campaign. The messy film earns some points of bizarreness, but is otherwise a tiresome effort. Splatter appears to have been toned down for the sake of commercialism (at DVD rental markets).

Naked Sister (Japan, 2013) [Yubari Fanta] – 3/5

Up and coming splatter director Naoya Tashiro’s 20 minute nunsploitation film. The film opens with two naked women making love in the shower until one of them rips the other girl’s guts out! Obviously director Tashiro knows what he’s doing. The film then proceeds to a topless nun (Risa Kichise) crucifying a man. The well made, though unspectacular eroguro film is hurt by some self-ironic postmodernism towards the end, but not as badly as many other recent genre films.

The Burning Buddha Man (Japan, 2013) [Cinema] – 4/5

A young girl enters the world of bizarre monsters and spiritualism in the year’s most unique cinematic experience. The film follows Beniko who discovers her parents have been killed by a group of terrorists who use teleport to steal Buddha statues; only half of the time the results are Cronenbergian man-statue mutants. Debut director Ujicha utilizes a technique known as gekimation, where hand-drawn cardboard sets and characters are moved in front of the camera. The style takes a while to get used to but works wonderfully. A moody soundtrack completes the fascinating film.

School Girl Complex (Japan, 2013) [Cinema] – 2.5/5

Yuki Aoyama’s hugely popular School Girl Complex photo book finally got turned into a movie. There is both irony and admiration to director Yuichi Onuma’s take on the franchise, which essentially turns the material upside down. Unlike Aoyama’s book, which drooled all over high school girls in expertly framed photos, Onuma goes for realistic coming of age drama where the protagonists have been made look less beautiful than the actresses playing them normally are. Unfortunately, the painful girl school romance isn’t all that exceptional despite solid acting, nor does it deal much with the “school girl complex” phenomena. Visual outlook, too, is rough. Still, it’s not a bad movie still, but feels like a missed opportunity.

Petal Dance (Japan, 2013) [DVD] – 4.5/5

Hiroshi Ishikawa’s mesmerizing return to big screen after 8 years. The minimalist road movie is a sublime character film with breathtakingly beautiful gray cinematography and near perfect casting is near perfect. Aoi Miyazaki and Sakura Ando deliver one of the most naturally acted and written dialogue scenes ever filmed in the film’s standout 4 minute single take sequence. The only flaw is Yoko Kanno’s sparsely used but slightly pretentious score.

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The Shape of Night (Japan, 1964) [35mm] – 4/5

Noboru Nakamura’s realistic prostitution drama was one of the major re-discoveries of 2013. With its realism and strikingly stylish cinematography it echoes both Shohei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki, whose Gate of Flesh premiered earlier the same year. Nakamura refrains from Suzuki’s heavy-handed dosing of sex and violence, but the film is no less gripping. Leading actress Miyuki Kuwano is excellent as a sweet young girl falling in love with a yakuza, resulting in her slow downfall to a miserable street hooker.

Assault (Japan, 1976) [VoD] – 3.5/5

Nikkatsu’s former action film director Yukihiro Sawada helms a violence study somewhat similar to Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. A married couple is kidnapped by a gang of ruthless killers and kept captive until the husband takes a stand. Although a rough exploitation drama for the main chunk of it, the film features some stunningly powerful and melancholic moments, including a violent eight minute climax set against songs by Hako Yamasaki and Yusaku Matsuda. Unlike many other Nikkatsu films of the time, the film is character driven and does not romanticise violence and rape.

One Summer’s Experience: Sexy Virgin (Japan, 1976) [VoD] – 2/5

Director Koretsugu Kurahara was one of Nikkatsu’s many action film directors who got misplaced after the studio’s switch to roman porno. Here he helms a surreal thriller with the usual genre requisite sex scenes. A young man whose parents are constantly shagging meets a runaway girl who claims to be locked in mental hospital without reason. She convinces him to try and save her from institute. The film has an experimental feel to it, but it’s also a clumsy affair, especially in terms of music use, and director Kurahara does poor job placing the sex scenes the studio told him to throw in.

Rape Ceremony (Japan, 1980) [VoD] – 4/5

Here is a terrific, intelligent film about two generations, hidden under a horrendous studio title that has no connection to the film. A group of young men systematically stalk and attack former biker gang members. It turns out the gang members were their idols until growing up and abandoning the wild life, hence betraying their expectations. The angry and insecure young men now take revenge at their former idols. Future mainstream and art house talent Kichitaro Negishi helms an original, stylish and thought provoking film that has the feel of an ATG production. Contractual rape and love scenes are relatively unobtrusive, and there is no rape ceremony to be found in the film.

Akai tori ame (Japan, 1980) [VoD] – 2/5

Koyu Ohara’s pop-art magic cannot save this youth pic from its silly screenplay. A woman gets raped, and for being played by Nikkatsu’s unofficial rape queen Yuki Kazamatsuri (Kill Bill Vol. 1), the character gets raped again. The twist is that the two attackers are brothers unaware of each other’s actions. The story then turns into a melodrama when the older brother falls in love with the girl, still unaware of what his brother has done. The film is at its best when Ohara gets to play with disco lights, rollerblades, beach babes, and rock music, no doubt influenced by Saturday Night Fever. Seemingly the film’s moral is that raping is good fun, but sometimes it can get you into trouble.

Rape Hunter: Target Woman (Japan, 1980) [DVD] – 1/5

Nikkatsu’s former action specialist Yukihiro Sawada was one of the studio’s most interesting talents in the early/mid 70’s. Unfortunately by the end of the decade he had drifted to standard pink films and routine Yusaku Matsuda actioners. This one’s got both in it. The urban night views and the assault rifle featured in the poster, on the othe hand, are nowhere to be found in the film. It’s a tiresome crime-pink hybrid with a couple of violent moments, feeling very much like a low budget Toei Central film of the early 80's merged with Nikkatsu pink. There's very little of that style and energy that director Sawada was known for half a decade before.

Sukeban Mafia: A Dirty Insult (Japan, 1980) [VoD] – 1.5/5

A by-the-book sequel to Toshiharu Ikeda’s successful Sukeban Mafia, only made to cash in on the success of the latter. The film follows two high school girls who make friends with the local girl mafia, only to find themselves in ever bigger trouble. The film emphasizes dull sex scenes over violent content, and features a wholly unconvincing Nikkatsu cast trying to play tough. Even then, the film has a few highlights, such as an army of school girls, and genre nostalgia. Director Nobuyuki Saito was a promising writer and director during the early years of his career, but little of the innovation and energy is found here.

Oh! Takarazuka (Japan, 1982) [VoD] – 3/5

Charming young male teacher takes a job on a small island only to find out all his students are love struck high school girls. Pop-art director Koyu Ohara was the right man to helm this light hearted harem fantasy based on a manga. The film is remarkably comic book esque with cheerful characters, silly scenarios and almost non-stop soundtrack playing old rock and love songs. Even the potentially dark serial rape side plot gets turned into a joke. Weak screenplay is the main issue – the film is little more than a series of cuteness and comedy scenes with erotic flavour and plentiful skin. Female lead Jun Miho was the cutest actress ever to star in Nikkatsu Roman Porno films.

Female Teacher: Twice Raped (Japan, 1983) [VoD] – 2/5

Nikkatsu’s popular Female Teacher series ended with this instalment after complaints from parents and schools. Studio veteran Shogoro Nishimura helms a sex melodrama where a shy female teacher falls for boy who beats her mom, and gets stalked by a school bully who wants to rape her more than once. The film is smut but in a rather nostalgic way – they certainly don’t make em like this anymore. However, Nishimura’s uninspired direction and typical overdosing of sex scenes work against the film. Soundtrack and acting provide occasional highlights, but as a whole the film is a tiresome effort mixing melodrama, sex, and only occasional roughness.

Dream Crimes (Japan, 1985) [VoD] – 1.5/5

Visually talented director Naosuke Kurosawa is lost with this messy neo-noir based on a Takashi Ishii screenplay. Both Kurosawa and Ishii were involved with some of the best Roman Porno films of the 80’s; however, here neither one of them gets to shine. The plot, which somewhat resembles Ishii’s own Black Angel films, follows a female assassin waiting for a chance to hit. Unfortunately the storyline is a mess, even unintentionally comical at times, and the actors not convincing enough to carry their roles. Even Kurosawa’s visual eye mostly missing.

Bite Me if You Love Me (Japan, 2011) [DVD] – 2.5/5

A decently fresh bit of direct-to-video romance/gore from splatter director and convicted molester Naoyuki Tomomatsu. The gory love story follows a cute high school girl obsessed with zombie movies. She decides to make a zombie boyfriend by killing her classmate and bringing him back to life. Romance takes off well, until she meets the handsome, axe wielding Jason Yamada. Tomomatsu’s film is bit too clever on its own right, and features a horrible soundtrack, but it has a fun concept, hot sex scenes, and old school gore effects. Fan service for lovestruck film geeks if there ever was.

Zomvideo (Japan, 2011) [DVD] – 1/5

A prime example of disgusting post modernism that plagues modern genre cinema. A group of survivors find educational “how to survive a zombie apocalypse” videos and begin their fight against the living dead. The film borrows almost everything from other movies, including Braindead, Helldriver, Love Exposure, and Videodrome, but gives them a self ironic and pseudo-intellectual spin because zombie movies are “such stupid garbage”. The film’s only merit is skilful and surprisingly gruesome handmade gore, courtesy of Yoshihiro Nishimura’s special effects workshop.

Snowpiercer (South-Korea / France, 2013) [DCP] – 4.5/5

Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s (Memories of Murder, Mother) English language debut is a stunning sci-fi dystopia based on a French comic book. The post apocalyptic film is set during new ice age and follows the last survivors of mankind who live in a giant train under a brutal military regime. It’s hardly a groundbreaking scenario for an intelligent sci-fi thriller, but rarely has it been done this well. From casting to directing and pacing, Bong is at the top of his game here, even outdoing his Korean films. The way the film builds is nothing short of masterful. Most remarkably, the film is insanely dark and pessimistic – it’s no wonder Harvey Weinstein tried to censor it for the English speaking markets. Lame, though mostly irrelevant CGI landscapes, and Tilda Swinton, are the only gripes.

Gothic Lolita Battle Bear (Japan, 2014) [DCP] – 2/5

There’s certainly something surreal seeing a Noboru Iguchi film shot in 2.35:1 hit a 12 metre screen in the biggest multiplex of the city. Iguchi’s latest Tokusatsu fare was custom made for the Japanese pg-12 rating, but complete with all the usual zombies and fart jokes. Unfortunately the messy spectacle full of childish humour and awful CGI blood never quite catches the fire until the manic finale, which sees levitating lolitas shooting lasers from their breasts, all synchronized to the film’s excellent soundtrack by Kenji Otsuki's metal/rock band Tokusatsu. Cat hugger Shoko Nakagawa and Rina Takeda, in two roles here, star. The English title Gothic Lolita Battle Bear is fun exploitation: the heroine plain straight lolita, the goths are the bad guys, and the battle bear is neither.

Shojo wa isekai de tatakatta (Japan, 2014) [Yubari Fanta] – 1.5/5

Shusuke Kaneko’s idol action film is technically well made – yet nearly everything is wrong about it. The sci-fi story is set in an alternative reality where four girls fight evil villains entering the world through mysterious portals. The film tries to be both an idol flick and a martial arts movie, but fails in both. Action choreography is nonsensical posing for the most part, and the idol stuff never catches fire. Casting is problematic, too: Rina Takeda is the only capable fighter, ex-ABK Kayano is the only trained idol, and the other two girls manage neither task very well. The storyline is (unamusing) nonsense as well. A couple of catchy action moments with Takeda, and hilarious political satire throughout the film are the only positives.

Gun Woman (Japan, 2014) [Yubari Fanta] – 4/5

Samurai Avenger director Kurando Mitsutake returns with a far, far superior b-action gem. Gone are the constant flashbacks and movie homage that sank his previous effort. The ultra violent thriller is roughly modelled after kung fu films, with a street hooker (Asami) going through a hellish physical and mental training for a one time suicide mission. Her target is a Japanese gangster with a taste for necrophilia. Though shot on very modest budget and not looking all that hot, the film features stylish camerawork, excellent soundtrack, career best performance by Asami (who doesn’t speak a single word) and hard boiled action sequences, some of them featuring full nude Asami.

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“Life is suffering.”

The Life of Oharu (1952: Kenji Mizoguchi)

Mizoguchi is one of the best directors with the crane shot. The majority of his shots are taken from it even if it appears to be standing still. It always has the potential to be whisked away within the same unbroken take. He specializes in long takes (not Bela Tarr length) which was especially hard to do with this production. He had to set up the sets in a warehouse near a railroad and since he preferred direct sound to post-sync sound he did take after take to get the scenes to his liking which was often interrupted by the nearby trains. But with his auteuristic fervor and perspicacious direction he helmed a consummate jidai geki that is comparable to his other masterpieces Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff.

There is not much respite from the calamity and heartbreaks that betakes Oharu. But she goes on with an austere dignity that is beaten but not broken even when Fate seems to be against her at literary every turn. Sometimes the pathos seems to be almost overbearing and it starts all from one single event. She falls in love with a lower caste retainer Katsunosuke (Toshiro Mifune who is really only in a few minutes of the film) which causes his death and her and her family to be exiled (kind of selfish for him to push so hard since he knew what might happen because of this.) We know from the beginning that she ends up as a lowly prostitute, but we are going to witness her gradual decline that is a combination of circumstance and the unfortunateness of being a woman in the Edo period (with the analogy to modern times as well.)

While this is taken from Saikaku Ibara’s novel Koshuku Ichidai Onna the tone according to scholar Dudley Andrew is completely different as Mizoguchi incorporates a melodramatic approach compared to the satirical and more lurid book. In some ways the titular character reminds me of the heartbroken heroine in Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria. This is in many cinema canons like Kinema Junpo Top 100 Japanese Movies, Roger Ebert’s Great Movie List and the aggregate list TSPDT 1000.

The Criterion release is quite good. There is an illustrated essay by Dudley Andrew Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde which interesting enough goes over Utamaro and His Five Women quite a bit making me wonder if Criterion will release this eventually. Andrew also does a commentary on the film for the first 28 minutes only repeating some of the material he had in the illustrated essay.

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The Ballad of Narayama (Japan, 1958) [DVD] – 3.5/5

Keinosuke Kinoshita’s adaptation of the classic tale of a small village whose elderly people travel to a holy mountain to die as they reach the age of 70. A highly theatrical, kabuki inspired, though innovative, movie filmed almost entirely in beautiful studio sets. Oddly enough, it was also a major influence to Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 which replicated many of the elements and techniques used in the film.

Female Delinquent: A Docu-Drama (Japan, 1977) [35mm] – 4.5/5

Director Toshiya Fujita is at his element here, helming a gritty true story of a 16 year old bad girl. After getting pregnant to a no-good man (rocker Yuya Uchida) the girl tries family life for a while until sex, drugs, and extortion businesses take over. Fujita is best known in the West for Lady Snowblood, but his greatest talent was in sharp social commentaries and youth films. Female Delinquent shows Fujita in top form with a captivating story, innovative camerawork, bone crunching hyper-realism, and awesome Japanese 1970’s rock music. Acting is thoroughly great as well. One of Nikkatsu’s greatest forgotten treasures.

Oh Women! A Dirty Song (Japan, 1981) [35mm] – 4.5/5

Asshole rocker Yuya Uchida plays himself in Tatsumi Kumashiro’s unbelievable sleaze fest, which is supposed to be a true accounting of Uchida’s life. The film begins with Uchida getting into car accident with his prostitute girlfriend while cheating on his wife, and the falling in love with the nurse he rapes in the hospital. What then ensue is loads of sex, awesome rock music performed by Uchida, bar fights, and a classic scene in which Uchida’s sadomasochistic lover his strangling him with telephone cord during sex while his girlfriend is crying at the other end of the line. Heavyweight rocker / actor Rikiya Yasuoka is excellent as Uchida’s manager.

The Ballad of Narayama (Japan, 1983) [DVD] – 3.5/5

Shohei Imamura’s take on the classic story replaces the studio sets of 1958 version with real locations and strong, gritty realism. An impressive movie, but also a very bleak one compared to the more emotional 58 version.

Island Closest to Heaven (Japan, 1984) [35mm] –3/5

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s second collaboration with 80’s idol Tomoyo Harada was perhaps more of a leisure trip to New Caledonia and an idol video than a film with traditional cinematic merits. The storyline of a Japanese girl who travels to search for the paradise on earth and meets nothing but nice people is incredibly naïve, but somewhat amusing. Plenty of beautiful landscapes, but the real attraction is of course the 16 year old Harada, whose isn’t at her best as an actress here, but possesses the kind of natural innocence that the AKBs of today couldn’t even dream of. For Harada fans, others need not bother.

Tragedy of W (Japan, 1984) [35mm] -4/5

The greatest 80’s idol Hiroko Yakushimaru stars in yet another excellent film after Sailor Suit and Machine Gun, Legend of the Eight Samurai, and a few others. The unusually gritty (for an idol) role sees Hiroko as a young actress who sells her soul and body for stardom. The film features an almost genius structure where the film’s storyline begins to increasingly resemble a theatre play within the movie, while the theatre play is at the same time increasingly influenced by the reality within the film, making them eventually inseparable. Hiroko is good throughout, and in a few scenes, downright excellent. “Don’t hit me in the face, I’m an actress!”

The Greatful Dead (Japan, 2013) [Yubari Fanta] – 3/5

A lonely girl gets her kicks from spying on other lonely and miserable people. When her favourite target, an elderly man, finds new happiness with a Christian missionary, she goes insane. The clash between genders and generations ends up in one of the most unusual duels, in which anything from sex to murders is fair game. The film has a slow start, but it becomes relatively engaging as it proceeds. Comparisons to Sion Sono’s masterpiece Love Exposure, however, are grossly exaggerated in every sense.

Hana-Dama (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 2/5

High school bullying turns expectedly grotesque in Hisayasu Sato’s (Lolita Vibrator Torture) new film. The horror drama was scripted by pink director Shinji Imaoka (Underwater Love) with Carrie clearly in his mind. Unfortunately neither of the gentlemen are quite at their best here. The film swells in its protagonists’ exaggerated misery and draws a vision of Japanese trash not entirely unlike the films of Rob Zombie; only Sato’s movie is shot much cheaper. Acting and visual look aren’t up to much, and the film takes nearly 80 minutes before turning on its supernatural revenge gear. Once that happens, we’re treated an anarchic climax of bloodshed unlike anything ever staged in a classroom before. It comes a bit late, but for once the audience is left hungry for the (planned, not promised) sequels.

Fuck Me to the Moon (Japan, 2013) [Yubari Fanta] – 4/5

Japanese slacker cinema is alive and kicking with the best film in the genre since Nobuhiro Yamashita’s early 2000’s masterpieces. Directors Takahata and Takino brand their film as a new type of roman porno, promising to make the audience laugh, cry, and get an erection. In reality it’s a very romantic film. The storyline follows two miserable part time musicians and roommates trying to charm a sexy lady with music. Solid cast and excellent soundtrack make it a very enjoyable slacker comedy with some original twists, despite the conventional storyline. The film premiered in the Moosic Lab Cinema x Music line-up originally started by director Yu Irie (Saitama Rapper).

The Tale of Iya (Japan, 2013) [35mm] 4.5/5

Here’s something completely unexpected in the middle of all the plastic mainstream productions and micro-budget indie films: a young director’s 169 minute epic gorgeously filmed on 35mm. The story is set in the breathtaking mountain landscapes on Iya, where an old man raises an orphan girl (Rina Takeda) with no modern comforts such as electricity. The film echoes old masters like Shohei Imamura, but finds its own fascinating mixture of “magical realism” and valuable environmental message. Mesmerizing piece of filmmaking!

The Pinkie (Japan, 2014) [Yubari Fanta] – 1.5/5

Lisa Takeba’s previous film, Wandering Alien Detective Robin, was a charming low-key film noir tribute. Her latest, The Pinkie, is a far less successful film. The storyline follows a jealous girl who makes herself a boyfriend by cloning the man she’s in love with. Trouble starts when the clone and the original meet. The wacky pop-film resembles the works of Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls) and Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake), but doesn’t manage to add anything worthwhile to the concept. It goes from overly energetic love-comedy to horrifying CGI splatter bloodbath. A catchy theme song by the band ‘Andersons’ is the film’s only real asset.

Love’s Whirlpool (Japan, 2014) [DCP] 4/5

Daisuke Miura’s latest movie is the most stylish Japanese adult drama in years! The 18-rated character study sees eight strangers – from a businessman to a kindergarten teacher – gather in a luxury apartment to have sex. Keeping anonymity, denying emotions and playing roles turns out more difficult than expected, however. Director Miura is notorious for his ultra-realistic theatrical plays that have driven the performers on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but here he also shows remarkable visual eye. The film looks stylish as hell, in addition to being a fascinating social study.

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Ok, so I should try to remember to post in this thread more often :tongue:

Yokai Monsters (Japan, 1968) [35mm] – 3/5

An entertaining family monster film. The Japanese title Yokai daisenso (The Great Yokai War) is the same as the 2005 Takashi Miike film which, however, isn’t much of a remake. Considering the title, there is very little in terms of yokai war except for the last 10 minutes.

Contract Killer (Japan, 1968) [35mm] - 2.5/5

Two professional killers battle in a highly stylized and very 1960’s action drama. The film opens quite well and can get pretty trippy along the way, including a bizarre dance sequence set in a hotel room, but the ending doesn’t live up to the expectations. Despite the two men being top sharp shooters, the film concludes with them running on a beach and shooting at each other from close distance. Yuzo Kayama stars, former Nikkatsu starlet Ruriko Asaoka plays his girlfriend.

Diamonds of the Andes (Japan/Brazil, 1968) [35mm] – 2.5/5

Director Buichi Saito directed one of the best Lone Wolf and Cub films: Babycart in Peril (1973). His 1960’s films can be quite different, as showcased by this Nikkatsu flick filmed in Brazil. Akira Kobayashi stars as a former criminal living a new life in South America, but haunted by old enemies. The film is visually stylish and features bits of solid action at the beginning and end, but the emphasis is on the storyline, which consist of not-so-inspired character drama and love triangle. Tetsuro Tamba co-stars as a Japanese detective.

The Elder Sister (Anego) (Japan, 1969) [35mm] – 2/5

Toshio Masuda once said that audiences went to Toei’s yakuza films for the action, and to Nikkatsu’s crime films for the stories. That springs to mind when watching Buichi Saito’s Anego (Elder Sister), a feminine yakuza drama with very little action in it. Unfortunately it’s not a very memorable story, nor is there anything special about the execution. Akira Kobayashi pops up a number of times to save the day, always just on time. Note: IMDb lists an English aka The Woman Gambler, but that's likely to be a mistake. There are no gamblers in the film.

Silk Hat Boss (Japan, 1970) [DVD] – 2.5/5

A very mediocre Tomisaburo Wakayama vehicle following Toei’s milk-to-death production policy. Wakayama stars as Silk Hat Boss, the comic relief from the Red Peony Gambler (1968-1972) series. This spin off is a yakuza comedy with strong nationalistic flavor and occasional action scenes thrown in. Its merits rely mostly on familiar cast – including Junko Fuji in a supporting role – and strong action finale. Wakayama also sings the theme song. That alone should be something.

Silk Hat Boss 2 (Japan, 1970) [DVD] – 3/5

A superior sequel that resembles the naughty entertainment director Norifumi Suzuki is best known for. While still following the old school ninkyo yakuza film formula, the sequel adds a hatful of mad slapstick comedy and random girls getting their breasts out every 20 minutes. The film is hardly a great example of old school yakuza cinema, but it does come with enough silly entertainment for 90 minutes. Action has been cranked up as well, Ms. Fuji does another quest appearance, and even the comedy scenes are occasionally funny.

The Creature Called Man (Japan, 1970) [35mm] – 3.5/5

Here’s a Toho action film John Woo has probably seen more than once. It follows a policeman who is determined to stop a professional killer who has been hired to assassinate a political figure. The killer then, unexpectedly, falls in love with a lonely American woman. It all leads to a heroic bloodshed finale in which both men put half dozen bullet holes into each other. Add slow motion, freeze frame, jazz tunes on the soundtrack, mutual respect between two professionals, and a car that is (nearly?) identical to the one Tony Leung drive in Hard Boiled. The film starts a bit slow and does have its clumsy moments, but it keeps getting better and better. The last 20 minutes is superb. There’s also a lot of English dialogue. Lead actor Jiro Tamiya either had some skills to begin with, or the common courtesy to learn to pronounce his lines. The same can’t be said about many Japanese actors these days.

Sukeban Sex Violence (Japan, 1973) [VoD] – 2/5

Nikkatsu was no stranger to girl gang movies, having pioneered the genre with the Stray Cat Rock series. This modest roman porno is a far cry from those movies or Toei’s larger budgeted action films. It’s 70 minutes of sex, schoolgirl fights, rock music, and more sex. It’s a sound concept, but comes out far less exiting than you might hope. There's even a comedic fat sukeban girl who is bound to get on the viewer's nerves. The most outrageous exploitation is actually found in the poster, which clearly states “High School Girl Sex Violence” in Japanese, but gives the kanji characters an alternative, “correct” reading “Sukeban Sex Violence”. Two birds with one stone, and a way to argue that high school girls are not, in fact, mentioned in the title.

Wet Lust: 21 Strippers (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 3.5/5

Here’s a good example of director Tatsumi Kumashiro experimenting with the Roman Porno genre. The film is a follow-up to Ichijo's Wet Lust (1972), which was ranked among the best films of the year by many Japanese critics. In 21 Strippers Kumashiro used multiple central characters and broke the chronology to the extent that most viewers probably couldn’t follow the story. It nevertheless felt fresh, especially with great cinematography and soundtrack. Unfortunately towards the end there are too many dull sex scenes. Still quite a good film with lots of exotic striptease, and characters whistling Meiko Kaji’s Urami Bushi throughout the film.

Red Light District: Woman in the Honmoku Brothel (Japan, 1975) [35mm] – 2/5

An average-at-best Roman Porno, which nevertheless contains some interesting elements. The strengths are: a small number of odd scenes featuring a blind woman, (underused) jitsuroku approach, and setting the film in a Japanese wartime brothel serving both Japanese and foreign customers, which adds a bit of political touch. Unfortunately the rest of the film is nothing special.

Young Beast: Secret Pleasures (Japan, 1980) [35mm] – 1/5

A lousy attempt at arthouse Roman Porno by Kazunori Takeda. The true story follows a student who is bothered by his parents who keep fucking while he’s trying to study for entrance exams. He eventually goes crazy. Misery drama with unattractive people done without much skill. The erotic value is below zero as well.

Distant Thunder (Japan, 1981) [35mm] – 3.5/5

Director Kichitaro Negishi started his career in Roman Porno, but his films often had a strong Art Theatre Guild flavour. Here he actually helms a film for ATG. The 135 min countryside drama resembles his work at Nikkatsu, but lacks the excessive sex and some of the energy. It’s still a fine film with good cast and interesting characters, though very little in terms of plot as you’d expect from a film like this. Cute female star Eri Ishida and her breasts add to the entertainment value.

Mermaid Legend (Japan, 1984) [35mm] – 3/5

Roman Porno director Toshiharu Ikeda ventured to Art Theatre Guild for this visually stunning but uneven revenge fantasy. The film follows a pear diver who becomes an unstoppable killing machine as she seeks revenge against the yakuza who killed her husband. The film is packed with gorgeous cinematography and sports a haunting soundtrack, but Ikeda’s exploitation aesthetics with spraying blood and exploding cars create a ridiculous mismatch with the rest of the film.

Evil Dead Trap (Japan, 1988) [35mm] – 4/5

Visually talented director Toshiharu Ikeda found himself very much at home with this ultra-violent slasher that has become a small genre classic. The film essentially rips off everything from Italian giallos to American teen slashers, but does it with amazing energy. The death scenes are imaginatively choreographed, the cinematography is superb and the soundtrack could be a lost Goblin score from a Dario Argento film. The only problem is the dumbness: half of it doesn’t really make much sense. Turn off the brains and enjoy the ride.

Akira (Japan, 1988) [35mm] – 4.5/5

Seeing one of the best sci-fi movies of all time on 35mm!! Amazing experience. Played as a double feature with another Katsuhiro Otomo film, Memories (1995), but unfortunately I didn’t have time to stay for that. Lot’s of people showed up even though they played it three weeks straight, three times a day.

Vampire (USA/Japan, 2011) [DCP] – 3/5

A highly unusual and extremely uncommercial take on the vampire genre. Perhaps for being an English language production by a Japanese filmmaker, it feels more like an arthouse effort by a film school graduate than a work of a true master that Shunji Iwai is. A very quiet and grey film which strips the vampire genre from all of its shock and goth: no one gets bitten in the neck here. There are elements that don’t work, such as the serial killer side plot and some clumsy artiness, but much of the rest is fascinating, especially the combination of vampire theme, suicide and depression.

Shady (Japan, 2012) [DCP] – 3/5

Highly praised debut feature by Ryohei Watanabe doesn't quite live up to the hype. The film begins as a tale of two high school girls' friendship, and then proceeds to become a psychological study that isn't quite that original, however. There are good moments throughout, and the post-credits sequence is brilliant, but the film is also slightly artificial and clumsy at times. However, for a 25 year old director's first feature film it's certainly a promising start.

I’m amazed I finally managed to catch this in theatre. It was playing in Tokyo 1.5 years ago, but it finished a few days before I arrived the city during my travel. The next time I was in Tokyo it was set to play a few days after I left. There was even one screening this summer when I was in Tokyo again, but The Street Fighter (1974) was playing at the same time, so, no. Now it finally had two screenings in Sapporo, and during the first I was in Tokyo of all places. Managed to catch it in the second screening.

Miss Zombie (Japan, 2013) [DVD] - 2/5

Zombies become social commentary in Sabu’s new arthouse film where dressing is served as main course. The extremely slow paced film shows a young and harmless female slave zombie exploited by a rich family. An attractive female lead (never mind she’s a zombie) and some impressive scenes, but the film tends to be pretentious beyond belief. The emotional coldness combined with minimalism and black & white cinematography create an oddly off putting feel.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (Japan, 2014) [DCP] – 2/5

The first Rurouni Kenshin movie was ok: it had surprisingly good action, pretty visuals and a nice pop-cinema feel to it despite being a shabby idol product. This sequel is an instantly forgettable teen opera. It’s pretty idols everywhere, bloated uninspired action, bland Hollywood-style score, and a constant feeling that you’ve seen these scenes done so much better with real actors 40-50 years ago. The darker tone of the story makes many of these flaws only more distracting. 75-80% of the audience in the screening were women, probably came to see Takeru Sato. Makes sense.

My Man (Japan, 2014) [DCP] – 4/5

Tadanobu Asano and Fumi Nikaido shine in Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s excellent incest drama. Asano plays a middle aged man who takes an orphan relative under his wings, only to develop a less honourable relationship with her when she reaches her teens. Kumakiri directs in his usual realistic, grainy and understated way, supported by Jim O'Rourke score and cinematographer Ryuto Kondo who used 16mm, 35mm and digital to give different parts of the movie a distinct feel. The only weakness is two needlessly artistic/symbolic scenes that underline the message and should have no place in this film.

The World of Kanako (Japan, 2014) [DCP] – 2.5/5

Confessions director Tetsuya Nakashima returns to his usual hyperactive music video style ala Kamikaze Girls, only this time the genre is violent thriller. Koji Yakusho stars as an alcoholic ex-cop who goes on a rampage to find his missing daughter, only to discover she wasn’t quite the pure angel he though she was. The film is ridiculously over the top, decidedly so, and extremely violent in places. It doesn’t quite pack the punch it wishes it would, and the lightning fast editing can get tiresome. Nevertheless, some scenes hit the nail with a sledge hammer and bring a grin to the audience’s face

Girl’s Blood (Red x Pink) (Japan, 2014) [VoD] – 3.5/5

Had 1990’s Michael Bay directed all girls' lesbian cage fighting movie with Japanese drama in it, it might have been something like Girl’s Blood. The gloriously ridiculous movie is a combination of trendy girl melodrama, 6 minute lesbian love scenes, and absolutely ferocious fighting. Despite some needlessly fast editing, the action scenes are terrific, very physical, and accompanied with ballsy sound effects. And best of all, it’s all done with poker face, without filmmakers desperately trying to prove they acknowledge the underlying silliness of it.

Tokyo Tribe (Japan, 2014) [DCP] – 4/5

Against all expectations, Sion Sono’s battle rap musical is a pretty damn badass film for most of the time. The film is set in the dystopian Tokyo which is ruled by violent rapper gangs. The production design is breathtaking, the film is packed with stunning tracking shots and there’s pretty good HK and Thai influenced martial. Sono also doesn’t forget about ridiculously masculine mayhem and frequent female nudity. Unfortunately the film also comes with too many characters and too little story, which burden the film towards the end, and miserable CGI one must wonder why on earth does Sono keep putting it in his movies? Even then, the film is a blast!

******************************************************

Moosic Lab 2014

Moosic Lab is an indie cinema movement which brings together young filmmakers and rising bands / artists. I’ve seen a small number of quite interesting works at Yubari, such as Fuck Me to the Moon and Idol is Dead, so I went to a couple of screenings when the event was held in Tokyo. Big mistake! From now on I will leave it to Yubari to find the gems.

Nobidorando (Japan, 2014) – 1/5

Music documentary featuring mostly talking heads and Shinjuku footage filmed from a moving car. Cinematic merits are non-existent.

Ankoman (Japan, 2014) – 1.5/5

Low budget indie drama features surprisingly much sex, but is frustratingly amateurish. Dialogue is often difficult to hear and director Yutaro Nakamura tries to steal the show with an endless rant in his supporting role. The main characters are two female roommates, both pretty and going naked countless times. As a slice of life drama it starts alright, but becomes irritatingly loud with constant screaming and crying towards the end.

Iruka sjoho da, watashi wa (Japan, 2014) – 1.5/5

A girl with psychic powers battles an evil schoolgirl with similar powers. Over-stylized and flashy mini-budget Japan “cult” cinema resembling the works of Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls) but far more amateurish and with added CGI splatter. A pretty miserable film with amazingly cool animated opening and ending credits sequences.

Koibun X (Japan, 2014) – 2.5/5

The first film in this the 2014 Moosic Lab set that didn’t suck. The storyline features a young man with no memory waking up in a park naked, then knocking out another man and stealing his clothes and identity, which starts a chain reaction of misunderstandings among young people who are dating each other and preparing for a rock concert. It’s a bit too cleaver on its own right, and has the feel of a film school work, but it’s actually rather enjoyable. Visually a bit bland (but not ugly), acting is not bad, music is kind of good, the girls are cute, and the film’s got heart. I went in expecting the worst, but this kind of won me over little by little.

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Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (Japan, 1970) [35mm] – 4/5

One of the best films in the series which consisted of very different kind of installments by gang film director Yasuharu Hasebe and youth drama specialist Toshiya Fujita. This one is remarkable not only for being a slick action film, but also for capturing even more timely themes and content than the rest of the films. Among these is the girl band playing in the club scenes: The Golden Half, which consisted of half-Japanese members (Runa Takamura later had a brief Roman Porno career as well). Another great turn is featuring rock star Rikiya Yasuoka as the heroic male lead – he’s much better known for bad guy roles and yakuza brutes that dominated his later acting career.

A Killer’s Blacklist (Japan, 1970) [35mm] – 2/5

Toei is best known for two distinctive types of yakuza films – the chivalrous old school films of the 1960s, and the brutal true account films of the 1970s. Between them also existed a modern middle ground that didn’t quite fall into either category and sometimes lacked distinguishable identity. A Killer’s Blacklist suffers from this problem: it’s a violent, yet humoristic modern day film that doesn’t find much balance between gratuitous violence and some silly characters. Tsunehiko Watase is the first billed star – and does fine job at it – but frequently takes the back seat in favour of bigger stars like Makoto Sato and Kanjuro Arashi (yakuza film legend who was, frankly, too old to convince anyone as a knife fighter at this point). A semi-entertaining but forgettable effort by Teruo Ishii, who has helmed far better crime films in his career.

Wet Sand in August (Japan, 1971) [35mm] – 3/5

Popular early 70s zeitgeist by Nikkatsu’s youth film specialist Toshiya Fujita. The director spent most of his career bouncing back and forth between youth dramas and crime films with similar themes. This film belongs to the former category and follows a handful of rebellious and restless youngsters hanging out on the beach and eventually heading to the sea with a stolen boat. Although a solid film, one gets the feeling it resonates best with audiences who have lived through the time period depicted in the film. In cinematic sense, unlike some of Fujita’s other films, it’s hardly extraordinary.

Onsen Mimizu Geisha (Japan, 1971) [35mm] – 2.5/5

Reiko Ike’s debut film. There’s a rumor she was underage during filming, but that hasn’t been confirmed. In fact, there was a 5 week window between her birthday the release of the film, which, by the hectic 1971 production standards, could’ve been enough. In any case, director Norifumi Suzuki shows little restraint in his idol-like shots of naked Ike running on the beach. The film is a silly sex comedy about a young woman (Ike) who earns money as geisha (or rather as a prostitute posing as geisha). Harmless and forgettable, but moderately entertaining pink comedy. Miki Sugimoto appears in a small supporting role as Ike’s sister.

Onsen Suppon Geisha (1972) [35mm] – 3/5

The 4th film in the Onsen Geisha series trades Ike for Sugimoto who now plays the leading role. The film follows the same pattern as its predecessor, with Sugimoto as university student turned stripper turned geisha, but with more energy, more WTF moments, and even dumber jokes. One of the side plots focuses on a mad scientist using vaginal fluids to develop serum to create Japanese negros! Sugimoto also sings the theme song. She look better in geisha dress than Ike did anyway, and of course director Suzuki thought it would make great cinema if he had her riding motorcycle dressed as geisha! That pretty much sums it up.

True Account of Ginza Tortures (Japan, 1973) [35mm] – 3/5

Here’s an incredibly brutal jitsuroku yakuza film, more violent than any of Fukasaku’s movies. The film follows post-war criminals in Ginza. Every single character is a homicidal maniac. The introduction sets the tone: the protagonist returns from war only to find out his girlfriend has a baby with an American G.I. He kills them both. We later witness men vomiting blood, tortured to death and fed to pigs. Almost every woman in the film is beaten, raped, killed, or all three in that order. Nevertheless, in the hands of an experienced director like Junya Sato is becomes powerful and occasionally even poetic, if repetitive, vision of madness on the streets of post-war Tokyo.

ginz.jpg

Jeans Blues: No Tomorrow (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 2.5/5

Clumsy Bonnie and Clyde variation by Sadao Nakajima, who could be a fine filmmaker from time to time. This time, however, action and editing are a bit off, the storyline has some silly twists, and Tsunehiko Watase and Meiko Kaji struggle to find a common tune. It is no wonder that Kaji recommended against seeing the film. That being said, it’s by no means a boring movie. It is, oddly enough, a rather entertaining train-wreck produced in the middle of Toei’s mid 70s action movie craze – something that can be easily sensed while watching it.

True Account of the Yamaguchi Gang: Life-and-Death Operations on Kyushu (Japan, 1974) [VoD] – 3.5/5

Kosaku Yamashita, who is better known for his old school yakuza classics like Red Peony Gambler, helms this solid jitsuroku-tale. Bunta Sugawara is excellent as trigger-happy gangster whose violent nature gives trouble even to his own superiors. It’s a relatively ambitious film, although slightly too long and not quite the Fukasaku caliber. The film was re-cut and re-titled for US theatrical release in the aftermath of The Street Fighter. The US edit, known as The Tattooed Hitman, loses 20 minutes and severely alters the storyline to make it more of a grindhouse fare.

Badass video art:

yamagy.jpg

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Roman Porno treasure hunt

Love Bandit Rat Man (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 2/5

A poor house servant becomes a sex thief in Chusei Sone's period film, which is a sexploitation version of a popular Japanese Robin Hood tale. It's not too bad a film, but it's hardly an exhilarating one. The flashback structure, in which the captured thief tells his story while being tortured, works pretty well, the production values are fine, and there are some imaginative sequences, such as one that is made to look like black & white 8mm film, but none of it stands out as being especially exciting. In the end it's more of a case of "not bad for Roman Porno" than a genuinely good movie. Sone had much more success in the period movie genre later the same year with the very funny and cute Secret Chronicle: Prostitute Market.

Delicate Skillful Fingers (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 4/5

This debut feature by Tooru Murakawa apparently almost killed his career by setting the standard too high. The storyline, penned by Tatsumi Kumashiro, follows an innocent girl on the streets of Tokyo. She falls for a pickpocket who is soon arrested and never seen again. The guy's friend (cult rocker / actor Ichiro Araki) then takes his place and teaches her into the business. It's basically a bit old fashioned morality tale, but directed with a stunning level of cool. Murakawa does excellent job capturing the spirit of the era and the soundtrack is a standout. Much of the movie was filmed on the streets of Shinkuku, which also gives it a fresh feel compared to most other Roman Pornos. Indeed, upon its release it was praised as sensational leap from sex cinema to respectable youth cinema. The fame seems to have been too much for Murakawa, who quit two movies later. His career, however, was resurrected in the late 1970s when he begun to helm (mostly mediocre) Yusaku Matsuda action pics for Toei.

shiro2.jpgskil3.jpg

Sweet Scent of Eros (Japan, 1973) [VoD] - 2/5

Toshiya Fujita was one of the Nikkatsu directors who often used the Roman Porno genre to make arthouse films. Here he teams up with screenwriter Atsushi Yamatoya to deliver a character piece set almost entirely in one room. The film follows a mysterious photographer who decides to make himself home at a random woman's house. Next, her two friends who up, and they all decide to live together. What follows is lots of chatter, out-of-the-blue suicide attempt, random surrealism, and a graphic pig slaughter that is supposed to make some kind of intellectual point. The cool guitar riffs are the film's most entertaining aspect. Otherwise it feels a bit pretentious, and far from Fujita's best efforts.

I Can Feel It (Japan, 1976) [VoD] - 1/5

Here's an early attempt at Koyu Ohara style perky youth cinema within the pink genre. Unfortunately director Shin'ichi Shiratori wasn't up to the challenge. There's a decent attempt at spicing things up with pop music, but the poor writing and underwhelming performances undo the effect. There is no reason to care about any of the characters, including newcomer Jun Izumi, who didn't have the charm required to play a lovely virgin girl. In the end, the film is little more than a standard sex comedy.

Erotic Liaisons (Japan, 1978) [VoD] - 3.5/5

Here's a very stylish neo-noir based on a novel by the French author Raymond Marlot and produced during the late 1970s when a small amount of Roman Porno films attempted to bridge the gap between mainstream and pink cinema. Cult actor / rock star Yuya Uchida stars as a private detective who falls in love with the woman he's hired to follow. Big mistake! It turns out the woman is surrounded by small time gangsters and she's got a plan on how to get rich. The film's storyline and atmosphere are so strikingly European (save for the main character, who is modelled after American film noir heroes) that the viewer constantly forgets the film is set in Tokyo and not Paris. Sex is tastefully integrated into the story, the film sports strong female characters, and there's some wonderfully dry humour. If it wasn't for some carelessly handled plot twists that needed more exposition to work, the film would be even better. Koji Wakamatsu remade the film in 1990, with Uchida starring again. This original film was directed by Yasuharu Hasebe.

lia1.jpglia2.jpg

Never in the Morning (Japan, 1980) [VoD] - 1.5/5

Talented director Kichitaro Negishi is slacking here. This is a standard sex drama/comedy with a weak satirical bite that doesn't make the film much more interesting. It's about a woman who is working for an underwear company and sleeping with his boss every now and then. None of the bursting energy and style of Negishi's earlier films From Orion's Testimony: Formula for Murder (1979 and Rape Ceremory (1980) can be found here.

Fallen Angels Gang (Japan, 1981) [VoD] - 1/5

This yakuza/action/Roman Porno hybrid predates Wives of the Yakuza by five years. It's about a yakuza wife and her two step daughters who swear to avenge the death of a gangster. Unfortunately it's a pretty miserable film packed with pink actresses trying act tough - and failing. There's a little bit of poorly executed action, boring sex, and an uninvolving storyline that takes 91 minutes to reach its conclusion.

Pink Curtain (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 2/5

Here's an interesting but ultimately underwhelming attempt at trendy roman porno drama. The catch is a brother falling in love with his sister who moves in with him into a small Tokyo apartment. Unfortunately the scenario doesn't really go anywhere as the film spends way too much time on sub-plots involving third party characters and packs an overload of sex scenes - a typical pink film symptom. That being said, the stars (Jun Miho and Masahiko Abe) have some chemistry despite the performances not being award-worthy by any means, and director Yasuaki Uegaki includes occasional energetic moments camera movements, pop music and manga influences. But in the end, it feels more like a pink film with some potential buried underneath it than the other way round. It's by no means a match for Koyu Ohara's Pink Hip Girl (1978), which could be a comparison point of sorts.

Pink Curtain 2 (Japan, 1982) [VoD] - 2/5

The second film in the series follows the exact same formula as the first. Again there's a potentially interesting storyline about a sister and brother buried under a bucketful of less interesting sub-plots and third party sex scenes. And like last time, director Yasuaki Uegaki again has his moments, especially towards the end. One gets the feeling that this series could be much better if it focused on the right things.

Pink Curtain 3 (Japan, 1983) [VoD] - 1.5/5

The final film in the series and the storyline still doesn't go anywhere. Like its predecessors, the film has a couple of cute and pop moments, but most of the time is wasted on dull sub-plots. It's not a downright terrible movie, but it's hard to get excited about it. The ending is stylish, though.

Pink Hip Girls: Slinking Classmates (Japan, 1982) [VoD] - 1/5

Director Koyu Ohara tries to revive the magic of his Pink Hip Girl trilogy in this unrelated but similarly titled and themed film. Unfortunately, it's a miserable attempt. The Pink Hip Girl films were energetic road movies and cute youth flicks with strong pop-art flavour despite being produced in the Roman Porno genre; this on the other hand is a tiresome city movie following four young girls making money with sex and trying to help an impotent young man become a rock-star. There's an abundance of sex, a lack of charming actresses, no striking visuals, and only a small amount of pop music. The film is not necessarily among the worst in the genre, but it is tiresome.

Captured for Sex 2 (Japan, 1986) [VoD] - 1/5

A young couple's car breaks down in the middle of a forest. A nice man comes for rescue and takes them to his house, but for this being a pink production he of course turns out to be a manic kidnapper with a taste for sexual torture. This is a minor cult classic of sorts, for reasons that go beyond my understanding. It's little more than a violent porn film with non-existent cinematic merits, a sort of sexual version of the Guinea Pig series but without the humour, scares, or the special effects. It does , however, sport a somehow nostalgic 1980s smut feel to it. That doesn't help much when the film is an utter bore. Released in Nikkatsu's Roman X series, which was a short lived hardcore spin-off of the Roman Porno series.

Women In Heat Behind Bars (Japan, 1987) [VoD] - 1/5

Not much to write about here. I usually give even bad movies a chance to impress me by paying attention at least for the first third, but this one I could barely get through the first five minutes without resorting to fast forward. It's a women in prison movie with almost nothing but sex. It was filmed on 35mm for being a Roman Porno, but it feels much more like a 1990s shot-on-video cheapo. Horrible, just horrible.

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Gamera vs Viras (1968)

The fourth Gamera movie and the first one that's really kid-oriented with the whole "Gamera friend of all children" thing being heavily used as well as the Gamera march playing (a fun musical number that sticks in your head) - though the key human character in Gamera vs Gaos was already a little kid.

The movie deals with a race of aliens called the Viras attempting to conquer the Earth but having to deal with Gamera first. To have Gamera under control, they kidnap a pair of troublesome boy scouts (an American boy called Jim and a Japanese boy called Masao) as hostages.

Still a really enjoyable film, with fun little rascals as the main characters (they get about 2/3 of the movie's running time and it's not a bad thing, the kids are likeable and pretty good actors), creative villains (with their very original spaceship) and some nice monster scenes (though most of the 1/3 devoted to them consists in stock footage - you even get a 10+ minutes montage of scenes from the first three movies, leading to Barugon and Gaos to be included here).

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Gamera vs Viras (1968)

The fourth Gamera movie and the first one that's really kid-oriented with the whole "Gamera friend of all children" thing being heavily used as well as the Gamera march playing (a fun musical number that sticks in your head) - though the key human character in Gamera vs Gaos was already a little kid.

The movie deals with a race of aliens called the Viras attempting to conquer the Earth but having to deal with Gamera first. To have Gamera under control, they kidnap a pair of troublesome boy scouts (an American boy called Jim and a Japanese boy called Masao) as hostages.

Still a really enjoyable film, with fun little rascals as the main characters (they get about 2/3 of the movie's running time and it's not a bad thing, the kids are likeable and pretty good actors), creative villains (with their very original spaceship) and some nice monster scenes (though most of the 1/3 devoted to them consists in stock footage - you even get a 10+ minutes montage of scenes from the first three movies, leading to Barugon and Gaos to be included here).

It is interesting how a lot of the kaiju films, especially the Godzilla series, became kid-friendly. I've watched several of the Godzilla series lately and it is interesting to see the budgets get smaller, stock footage become prevalent and more annoying kids with more kid-friendly plots. Some creatures like Son of Godzilla I just really do not like.

I am thinking you are going to love the Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection (The H-Man / Battle in Outer Space / Mothra) set. You can see early sci-fi (no kaiju) with Battle in Outer Space. But I love Mothra. All three are directed by Ishiro Honda who is my favorite of the kaiju directors.

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It is interesting how a lot of the kaiju films, especially the Godzilla series, became kid-friendly. I've watched several of the Godzilla series lately and it is interesting to see the budgets get smaller, stock footage become prevalent and more annoying kids with more kid-friendly plots. Some creatures like Son of Godzilla I just really do not like.

I'd say Gamera is much more kid-friendly than Godzilla as there was only a bunch of Godzilla movies in the late 1960s/1970s that were kid-friendly - namely Son Of Godzilla (terrible film), Godzilla's Revenge AKA All-Monster Attack (I kinda like this one and it has an uncommonly quiet kid lead that I kinda identify myself to as I used to be a rather lonely and dreamy kid too), Godzilla vs Gigan (with those people yelling "goodbye Godzilla" in the end, very corny when adults do it like it's the case here) and Godzilla vs Megalon (I love this one, though the humans are really dumb here and the kid gets obnoxious at points) - while most of the Gamera films seem that way, especially in the Showa starting with Gamera vs Gaos all the way to Gamera: Super Monster. These films have kid leads and you even get these kids in contact with the monsters and ultimately saving the day (very blatant in Gamera vs Gaos: the little kid outsmarts scientists and comes up with better battle plans than the army).

But in spite of the obvious kid-friendly orientation taken very early on, I still find the Gamera series okay so far (only seen the first 4 films). The special effects are nicely done and the monsters are creative.

I am thinking you are going to love the Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection (The H-Man / Battle in Outer Space / Mothra) set. You can see early sci-fi (no kaiju) with Battle in Outer Space. But I love Mothra. All three are directed by Ishiro Honda who is my favorite of the kaiju directors.

These 3 films sound very interesting indeed (H-Man and Battle In Outer Space sound like some good 1950s sci-fi), got that set on my "saved for later" list on Yesasia. I guess I should order from them again one of these days - but I'm a bit short on money these days and there's just so much nice stuff available on there... Hard to choose what to buy. :tinysmile_angry2_t:

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... Godzilla's Revenge AKA All-Monster Attack (I kinda like this one and it has an uncommonly quiet kid lead that I kinda identify myself to as I used to be a rather lonely and dreamy kid too), ...

This is a film I like more than most. What do you consider the worst Godzilla film?

Check out the commentary if you have not. It is pretty good and Richard Pusateri does a fine job, even if some of his jokes fall a little flat while some of them being correct in the flaws he sees. I like how he states that Gabara (this is the creatures only appearance in a Godzilla film) looks like a combination of a cat and a frog. The "situation narcolepsy" line is pretty funny too. Here is a nice review on that movie including comments on his commentary. Since the movie is short it is not hard to fit in the commentary, plus he only has a few gaps of silence. He does mention that this is considered either the worst or second worst among the Godzilla films which he does not agree with, though I'm not sure what he considers the worst though (this movie is certainly not mine.) Now he does hate the theme song in the Japanese version. He considers the lobster fight the best one in the movie (the movie it comes from is below.)

Personally I do not think the movie is terrible if you take it as a kids movie first and not a Godzilla movie (almost a deconsructionistic take). I think Honda's direction is just too good to consider it as IMDB does a 4/10 movies. This movie takes place in the "real" world where Godzilla is not rampaging Tokyo, but it is the bullies of latch-key kids that are the real antagonists (well that and the comedic robbers, for awhile I thought it was going to go the Home Alone route when he leads them back into the abandoned building.) Now it is not a great film, but it is an interesting one. Manilla is annoying no matter what version you are watching though. I wonder if anyone was thinking Bambi Meets Godzilla (it was released the same year as this.) I know you couldn't do that to Manilla in a kid's film.

NOTE: the lobster fight scene comes from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966) which just came out on BD/DVD recently.

Now entertain (or torture) yourself with the theme song (it sounds so sixties doesn't it):

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IMO, the worst Godzilla movie would probably be the 1998 American film. My top 5 of the worst Godzilla movies would go something like this:

Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966)

Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Excluding the American movies, I guess Son Of Godzilla (1967) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) would make the list. I haven't seen several movies of the Heisei (Return, Biollante and Mothra - suprisingly, the widely hated SpaceGodzilla remains one of my fav' from this era) and Millenium (next to all except for the very nice Tokyo SOS) eras so this is subjected to change.

Re Godzilla's Revenge/All-Monster Attack: I've seen only the American version, but I'd still put it in my top 5 favorite Godzilla films (along with King Of Monsters, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and King Kong vs. Godzilla). I find the "Godzilla only existing in dream/fantasy sequences" aspect pretty interesting and original, though I guess it could be irritating to people (because the monster sequences take place in a child's dreams and thus would be rather tame) and it may also raise questions on whether the events of the movie are parts of the continuity or not (is Gabara considered canon ?).

Personally, I find Minilla's voice in the English dub hilarious, it's so cartoony and goofy. Also, the American version has one really cool theme music:

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Gamera vs Guiron (1969)

The fifth Gamera movie and in spite of some creativity and an overall enjoyable premise, a BIG step down compared to the previous movie Gamera vs Viras.

Two kids named Aiko and Tom (who happen to be smarter and more articulate than major scientists) spot a spaceship with their telescope and go over exploring, only to be taken away when the ship is called back to its native planet. This leaves Aiko's obnoxious little sister on her own to convince people the boys were taken away in a spaceship (but - big shock - nobody believes it, except for an OTT comedic cop with glasses). Let's get this over with right away: except for the two kids who are rather likeable (they seem like younger versions of Masao and Jim from Gamera vs Viras, to the point their main concerns when they are taken away by aliens are being hungry and Gamera) and the cop who is kind of funny, the human characters are either ridiculous or annoying or both.

The planet where the two boys end up is actually rather creative, with highly advanced technology that enables people to teleport, travel through space at very high space (to the point the whole movie seems to take place over like a day or so) and even to control one of the many giant monsters born from some freakout event (limits of space travel and wishes for advanced alien technology are often mentionned in the movie). The two species of monsters from the planet (supposedly located on the opposite side of the sun compared to Earth, but the travel seems to indicate it's in a different galaxy light years away... Whatever) are Gyaos (except he's silver instead of black) and Guiron, whom I'd describe as a kitchen knife with 4 legs and lifeless eyes. He also throws shurikens from the bottom of his nose and has a tendency to chop everything around him with his nose. Guiron is controlled by the remaining two survivors of the past civilization (that created and was wiped out by the monsters), a couple of human-looking females who want to flee the planet.

Gamera has some screen time, but you also have the usual stock footage (though much less than in the previous film where a good third was stock footage while here you only have a quick little montage) and the "Gamera is the friend of all children" stuff.

Overall, it's not really good, but it's still a very enjoyable movie if you have 90 minutes to kill. The trailer had me puzzled and I expected much worse TBH. I know this "mini review" is a bit long, but I had a lot to say here.

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I am thinking you are going to love the Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection (The H-Man / Battle in Outer Space / Mothra) set. You can see early sci-fi (no kaiju) with Battle in Outer Space. But I love Mothra. All three are directed by Ishiro Honda who is my favorite of the kaiju directors.

Finally placed a new order on yesasia and this set is part of it. I'm curiours about these 3, especially seeing two of those are not Kaiju Eiga. :nerd:

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Finally placed a new order on yesasia and this set is part of it. I'm curiours about these 3, especially seeing two of those are not Kaiju Eiga. :nerd:

I saw that. I do think you will like that set. In fact I would expect that. But since the director is Ishiro Honda on all three, I think you will see certain connections to even the Kaiju films of his from these.

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