aka 夕陽に赤い俺の顔 aka Yuhi Ni Akai Ore No Kao aka My Face Red in the Sunset 1961 Written by Shuji Terayama
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda Killers on Parade is a dark comedic flick that features a group of gimmicked hitmen and women as eventual adversaries to our plucky hero, who is on a mission to bring down a corrupt construction firm and the newspaper editor that is attempting to blackmail it. The plot is less important than the colorful characters that are part of the Downtown Killer Club. Killers on Parade is set in a garish comic book world filled with colors and items that bother to label themselves so you know what they are. The villains have gimmicks and costumes that leave you with no doubt as to their gimmicks and roles, and scenes are shot to play up common film locations. While things are overtly goofy, there is enough danger seeded to try to raise actual stakes, but this factor doesn’t seem to have aged well enough to make it to modern day without seeming like a distraction instead of an integrated part of the show.
The Murderers 8 present as a united front, but are fiercely competitive, though follow a sense of honor when being assigned jobs, preventing others from interfering and disrupting all their down time. Despite all the characters having day jobs, all they seem to do all day is hang out with each other and get into marksmanship competitions. The Murderers 8 include (please excuse the lack of names for some, they just didn’t get their name mentioned out loud!):
Hong Kong, a Yakuza gangster stereotype in black suit, who is the most dangerous of the group.
Senti, a gun champion.
The bespectacled Doctor, who handily always carries around a black bag that says “Doctor” on it in English.
Sergeant, a former soldier.
An Older Guy who appears to dress as a shrubbery cutter.
A Sports Guy who wears jerseys and during the final battle, a full football uniform and helmet.
Scarf Guy, whose gimmick is he has a scarf (Okay, they didn’t have time to give everyone personalities!)
Nagisa (Kayoko Honoo), the lone female killer who often dresses in red and has a pet goat named End. She ran off from home to be a killer, but is starting to grow disillusioned with the lifestyle.
The overall tone is comedic with random bursts of song, providing a send up of the then-recent spate of neonoir/borderless action flicks in Japanese cinema, dosed in wonderful technicolor and layered in sensible silliness. Things seem to make both perfect logical sense in universe, but are also ridiculous when you stop to think about them. The killers demonstrate their marksmanship by shooting at an apple on a kid’s head before the credits. Later they have another shooting competition at the race track to see who gets the new contract. Continue reading →
aka 乾いた花 aka Kawaita Hana 1964 Written by Masaru Baba and Masahiro Shinoda
Based on the book by Shintaro Ishihara
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda Pale Flower starts out slow and continues the leisurely pace, building up the complex web of characters and simmering gang drama. Muraki (Ryo Ikebe) is newly released from prison, after serving a few years for killing a rival gang member. By now the gangs are in a loose confederation as a third power has become a threat to both. The two former rival leaders spend part of their time arguing like old bickering lovers. Muraki is brought back into the swing of things, but kept out of any heavy action because of his recent release status. The reacquaintance with underworld activities results in one exciting point, a striking young woman (Mariko Kaga) who shows up at one of the local gambling houses, bets big, seems bored, and speaks to no one. Muraki manages to attract a scrap of attention from her when he matches one of her large bets.
After a few weeks of gambling together in silence, Muraki scores a conversation with her. She goes by Saeko, and the small time bets no longer excite her. Muraki says he can get her bigger action, he just needs to ask around for where the games are played now. They agree to meet up later in the week, and a partnership is born. Saeko is a thrill-seeker, zipping around in her sports car, betting big. She senses the danger in Muraki and it attracts her, but not in a sexual lust way. Simply being around him is enough. One look at Saeko answers all questions of why any guy would hang with her.
The increasing bets and Saeko’s danger chasing mirror the increasing threats from the real world. A cryptic guard at one of the games Muraki pegs for a maniac, and soon Muraki is being talked down dark alleys by a hidden killer. The upstart gang kills an important gang figure, and there must be a response of killing their leader. Muraki volunteers, his stretch of freedom growing sour at the same time his relationship with Saeko seems to be going south. But she reunites with him as he prepares to go off to do his job, seeing someone be murdered is a thrill she hasn’t experienced yet.
Muraki is a low-key gangster who seems bored with life in general and justifies his killing by talking down on mankind as a whole. His relationship with Saeko isn’t overtly sexual, but is two people at a similar point in life that come together because they click, and tension boils beneath the surface. Muraki has a woman who waited for him while he was away, she sleeps in the clock shop her family owns, the scenes there punctuated by the ticking of hundreds of clocks, a reminder of the limited length of life. She can’t stay away from Muraki even though he’s no good, and follows him, observing his relationship with Saeko. Continue reading →