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 爆破３秒前 aka Bakuha 3-Byo Mae 1967 Screenplay by Hideichi Nagahara
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Motomu Ida (as Tan Ida) 3 Seconds Before Explosion uses the basic war treasure plot we’ve seen from flicks such as Black Tight Killers, but dials back the ridiculousness to try to become more James Bond than anything else. Yabuki (Akira Kobayashi) is the secret agent hero who fights to solve the case, which contains a bunch of kidnappings and treasure hunting in between the random action scenes.
At this point Akira Kobayashi was at the height of his popularity, having helmed multiple series for Nikkatsu, even becoming a pop star along the way. When you work through Nikkatsu’s Borderless Action films, you’ll see him just as often as Joe Shishido pops up, sometimes alongside Joe Shishido. While Shishido may have the fake cheeks that somehow made ladies swoon, with his natural good looks and bad boy charm, Kobayashi is much better suited to play a suave secret agent type that would have a numerical code name. When each actor walks into a nightclub scene and stands around smoking, Shishido looks like he’s sizing up the room to beat everyone up while Kobayashi just looks so cool he make everyone else look like rabble.
The comparison to Black Tight Killers bears repeating, because not only is there a war treasure, but people related to those involved in hiding the treasure are kidnapped. This time the villains are part of an international gang lead by a rapist German named Galen (Galen the German??), and the treasure belongs to the made up new nation of Rabaley. This switch from the treasure being ostensibly owned by Japan lowers the stakes, because nobody cares if a fake nation gets a random treasure. In fact, you might cheer for them to not get the treasure, because I hear Rabaleans are a bunch of jerks. Allegedly. Please don’t invade me, mighty Rabaley! Continue reading →