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 →
aka その護送車を狙 aka Sono gososha o nerae: ‘Jusango taihisen’ yori 1960 Screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa
Based on a story by Kazou Shimada
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
The Nikkatsu borderless action train continues, this time with a police guard looking to uncover the conspiracy to kill prisoners that he took the fall for. Take Aim at the Police Van gets attention as an early piece from Seijun Suzuki, before he got bored enough to try the widespread experimentalization of his flicks.
Michitaro Mizushima (Underworld Beauty) stars as Daijiro Tamon, the guard on a police prisoner transport van that is hit with gun fire and two prisoners are killed. Because someone must take the blame, Tamon is suspended for six months, which gives him plenty of time off to find out who shot at the van and why. Thus begins an investigation that will see Tamon sucked into the world of sex trafficking, hidden behind fronts of modeling agencies. This gives an excuse to have lots of attractive women running around, which gets even more glaring as most of the male characters range from seedy to extra seedy to so full of seeds they’re being sold at garden supply stores.
Tamon distinguishes himself as a guard because he treats the prisoners fairly, this gives him enough of a reputation that he gets more doors opened to him when he starts hunting for clues. It also seems to say something about the Japanese prison system if just treating someone like a human being is commendable behavior. Not that we have problems like that in modern day America…
The prisoners that were killed don’t seem to be connected at all, but the more Tamon digs, the more he finds connections to something bigger. A missing sister to one of the prisoners who was working as a dancer is connected to another dancer that was watching the police van just before it was fired upon. The dancer, Tsunako Ando (Mari Shiraki), is dating another prisoner from the van, Goro Kashima (Shoichi Ozawa), who has a mysterious new job that he promises will earn a lot of money. And everyone seems connected to the Hamaju Talent Agency run by Yuko Hamashima (Misako Watanabe), who took over when her father Jube (Shinsuke Ashida) fell ill. But a rival firm has popped up and they are poaching each others’ talent. Continue reading →