aka 赤い波止場 aka Akai Hatoba aka Crimson Seaport aka Red Quay aka The Left Hand of Jiro 1958 Written by Ichirô Ikeda and Toshio Masuda
Directed by Toshio Masuda
It’s Nikkatsu Action time again! The film genre is so consistently entertaining that it will be a constant reoccurring theme here (or at least the films that have gotten releases on digital media are the entertaining ones, as there are piles of films that still don’t seem to have any sort of legitimate release even with 20 years of cinephiles screaming about it. But we work with what we got, and what we got is Akai Hatoba, aka Red Pier, but also known as Crimson Harvest as well as a few other titles. It’s supposedly a reworking of a French film called Pepe le Moko, but everyone who claims this also mentions they haven’t seen that film, and I’m afraid I have to add myself to that total, so who knows? What I do know is director Toshio Masuda revisited this story a few years later with Velvet Hustler in glorious color. But this is the OG yakuza on a pier outwitting his enemies while also being in love with a lady whose brother he helped kill film.
Lefty Jiro (Masuda regular Yujiro Ishihara, I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife) hangs at Kobe Harbor running the joint for his gang. He was formerly from Tokyo, but due to some trouble he’s been hiding out here “keeping a low profile”, in that he’s still involved in people being killed but never with enough evidence for the cops to do anything about it. A cool local policeman, Detective Noro (Shiro Osaka), spends most of his spare time hanging out at the harbor determined to catch Jiro doing something bad, but also sort of likes him as a friend. Noro is always snacking on something, and is around so much the other criminal elements tolerate his presence even if they know they have to do extra work to snark around behind his back. Continue reading →
aka 探偵事務所２３ くたばれ悪党ども aka Tantei Jimusho 23: Kutabare Akutodomo aka Detective Bureau 23: Down with the Wicked 1963 Screenplay by Gan Yamazaki (as Iwao Yamazaki)
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Seijun Suzuki Detective Bureau 2-3 is a light-hearted action film, filled with plenty of comedy bits and trucks full of yakuza running around like video game mobs. This is before Seijun Suzuki went full fever dream, but he does have fun sending up the not very original undercover plot and having plenty of side action and goofs to fill the running time. At times it feels like a Keystone cops vs Keystone yakuza film, as trucks full of gang members armed with random blunt objects drive around in circles chasing after their prey, and dozens of cops run around and try to arrest them all. That’s just flavor for the Joe Shishido being a hero plot, but the trucks full of yakuza (and the musical numbers) are far more memorable than the central story.
The goofiness sort of works against the serious parts, we open with a Pepsi truck ambushing a weapons deal, Sakura and Otsuki gang members are massacred by the armed thugs riding the truck, and some poor Pepsi gets spilled when bottles are shot during the firefight. I guess those bottles won’t be getting the nickel refund! Was there a refund for glass bottles in Japan? The scene seems ridiculous, but the results are fatally real for everyone who is targeted. Only one witness survives, a guy named Manabe (Tamio Kawachi), and he’s suspected of being one of the attackers. The police have him stashed away in their precinct, and outside Sakura and Otsuki gang members wait in their cars, armed with rifles. Don’t worry, they all have the proper permits that say they are going hunting and are just waiting there before they go hunting, which is sort of hilarious. It would be even more hilarious if this wasn’t reality in various open carry states where morons carry AK-47s in public and scare people, and the cops can’t do anything.
The police know Manabe is dead if the mob gets him, and they don’t have enough evidence to hold him forever. So Captain Kumagaya (Nobuo Kaneko) has an idea, he calls on noted Detective Hideo Tajima (Joe Shishido). But to keep everything off the books and confusing in case of leaks or bad ends, Detective Hideo Tajima is given a gun and a permit, all under the fake identity of Ichiro Tanaka. He uses his skills to drive Manabe away from the waiting goons and causes enough of a scene (thanks to a timely cement truck blocking the yakuza vehicles) that they escape, and is instantly recruited to join Manabe’s gang. Continue reading →