Black Tight Killers
aka 俺にさわると危ないぜ aka Ore ni Sawaru to Abunaize aka If You Touch Me Danger
Screenplay by Ryuzo Nakanishi and Michio Tsuzuki
Based on the novel by Michio Tsuzuki
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
Black Tight Killers is an essential film. In a just universe, it would be a well-known classic instead of a fairly known cult movie. It assaults the senses with a full force blast of 1960s gogo excess from the opening credits, and just puts the pedal to the metal. The awesomeness is of such force that even viewers who shy away from the 1950s and 60s Japanese action cinema will be pulled along. The film is a visual feast, with nearly every scene so full of glorified excess of ocular excitement that your eyes will be in danger of going all ADHD on you.
Black Tight Killers starts with Akira Kobayashi as dashing war photographer Daisuke Honda doing daring deeds during a pitched battle that wouldn’t look out of place in any cheap 1960s Italian war movie that was also shot on a small set. But soon he’s flying back to Japan and we’re blasted by dancing gogo girls in black tights stomping through the opening credits. The film features a gang of fighting femmes (the titular Black Tight Killers) who use their ninja skills on a quest to recover stolen treasure before the villains can. They cross paths with Daisuke Honda, whose recent girlfriend Yuriko Sawanouchi (Chieko Matsubara) is kidnapped due to her family connections to the looted treasure. While the ninja ladies are at first adversarial with Honda and were attempting to kill Yuriko, eventually they become a team to go after the real villains. Honda’s lady killer charms combined with the actual ladies who are killers using ninja seduction skills (the Octopus Pot move traps you know which part of Honda’s body inside you know where of the ninja lass!) means we have plenty of sex to go with violence and music.
Of particular note is a technicolor jazz dream sequence of Daisuke Honda’s, as we follow dream Yuriko as she’s chased through long hallways by stalking menaces while a different-hued black tight killer lady prances in every direction. She frantically bursts through the paper walls of different colored rooms, the ladies chasing her all the while. It’s a literal technicolor fever dream! In the awake world, whenever characters are driving around in vehicles, the projected background is rendered in primary colors, recalling the dream sequence but also forcing focus on the characters in the car just through blasting out any distractions.
Cruel Gun Story
aka 拳銃残酷物語 aka Kenju Zankoku Monogatari
Written by Haruhiko Oyabu
Screenplay by Hisataka Kai
Directed by Takumi Furukawa
Cruel Gun Story is a standout entry from the Nikkatsu Noir boxed set, possibly my favorite (with A Colt Is My Passport a close second) of the set, and maybe even one of the better Japanese noir flicks out there. A criminal is hired to lead a heist, but before you can say “setup”, there is an onion farm’s worth of layers of betrayals that spiral out of control into the inevitable conclusion. Part of the drama is not if certain characters will betray everyone, but just when and how they will do so. The mix of everyone looking out for themselves while things keep hitting the worst of all possible universes for outcomes suggests the cruel object isn’t the gun, but life itself for those who choose to live by it and anyone caught in the crossfire.
Joji Togawa is fresh out of the joint, but before he even has a chance to breathe, he’s being scoped out by a yakuza boss to run and armored car heist. Togawa is what he is, and ends up agreeing, though he’s big on saying how this is his one last job. So we know things aren’t going to end well. Togawa meets his team with his old friend, Shirai (Yuji Odaka), it includes Okada (Shobun Inoue) – a former boxer, and Teramoto, a big mouth junkie (and whose girl, Keiko (Minako Kazuki), tags along). Another member is rejected immediately when it’s revealed he easily spills his guts when threatened.
The target is an armored car full of 127 million yen in racetrack money, and guarded by motorcycle cops. The plan to snag the car goes off with only a few minor hitches, but that’s when things hit the fan and fall apart at the same time. The team is betrayed from without and within, leading to the survivors behind holed up while a swarm of yakuza blast their guns at them. The scope of the crime is enough that the entire country is looking for them, and there is nowhere for Togawa to hide. Even attempts to fight against the yakuza hunting them ends worse than things were before. Yakuza Boss Matsumoto’s (Hiroshi Nihonyanagi) son is kidnapped, but the other yakuza care more about the money than the boss’s son’s life.
The only way out is to flee the country, Togawa calling in a favor of Takizawa (Tamio Kawaji), who loved Togawa’s sister before she was crippled in an accident (and still loves her). Togawa’s sister sits in a home for the disabled, and despite her pleas for her brother to be good, she knows he’s gone and done something bad again.