aka 暗黒街の対決 aka Ankokugai no taiketsu 1960 Written by Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Based on the book Chi no Wana by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Kihachi Okamoto The Last Gunfight is basically Toshiro Mifune coming to a town besieged by warring yakuza and taking them all down in that time honored fashion that we all know and love from various samurai, western, and yakuza movies.
Detective Saburo Fujioka (Toshiro Mifune) is accused of corruption and transferred to Kojin, a city run rampant with crime. Fujioka inserts himself in the middle of the city’s gang troubles, and we don’t know initially his motives, which gives him a sort of Man with No Name vibe. He gets into several fights by way of not saying much of anything while figuring out the lay of the gangs, seemingly showing that the best way to know these enemies is to make them start fights with you. He does most of this without bothering to tell the Kojin police anything that he is doing.
The Ooka gang is the one causing much of the problems in the city. Kyuzaburo Ooka (Seizaburo Kawazu) doesn’t follow the unwritten rules of honor for yakuza gangs, leading to strife with factions like the Kozukas. But Ooka does know how to throw money and violence around, meaning his slices of the pie keep getting bigger without all that honor stuff holding him back. Kozuka’s group represents the status quo, but their old fashion rules threaten to leave them in the dustbin of history as Ooka gains more and more territory. Kozuka believes in the old way of the yakuza having a sort of honor (let’s leave the arguments about the realities of this romanticized view aside for now) and tells a tale about how he spent money fixing the sewage system of the town at a loss just to help the people, and Ooka predictably mocks him for that. 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 →