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 →
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 →