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Japanese Movie Mini Reviews

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On 10/25/2018 at 8:03 AM, Takuma said:

The Sukeban Deka movies are fun, but the TV shows are so much better. There were three (1985-1987), each with different cast and characters. The 1st one, with Yuki Saito as the sole lead, was the darkest with a lot of focus on her alienation. The 2nd one, Legend of the Girl in the Iron Mask, generally considered the best, is just an amazing pop culture epic with incredible storyline, soundtrack, and episodes referencing everything from Casablanca to Female Prisoner Scorpion. The third one, Romance of the Ninja Girls, is a high school ninja girl remake of Star Wars... enough said, I think.

Each show was so different that each one could be considered "the best" for different reasons. They are also a bit less over the top than the movies, especially with less overacting, which ironically makes them more outrageous.

From the movies the 2nd one (with the cast from the 3rd show) is my favorite, with a lovely Verhoeven esque future on display. The 1st one (with the cast from the 2nd show) is fun too but a bit too over the top. Both obviously suffer a bit if you haven't seen the shows as the "reunion" aspect and new twists are lost on the viewer.

Of course, I own the OOP box sets for all of them. Probably the most beautiful things in my collection.

The shows sound pretty awesome, but I don't know if they've been released in the US (or at least with English subtitles). And I'm sure if I had seen the shows, I'd enjoy the films more. The reunions and twists were lost on me, but that's okay. 😁

I think I prefer the first film because of how over-the-top it is actually. Also, I feel that Yoko Minamino is a more charismatic actress than Yui Asaka. And I think Minamino's characters arc is more interesting too, which is a big part of why I liked the first film more. I did really enjoy both films and I can see myself watching them over and over.

And I agree, those are some great-looking box sets.

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Black Lizard (黒蜥蜴) (Japan, 1962) [TV] - 2/5
The best detective in Japan (Minoru Oki) battles female super villain known as Black Lizard (Machiko Kyo) in a cartoonish and episodic Edogawa Rampo story. This is the 1962 Daiei version, not the better known Shochiku/Kinji Fukasaku 1968 version. This has occasional colourful charm, a battle of wits and even musical numbers, but it's also painfully long and talkative.

Blind Monk Swordsman (悪坊主侠客伝) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] - 1.5/5
Toei's ninkyo yakuza shot at getting their share of Zatoichi's popularity with a blind yakuza monk character. Too bad it isn't any good. Famed jidai geki veteran Jushiro Konoe (the father of Hiroki Matsukata) plays the role as if he was a loudmouth Osaka punk - quite the contrast to the lovable blind masseur or even the pervert monk played by Tomisaburo Wakayama in the later Wicked Priest series. It simply does not work as the character is irritating and the storyline an incoherently told mess. In brief, it’s about a bad man re-discovering humanity via woman and child while clashing with the yakuza and being hunted by a man called “Death” who has his own dark past, all set against the backdrop of industrialization. I was at the verge of falling asleep when an unexpected sight of a woman running with her boobs out, and the following comment about how it suck to be blind at a time like that, woke me up halfway into the film. Another highlight comes in form of a powerful ending shot accompanied by Toshiaki Tsushima's (The Street Fighter, Battles Without Honor and Humanity) score. The rest isn't worth it.


Theater of Life - New Hishakaku Story(人生劇場 新・飛車角) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] – 3.5/5
A loose remake and expansion of the second Theatre of Life film (1963), devoting its entire running time to Tsuruta searching for his lost love Yoshiko Sakuma after returning from war. He hooks up with a bunch of travelling strippers and their manager (Hiroyki Nagato) in an attempt to locate her. This is an epic tale steadily if not exceptionally handled by Tadashi Sawashima, with Koji Tsuruta being the perfect man to play Hishakaku. The film’s most memorable part - aside marring Tsuruta with strippers - is the unusually realistic and prolonged final fight. The film, like its predecessors, was more or less based on Koyo Ozaki's novel which in turn was a fictionalized and romanticized account of gangster Hikoichi Ishiguro (Noboru Ando mentioned the real person was nothing like the noble film hero). There was a relatively successful attempt in 1974 to de-romanticise the tale for the jitsuroku era with True Account of Hishakaku: A Wolf's Honor and Hunanity. Sawashima's films however remain the most remarkable versions, with the 1st movie often considered the primary work that modelled the ninkyo genre and launched its popularity.


Japan's Most Chivalrous (Japan) (日本大侠客) (1966) [TV] - 1.5/5
Masahiro Makino's adaptation of an often filmed story, hailed as one of the finest ninkyo films by Chris D, who also described it as "fast moving". I struggle to comprehend his view almost as much as I struggled with the film. Nothing really happens at all during the first 70 minutes except some old lady dies of boredom, I mean illness, and Tsuruta almost gets into a fight, twice! Makino was one of the most prolific and respected of ninkyo directors, yet his films often strike as slow paced and visually as well as emotionally flat to me. This is the most non-eventful of his films that I've seen. There is one particular point of interest, though, villain actor Bin Amatsu is cast against type as a good guy. This is the only time I have ever seen him play a good guy, and it's a shame his role is so small.

The Lone Stalker (ひとり狼) (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Classic matatabi film with Raizo Ichikawa as a nihilist lone wanderer. The storyline is a bit too centred on exposing the main character's back story (as opposed to wandering) but the emotional climax is surprisingly powerful. As an added bonus the film teaches you the tabinin's guesthouse etiquette. Extremely useful. One of Ichikawa’s last films before his untimely death in 1969 at the age of 37.


Wicked City (妖獣都市) (Japan, 1987) [DVD] - 3/5
Horror anime misses its noir potential by being too fast paced and technically video-like; however, it's packed with impressively grotesque monster imagery and explicit sex. Yoshihiro Nishimura seems to have been highly influenced by this when he made Tokyo Gore Police. Superficial but entertaining, essential in the genre.

New Love in Tokyo (愛の新世界) (Japan, 1994) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
Interesting departure from the usual pink sleaze, with a fleshy sex biz tale told as existential city drama. Perhaps best described as post- Thelma & Louise dive into the seedy night, it steers away from the usual sexism and female objectification of pink films (a genre this movie borders on) with a story focus on strong, active women (one a prostitute, other a dominatrix who makes men crawl in front of her but never has sex with them, and part times as amateur stage actress) and their friendship. Blending in dozens of Nobuyoshi Araki's stunning art photos, documentation of sex trade mechanics and mid 90s Tokyo (can't believe the Yamanote trains looked exactly the same as today, with even the ad fames in the same places and same size) and imaginative little touches (gotta love the scene where she dials down the films colours, and then restores them later) the film largely overcomes what are real but not especially interesting characters. The film is too long at 115 min but the last half hour is terrific.


While the Women Are Sleeping (女が眠る時) (Japan, 2016) [Netflix] - 2/5
Rarely do you see a potent thriller lose its way as badly as this Wayne Wang Japan entry does. A novelist and his wife run into a creepy old man (Takeshi Kitano) vacationing with a sexy teenage girl (Shioli Kutsuna) in a resort. What is going on? It turns out even the filmmakers did not know. After building a solid mystery for the first hour, the film throws in every imaginable explanation and asks the viewer to pick up his preferred one. Perhaps a re-watch would bring more sense to the film, but the trick is so cheap it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to do that.

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Be-bop High School (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール) (Japan, 1985) [DVD] - 3.5/5
I had little interest in this series until a guy who owns a movie bar in Tokyo (with a torn up Wolfguy poster on the bathroom door!) told me it's a ton of fun. He was right. This was one of the pinnacles of Japanese 80s pop culture, merging the delinquent boy comic book action popular since the 70s with the 80s idol and high school action formulas (Sailor Suit and Machine Gun, Sukeban Deka etc.). Toru Nakamura and Kojiro Shimizu play hard-fisted high school kids who go against gang leader Hitoshi Ozawa who has turned the school into a yakuza training camp. It's a lot of fun with attitude, cool soundtrack, not-too-silly comedy, hard-punching action and cutie Miho Nakayama (Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform). Takashi Miike's Crows Zero films were the modern versions of this.  Director Hiroyuki Nasu had been making music video influenced Roman Pornos (e.g. The Warriors rip-off Virgin nanka kowakunai, 1984) but this mainstream film finally let him shine. Co-writer Machiko Nasu (who also debuted at Nikkatsu with the excellent A Girl's Pleasure: Man Hunting, 1977), was his wife.

Be-bop High School: Koko yotaro elegy (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール 高校与太郎哀歌) (Japan, 1986) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Not a bad sequel. While there's initially a bit less kick to the action/pop/comic book mix, and it lacks some of the lean story of the first film, it makes up for it with an insanely fun action finale full of crazy stunts and street fighting. There's also a nice addition of ass kicking school girls (both sukeban and more casual variety) that spice up the film. Slightly inferior to the first film, but the fun is still there in plenty.


Be-Bop High School: Koko yotaro koshinkyoku (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール 高校与太郎行進曲) (Japan, 1987) [DVD] - 3/5
Part 3. Miho Nakayama is gone (replaced by Izumi Igarashi from Shojo Commando Izumi, playing similar character in similar manners), and so is the plot. The film works even without them, however. The soundtrack and the action, particularly towards the end, are once again highly enjoyable. By this film Toru Nakamura and Kojiro Shimizu had reached pretty respectable levels as action performers (as mainstream actors), and there are several bits of inventive choreography that puts many real martial arts movies to shame. There's some great humour as well (including a particularly funny scene with jealousy struck Shimizu trying to deal with a girl choosing another guy over him), and the 1st, 2nd and n'th panty shot in the series (just mentioning) which may or may not been a factor in making this the 8th most popular domestic film at the 1987 box office.


Be-Bop High School: Koko yotaro kyoso-kyoku (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール 高校与太郎狂騒曲) (Japan, 1987) [DVD] - 2.5/5
Part 4, the first one that is sort of bad... yet sort of good. You can clearly sense the "anything goes" approach where no joke is too bad as long as it helps fill in the running time and not too much care has been put into ensuring every scene is as good as the previous one. The film is also surprisingly, and regrettably, sadistic in places. Yet, the characters are still awesome and there are many good/funny bits so you can't help but to be entertained most of the time.

Be-Bop High School: Koko yotaro ondo (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール 高校与太郎音頭) (Japan, 1988) [DVD] – 1.5/5
Part 5. No Hiroshi, no plot. Even the pop aesthetics and catchy tunes have largely dried up. Action has taken a dive as well. Mrs. Nasu must have been totally out of ideas and Mr. Nasu there just for his pay check to buy some rice for Mrs. Nasu. Occasional school girl panty shots are probably the film's biggest merits. Oh and Takeo Chii is still on board as a cop. The kids these days knew him best from a TV program Mr. Chii Walks Around (Chii sanpo) where he was the old man walking around. Nothing to do with this film but I don't have anything else write about.


Be-Bop High School: Koko yotaro kanketsu-hen (ビー・バップ・ハイスクール 高校与太郎完結篇) (Japan, 1988) [Netflix] – 1.5/5
The last and least Be-Bop film, with shabbiest storyline and all around tiresome execution. Only the tiniest spark remains in the once-so-amusing quarrelling between Tooru and Hiroshi (back for this final entry), and worse yet, the film devotes large chunks of screen time to entirely forgettable supporting punks. Followed by a V-Cinema revival in 1994 with new cast and crew.

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The Viper Brothers: Just Out of Jail (懲役太郎 まむしの兄弟) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 2/5 
Part 1 in a long running (8+1 films) action/comedy/melodrama series about a pair of short tempered, amoral, but not evil chinpira (Bunta Sugawara and Tamio Kawaji) thinking too big of themselves. Cinematically unspectacular, save for the fine chemistry between Kawaji and Sugawara, it is nevertheless interesting to place this film in the cinematic cannon. Made just prior to the jitsuroku era, before Sugawara established his image as the bad boy of gangster cinema, the direction Japanese cinema was heading to was already evident in how this film frequently portrays its "heroes" in unflattering light. Sugawara and Kawaji may have their comedy moments and emerge as heroes at the end, but only after bullying innocent people, making fools of themselves and even trying to rape a woman.


The Viper Brothers: Cruel Gratitude (まむしの兄弟 お礼参り) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 2/5
Part 2. More of the same with a bit less edge to the main characters who behave better this time. There are some energetic club scenes and Noboru Ando has a decent if familiar silent tough guy supporting role, though. The director is Tatsuo Honda, a long time assistant director who only ever directed two films. This was the first, followed by one pink film in 1975. He'd go on to work as writer and producer.

The Viper Brothers: Prison Gang 13 (まむしの兄弟 懲役十三回) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Part 3. This one is set in 1935, continuity be damned (the first two were post WWII). Sugawara and Kawaji nevertheless seemingly portray the same characters. Such disregard to continuity is actually beautiful! That's about as far as this film's excitement goes, unfortunately. Routine chinpira comedy lacks the grittiness of the first film. Instead it features Sugawara becoming a babysitter.

The Viper Brothers: 18 Extortion Threats (まむしの兄弟 傷害恐喝十八犯) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 2/5
Part 4. Sugawara tries to overcome a traumatic experience of getting in bed blindfolded with a girl who turned out to be an old granny. Later he and Kawaji try to settle down in a neighbourhood harassed by businessman yakuza Bin Amatsu. Very little to remember here. Like many of the Abashiri Prison sequels, this series seemed to be running on the fumes of its star power - which the audience did not mind. Four plus one more films were to come.

The Viper Brothers: Jail - Living for 4 1/2 Years (まむしの兄弟 刑務所暮し四年半) (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 3/5
Part 5. Delightful start with Tatsuo Endo as a nice guy prison guard! How many times have you seen that? He does mention he's a former inmate for having killed 4 men but oh well. The rest of the film isn't half bad either. Kosaku Yamashita, well past his prime by 1973, manages some characterization that reminds of his 60s films and come with surprisingly moving results. Sugawara and Kawaji's chemistry is even more evident here than usual, the storyline is alright if melodramatic, and we got Kyosuke Machida (henchman) with cool beard and the always good Tsunehiko Watase (young hood) on board as well. One of the best films in the series.


The Viper Brothers: Extortion Plot for 3,000,000 Yen (まむしの兄弟 恐喝三億円) (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 3/5
Part 6. Another really funny opening with Sugawara just out of prison (every film in the series starts this way) and having to hitch hike a ride with a group of vacationing grannies. This was Norifumi Suzuki's entry in the series, and it shows. The humour is lowbrow, women fall in love with their rapists, and the film is uneven with several early scenes directed on auto pilot. There's also great action, good laughs, more boobs than in any other film in the series, and just when you least expect it Suzuki pulls out genuinely touching characterization with gangster's subordinate Hiroki Matsukata, a discriminated man of Chinese ethnicity, always reminded that he's no better than a dog. There's great sadness behind his superficially cool sunglassed look, skilfully conveyed by Matsukata.

The Viper Brothers: Up on 30 Charges (まむしの兄弟 二人合わせて30犯) (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 2/5
Part 7. Kawachi finds his long lost mother, who is a rich lady of a respectable family. Comedy and melodrama ensue. Watchable but hardly exciting entry save for a few highlights such as the excessively violent ending and a wonderful only-in-Japan comedy rape when jailed Sugawara is determined to have sex with a female guard despite there being bars between them. Michi Azuma (the topless swordswoman from Babycart in Peril) plays a tomboy girl who wants to join the bros, overdoing it a bit while remaining clothed this time.

The Viper Brothers and the Young General (まむしと青大将) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 1.5/5
The last in the series. Sugawara runs into two mahjong cheaters (Ichiro Araki and Mako Midori + sidekick Takuzo Kawatani) whom he takes for friends in need as his naivety prevents him from seeing their true nature. Sadly this is waste of good cast, with cool-Araki, maniac-Kawatani and femme fatale Midori all in relatively restrained, boring roles. Kawachi doesn't appear until 35 min into the film. Sugawara's mother complex becomes a pain, too. The grit, the drama and the fun of parts 1, 5 and 6 respectively are nowhere to be found here. This is typical routine Nakajima with an occasional fun or exciting moment (the mahjong scenes fare the best). Note that there was one film made before this, Scoundrel vs. The Viper Brothers, which was a cross-over with the Tomisaburo Wakayama action comedy series and seems to be primarily considered part of that series.


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Mako Midori x 4

Night Scandal (Akujo) (悪女) (Japan, 1964) [TV] – 2.5/5
Toei had Yusuke Watanabe, Mako Midori and Mayumi Ogawa team up for this lesser, more conservative follow-up in the wake of the success of Two Bitches (1964). Ogawa is an innocent maid entering a decadent house with predatory playboy son Tatsuo Umemiya, lesbian party bitch Midori, and wife Hizuru Takachiho who is waiting for the old man to die and pass his fortunes to her. Pretty watchable exploitation-melodrama, but Ogawa is the weakest link. She's loud, hysterical and a bit annoying, which is at odds with the role she's playing. Umemiya fares the best, surprisingly. He spent two decades playing sexist playboy characters, usually seen thru a questionable macho filter. Here, however, he is a genuine bastard whose actions are not glorified.


Female (Mesu) (牝) (Japan, 1964) [TV] - 3.5/5
Amazingly convoluted but breathtakingly shot tale of a somewhat disturbed young woman (Mako Midori) engaging in a relationship with a married man at night and spying on his wife at day. The wife then seeks consolation from an attorney who just happens to be Midori's old man (who is unaware of his daughter's game)! And that's just the beginning of the storyline! Entertaining in spite of (or perhaps partly because of) its melodramatic convolution, it's also packed with beautiful melancholy with Midori wandering through the night and observing the city in lyrical images of exceptional beauty. Some of these scenes feel almost as if they were directed by Wong Kar Wai or Hirokazu Koreeda, and filmed by Ping Bin Lee (In the Mood for Love, Air Doll). Also, there is an amazing scene where Midori, who’s gotten herself on a TV show, "spies" on her lover and his wife making love via the television screen.


Impudent Vixen (Abazure) (あばずれ) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 3/5
Entertaining Yusuke Watanabe / Mako Midori drama about a naive young girl who joins the circus and becomes a token for the male performers. For the most part, this feels old fashioned yet daring at the same time, a melodrama with bubbling-under sexuality and bizarre circus setting stylishly filmed in black and white almost like a film noir. The final reel is less impressive, with conservative and perhaps underlyingly misogynist end. Midori is good despite overacting, but it's Kyosuke Machida who shines as a lecherous trapeze artist lurking at young girls.


Pretty Devil Yoko (非行少女ヨーコ) (Japan, 1966) [DVD] - 3/5
Easily bored, but still innocent and naive countryside girl Mako Midori discovers partying in Tokyo is a ton of fun. Yakuza-to-be Ichiro Araki is an acquaintance who tries to rape her, and the typically bland but very-good-here Hayato Tani the first boyfriend. Director Yasuo Furuhata (his first picture) lets his camera roll in trendy clubs amongst partying youngsters in a way that could've been out of 60s England or a Nikkatsu film if it wasn't shadowed by dated 60s Toei conservatism. The resulting film is a bit confused, either a rebellious youth tale chained by moral concerns, or something conceived as a morality tale trying to break free from its chains. It's notable that this, like most Midori films, got slapped with an 18 rating despite featuring nothing graphic, as if out of fear of how it might influence the teenagers. Lavishly filmed with striking B&W compositions, the film retains its visual cool even during the more moralizing moments. For a superb 70s counterpart, see Tooru Murakawa's Delicate Skilful Fingers (1972), also with Araki.


Recent films x 5

Rapist (犯る男) (Japan, 2015) [Netflix] - 2.5/5
Abused young woman falls in love with a homeless thief/murderer/rapist who lives by the river with his glorious special effect zombie monster dog. This is one movie that proved my initial assessment of it as garbage wrong. The first half is dull and the train groping parts downright ridiculous, but the further it gets, the odder it becomes till it ends up downright memorable twisted love story. But the best thing about the movie: the John Carpenter / Escape from New York rip-off score. The film, released theatrically as R18 and R15 versions in porn and arthouse cinemas respectively in 2014 and 2015, marked a sort of comeback for junk director Daisuke Yamanouchi (I once asked a friend who was working on a Daisuke Yamanouchi article which of his movies he'd recommend. His reply: none). The version reviewed here is the R15 one, running 70 minutes. The R18 version is supposed to have the same running time, more or less (it was released as a “Groper Train” film, btw). In 2017 Yamanouchi also released a 90 minute director’s cut, also with an R15 rating. And Amazon US is streaming a 61 minute version called Wanted: For Forced Entry, reportedly missing almost all sex.  


Ken and Kazu (ケンとカズ) (Japan, 2015) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
Ice cold indie drama about two drug dealers making a barely sufficient living by dealing meth on suburban streets. The film opens with them mercilessly beating the shit out of punks who came to their territory. There's not one bit of Scorsese or Coppola's glory, not even Fukasaku's explosive chaos, but only bleak realism. Initially almost unwatchable for this reason, little by little the film gets under the viewer's skill thanks to terrific performances and fine characterization with the slightest bit of humanity inserted into Ken's character who is about to become a father. Debut director Hiroshi Shoji also helms the film with just enough visual cool to compensate for the draining nihilism. The last 25 minutes is less impressive with a more conventional confrontation. Nevertheless, the most noteworthy crime film from Japan in a while.


One Cut of the Dead (カメラを止めるな!) (Japan, 2017) [Flight] – 4/5
For my distrust in new Japanese indies, I skipped this one in theatres despite it becoming the Japanese cinematic phenomena of the year (it went from having no certain theatrical release to receiving limited arthouse release to finally ending up with massive mainstream distribution comparable to Marvel films as the word spread… it was made for $25 000 and went on to gross $25 million). My mistake! What begins as a moderately amusing zombie film (a frustrated film director summons real zombies to get genuine reactions from his cast and tries to film it all) shot in a single 36 minute take then turns into an absolutely genius and hilarious cinematic wonder. It is best not to reveal anything about the film’s final hour and let the audience discover it for themselves. Also don’t be put off by the film’s trailer – like the movie itself, it’s pulling the viewer’s leg.

Alley Cat (アリーキャット) (Japan, 2017) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
A failed boxer (Yôsuke Kubozuka) and a punk (rock star Kenji Furuya) try to help a woman blackmailed by obsessive ex with revenge porn. They are soon way over their heads as they run into her old acquaintances. Surprisingly good neo noir built on a socially aware blue collar indie drama. There are some very well acted and directed low key segments, as well as impressively realistic violence. In one scene the boxing hero's encounter with two gangster-like bodyguards leaves him lying on the ground nearly dead after receiving "only" a couple of hard punches and kicks. The storyline gets convoluted towards the end and struggles to find an entirely satisfying closing, though. Director Hideo Sakaki is best known as the main villain in Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus; he's also a competent director this movie proves.


Shoplifters (万引き家族) (Japan, 2018) [Flight] – 4/5
Perhaps Koreeda’s most accessible film with heartfelt, uniformly excellent performances by every central player. The characters, the direction and the performances are so good, so entertaining yet socially conscious that you don’t realize until halfway into the film that you don’t actually know anything about their backgrounds, which is something the film cleverly begins to examine from then on.

Edited by Takuma

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Circuit of Sorrow (哀愁のサーキット) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3.5/5
Extremely interesting, if slightly ham-fisted 2nd follow-up to Tôru Murakawa's landmark Roman Porno Delicate Skillful Fingers (1972). Based on real life Toyota race driver and fashion model Sachio Furusawa (Tôru Minegishi) who tragically died on track in 1969 and pop singer Tomoko Ogawa (Kei Kiyama), the film depicts their brief romance in the shadow of media pressure. Like Delicate Skillful Fingers, the film is essentially a Nikkatsu youth film conceived under the Roman Porno reign. There are fast cars, a bunch of Sun Tribe youngsters who challenge the protagonist to a bike race, and absolutely shitloads of catchy pop music (enough that they released an LP). But the title oversells the film: there's little sorrow on the circuit as the protagonist is only behind the racing car wheel in the opening and closing scenes. There's potential for great melancholic poetry which comes thru occasionally (their departure from a seaside motel on a rainy day is soaked with movie magic), but the protagonist is superficially written and portrayed. Murakawa's touch likewise isn't as sharp and dynamic as in Skillful Fingers, even if he claims to have had the actors have real sex in the camera. The film nevertheless remains highly entertaining, extremely stylish and thematically fascinating, and is yet another example of Nikkatsu Roman Porno’s incredible versatility.


Kôkôsei burai hikae: Kanjirû Muramasa (高校生無頼控 感じるゥ~ムラマサ) (Japan, 1973) [VoD] – 2/5
Part 3. The last and least of the three Kazuo Koike Muramasa adaptations. This time Muramasa saves a girl from drowning herself, then proceeds to demonstrate the beauty of living by making love to her (he forgets to ask permission). Moments later he's selling school girl panties and agrees to molest one while being photographed to trick a clueless parent (yakuza baddie Toru Abe!) to pay abortion money! Great opening half hour, naughty and perverted to the bone, yet plays out like a cheerful family film. These kinds of boys' fantasies would be impossible to film in Western countries. Too bad from halfway on the film completely loses its steam. One problem is the plot - there isn't one. Basically by that time Muramasa has shagged too many girls and there's trouble with boxer/kendo kid Eiji Go & the silly gang who are both protecting the honour of one of Muramasa's conquests and intend to propose another one. At the end there is a bad car chase and some fighting, all of it purely comedic.

Yakuza vs. G-Men: Decoy (やくざ対gメン 囮) (Japan, 1973) [Netflix] - 4/5
Ruthless drug dealer (Hiroki Matsukata) is busted and forced to become a mole for an equally ruthless undercover cop (Tatsuo Umemiya) in a stylish, little known gangster film gem. Void of any comic relief, the film is bad to the bone with unmistakable jitsuroku aesthetics - even if it's entirely fictional. Writer Koji Takada and director Eiichi Kudo examine the honour/brotherhood tension between two bad men (the cop is so deep undercover that, except for his superiors who have also grown suspicious of him, everyone treats him as a gangster and he behaves accordingly) without going too over the top, and the film does exceptional job capturing the pulse of the city and streets. Bunta Sugawara has a great supporting role as Chinese (!) drug boss. The film's main flaw? It actually feels too short at 93 minutes!


Onsen osana geisha (温泉おさな芸者) (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 1.5/5
The 6th and final Hot Springs Geisha film, somehow as tame if not even tamer than the 1968 Teruo Ishii original. This was directed by the walking definition of mediocre Ryuichi Takamori who sabotaged a whole bunch of Sonny Chiba films. Occasionally he delivered good entertainment, though. Silly, childish and largely void of exploitation, this still remains just about watchable, partly because it's wise enough to focus on its theme (modern harem in onsen town), unlike the fore-mentioned Ishii film (which is the best comparison point because all the other films were better, especially part 2). It's also somewhat fast moving at delightfully short 70 minutes, positive rather than smutty, and features high school girl geishas. The rating could be perhaps a notch higher.  

Impact: Prostitution Capital (衝撃!売春都市) (Japan, 1975) [TV] - 2.5/5
G-man Tatsuo Umemiya infiltrates a narcotics/prostitution racket in a poorly crafted, but astonishingly on-your-face morality lesson. Structurally it's all over the place with zero charisma gangster Jo Shiraishi getting the lion's share of the screen time, and no real tension between him and Umemiya, however the film has something else in its pocket. The first questionable highlight comes in form of a disgusting educational shock footage accompanying a doctor's explanation to a woman how she's got syphilis from sleeping with strangers and is going to die a horrible death after her body deforms. And even this scene pales in comparison to the jaw dropping moral punch ending that must be seen to be believed! The film features the real life anti drugs/prostitution/sexually transmitted diseases campaigner Tsusai Sugawara as Umemiya's boss. There was a trio of entertaining Sonny Chiba films (A Narcotics Agent's Ballad, Terrifying Flesh Hell, Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok Drug Triangle, 1972-1973) "based on" the guy’s ramblings, but in true Toei fashion the films were exploitative and seductive enough to occasionally beat the “purpose”. In Impact, however, Sugawara's pathos was back with a vengeance. The film was made in collaboration with his “Three Evils Prevention Association”.


Japan's Violent Islands: Murder in the Capital by an Army of Killers (日本暴力列島 京阪神殺しの軍団) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 2/5
Weak jitsuroku tale by 60s ninkyo master Kosaku Yamashita, who often lost his touch with the grittier 70s material. The film not only fails to establish strong characters, but it also comes with clumsy edits and a somewhat misfit laidback score by the usually great Masao Yagi. There are occasional impressively cold blooded moments (e.g. Hideo Murota's disposal in the beginning) but most of the film leaves the viewer feel indifferent. Things are not helped by Nikkatsu migrant Akira Kobayashi, whose teddy bear looks never sold the jitsuroku psycho characters the way Sugawara, Watase or fellow Nikkatsu escapee Watari could under good direction. Here Kobayashi plays a fictionalized character based on real life gangster Jiro Yanagawa, the head of the Yanagawa gang. The film shows his rise in the 1950s. But he and the other character are regrettably superficial, a problem probably arising from adapting real life events into a film without enough consideration to cinematic characterization. In this respect, too, Yamashita's 60s output was much more satisfying.


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Bad Girl Mako (Japan, 1971) fansub 3/5
Mako (Junko Natsu) is a.. bad girl, running around smoking weed, cheating people for money with a gang of girls...despite the fact that she carries around a teddy bear for the first half of the movie (or at least until she finally has sex). Tatsuya Fuji plays her older brother, a young yakuza trying to win favor in the ranks. (Jo Shisido in a small role plays the big boss)
Jiro Okazaki leads a gang of young street hoods, and Mako falls in love with one of them, despite the fact he cheated over the Yakuza her brother is involved with. You can probably figure out what that leads to. 
Junko Natsu had a pretty busy 1970 and after the final installment of the High School series in January of 1971, she found herself graduating BACK to the bad girl real world of urban Japan with this Nikkatsu film.
As skinny as you can be, but with her gang of girls, tough enough to strong arm anyone from local horny dudes to little school children, Mako doesn’t take no shit. Not as hip as the Stray Cat movies (though all of the elements are here - cool clothes, rock bands, drugs), but not as raw as what would follow, the camera DOES however love Junko, and her pretty face is regularly close upped for reaction.
Very watchable, moves along at good pace, and Junko is cute as a button.

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Edited by chazgower01

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Black Panther Bitch M (Japan, 1974) fansub 3/5
Lots of Japanese regulars take part in Reiko Ike's only Nikkatsu film, giving it some substance, but not enough to make it rise above the titillation of her previous work or the quality seriousness of the three Kinji Fukasaku movies she'd follow up with.
Still, she wouldn't be the focal point of those three, whereas here she takes center stage. Nikkatsu makes her run and jump all over the place in this movie, primarily in and around and up and down industrial buildings, all while wearing clogs! It's entertaining, and she looks great of course.  
And even though the first 20 minutes drag a bit, it sets up the ending which has a great deal of eyebrow-raising tension to it and makes it one worth seeing.



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Shameless School: Physical Examination (Harenchi Gakuen: Shintai Kensa no Maki) - (Japan, 1970) fansub - 2/5

Based on a manga, this must be some Japanese cultural thing… A Girls’ Junior High School is run by three quirky characters - a Caveman, a Clown, and some weird looking demented Samurai. Their sole purpose it seems is to get the under age girls out of their clothing. They fail at it and then the class of girls attacks them and rips all of THEIR clothing off.

When they come up with a scheme for a ‘health inspection’ (to get them out of their clothes), a local perverted doctor takes over with the same idea (and an equally perverted staff of male students), but when the girls figure it out - again they attack and tear off the men’s clothing.

Then Jo Shisido shows up as a cowboy. What the hell…

Cute Miyuki Kojima (18 at the time, as I’m sure they all were) leads the students, and there are poop jokes and… towards the end they end up on a deserted island, and it almost seems like a normal kids movie, if you can forget about the moderate inappropriate nudity earlier in the film, and the nuns getting stripped to their underwear and…



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The Most Dangerous Game (Japan, 1978) fansub 3.5/5

directed by Tôru Murakawa

Hitman Narumi (Yûsaku Matsuda) is hired to rescue one of a series of kidnapped CEO’s in this gritty, urban crime movie (the first of three), involving yakuza, crooked cops, and corrupt businessmen.

There’s a STYLISHLY realistic atmosphere to it, as opposed to an actual one, but it looks cool, and 1970’s Japan is one of my more favorite places to see a movie filmed.

Keiko Tasaka plays the sexy girlfriend of one of the bad guys, who gets smacked around by our ‘hero’, before he rapes her! She, of course, ends up ‘liking it’ and then refuses to leave him alone. She spends the rest of the movie hounding him.

In fact, it seemed weird to me how often he gets beaten up, except when he’s roughing up women or weak people, but of course when he starts shooting - then pretty much everyone goes down.

As 70’s Japanese Anti-heroes go, he’s got the cool shades, can take a beating, is a little quirky, can take or leave the most beautiful women and still get the job done at the end of the day. (Note: Yûsaku Matsuda was a huge star in Japan, but probably remembered most in the U.S. for his part in the 1989 Michael Douglas film Black Rain)

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Edited by chazgower01

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The Killing Game (Japan, 1978) fansub 3/5

directed by Tôru Murakawa

Hitman Narumi (Yûsaku Matsuda) is back, this time a little less beaten up, a lot less rapey, but just as ready to kill for hire as before. And just as quirky.

It starts off with him making a hit on a businessman, where a little girl sees him on the elevator and he takes a secretary as hostage, but he spares both their lives. After leaving town for 5 years he returns, running into both of them and seeing how their lives have changed because of it.

He’s hired by two different crime boss’ to kill the other, and both women get caught up in it. All leading to a bloody finale, including a (not-so) steady-cam one take gun battle through the bosses hideout.

Lots of yakuza’s in suits running lickety split through the streets after each other and some late 70’s movie violence/shooting. Atmospheric mood, and a cool soundtrack that’s equal parts psuedo-jazz, Herb Albert and bar lounge. Murakawa's vision of this world is bleak and unrelenting, and his anti-hero's 'who cares' attitude while surviving by the slightest of margins is pretty entertaining.

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The Execution Game (Japan, 1979) fansub 3/5

directed by Tôru Murakawa

Cool but quirky Hitman Narumi (Yûsaku Matsuda) is back in the final part of the trilogy, much more weary and tired of it all, but drawn back in anyway. He’s kidnapped and given an assignment, untrusting and unsure of what it’s all about, having a history of double crosses.

He still has a knack for pissing off anyone who tries to get close to him, especially women, but this time he’s fallen in love with a nightclub singer. That doesn’t usually end well in a hard boiled movie, and he finds out she was ALSO kidnapped by these guys, forcing him to do this job.

Director Tôru Murakawa’s trilogy of these films may follow a specific formula in their presentation, but this is a character who has grown throughout that trilogy, no longer falling asleep at a strippers stage or carelessly surrounding himself with party girls that he can’t pay the bill for… life has worn him down… the booze, the women, the killing…

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Angel Guts - High School Co-ed (Japan, 1978) fansub 4/5

dir: Chûsei Sone

Kawashima and his two biker friends spend their time riding around and raping unsuspecting young girls. Much younger than them. His sister, Megu is coming of age, and men are starting to notice her. Ironically being overprotective he starts to feel conflicted.

One day while out with his sister he saves a girl from his friend trying to rape her, which ends up leading to even more conflicted feelings. Has he fallen in love? What makes her different from the other rape victims he shares with his friend? Does he see his sister in this girl? Is he attracted to his sister? Is he distancing himself from his gang?

Director Chûsei Sone shoots this like the viewer is there, hanging out and observing, privy to the private conversations and shocking behavior. That makes it all that more realistic and difficult to look away from.

It’s part of a series obviously meant to titillate and yet it goes to great lengths to show us the ugliness and the pain of the victim. Machiko Ohtani as Nami, the girl who the gang fights over, gives a pretty brave performance considering especially what she has to go through in here (and Megu Kawashima as well, as the sister).

This is still an exploitation film, but it’s been made as a well-crafted movie, with something more to show you than just bikers punks raping school girls. That’s just an ugly world that happens to exist - we’re thrust inside of it when it suddenly tries to gain a conscience.

The ending is unsatisfying, as a way to finish a story. It was summed up better when, late in the movie, Kawashima asks one of the victims  “Who did this to you?” and she answers, “It doesn’t matter who does it”, as if in the end it’s just a foregone conclusion in the world they live in.

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Edited by chazgower01

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The Executioner (Japan, 1974) dvd 4/5

dir: Teruo Ishii

A disgraced police captain recruits three improbable tough guys - a ninja (Sonny Chiba), an ex-cop (Makoto Sato) and a pervert (Eiji Go) - and with the assistance of the captain’s sexy daughter (Yutaka Nakajima) that set about going after the mafia as it tries to bring heroin into Japan.

It’s brutal, bloody, has some great fights, and… it’s funny? Yep, and I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the silly humor in this, as these three seem a little out of place with it - making it all the more funny. Eiji Go in particular, as the sex crazed ex-criminal who keeps lusting after the daughter (at one point peeking at her panties under the table). It's not PC for sure, but it keeps you entertained every moment.

And as much humor as there is in it, there’s also plenty of action as Chiba has to square off against a number of formidable foes (and gets help from Japanese born but sometime HK movie fighter Yasuaki Kurata). There’s also a fair share of nudity as well, though strangely enough from primarily white women.

What more could you ask for? It’s one of Chiba’s most enjoyable.

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The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno (Japan, 1974) dvd 3/5

dir: Teruo Ishii

An immediate sequel to the funny and action-packed first movie, this is still funny, mostly, but with nowhere near the fighting. In fact for a movie called Karate Inferno, the lack of fighting in it is completely misleading. Sonny Chiba waits until the last 10 minutes of the movie (8 actually) before he finally gets to kick some butt.

The humor is mostly funny, as the three do have great chemistry, and the movie relies upon that all the way through. They ARE funny together and the script somehow manages to get as much mileage out of boogers and farts as is possible.

Yutaka Nakajima again is good only for another panty shot and Etsuko Shinomi in a small role is wasted until the last few minutes when she gets to show a few kicks and punches.

Watchable for the fact that it’s Chiba, who’s watchable in pretty much anything he does, but with anyone else this movie would be a huge disappointment.

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Danger Pays (危いことなら銭になる) (Japan, 1962) [DVD] - 1.5/5
Nerve wrecking idiot comedy with Joe Shishido, Hiroyuki Nagato and Kôjirô Kusanagi goofing around after stolen money and master counterfeiter. Production design and Shishido's car are admittedly cool.

Organized Crime 2 (続組織暴力) (Japan, 1967) [TV] - 4/5
Superb proto-jitsuroku type yakuza film by Junya Sato. Fumio Watanabe (in his best role) is a wonderfully untypical crime boss who says he hates the yakuza but acts like one, actually cares for his men, and is the first one to barge into a fist fight when rivals come knocking on the door. Powerful political figure Eijiro Yanagi becomes his consultant, after which short tempered boss Ryuhei Uchida starts feeling the fire under his arse, especially after Watanabe takes a Ginza gambling joint from Chicago mafia with the assistance of machine gun happy lone wolf Noboru Ando. Add Tetsuro Tanba, Hideo Murota and Rinichi Yamamoto (wonderfully cast against type) as a detective squad in desperate battle against red tape while trying to bring the gangs down. The story is fictional, but the film feels like a jitsuroku movie. Like Fukasaku in many of his films, Sato draws an entire underworld map with cops, gangsters and political players all placed on the chess table. The film is talkative, but never boring, feels extremely matter of fact.


Organized Crime: Loyalty Offering Brothers (組織暴力 兄弟盃) (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 3/5
Back-from-WWII hoodlum Sugawara and street crook Ando team up and form a gang. Fairly routine first half, after which both Ando and Sugawara mature into genuine psychopaths. The film turns correspondingly ultra-violent. Ando especially pulls no stops at torturing info out of his victims in scenes that would be at home in a Teruo Ishii film. The climatic shootout is just as bloody. Good stuff. Director Junya Sato parallels the brutality with Japan’s post-war social and political situation, though the allegory could be stronger. The large scale depiction of underworld dynamics that made Organized Crime 2 so impressive is mostly absent here. The films are only related in thematic and marketing sense.

Outlaw Corps (ごろつき部隊) (Japan, 1969) [TV] - 3/5
Toei's Where Eagles Dare / The Dirty Dozen mash-up with a squad of lifetime and death row prisoners (Tomisaburo Wakayama, Minoru Oki and a whole load of regular Toei villains) sent behind enemy lines with sarge Bunta Sugawara to free Osman Yusuf (gets killed before he manages to say a single line) and another prisoner of war. The limited budget and locations pale in comparison to the Western counterparts, but the concept and characters are pretty cool and the gunplay action not as haphazard as in some 60s Toei films. One of the film's charms is that although the characters are turned into heroes, they still retain a bit of their bad guy grit throughout the film. Quite an entertaining time waster.


Outcast Man (日陰者) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 3/5
Surprisingly good later day Kosaku Yamashita film with a beatiful depiction of honorable Tsuruta and his relationship with lover Kayo Matsuo. This kind of love based sentimentality was rare in the genre. Tsuruta's theme song a bit of a mismatch though, and the plot with evil Bin Amatsu building a factory and deceitful Kyosuke Matsuda being deceitful is thoroughly disposable (aside the fun fact that for once it's the good guys who want to blow up something!). The more soulful moments carry the film, however.

Escaped Murderer from Hiroshima Prison (脱獄広島殺人囚) (Japan, 1974) [DVD] – 3.5/5
Anarchic, entertaining jitsuroku film about a jail breaker (excellent Hiroki Matsuka) supposedly based on a real person. Director Nakajima helmed several films on autopilot, but this one is sparkling with violent energy, groovy score and clever humour arising from irony. The performances (most notably Watase, Wakayama, Kaneko, Murota and Umemiya) are all good and the escape scenes even too exciting: you find yourself rooting for the bad guys!


Prison Island Riot (暴動島根刑務所) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 3/5
Unexceptional but entertaining prison (not jitsuroku, apparently) film packed with reliable Toei bad guys (Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Kunie Tanaka, Goro Ibuki). Also features enough naked men squatting to have kept the censors busier than many pink flicks. The main weakness is the usual one in the prison genre: with wild but superficial characters literally confined, there's a sense of something holding the film back. The film is at its most enjoyable when the guys are on the run.

Blow the Night (“BLOW THE NIGHT ! " 夜をぶっとばせ) (Japan, 1983) [DVD] - 4/5 
Incoherent, yet fascinating youth docu-drama from Japan's golden era of educational problems. The film opens with live recording of The Street Sliders performing their rock hit "Masturbation" and then proceeds cut back and forth between two tales for the rest of the movie. The first features a band-affiliated girl exploring the ambivalent Tokyo in a strictly specified 24 hour timeframe in mid November, the other a transfer student (real delinquent Namie Takada) being a bully bitch in different, loosely specified place and timeframe spanning about one year. There's a bit of director Chusei Sone's own rock film Red Violation here, then there are youth doc style parts that actually resemble Shinji Somai's divine Taifu Club (1985). It's realistic and bleak with an unsympathetic lead, challenging partly because it's so confusingly told in places, and yet utterly fascinating in its documentation of youth, era, and location. It feels like the flawed work of a genius who wasn't in full control of his device. Sone produced this via his own company Film Workers as their first picture, following the thematically close but far more high flying sun tribe modernization The Young Ramblers (1981) for Toei Central.


Tokyo Vampire Hotel (東京ヴァンパイアホテル 映画版) (Japan, 2017) [VoD] - 1.5/5
Here goes Sion Sono down the Dario Argento path, not just in filming a Dracula film but quality wise too. Two vampire families are in war, and where else than in near future pop Tokyo. Too bad the bargain basement aesthetics are at constant odds with the pseudo epic mayhem. Even worse are the trigger happy vampires who are some kind of gothic Kyary Pamyu Pamyus and Dennis Rodmans, which is just embarrassing. Sono also has no idea how to make gunplay look good, chooses to have his main character (Ami Tomite) remain hysterical till the end, apes Scarface, steals from his own Bad Film, and smears it with some ugly CGI (though most of the splatter is practical). For some reason nudity is absent despite plentiful sexual content. The only positive: it's somewhat watchable in the train wreck sense. Oh, and this is the cut-together 142 min movie version; the original was a 6 hour Amazon Prime series.

Edited by Takuma

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Internal Sleuth (桜の代紋) (Japan, 1973) [TV] - 3/5
Detective Tomisaburo Wakayama sails in deep yakuza waters in Kenji Misumi's rare cop thriller. Impressively nihilist, but a bit underwhelming considering the talent involved. Misumi goes for a bleak tale of cops interacting with gangsters in a world that doesn't offer instant gratification, but the story could’ve been more memorable and characters deeper. The problem is, not very much happens in the film. The strongest part is the cold blooded ending.


Sex-Crime Coast: School of Piranha (肉体犯罪海岸 ピラニヤの群れ) (Japan, 1973) [VoD] – 1.5/5
Male and female delinquents dubbed as “Piranhas” (no, not the Toei guys) have sex on beach, take captives in a house, then have sex the house. Hitomi Kozue is the main bad girl getting jealous when shag partner Ryuji Nakamura gets intimate with rich girl Masumi Jun. Dull home invasion Roman Porno with a Sun Tribe flavor and a bit of gang content. Director Shogoro Nishimura merely slaps the genre premises together and proceeds to do nothing with them. Last reel action aside, it's embarrassingly unambitious for an early Roman Porno.

Writhing Tongue (震える舌) (Japan, 1980) [Netflix] - 3.5/5
A married couple (Tsunehiko Watase and Yukiyo Toake) struggle to keep their faith and sanity when their 5 year old daughter is struck by a painful and potentially deadly disease. Extremely difficult to watch in places, it's also an emotional sledge hammer that is impossible to get through without tears. The leading performances by Watase and Toake are terrific. Towards the end of the film they really look like they haven't slept in weeks.


Fist of the North Star (北斗の拳) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] - 3.5/5
Classic violence anime in post apocalypse setting, easily enjoyed even by a non-anime fanatic such as me. Kenshiro is basically an animated Bruce Lee gone into Sonny Chiba mode, delivering insane punch and kick combos that make enemies explode. The violence was famously toned down after the initial theatrical release and the uncut negatives apparently lost in fire soon after, but the film remains incredibly violent while still retaining a sense of fun, and a mainstream appeal unlike the similar Violence Jack films that upped the sadism (the 3rd one made me sick) and added sex which is absent here.

The Shinjuku Love Story (新宿純愛物語) (Japan, 1987) [TV] – 3/5
If you only saw the title, you wouldn't know about the giant machine gun! It's one of the many bits the film seems to lift from Aliens! But there is a better comparison piece than Aliens. In one scene the runaway teen lovers cross a Top Gun billboard. This film is the Japanese youth action equivalent of Top Gun, turbo charged celluloid 80s helmed by pop film specialist Hiroyuki Nasu (Be-bop High School, Lesbians in Uniforms). I initially dismissed Nasu as a hack, but his consistent overblown pop aesthetics and occasionally successful films support a re-evaluation. There are bikes, machine guns, flame throwers, cats, gangsters, high school girls, pop music and idol Toru Nakamura. Not quite as inventive as the first few Be-bop films, and held back by the evident restraint in the violence department (the hero rarely, if ever, aims to kill), but it's still an enjoyable a cinematic personification of the era, like much of Nasu's body of work.


Shishiotachi no natsu (獅子王たちの夏) (Japan, 1991) [VoD] – 2.5/5
Slow-burn, very 90s yakuza tale of a young hood (Sho Aikawa) and a family man gangster (Koji Matoba) belonging to rival gangs. Their stories parallel and influence each other but the characters barely even meet. A theatrical production that could've been a DTV film, the film is extremely typical to the era in that it trades excitement for an everyday tale that we are supposed to find interesting for some reason. And yet, it works if you have the patience. Aikawa is good, the girl she falls for (Miyuki Kosaka) kind of interesting, and there is certain 90s ambience captured in a way that feels valuable from today’s perspective. But the film is unbalanced (Aikawa getting much more attention than the other guy) and the storyline is no great shakes. Based on a script Shoji Kaneko (whose “Ryuji” I never liked despite its widespread acclaim) wrote before his death (1983).

Distant Justice (DISTANT JUSTICE 復讐は俺がやる) (Japan/USA, 1992) [TV] - 3/5
Vacationing cop Bunta Sugawara goes to USA and within 24 hours his car has been hijacked, daughter kidnapped and wife killed. And those are two unrelated incidents! George Kennedy is the useless police chief buddy, David Carradine a rotten politician in green knickers. Relatively good Toei V-Cinema by Toru Murakawa, who also helmed the slightly slicker New York Cop (1993), another one of Toei's mid 90s America ventures. The build up is slow, but the film is fun in a B-way with old man Sugawara (aged 59 here) punching and shooting people, occasional boobs, wooden acting and a score cheaper than a cheese burger. Sugawara's role is almost entirely in English and he does alright. He's trying too hard and doesn’t sound natural, but he remains quite understandable.


Mumon: The Land of Stealth (忍びの国) (Japan, 2017) [DVD] – 2/5
Modern jidai geki drama/comedy/action with an irritating schmuck of a protagonist and fucking Denden (the world would be a better place is he hadn't overwhelmed everyone in Cold Fish). Still not unwatchable as the storyline kind of wins you over and there are some inspired bits - gotta love the wooden figure diversion and the ending - but this kind of "clever" / "trendy" /" funny" / "touching” / GCI enhanced mainstream bullshit is really quite sad when compared to the 60s and 70s glory days.

Edited by Takuma

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Kinnosuke Nakamura x 3

Yatappe of Seki (関の弥太っぺ) (Japan, 1963) [DVD] - 3/5
Classic, often filmed matatabi tale of a young wanderer who saves a little girl whose pickpocket father is killed. The second half of the film picks up 10 years later when the protagonist has grown into a full-fledged yakuza wanderer and once again crosses paths with the same girl (now a woman). This Toei version pairs Kinnosuke Nakamura with soon-to-be ninkyo yakuza master Kosaku Yamashita. It's certainly a good film, but perhaps not as much my cup of green tea as Yamashita's “modern ninkyo” films. In this film as well I enjoyed the more yakuza oriented 2nd half the best (it's also beautifully filmed, especially the ending where Nakamura walks into a fight that is to begin after the film's end - the whole scene is just magnificently put together).


The Secret of the Urn (丹下左膳 飛燕居合斬り) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 2.5/5
Hideo Gosha's first Toei picture is below par in his otherwise gripping, visionary 60s filmography. He was reportedly brought in to breathe some final life into the out-of-fashion samurai film genre before Toei would pull off the cord and essentially cease samurai productions. He must have been given a very mediocre script to helm, in this case a new one-armed, one eyed swordsman Tange Sazen tale (the character dates back to the 1920s when he first appeared on screen; there were several Lady Sazen variations as well). Jidai geki legend Kinnosuke Nakamura stars; also one of his last samurai films before Toei brought the genre back big time with '78's Shogun's Samurai. Not bad, with plenty of action and some energetic touches, but nothing special either, though I'm unable to compare to the two dozen earlier Tange Sazen film as I haven't seen any of them.

Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (沓掛時次郎 遊侠一匹) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Tai Kato's adaptation of Shin Hasegawa’s often filmed book (at least 7 earlier films + TV versions). Kinnosuke Nakamura is a yakuza wanderer who is assigned to kill a man whose wife and son he had helped earlier. It’s basically ninkyo yakuza film with a matatabi touch and a bit of samurai film flavor. Masahiro Kakefuda and Naoyuki Suzuki's script is reportedly an improvement over the source material in some ways, adding more depth. Yet, it’s also one of Kato's more old fashioned emotional pictures, which is more to my liking anyway than the cold minimalism found in some of his other films. A classy story drawn in vivid colors, easily recommended.


Hisayasu Sato x 3

Survey Map of a Paradise Lost (ハードフォーカス 盗聴<ぬすみぎき) (Japan, 1988) - 2.5/5
A male reporter meets an underage call girl whose client is into videotaping all the perverted, often violent acts. Sex, VHS tapes, AIDS, slight cyberpunk vibe, and a speech about how beautiful idol Yukiko Okada looked when she lied in a pool of blood on the street after her suicide (1986). You wish the film was longer; the carnal action takes half of the otherwise interesting 64 minutes, though it must be said the twisted sex scenes are surprisingly watchable, and so is the cute-as-hell Rio Yanagawa.

Love - Zero = Infinity (いやらしい人妻 濡れる) (Japan, 1994) - 3.5/5
Hisayasu Sato's Shinjuku: a lonely protagonist observing strangers on the streets, a young couple injecting each other's blood into their veins, reports of a vampire killer on the loose, AIDS spreading via medical blood products. Slightly underwritten and falling short for its potential, this is still a fascinating existential pink film with a haunting score and great 90s aura.


Rafureshia (すけべ妻 夫の留守に) (Japan, 1995) – 1.5/5
Horny mother, neglected wife and brainwashed-by-sugar-daddy girl go the sexual liberation route in bizarre pink fashion. Too light and comedic, void of the sharp and nihilist socio-philosophical analysis of better Hisayasu Sato films. It's delightfully light on sex, though.

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Office Lady Rape: Devouring the Giant Tits (Japan, 1990) dvd 3/5

I recently traded with a friend of mine, and picked up a whole bunch of Hisayasu Sato films - my friend found a whole lot more he wanted of my stuff than I did his, so I just thought, why not pick up these?

Now I’m no expert on the pinku eiga genre, and rape just isn’t my thing, but… with a name like Office Lady Rape: Devouring the Giant Tits, could there possibly be an actual story here?

Well there is, I guess…An office worker (Shiina Ito) who just got her breasts enlarged is raped in an alley one night by some creep. Then we find out the son of the rapist saw the whole thing as he tries to apologize to her the next day! He gets his dad to apologize the day after and…she then goes on a raping spree with the son that doesn’t turn out quite how she planned…

The pixelation in this is annoying as ever but there’s a masturbation scene where Ito keeps her panties on, that may be as hot as anything I’ve seen in these pinku movies. 

Sato has a definite eye for weird style  - the rapist wipes the blood from Ito’s vagina all over her breasts (eehhh…) - the mannequin that acts as a replacement for the mom in the father and son’s household - the drill used as a scare weapon against the victim’s plastic surgery so they’ll not struggle while being raped…

And the eating fetish throughout…

I have to admit… the strange approach kept me interested (it’s only 60 minutes), even if the ending is somewhat puzzling. Not for everyone, but it does have style.

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Splatter: Naked Blood (Japan, 1996) dvd 3/5

A nerdy loner kid (Eiji) comes up with a cure for pain. It makes people feel good when they should feel hurt. His scientist mom is doing research on contraceptives and he mixes his formula in with the three female volunteers.

One of them he ends up getting involved with (the cute Misa Aika), who is already a bit different in that she has a condition that keeps her from ever sleeping (from psychological shock) and has a 6 foot cactus in her living room... which she communicates with via technology (which in a low budget 1996 movie means flash goggles and some old drum machines).

So the drug works TOO good and soon the girls are pinching themselves and then piercing themselves and soon cutting off pieces of skin (nipples, vagina) and in the case of one of them, frying their own hand and of course, eating it. Her eyeball too. 

It becomes a pretty intense gore fest - with some decent special effects - though I didn't find it scary - most likely due to it's very matter-of-fact approach to the material (where's the hysteria?). This is considered Sato's best film by many, from what I've read, and it's interesting in that respect because it's also considered (one of) his least sexual.

So anyway, if you like gore, it just keeps ramping it up, and Eiji keeps filming, and... the mommy issues come up and the lesson here is... I'm not sure, but it has a 'twist' and a 'shortly thereafter' and... it may not be my thing (ultra gore), but this movie sort of won me over in the end.




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Edited by chazgower01

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@chazgower01 These two films look like an odd mix of sex (especially fetish and bizarre) and horror/gore (more gore, considering all the violence, torture and blood). The first one feels really gross, but the second one seems to try so much that the gore seems to become more hilarious than disturbing as it goes.

Edited by Secret Executioner

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Mothra x 2

Mothra (モスラ) (Japan, 1961) [35mm] - 3/5
Entertaining kaiju with a bit of exotic island adventure touch. Editing could be tighter for the 100 min running time, but mostly compensated for by lavish colour cinematography and better than usual cast: Frankie Chan makes a sympathetic lead, Peanuts are Peanuts and Osman Yusuf gets another gaijin henchman role. Only Akira Ikufube's score is sorely missed.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (モスラ対ゴジラ) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] - 2.5/5
A bit duller and less colorful picture than Mothra, with less exotics and rather bland characters. The environmental message remains timely, sadly, and the battles between Mothra and Godzilla are quite intense.

Director’s Company x 3

Wolf (狼) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 2.5/5
"Running is sex!" A wolf guy runs around Tokyo raping women and punching Renji Ishibashi until he finds a wolf girl (the lovely Megumi Saki from Red Violation and Rape Ceremony) to eat bloody steaks and have sex with. A Banmei Takahashi pink film with a strong Sogo Ishii punk vibe, especially in the punk rock score. Original, but ultimately there isn't that much content other than running, raping and disco partying with an animalistic aroma. Originally released in pink triple bill with Saraba aibo and The Harem Valentine Day, the first productions by Director's Company.


So Long My Partner (さらば相棒) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 2/5
"Rock is sex". Part 2 in the Director's Company pink triple bill, about a wanna-be rocker and his two friends. Rock, sex and friendship struggles. Ryo Ishibashi stars, Rikiya Yasuoka is a yakuza, and Yuya Fuckin' Uchida (that's how he's credited) a junkie in a 20 second cameo. Also contains tons of other rockers from ARB, ANARCHY and others, playing roles like Rape Guy A, B, C and D, and Drunker A, B and C. And it was written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, produced by Banmei Takahashi and directed by actor Ryudo Uzaki. And yet the film is rather dull, executed without the kind of energy that would grab you by the balls. It's watchable with some cultural-historical interest stemming from the cast and crew and the era, but the drama doesn’t work and you won't be left with much... except Yuya Fuckin' Uchida.

Harlem Valentine Day (ハーレムバレンタインデイ) (Japan, 1982) [DVD] - 3.5/5
“Blood is sex”. Death Power director Shigeru Izumiya's cosmic cyber punk pink film set in post Sino-Soviet war future (the film opens with low budget battle footage). A crazed, back-from-the-war soldier wanders in the night searching for his lost girlfriend, who has become a prostitute in some kind of Sogo Ishii / Yoshihiro Nishimura / Shinya Tsukamoto style Blade Runner world. He ends up killing most people he encounters. Like Death Powder, I am not sure if this is a good film, but it is odd, visually stunning and fascinating (especially the soundtrack). Guaranteed to leave even the jaded cult film aficionado wondering "what the hell did I just saw", I can't even imagine how the unsuspecting pink film audiences responded when this opened as the final part of the Director's Company triple bill.


Others x 3

Women Who Do Not Divorce (離婚しない女) (Japan, 1986) [DVD] - 1.5/5
80s human relationship anguish with middle aged people crying and acting stupid. A Tatsumi Kumashiro drama about ordinary, dull people being ordinary and dull. A product of the 80s, an era when Japanese films attempted to capture life at its most unexceptional. Snowy Hokkaido settings add a bit to the film, thankfully.

The Most Suitable Profession for Women (女がいちばん似合う職業) (Japan, 1990) [DVD] - 3/5
Interesting, off-kilter neo noir with mentally off-the-rails detective Kaori Momoi entering relationship with murder suspect. It's neither lust nor a grand plan; she just ain't got all the Moomins in the valley and figures in her lonely misery that that might get the investigation moving. Charmingly odd film with director Naosuke Kurosawa's trademark city existentialism, more than a bit of Takashi Ishii influence (they collaborated on the Dream Crimes failure five years prior) and a great Momoi performance. And all the songs on the soundtrack are in French and… Arabian? Persian? I’m not sure. It still falls short of greatness by lacking consistency and a dynamic overall touch - the storyline especially is something of an excuse for mood and character segments - but the film's got several good scenes and it's pleasingly an unorthodox.


the trailer is one of the best I've seen recently:

Pink Salon Hospital: No Pants Nurses (ピンサロ病院 ノーパン白衣) (Japan, 1997) [35mm] - 1/5
I guess having seen a movie called No Pants Nurses in 35mm is something. Too bad this Shintoho pink is 50 minutes of sex scenes bordering on hard-core, and a minimal, Deep Throat rip off plot. It was directed by Sachi Hamano (real name Sachiko, she dropped the feminine ko to hide her gender), one of the few female pink directors. It doesn't really show; I and a friend tried to come up with anything in the film that would distinguish it from the male helmed pinks till he finally said “the women are active in taking their own pants off”. Hmm, maybe. Released in the US by Pink Eiga as “Whore Hospital”.

Edited by Takuma

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5 hours ago, Takuma said:

Mothra vs. Godzilla (モスラ対ゴジラ) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] - 2.5/5
A bit duller and less colorful picture than Mothra, with less exotics and rather bland characters. The environmental message remains timely, sadly, and the battles between Mothra and Godzilla are quite intense.

That's some moxy on your part. The film is universally considered to be the best Godzilla film after the original GOJIRA. And to give it a 2.5? Wow, just wow. 

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Teruo Ishii x 5

Gang vs. G-Men: Safecracker Gang (ギャング対Gメン 集団金庫破り) (Japan, 1963) [TV] – 2.5/5
Part 6 in the Gang series, with Koji Tsuruta in familiar role as an ex-con sent to infiltrate a safecracker gang. A bit dull first half hour, but the rest is pretty good with an execution often as precise as the gang's work. Tetsuro Tanba stands out most as tuberculosis gang member. Typical early 60s Teruo Ishii, but not as exciting as the similar Gang vs. G-Men (1962) by Fukasaku, which was an earlier entry in the same series.

An Outlaw (ならず者) (Japan, 1964) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Badass Ishii/Takakura action thriller with Takakura as betrayed hit man in Hong Kong and Macao. The plot is purely programmer stuff with a doll full of drugs that everyone is after, but the film is so cool that it doesn't matter. Takakura's character is colder than his usual (especially later) ninkyo heroes and the film features what is probably Yoko Mihara's first topless scene ('64 was the year when nudity went mainstream in Japanese cinema, but for her scene to happen in a Takakura film is amusing). Tetsuro Tamba and Mariko Kaga steal the film in their cool/heartfelt supporting roles. And Ishii excels at what he’s best at: location work. The only problem is that half of the film is spoken in Chinese by the Japanese cast (e.g. most of Mihara’s lines) and their pronunciation sounds atrocious even to someone who doesn't speak the language.


Tattooed Ambush (いれずみ突撃隊) (Japan, 1964) [DVD] - 2.5/5
Regrettably low budget war tale with tattooed yakuza Ken Takakura and other hoods finding themselves in front line in China. Unfortunately the film doesn't do anything too interesting with the concept. The best handled aspect is actually the men interacting with a unit of women assigned on double duty as both nurses and prostitutes (one of them Yoko Mihara, who else). Occasional noirish bits and a decent climax deliver additional entertainment, but the action is low key for the most part. One would expect more from director Teruo Ishii. There was a film called Military Comfort Women made 10 years later by Ryuichi Takamori from an Ishii script that expanded the women sub-theme into feature film, and re-used the "pissing on a machine gun" joke from this one. It wasn't terribly good either. For a more poignant yakuza x war film, see Masumura's gruesome black comedy and military critique Hoodlum Soldier (1965) with Shintaro Katsu.  

The Settlement 2 (続決着) (Japan, 1968) [TV] - 2/5
Routine Teruo Ishii yakuza pot-boiler with lone wolf Teruo Yoshida and playboy Tatsuo Umemiya going against nasty Toru Abe. Professionally made, yet there is nothing particularly engaging or memorable about the picture, except Umemiya getting to do an ultra-emotional crying scene. Who wouldn't want to see that? A sequel to The Settlement, which I haven't seen.

Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love (異常性愛記録 ハレンチ) (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 2.5/5
Mediocre Abnormal Love entry with the most perverted villain yet: a homosexual! Sweet Masumi Tachibana is a Kyoto girl being harassed by pathetic/psychotic ex Eiji Wakasugi, who is not only a momma's boy who wants to see women pee, but also a cross dressing okama! The film is a mix of early giallo elements (possibly coincidental, only a few like Death Laid an Egg had been released in Japan) and overwhelming mondo doc influence (they’d been coming out in plethora in Japan, even leading to domestic productions), especially evident in the club and orgy scenes. But the film is hopelessly dated with conservative woman-is-weak-and-motherly portrayal and homophobia that ceases to be amusing as the silliness goes on forever. In fact, Sadao Nakajima's mondo Twisted Sex (1969), from which Ishii copies an SM scene (with Maki Carrousel) was far more open minded! The best thing about Abnormal is the romance between hero Teruo Yoshida and every-boy's-dream Tachibana. Ishii films it with charming 60s pop romantics and colourful aesthetics that have aged wonderfully. And then he throws in an occasional roaring giallo shot. Also, kudos for split personality (?) villain whose BOTH personalities are perverts!


Edited by Takuma

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Modern Path of Chivalry (現代任侠道 兄弟分) (Japan, 1970) [TV] - 2.5/5
Chris D. described this film as “soulful”, “lyrical” and “genuinely touching”. He's not entirely wrong, but I don't think those elements come through as strongly as he suggests. Sugawara is an honourable gangster who goes to prison and later meets relatively decent but short tempered yakuza Machida who now serves rotten oyabun Watanabe who has taken an advantage of Sugawara's wife. Not bad modern day ninkyo film with a melancholic tone, but the story and context are hardly unique, and the form a little less impressive than I expected. The theatrical poster is a beauty.


Bloodstained Clan Honor (血染の代紋) (Japan, 1970) [35mm] - 2/5
Unusually bland Kinji Fukasaku film about the yakuza exploiting port slums in post war re-construction era. Fumio Watanabe is the rotten one, Bunta Sugawara an honourable boss who receives no thanks from the blind common folks to whom yakuza are all the same. Unlike most Fukasaku films, this movie proceeds at leisurely pace and plays out more like a ninkyo tale, only without the romantics and with very few points of interest. One of Fukasaku's least recognizable pictures. Unrecognizable is also the first of the film’s two theatrical posters which depicts (and credits) Tomisaburo Wakayama and Junko Fuji, neither one of whom are in the film. What happened?

Three Pretty Devils (三匹の牝蜂) (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 3/5
Enjoyable lightweight sukeban style film mostly void of violence, with Reiko Ohara, Yoko Ichiji (both very cute) and Daiei's Junko Natsu having fun fooling horny men out of their money. Lots of disco scenes, brief nudity courtesy of Ichiji, some yakuza elements with white suit Asao Koike whipping the girls, and don't forget to adjust your ears for some lovely Osaka accents (how accurate I have no idea) with Expo ‘70 serving as backdrop. Also features the always reliable Tsunehiko Watase, minor appearances by Yumiko Katayama, Osman "you interested in Japanese girls? Oh yes, of course" Yusuf and gay pop singer Peter (who had a pretty good voice). An obvious cinematic relative of Stray Cat Rock (even briefly featuring the wooden Akiko Wada) which Nikkatsu put out 5 weeks earlier, and Toei's own Delinquent Girl Boss, which followed two months later.


Three Brothers' Identical Dice (ゾロ目の三兄弟) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 1.5/5
Akira Kobayashi, Tsunehiko Watase and X Tanaka goof around and fight some bad yakuza at the end. None of it matters as far as the audience is concerned. The one bit of semi-originality: the "final walk" is done by car instead of foot. It's sad 60s ninkyo master Kosaku Yamashita sank to such dull and unimaginative programmer pictures in the 70s.

Gang of Men (男組) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 3/5
Part high school film, part prison flick, part karate actioner, all comic book movie. And it's got rugby too. Righteous delinquent Nagare Zenjiro (uncharismatic Masato Hoshi) spends the nights in youth prison and the days in high school at the request of desperate principal Hideo Murota who's hoping to bring some balance to the school terrorized by a high school gang. Mostly standard manga madness, but the fun part is that the gang is employing a bunch of miscellaneous of fighters, including Korean exchange student Bruce Lee. Also, throughout the film the hero wears (exceptionally manly) long handcuffs that do nothing to hinder him but rather function as weapons! There’s a nice upwards quality trend with best parts saved for the last. The karate finale on a rocky beach is unexpectedly good, with effort and excellent cinematography making up for Hoshi not being a martial arts star.


Bakamasa Horamasa Toppamasa (バカ政ホラ政トッパ政) (Japan, 1976) [Netflix] - 1.5/5
Light-on-action businessman type yakuza film was a few years ahead of its time in that it is hopelessly dull. Bunta Sugawara leads a pack of three criminal/businessman/no goods. Nothing interesting happens, in fact, nothing much at all happens.

Gang of Men: Delinquent Prison (男組 少年刑務所) (Japan, 1976) [DVD] – 2/5
Sequel/remake with new cast and director. The storyline is the same as last time with delinquent Hiroshi Tachi sent to a high school to fight an evil schoolboy gang (yes, my brain is still a bit confused about the logic). Then there's a new transfer student, a French speaking girl who worships Satan and holds black masses. And martial arts action. And rugby. Unfortunately the film doesn't focus on any of those enough. The martial arts scenes are run of the mill with some of the most blatant ignorance of continuity between shots in recent memory. And that’s despite Japan Action Club brought in to do them! But there are some delirious details and scenes, like the opening fight against sunset, human sacrificing for Satan, and Hiroshi Tachi, who is better than the previous film’s Masato Hoshi. Director Akihisa Okimoto only did a handful of films on his career, including the cool The Classroom of Terror (1976) and the miserable Yokohama Underworld: The Machine-Gun Dragon (1976).


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