aka みな殺しの拳銃 aka Minagoroshi no Kenjû aka Slaughter Gun aka Ruthless Gangster 1967 Written by Yasuharu Hasebe (as Takashi Fujii) and Ryûzô Nakanishi
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
A long time ago (2017!) I saw Massacre Gun at the Roxie, but despite it being some good stuff, I was far too busy to get a proper writeup completed. This is TarsTarkas.NET, after all, where the reviews are all made up and the deadlines don’t matter, so we thought we’d just watch it again and give a nice, nuanced review from multiple viewings. So thus bursts the review of Massacre Gun!
At this point the Nikkatsu borderless action films are becoming very well represented on TarsTarkas.NET, thanks in part to a large swatch of them getting wonderful restored and subtitled releases in the West, thus making watches easy. These films have a tone that make them very good watches even though too many at once can lead to bleak feelings due to the tone. Despite that, the films are largely high quality stories crafted with care, and have a clear evolution over time before the entire genre was just dropped in favor of the Roman Pornos. From the early youth/troubled youth films to the increasingly violent and dreary action pieces, the entire genre (and their inspirations and imitators) just create so many things to talk about. There is even the side journey with our slow but study dive through Seijun Suzuki’s filmography. The director here is Yasuharu Hasebe (the amazeballs Black Tight Killers!) and he might be one of the few Nikkatsu directors to give Suzuki a run for his money in regards to interesting shots and techniques (while still showing it straight enough to not anger the bosses enough to get fired!)
By now this is 1967, the genre is in full swing, Jo Shishido is owning the screen, and Yasuharu Hasebe is about to drop yet another required viewing film onto an eager audience with Massacre Gun! Three brothers get pushed too far by their Yakuza employers and decided to strike out on their own and strike back against the disrespect, but we all know things aren’t going to end happily for most of them. Ken Sanders crooning gives this film an amazing vibe (backed up by the ever-present boarderless action jazz, which seems to be extra juiced in this film. There are album collections of tracks from these films which are great to study or write movie articles too, trust me!) We also get a lot of gangsters feeling sorry for themselves sitting around smoking while he croons. If that doesn’t hammer the tragic life of the yakuza gangster into your brain then maybe Teletubbies is more your speed, leave the Nikkatsu flicks to us, thanks. Continue reading →
aka 完全な遊戯 aka Kanzenna Yugi 1958 Based on the short story by Shintarô Ishihara
Screenplay by Yoshio Shirasaka
Directed by Toshio Masuda
This time we are beep-beep backing the truck up to 1958, where the Nikkatsu flicks were more disaffected youth culture than the thrillers and borderless action the genre will evolve into soon enough. Perfect Game still has plenty of strong characters, bad choices, and dangerous situations even with the slow leisurely pace the film begins it’s scheme setup with. The protagonists are introduced, their want of fast and easy money and willingness to bend the rules (past the breaking point!) to get said money. Like many youth they also think themselves invincible, the next score just being another quick job that will never have any bad repercussions. But if that were the case, then we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we? The fact that the protagonists all come from affluent families but still succumb to the temptations of their excesses makes this a solid Sun Tribe feature.
I love Nikkatsu’s films but I have to do them in spurts as you can only take so much bleak ruination of tragic endings before you want to watch Godzilla punch some monsters or Captain America punch some monsters (or Nazis, same thing!) Director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Red Pier) turns what could have easily been an ordinary film into a memorable tragic tale thanks to strong characters and skillfully constructed scenes that highlight the buildups to tragedy as the characters compromise their values more and more.
We got ourselves a quartet of young college students who want a bit of excitement in their lives, and gambling away the meager allowance their parents give them just ain’t cutting it. Mastermind Toda (Yasukiyo Umeno) is a straight-faced liar and owes his girlfriend Meiko (Mari Shiraki – Underworld Beauty) – the Mama of a hostess club – a large sum of money. There is also Soji Oki (Akira Kobayashi – in so many films he has a tag), who is usually called So-chan, he is the pretty one that makes the girls swoon. Jiro Akitani (Shirô Yanase) lies to both of his parents about his money issues but can manipulate his successful father into coughing up dough as needed. And finally Toshio, who I’m struggling to remember anything significant about beyond just being part of the gang. Sorry, buddy, get a personality! Continue reading →
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 黒い賭博師 aka Kuroi tobakushi 1965 Original Story by Toshio Nomura
Directed by Ko Nakahira (as Yasushi Nakahira)
Among the lesser known Japanese 1960s film series in the West is the “Gambler Series”, thanks to it never getting any sort of proper Western release. But thanks to the magic of fan subs, the sixth entry in the franchise, Black Gambler, can now be enjoyed by those of us who track down world cinema. The films are obscure enough it is hard to find much about them in English, but basically heartthrob Akira Kobayashi is a master gambler who gets involved in various intrigues thanks to the world of gambling. Most of them are unconnected besides the title and gambling theme, and there were eight in total. I’m not sure if every entry involves international spies and revenge by gambling, but I can guarantee this is the only 1960s Japanese gambling movie where the master villain is a Jewish gambler who used his gambling money to fund the Nazis in World War 2. I’m not even sure where to begin with that revelation, except to laugh out loud like I did when it was announced. As usual, the international gang of goons go up against the cool and suave Japanese hero, and let’s just say you should always bet on Akira Kobayashi (sorry, Wesley Snipes, pay your taxes and maybe we’ll bet on you again!)
At this point, Akira Kobayashi was more of a lone wolf bad boy, but here he is also a suave playboy gambler, which means he got to stretch his acting muscles a bit. Director Ko Nakahira/Yasushi Nakahira is probably best known in the west for Crazed Fruit, Summer Heat (basically a remake of Crazed Fruit he directed for Shaw Brothers), and the first two Rica films. He was yet another director who had trouble with Nikkatsu’s restrictions on creativity, thus leading to his split from the studio and directing film in Hong Kong under the name Yang Su Hsi. Continue reading →