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Takuma

Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan (+ Sonny Chiba festival!) - Some Content NSFW

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I've been on a movie trip again

Days 1-4

This is not directly related to movies, but I finally went to check out Yakushima. The island is best known as the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. There are plenty of cool hiking paths in the centre of the island, including Shiratani unsuikyo which ascends from 600 metres to 1070 metres is it goes through the stunningly green mountain forests. You'll run across wildlife like monkeys and deer, have to keep your eyes open in order not to get lost or fall to your death, and you can drink water from the nature. Also keep the weather on an eye as the paths and crossing the mountain brooks becomes dangerous in heavy rain. It took me about 7 hours to hike all the paths.

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You'll see plenty of wildlife in the rest of the island as well, especially on the west side where the narrow seaside roads have dozens of monkeys lying on the roads balls towards the sun. Deer are common as well.

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Days 5-8: Part 1

My return trip went through Tokyo so I decided to jump out of the plane and go to the movies. And what a better way to start than by checking out a pink film theatre I had never visited before: Ueno Ookura.

Like most pink cinemas, Ueno Ookura play films in triple features, from around 10 am in the morning till 4:30 am next morning when trains start running again. You could spend all night at the cinema, though you'd be seeing the same films twice since most of them run only for about 60 minutes.

The days of 35mm film prints in pink cinemas are sadly long gone. Still, what I got in Ueno Ookura wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The files they screened looked like they had been transferred from VHS, or perhaps downloaded from DMM's streaming site. The resolution certainly looked like a 10 year old web stream. I guess that added a certain "charm" to the experience though I could've done without it.

The theatre itself is very clean and surprisingly big with a large screen. You can enter any time in the middle of a movie because there isn't always a break between films and customers are not even expected to wait till a film begins. I didn't get to witness any dubious behaviour (unfortunately?).

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Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976)
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Dokyumento: Seijuku genchizuma (1995) + Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976)
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I watched two films at Ueno Ookura. The fists one was Dokyumento: Seijuku genchizuma (ドキュメント 性熟現地妻)(1995), a sort of docudrama about a Shinjuku club hiring and exploiting Chinese women as sex workers. The film was surprisingly decent for a "sex flick" as I found myself somewhat caring for the characters towards the end. It also has a nice 90s atmosphere (think of Miike's Shinjuku Triad Society minus the violence and madness) and big breasted stars who are rather pleasing on the eye.

The second film I saw was the thoroughly uninspired and unsexy women in prison Roman Porno Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976). Rumi Tama is a woman sent to prison for strangling a man who was trying to rape her; Naomi Oka is the bad girl calling the shots behind the bars. The rest of the film plays out exactly the way you'd expect it to.

I then headed to Cinema Vera who had a series celebrating Toei actresses who appeared in more feminine films than the usual masculine Toei action fare. The best film I saw was Two Bitches (二匹の牝犬) (1964), a superb, gripping tale of a hardened woman (Mayumi Ogawa) working as a prostitute in Tokyo. She's visited by her seemingly innocent and ultra-cute little sister (Mako Midori) who turns out to be a total sociopath as learns to manipulate people. Director Yusuke Watanabe is not know as one of the greats, but here manages strong drama, some fantastic framings and a long tracking shot, the kind Shinji Somai would do two decades later, and absolute powerhouse performances by Midori and Ogawa.

Less successful but nevertheless somewhat entertaining was Tenshi no yokubo (天使の欲望) (1979) ,an oddly misbalanced film pretending to be a serious drama while helmed by the exploitative hand of sexploitation director Ikuo Sekimoto. In the film a slutty older sister spends all her time sleeping with men or getting raped. Once the virginal younger sister discovers this, her disappointment initiates a psychological and eventually physical war that climaxes in an unintentionally silly scene where the two fight it out in the nude.

Another rarely seen film was Military Comfort Woman (従軍慰安婦) (1974), directed by Ryuichi Takamori and written by Teruo Ishii. Unfortunately we get the worst of both gentlemen here; Takamori's sloppy handling of drama and Ishii's dumb humour. Add bad acting, especially by Yutaka Nakajima, and it becomes impossible to tell if the film was supposed to be taken seriously or not. Also, a sexploitation flick it is not as nudity is sparse. There is some entertainment value, though. Highlight: a hooker saves the day at the battlefield by pissing on an overheated machine gun.

Though Cinema Vera screens movies as double features, Military Comfort Woman was a special screening that only played once a day on four different dates. The screening I attended was over-sold out with all 142 seats filled and the rest of the people standing.

I saw a few other films in Cinema Vera as well but I can't be bothered to write about them now.

Military Comfort Woman (1974) (top) / The Story of a Nymphomanic (1975) (right & bottom right) / Two Bitches (1964) (bottom middle)
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Tenshi no Yokubo (1979) (left) /Yojôhan monogatari: Shôfu shino (1966) (right)
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The Story of a Nymphomanic (1975) + Ooku maruhi monogatari (1967)
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Two Bitches (1964) (middle)
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Chirashi (click for bigger version)
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Days 5-8: Part 2

My day in Tokyo had started with some less than impressive films and I needed a sure hit for the night, so I headed to National Film Center for the endlessly re-watchable Evil Dead Trap (1988). While the film makes little sense, it's such a fast paced mix of spectacular Fulci inspired kills, Argento esque camerawork and a fantastic "bootleg Goblin" score that I never get tired of it. This was my second time seeing it in 35mm. A bit of trivia: two of the three female leads are 80s AV stars (Hitomi Kobayashi and Eriko Nakagawa). The English title is faithful to the original (Shiriyo no wana = "Trap of Evil"), which is indeed a reference to the JP title of The Evil Dead (Shiryo no harawata = "Guts of the Evil"). Co-produced by Japan Home Video, which did the later Guinea Pig films and some Riki Takeuchi action, and Director's Company, a small arthouse firm formed by Ikeda, Shinji Somai, Sogo Ishii, Kichitaro Negishi and a few other young filmmakers to produce their own films.

I attended the screening with a friend who lives in Tokyo. Last time I saw him I gave him a Wolfguy BD as present. This time he had bought me a present: "Oppai zukan: The only existing full-scale oppai visual dictionary in the world". Hmmm, thanks, I guess.

Next day I headed to Laputa Asagaya, who had a series for Rentaro Mikuni. I caught two films, the pretty good 1959 Toei docudrama Seven Bullets (七つの弾丸) (about a bank robber in Osaka, documenting the daily lives of him and his victims prior to the incident) and Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp (1956), which I had never seen before. Needless to say 35mm in cinema was the way to experience it, even if the print was rather damaged. Seven Bullets in turn looked absolutely pristine.

Top and bottom left: Rentaro Mikuni retro. Bottom right: Yukiko Todoroki retro and Shintoho Pink series
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I initially wasn't too happy to see Laputa Asagaya dedicate their Late Show to semi-recent Shintoho pink films. I wasn't even going to attend any screening but the curiosity got the better of me when I 1) realized I'd never seen a Shintoho pink film in 35mm and were curious about how it would look like in comparison to the worn out home video releases, and 2) I was already there since I had just finished Seven Bullets.

I was glad to have been proven wrong as, at least in the case of this film, someone had done fine programming job exposing one of those small semi-gems a casual viewer would otherwise never discover. Hidden beneath the fleshy premise and ridiculous title, Aching Wives: Continuous Adultery (うずく人妻たち 連続不倫) (2006) turned out to be a rather beautiful film set in two time periods. A young single man and middle aged woman with troubled marriage first meet and have a brief affair in 1995. In 2007 they meet again by chance in a small hot springs hotel where he, now married, has escaped his troubles, and she, who has managed to fix her marriage but not forget him, arrives with her husband. Effectively minimalist and sad film with surprisingly fine performances. Oh, and the 35mm print was just beautiful.

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I also visited Shin Bungeiza's Nobuhiko Obayashi retro (held in advance of his upcoming film Hanagatami), despite my irritation over the fact that all the films I wanted to see played at inconvenient dates. This marked the 4th time I've missed House in 35mm in Tokyo (each time the screening was a few week before or after my stay, or sold out). What I saw was the rare 1983 TV film called Reibyo densetsu (麗猫伝説) (in 16mm) that no English language website has ever heard of. It's about an old actress who may be a ghost. I thought the film was pretty boring, but then again I often dislike the "standard Obayashi" films and only love the masterpieces (Futari, Tenkosei, House).

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On my last day I was supposed to go to Shin Bungeiza to see School in the Crosshairs, but after realizing it's a DCP and not 35mm I decided to sleep late in my capsule rather that waste my money on that screening. Once I got up, I headed to Cinema Vera who had just started a new retrospective for Tooru Abe. Toei fans know him best as the regular bad guy in ninkyo yakuza films. Cinema Vera did a cleaver move and omitted all of those films, and chose to screen movies that don't play in other retrospectives so often. I only had time to see one film before my flight,  Wrath of Daimajin (1966), which I enjoyed a fair bit thanks to its fantastic special effects and a nice sense of adventure.

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"On October 3, 2017, Wesleyan University Press... released a long-awaited biography on director Ishiro Honda by long time Japanese film historian Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski.  Titled Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film From Godzilla to Kurosawa, the biography, nearly a decade in the making, dealt with Japanese director Ishiro Honda in his film work and in his personal life.  Well known as the director of the Godzilla movies and other Japanese Sci Films, Honda also worked on documentaries, dramas, comedies, and later in life films that were directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa."  Info at http://www.scifijapan.com/articles/2017/12/12/a-celebration-of-ishiro-honda/

Available on Amazon for about $30.

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Re-Evaluating Shogoro Nishimura

Cinema Vera kicked 2018 off big time with the most interesting retrospective in a while. Not only did the 14 film Nishimura series include 8 pink films by the notorious Roman Porno vending machine, but also 6 mainstream movies from his early years. And indeed, it's time to re-evaluate one of my most hated Roman Porno directors!

I watched all 6 of the mainsteam movies screened, and loved half of them and liked most of the rest! The films included the biting drama comedy The Gambling Monk (1963) based on a Shohei Imamura script, the fantastic Sun Tribe film Kaettekita ookami (1966), the gritty and stylish moral corruption drama Burning Nature (1967), the lame post war yakuza flick Tokyo Street Fighting (1967), the mediocre ninkyo yakuza film Biographies of Killers (1969), and the excellent ninkyo/jitsuroku hybrid Yakuza Native Ground (1969) with Tetsuto Tamba!  

For those interested, I (quicly and hastily) wrote an article with reviews of the 6 films in my blog:
https://sketchesofcinema.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/shogoro-nishimura-early-films/

I only wish they had screened more of his mainstream films. He made 14 of them in total, before Roman Porno begun.

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Crimson Night Dream, Apartment Wife: Affair In the Afternoon, Tokyo Eros: 1001 Nights
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Crimson Night Dream, Apartment Wife: Affair In the Afternoon
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Tokyo Streetfighting, Kaettekita ookami
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Kaettekita ookami
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Kaettekita ookami was my favourite of the bunch, and it was pure luck that I got to see it. I had a flight scheduled for Monday night, but then this happened...

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Yeah, not a common sight in Shibuya! My flight was cancelled and I had to go capsule hotel hunting. On the positive side, I could attend Tuesday screenings as well because I figured that if I gotta stay an extra night I might as well go see some more films next morning.

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There is an all night film festival called "Pig in the Bag" (Finnish idiom) in Finland. The idea is that they screen 4 films back to back, but they don't announce the program in advance. You don't know what you'll be seeing until the title hits the screen, and if you doze off at the wrong moment, you might never discover what you saw.

Many moons ago, before the festival went 35mm, it started as an event to "select the best movie in the world", conducted by voting after a set of films had been screened. The film selection included movies like The Human Tornado, The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman, and Raiders of the Doomed Kingdom. Shogun Assassin won.

The reason I'm telling this story is that a few weeks ago on Saturday night, when  "Pig in the Bag" was once again held in Helsinki, Finland, I sat in a movie theatre in Tokyo watching Teruo Ishii movies screened in 35mm back to back all night! And all night I kept thinking, "this is a strong candidate for the best movie ever!" Maybe not "really", but under those circumstances, breathing that amazing atmosphere, watching movies like Horrors of Malformed Men, Inferno of Torture, and Bohachi Bushido at 4am on big screen from pristine prints... yeah! I mean, Fuck Yeah!

The program was:
22:30 Inferno of Torture (1969) (35mm)
0:25 Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) (35mm)
2:20 Porno jidaigeki: Bohachi Bushido (1973) (35mm)
3:55 The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno (1974) (35mm)

I attended the night with a good friend of mine, whom I got into quality cinema about 7 years ago when I met him in a Japanese university (I borrowed him the first 2 Tetsuo films, which he watched alone in a classroom!). By pure chance we were both wearing Hard Core Chocolate T-shirts... me The Return of the Street Fighter and he Girl Boss: Escape from Reform School.

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The night finished at 5:20 am, after which I headed to my capsule hotel for some sleep. There wasn't much time to sleep since Sex and Fury (1973) and Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974) were screening in 35mm in the same theatre the next day (well, technically speaking the same day). And then I needed to head to Cinema Vera for Shogoro Nishimura retrospective in the evening, but I have already covered that event before in this thread...

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McFarland & Company, Inc. (mcfarlandbooks.com) has a new book out, Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967 by Mike Bogue, trade pb, 316 pages, $40.  "The United States, the only country to have dropped the bomb, and Japan, the only one to have suffered its devastation, understandably portray the nuclear threat differently on film.  American science fiction movies of the 1950s and 1960s generally proclaim that it is possible to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle.  Japanese films of the same period assert that once freed the nuclear genie can never again be imprisoned.  In this book, Bogue examines genre films from the two countries released between 1951 and 1967 - including Godzilla (1954), The Mysterians (1957), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), On The Beach (1959), The Last War (1961) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) - to show the view from both sides of the Pacific."  Available on Amazon.com  McFarland has published several books on Japanese pop culture."  News from -

http://www.scifijapan.com/articles/2018/03/16/win-apocalypse-then-american-and-japanese-atomic-cinema-1951-1967-book-from-mcfarland/ 

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Edited by whitesnake

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Meiko Kaji Film Festival in Shin Bungeiza

Though I could only drop by for 1½ days, I had a change to view Jailhouse 41, Beast Stable and Grudge Song in 35mm in Tokyo last weekend and see Meiko Kaji live as well. A quick report follows.

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First of all, the films.

Jailhouse 41 is simply one of the finest films ever made. The original movie was a bit of a salad bowl with exploitation and politics, art and entertainment, but in Jailhouse 41 the vision is much more focused with the movie playing out as a mesmerizing anti-patriarchal odyssey. Beast Stable in turn is an amazingly well handled and atmospheric character study about two women, one of whom accepts her fate and the other one who hasn't found her identity yet. An under-rate near masterpiece. Grudge Song is where it all goes wrong. It works as a 70s outlaw crime film for the first 45 minutes, but is inconsistent with the earlier films and once the prison stuff begins, it simply becomes a pale shadow of its predecessors.

Then, the prints

Unfortunately the 35mm prints were in pretty bad shape. A quick overview below:

Jailhouse 41: beaten but alright, colours leaning slightly towards pink(ish). Similar look to Toei/Discotek DVD except with the correct framing (like Studio Canal/Pathe DVDs) and inferior colors. No sign of blue/teal whatsoever. No contrast issues that plague Arrow (the harakiri scene shows all the detail missing from Arrow BD).

Beast Stable: slightly worse than Jailhouse 41, a beaten print missing some frames. Slight brownish/pinkish tint but entirely watchable. No sign of blue/teal whatsoever. No contrast issues that plague Arrow (Watanabe looking through the manhole cover clearly shows her red dress). Similar look to Toei/Media Blasters DVDs but inferior colours.

Grudge Song: the weakest print, faded with colours leaning towards brown/pink(ish). No sign of blue/teal whatsoever. No high contrast issues that plague Arrow. Similar look to Toei/Media Blasters DVD.

Even with beaten prints it was still amazing to see these in 35mm, obviously each print was heaps better than the Arrow BDs. Still, it's a shame Toei hasn't made / discovered new prints as these are clearly below par compared to most 60s and 70s films screening in Tokyo. It doesn't make sense Sasori has to suffer these kind of prints when Toei is releasing / discovering pristine 35mm prints of obscure Sharon Kelly films like Shikijô Toruko nikki...

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Kaji

Also, it was cool seeing Kaji live. She was very energetic, speaking 45 minutes nonstop without an interviewer. She spoke about her career and cinema in general, new and old. She recalled her meeting with Tarantino where she managed to silence the motor mouth by saying, after QT had mentioned he spends about two weeks with the crew going through the script, that "that's all we took making the entire movies". Hah! She also recalled asking Takuzo Kawatani if he'd like to be an actor again in his next life, to which Kawatani replied "Hell no! I'd be a director and make Kinji Fukasaku act like a slave in my movies"! Apparently no one ever survived a Fukasaku collaboration without stomach problems...

Also, she compared to modern and 70s filmmaking by noting that while nowadays they shoot 10-20 takes, back then they'd shoot usually one take only, even if it wasn't perfect. That actually helped the cast keep their performance consistent since they knew which shot would be used in the final film, she said. She also mentioned recently she passed a role in a film by an internationally acclaimed Japanese director whose films have screened in Venice. She didn't name the director. Oh, and she did not really talk about Sasori. It seems she's not too keen on talking about those 70s action and exploitation films. That being said, she's not keen on modern Japanese cinema either. Actually, I think she doesn't seem so keen on cinema in general! She actually mentioned she never really planned a career in movies... in the 60s she was always thinking that "a few more days and then I'll quit".
 
As for photos, I have to attach a shot from the Japanese website natalie.mu since photography was forbidden except from members of press. That kind of sucked. I also wish Kaji had spoken abot her 70s work in more detail... It was great seeing her live /and I'm sad I can't attend her concert this week) and all, but as far as live appearances go I prefer actresses like Yumiko Katayama (whom I saw at a Teruo Ishii retro last year) who are easier to approach, don't mind being photographed (and why would she, she looks beautiful at her mid 60s) and share juicy stories from exploitation film sets.

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- https://natalie.mu/eiga/news/286998

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Program Chirashi
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- http://www.shin-bungeiza.com/pdf/20180616.pdf

Everything in 35mm except two Nikkatsu films (Seishun zenki aoi kajitsu and Taiyo ga daisuki) which are DVD screenings for some retarded reason.

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While I was in Tokyo, I also found time to drop by in Jinbocho Theater for Japanese 1970s retrospective. I don't know how to translate the title (七〇年代の憂鬱 退廃と情熱の映画史) well but basically the focus was on socially aware films mirroring the new gloomier era.

The program is quite excellent with titles like Tanaka's Secret Chronicle: She Beast Market (1974), Kumashiro's Africa's Light (1975), Fukasaku's Cops vs. Thugs (1975), Terayama's The Boxer (1977), Hasegawa's The Man Who Stole the Sun (1979), and more, all in 35mm except Sachiko no sachi. I only had a chance to see two titles, Sadao Nakajima's Aesthetics of a Bullet (1973) (my second time in 35mm) and Toshiya Fujita's Did the Red Bird Escape (1975).

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Aesthetics of a Bullet is a well done tale of a miserable wanna-be gangster (Tsunehiko Watase) getting his change act big while he's actually just being used by big shots. It was an ATG film made by Toei director and cast, and feels exactly that. Also features fantastic theme song and Miki Sugimoto is a supporting role.

Did the Red Bird Escape is a pretty fantastic "70s depression" zeitgeist about two small time goons (Yoshio Harada, Masaaki Daimon) and a girl (Kaori Momoi) living together and trying to make money with frauds and blackmails. The film is a bit of a slow burner, but the cast is great, Momoi spends half of the movie topless, cinematographer Tatsuo Suzuki does terric job and director Fujita was at his element with this kind of material. The 35mm print was so amazing it nearly blew my brain out.

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Other pics

Africa's Light and The Boxer
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Ryoma Ansatsu and Cops. vs. Thugs
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Zeni geba, Take Care,Red Riding Hood, Sachiko no sachi
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Edited by Takuma

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"Amazon Video Japan Launches Toei Genre Channel” - article published on August 23, 2018 in The Hollywood Reporter" - https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/amazon-video-japan-launches-toei-genre-channel-1137214 

"Amazon Video Japan has launched a new subscription channel featuring never before broadcast B movies and straight-to-video productions from Toei.  The films include martial arts actioners starring Sonny Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada, a yakuza gangster classic by Kinji Fukasaku and softcore erotica pink eiga.  The Junk Film by Toei channel launches with 126 films, 95 of which have never been broadcast, for a monthly fee of $4.40 [490 yen] on Amazon Prime Video.  More titles are expected to be added from Toei's huge back catalogue in the future." 

"The movies are mostly from the 1960s and 1970s heyday of Japanese genre filmmaking, but also include straight-to-video (known locally as V cinema) from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as B movies (known as program pictures).  In addition, theatrically released pink eiga, the softcore films on which many leading Japanese directors cut their teeth and which sustained much of the industry during the 1970s, will also be available." 

"There are currently no plans to make the Junk Film Channel available outside Japan."

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Went to rent some dvds from Tsutaya (Japan's biggest rental store chain) today and this caught my eye.

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The Rapeman 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7... the whole series that is.

God bless Japan  :cool:

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"Back in 1993 Sony/Tri-Star Pictures hired the writing team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to write the screenplay for the first American Godzilla movie.  It was to be directed by Jan De Bont and designed by Stan Winston Studios with Special Effects done by Stan Winston's Digital Domain."  But the project was cancelled at the end of 1994.  "Working with Rossio, artist Todd Tennant has completed a graphic novel adaptation of the unmade Godzilla (1994), which will be available free online starting this Thanksgiving."  Watch the video for more details" about Godzilla '94 The Graphic Novel.  News from http://www.scifijapan.com/articles/2018/11/12/complete-godzilla-94-graphic-novel-debuts-online-this-thanksgiving/ 

 

 

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In search of a Lone Wolf

It is no secret that Laputa Asagaya is my favorite movie theatre in Tokyo. I also love the Asagaya district. I was walking the streets one day and spotted something interesting:

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What's that, you ask? Could it be that Laputa Asagaya is running a Lone Wolf and Cub retrospective?

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Lone Wolf isn't the only thing on screen. This ad attached to a restaurant wall is for Toei Literature Adaptations retrospective in Laputa.

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We have found the treatre

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Let's get inside. Oh yes! Babycart at River Styx!

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Babycart in Peril

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Fast forward a few weeks to another night: White Heaven in Hell

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I watched Babycart to Hades, Babycart in Peril and White Heaven in Hell (actually it took two Tokyo trips to do that). I had already seen Sword of Vengeance and Babycart at River Styx in National Film Archive, and Babycart in the Land of Demons in Jinbocho Cinema before. Which means I have now seen them all in glorious 35mm! Life goal achieved. What a blast it was!

http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program/lone_wolf_and_cub/

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Of course Lone Wolf was not the only thing I saw in Laputa Asagaya. I went there early in the morning to catch the entertaining 1957 Toho thriller The Decoy with Ryo Ikebe using his wife as a decoy to catch escaped prisoner Makoto Sato.

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I also re-watched the Koji Tsuruta ninkyo film Dragon’s Life (1964), which features Sonny Chiba and Junko Fuji in supporting roles as brother and sister, in the Toei Literature series.

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I did not have time for other films, but here are some photos

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Gotta love the curry plate under the film poster for “Curry Rice”.

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They just started a 20 year celebration program screening some of the films they have shown in the past two decades. Here are some old chirashi ads for their programs

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Also on my travels I stopped by in Cinema Vera. Unfortunately they no longer play double features. That beautiful, traditional system came to its end last summer. What we get now is a set of 5 or 6 films played every day in different order for a week. The prices went up as well as now you have to a separate buy ticket to each film. The programming is still the same, a mix of JP and foreign film retrospectives, with JP programs mainly 35mm and foreign mostly digital.

Also I need to mention that the projection quality is not as good as it used to be. A few years ago they started projecting films with brighter image which causes weaker blacks and weaker colors. I don't know if that's to do with the projector lamp or what, but the difference is clear when you compare to Laputa Asagaya, Shin Bungeiza, Film Archive etc.

That being said, it's still very much worth visiting for the program and film prints. This time they were playing Toei Ninkyo Yakuza series with a focus on lesser known films (no Red Peonies or Brutal Tales in the program). I caught the rare and entertaining if unexceptional Ken Takakura / Sonny Chiba modern day ninkyo tale Violent Street (1963), the messy Toei-turns-Zatoichi-into-an-Osaka-punk Blind Monk Swordsman (1964) that only woke my up from a come when a woman ran through the screen with her boobs out, and the enjoyable Koji Tsuruta epic Theater of Life - New Hishakaku Story (1964).

Vera's chirashi / retrospective poster art is consistently great!
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A set of Gambling Den posters
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Violent Street (right) and Blind Monk Swordsman (left)
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http://www.cinemavera.com/preview.php?no=216

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Kinji Fukasaku retrospective at National Film Archive

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46 films, all in 35mm, plus two TV episodes in 16mm.

https://www.nfaj.go.jp/exhibition/fukasaku201903/?fbclid=IwAR3b-myt9CTqCvdchUV2yXIqFQZb-fCOKGdPf9jsMnaveVXks2bJoVEVho8

Managed to drop by for a few screenings... Legend of the Eight Samurai, Bloodstained Clan Honor, Shanghai Rhapsody, Violent Panic: The Big Crash, and Hokuriku Proxy War. Also wanted to re-watch Graveyard of Honor but went to Laputa to see No Pants Nurses instead. That was a mistake...

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The Bloodstained Clan Honor (血染の代紋 ) (1970) poster is a strange one, with Tomisaburo Wakayama and Junko Fuji depicted AND credited (as 3rd and 4th billed). But neither one of them are actually in the film!
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(There’s a disclaimer saying something like “You can’t take photos of the posters, however, you can take photos if they feature people in them”. At first I was going gave my friend stand at the side in each photo and crop him out later… but then I realized everyone was taking photos and no one, not even the staff, cared. So I dared to take a few quick shots. I’m sure the disclaimer is some legal formality (other theatres in Tokyo don’t have such).

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I also briefly visited Laputa Asagaya's Kinnosuke Nakamura retrospective.
- http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program/kinnosuke_matsuri/

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This was a typically massive retro with 35 films (all 35mm of course, Laputa always screens films in their original screening format). I only had time to catch two films, Hideo Gosha's Tange Sazen film The Secret of the Urn (丹下左膳 飛燕居合斬り) (1966), which was weaker and duller than I recalled, and the very enjoyable matatabi/ninkyo yakuza tale Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (沓掛時次郎 遊侠一匹) (1966). Both screened from beautiful prints.

Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza
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Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza
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The Secret of the Urn
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The Secret of the Urn + other Nakamura films
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I also caught Pink Salon Hospital: No Pants Nurses (ピンサロ病院 ノーパン白衣) (1997) in the late show where Laputa is screening their 3rd Shintoho Last Film Show series (the title is supposed to mean that this is probably the last time you get to see those films from 35mm prints since pink cinemas have gone digital... the ones that haven't gone out of business already, and there is little interest in these films among other theatre programmers).

- http://www.laputa-jp.com/laputa/program/shintoho-pink3/

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I actually sacrificed Film Archive's Graveyard of Honor (1975) screening (that would have been the 2nd time for me, the 1st was in 2014 in Laputa) to see No Pants, and I sort of wish I hadn't. The film is bordering on AV with nonstop sex dullness. Director 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”.

One of the more interesting films included in the series is Sexy Battle Girls (1986). Being a 35mm print, it should (hopefully, though not necessarily) have all the music stolen from Sukeban Deka (the film is a parody / rip off of Sukeban Deka II: Legend of the Girl in Iron Mask) intact. The US DVD by Pink Eiga has all the music removed and replaced because copyrights were invented sometime after the film was made.

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I’m not that much of a kaiju fan, but since I was in Tokyo for Fukasaku, I also went to see a couple of Mothra films in 35mm.

The films were playing in Ikebukuro at Shin bungeiza, who have the biggest screen out there for 35mm screenings, and excellent seats. The program is nearly always double features, meaning the same two films played back to back from morning to night. The day I visited they were screening Mothra (1961) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

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It took quite a bit of effort to fit both into my schedule, since I also wanted to see Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza at Laputa Asagaya, and Hokuriku Proxy War at the Film Archive at Kyobashi, all of which are located at opposite sides of central Tokyo. At first I thought it’d be impossible, but after a careful examination and managed to come up with a plan that involved running, strategic choice of trains, and zero error margin.

9:45  Mothra vs. Godzilla (Shin bungeiza / Ikebukuro)
13:00  Tokijiro Kutsukake: Lone Yakuza (Laputa / Asagaya) (91min, finish at 14:31)
-------- Rush to Asagaya Station (8 min)
14:39  Take Chuo Line Rapid train to Shinjuku
14:48  Arrive Shinjuku Station (Track 8), transfer to JR Saikyo Line (Track 3)
14:51  JR Saikyo Line Local Train to Ikebukuro
14:57  Arrive Ikebukuro Station
-------- Run to the theatre (8 min)    
15:05  Mothra (Shin bungeiza / Ikebukuro)
19:00  Hokuriku Proxy War (Film Archive/ Kyobashi)

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As I said, I'm not a huge kaiju fan, but I quite enjoyed seeing Mothra projected from a beautiful 35mm print. It's got nice adventure touch, lavish colour cinematography, Frankie Chan makes a sympathetic lead, Peanuts are Peanuts and Osman Yusuf gets another gaijin henchman role. Better than Mothra vs. Godzilla, which suffers from the usual dull story and characters, though the monster fights are good and the film is one of the better Godzillas IMO.

Ad for upcoming Yuya Uchida retro which I missed (which made me want to hang myself, thankfully I don't own a rope).

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Very nice poster and toy displays for the Mothra double feature. And from the looks of it I guess you can make up for missing the retrospective by watching The Deer Hunter. Didn't know this one was getting a 4K re-release, is it a Japan-only thing or can people from other countries hope to catch this in theaters at some point ?

Edited by Secret Executioner

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23 hours ago, Secret Executioner said:

The Deer Hunter. Didn't know this one was getting a 4K re-release, is it a Japan-only thing or can people from other countries hope to catch this in theaters at some point ?

I'm not sure about that. There's been a lot of nation-wide theatrical re-releases in the past 12 months... 2001: A Space Odyssey, Streets of Fire, The Thing, They Live, Last Tango in Paris...

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I dropped by in Tokyo for some extreme movie watching again last week.

First up was a race Jimbocho Theater, with first screening at 12:00. I had booked an early as motherfucker flight, only for it to be 30 min late. I missed the cheap Keisei train as a result, and had to ride an expensive Narita Express... which was also late because of some "trouble" (probably train suicide). Finally arriving Ueno, I made a desperate run to the metro even though I was one train behind my schedule, only for the train doors close right in front of my face.

With Plan A and Plan B down the sewer, I improvised a taxi drive to Jimbo. The driver didn't know where the theater was so I just told him to drop me off at the station, and proceeded to talk about Tsunehiko Watase and Etsuko Shihomi with him for 15 min. Finally I did a 300m run to the theatre and sat down 11:59!  
 
I was wondering if it was worth it at all, the film in question being Crazed Beast (1976), which I hated when I fist saw it on DVD. This time I enjoyed it almost thoroughly, seeing it as the amusing action farce it is, rather than the action thriller I expected upon my first viewing. Favorite line in the film (an old woman to scared children in a hijacked bus): "Don't worry, that uncle will be caught and get death penalty".

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Jimbocho is not a theatre I visit awfully often because they focus on 50s and 60s dramas, comedies and musicals, but this time they had a dynamite program: Japanese Hot-Blooded Men 2 (にっぽんのアツい男たち2, which I'd love to translate as Japanese Hot Guys 2!  :lol: ).
- https://www.shogakukan.co.jp/jinbocho-theater/program/fervent2_list.html#movie01

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Battles Without Honor and Humanity
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Misumi and Katsu's Tomuraishi tachi (1968), Oshima's Cruel Story of Youth (1960)
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Lost Love (1978) and The Mosquito on the Tenth Floor (1983)
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Kumashiro double: Africa's Light, which I saw in Jimbo a few years ago, and Failed Youth (1974)
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I finally got to see Failed Youth after missing it so many times. I plays in Tokyo in 35mm at least once every year. Below is my mini review:

Failed Youth (青春の蹉跌) (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 4.5/5
Tatsumi Kumashiro's legendary youth film. This was his first movie for Toho, a departure from Roman Porno. The politically conscious script by Kazuhiko Hasegawa (The Youth Killer, The Man Who Stole the Sun) follows indecisive university student Ken'ichi Hagiwara and hopelessly in love younger girlfriend Kaori Momoi in the midst of young confusion, violent student radicalism and an era where modern and traditional clashed. It's a slow-burner, but excellently acted by Hagiwara and Momoi (also look out for Meika Seri as a street beggar) and filmed with loads of meaningful long takes, including an amazing love scene in the snowy mountains near the end. And the score is just beautiful! Kumashiro's masterpiece, no doubt! The film's obscurity shows just how little Toho cares for their own catalogue titles: chosen by the nation's best known film journal Kinema Junpo as the 21st best Japanese film ever made, Toho has not even bothered putting the film out on DVD (though it’s finally coming in December 2019).

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I also caught The Mosquito on the Tenth Floor (1983), which I still thought was a pretty dull and boring life-is-shit picture despite a convincing Yuya Uchida performance as a policeman in debt (to the bank, not the yakuza, unfortunately), and the much more fun, if messy action epic Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (1979), which is my favorite Yusaku Matsuda film.

Some of the other films in the 16 movie program (all 35mm) included Kitano's Sonatine, Gosha's Four Days of Snow and Blood,  Suzuki's Fighting Elegy and Ichikawa's The Wanderers.

Edited by Takuma

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My adventure continued in the afternoon. I headed to National Film Archive who were celebrating dead people with their once-in-two-years R.I.P. retrospective (no, it’s not really called that, but that’s what I call it). It was a massive series with mostly two films per corpse, approx 80 flicks in total.

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The film I went for was The War of the 16 Year Olds, a lesser known film by Toshio Matsumoto. I haven’t seen any of his films so I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choice, especially since I was sacrificing a Tetsuya Watari Nikkatsu Action flick (The Judgement of Youth, 1964) at Jimbocho…

Well, the gamble paid off big time: The War of the 16 Year Olds was bloody excellent!

The War of the Sixteen Year Olds (十六歳の戦争) (Japan, 1973/1976) [35mm] – 4/5
Funeral Parade of Roses director Toshio Matsuda's bloody excellent youth film set in rural Japan. This has one of the best opening scenes I've seen since Kiyoshi Nishimura's Too Young to Die (1969), with a young man arriving a town, and falling in love with a 16 year old girl as they watch the police pull two dead bodies from a river, all against a great rock song (the film's soundtrack is absolutely stunning!). Pure cinema! The film then follows their relationship as WWII traumas begin to surface in the town and lead the film down a far darker - and ambiguous - path. There are some jarring cuts and imperfections that make the film no less fascinating, and an amusingly gratuitous topless scene for Akiyoshi who looked pretty stunning at 19. Filmed independently in 1973, but not released until 1976. This became instantly of one my favourite 70s youth films!

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(the film is also available on Japanese DVD, but long OOP and incredibly expensive... 15 000 yen at Amazon right now)

There was no poster for The War of the 16 Year Olds, but here are photos of some other posters from the screening series that NFA had decorated their walls with.

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Before someone panics, no, Shihomi is not dead!
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Oh, and my visit to a convince store lead to the second brief Etsuko Shihomi discussion of the day (the 1st one was in the taxi / see previous post). The reason: I was wearing my beloved Return of the Sister Street Fighter T-shirt, and the old guy behind the counter recognized her!

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Thanks. More to come soon.

btw, Tokyo is screening Failed Youth this year like it's the end of the world. Shin bungeiza just announced they will be screening it a dozen times next month in a Kazuhiko Hasegawa appreciation, following Jimbocho's 1 week run (the Saturday screening I attended sold out 25 minutes before the screening) and two showings in National Film Center's R.I.P. series...

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Continued…

As the day was turning into a night, I headed for my final destination, Shin bungeiza, who were doing a brief 6 film Zatoichi series. The double features were:

The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) (DCP)  
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965) (35mm)

Zatoichi Challenged (1967) (35mm)
Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman (1971) (35mm)

Zatoichi (1989) (35mm)
Zatoichi (2003) (35mm)

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A slightly disappointing program for me, as I had already seen Zatoichi Challenged in 35mm, The Tale of Zatoichi was a DCP (rendering it useless), and Kitano’s Zatoichi is not worth re-watching anyway. That only left Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, one of my favourites but it played before I got to Tokyo,  Zatoichi (1989), which I wanted to re-watch but it overlapped with Failed Youth and Resurrection of the Golden Wolf, and Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman which I did see. An alright film, but pitting genre legends Katsu and Wang Yu against each other on the excuse of language barrier and cultural miscommunication was just lame. There was potential for more.

Also, while the 35mm print looked good, it had the same shrill, hard-on-the-ears sound I remember was on the old Animeigo DVD. A fair few of their DVDs had similar issues, e.g. Lady Snowblood and some of the Lone Wolves, but this was the first time I came across the same in a 35mm screening although I’ve seen all the fore-mentioned films in 35mm.  

A good friend of mine was supposed to join me for Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman but got “stuck in the train, cannot get out because some dumbass pushed the emergency stop button”. So he made it to the late screening only, which was…

A Rutger Hauer memorial. The night’s film was the excellent Salute of the Jugger (1989), which I saw for the first time and had a blast with. It was a BD screening, and while I normally wouldn’t pay for such, this time it wasn’t about presentation, it was about being there and now, remembering Rutger Hauer! And while it was a BD screening, the print on the disc looked like an early DVD transfer which nevertheless was not entirely unfit for a film of this nature!

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Ads for upcoming programs, including a Battles without Honor and Humanity all night marathon... they had this last year as well.
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We closed the night with some beef, fish and Dutch beer in a nearby Ikebukuro restaurant. It was the annual shared birthday party for us. I gave away my French Cat Girl Gambling BD set away as birthday present, and received some Japanese boobs book, as typical (last year it was a ‘visual guide to breast sizes’, and the year before that ‘Mana Sakura Nude Photo Book’).

The following day I’ve already mostly covered in an earlier post. I went back to Jimbocho for Failed Youth, Resurrection of the Golden Wolf and The Mosquito on the Tenth Floor, before heading back to the airport. I had the usual by-the-minute schedule to make it to my flight. I had to rush out of Mosquito the second it ended, and I still missed my sub because I had been looking at a weekday schedule by accident though it was Saturday! As a result I needed to make Hibiya-Yurakucho transfer (500 metres + the ticket purchasing hassle and boarding the next train) in 5 minutes, which by some miracle I did! Etsuko got all wet in the process, but thankfully I had a clean shirt in the bag. I reached the airport 9 min before the check-in closed!

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A pretty great Toho New Action series coming up at Laputa. Dying to see Attack on the Sun (1970) and The Target of Roses (1972) by Kiyoshi Nishimura. And maybe Bullet Wound as well. The others I've seen.

The whole program:

11/09(土)~11/15(金) 「狙撃」(Sun Above, Death Below) (Hideichi Nagahara, 1968)
11/16(土)~11/25(月) 「弾痕」(Bullet Wound) (Hideichi Nagahara, 1969)
11/26(火)~12/02(月) 「白昼の襲撃」(Attack on the Sun) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1970)
12/03(火)~12/12(木) 「豹(ジャガー)は走った」(The Creature Called Man) ()Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1970)
12/13(金)~12/19(木) 「野獣都市」(City of Beasts) (Jun Fukuda, 1970)
12/20(金)~12/26(木) 「ヘアピン・サーカス」 (Hairpin Circus) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1972)
1/06(月)~1/12(日) 「薔薇の標的」(Target of Roses) (Kiyoshi Nishimura, 1972)
1/13(月)~1/19(日) 「野獣狩り」(Beast Hunt) (Eizo Sugawa, 1973)

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Hairpin Circus
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The Creature Called Man
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