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 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 →