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 野獣の青春 aka Yaju no Seishun aka Wild Youth 1963 Written by Ichiro Ikeda and Tadaki Yamazaki
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
A random stranger coming to town to pit two rival groups against each other is a classic story done well in a variety of genres, and with Youth of the Beast we get the story set in the swinging 1960s yakuza beat, with director Seijun Suzuki determined to make the visuals by themselves a grand spectacle. Joe Shishido and his cheeks take their usual place as a Suzuki lead, as Shishido’s Joji Mizuno waltzes in to lead the sides to their collective dooms.
so what makes Youth of the Beast worth watching like similar tales Yojimbo, Red Harvest, Django, A Fistful of Dollars, or even The Warrior and the Sorceress? Aside from the story being well told again, there is the great Seijun Suzuki visuals. Suzuki starts showing off his boredom with the nonstop yakuza films by tossing in a bunch of visual flair. He must have had fun, because his films only seemed to escalate from here. Youth of the Beast opens with a bleak black and white scene of solemn police investigating a double suicide, a cop and a woman, the only point of color (and life) being a red flower. This sharply contrasts with the vibrant color and exciting city life full of laughing girls, violent fights at the drop of a hat, and a jazzy soundtrack that immediately follows, as Joji Mizuno beats through some Nomoto yakuza thugs to rob their money and blow it at their club.
The energetic club is full of life, sin, and sound, while the Nomoto yakuza bosses who control it observe though soundproof one way mirrors, giving the mirth a surreal quality. Mizuno’s ease of dispatching the thugs gains the interest of the boss, and after a bit of interrogation and some display of weapons skills, he’s on their team. Then just as quickly, Mizuno is ratting everything out to the boss of the rival Sanko gang. As he’s out for revenge against the groups that ruined his life, breaking them apart piece by piece becomes a fun game. Continue reading →