Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Going Straight Was Never This Tough

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Yakuza & Crime)

(All Opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoiler Free)

Image result for rusty knife 1958

Sabita Naifu (Rusty Knife) (1958) PG-13 ****1/2

Yujiro Ishihara: Yukihiko Tachibana

Mie Kitahara: Keiko Nishida

Akira Kobayashi: Makoto Terada

Shoji Yasui: Prosecutor Karita

Naoki Sugiura Seiji Katsumata

Mari Shiraki: Yuri

Jo Shishido: Shimabara (as Joe Shishido)

Masao Shimizu: Shingo Mano

Nobuo Kawakami: Detective Kano

Saburo Hiromatsu: Akira Mano

Written by: Shintaro Ishihara & Toshio Masuda

Directed by: Toshio Masuda

Synopsis: Former Yakuza thugs Tachibana and Terada, just recently paroled after serving time for murder, are being sought by the police for knowledge they might have on a politician’s death. Wanting desperately to finger a smug Yakuza chieftain for the crime, the police hound the duo for answers. The duo, wanting to be left alone to start afresh, begin their own investigation which reveals someone in the government may have hired the Yakuza to kill the politician.

Related image

In 1957 Nikkatsu Studios, Japan’s oldest film company, began to rebuild its empire in the post war period with a series of Crime Drama’s in the style of Hollywood Noir’s. 1958’s Sabita Naifu proved to be one of best early period examples of the Hollywood influence on World Cinema, well recreating the classic light and dark contrasts in cinematography and lighting, and of course the tragic, broken characters trying to survive in a world they’re finding harder and harder to understand. Former hoodlums desperately trying to prove they’ve reformed as the police try to insinuate they’re a threat to their ex colleagues is one of the classic themes of the Noir genre, and has the film feeling very real as the characters involved seem like real people trying to reach for the ideal dream the Japanese were going for as hope was reviving in the post war period. When the thugs begin to realize they’re scapegoats for a mysterious government official who’s the real brains behind the Yakuza crime wave, they quickly look to clear their names before the official silences them forever. Taking another of the classic themes of the reformed bad men trying to stay straight and setting it in the post war period as the government of Japan were fighting corrupt officials and gangsters trying to undermine the recent economic boom makes for an interesting story and journey.

Image result for rusty knife 1958

Yujiro Ishihara, the Japanese equivalent of Elvis Presley, successfully made a second image for himself as the world-weary gangster Tachibana. Both tired of having to prove he’s a changed man to the police, and proving to his ex-colleague’s he doesn’t have any intention of reprisals or comebacks, Tachibana tries to navigate his new life in the wake of public opinion and pre-conceptions regarding his past. At first he looks to discover the truth simply to get both the police and former cohorts off his back, but when it looks like he and his close friend are being set up as patsies by a corrupt government official and an ambitious Yakuza leader looking to make a fortune and gain prestige in the new Democratic Japan, Tachibana decides to take on both the official and the Yakuza doing his dirty work. Ishihara, who was primarily a matinee idol and singer of the period, showed he was more than just a smooth voice and unique face with a good set of acting skills as he gives depth and personality to a character not far off from many true-life people in the post war period. Another interesting aspect is that this is one of the few times Ishihara doesn’t sing on camera. Even when he was doing non-musical roles, the filmmakers would often try to include a song for Ishihara to sing, since he was often promoting new albums and new song writers while making movies. He does sing the opening song of the film credits, but off camera, making this a pre-Elvis Charo! type of role.

(Interesting note: Ishihara’s brother Shintaro, now a controversial senator in Japan, co-authored the film’s script when he had dreams of becoming a successful writer.)

Image result for rusty knife 1958

Mie Kitahara, a popular actress of the 50’s and 60’s and the wife of Yujiro Ishihara, also shines bright in the role of Keiko. While not seen too much in the film, her character’s affiliation to another character provides a crucial piece of evidence in the politician’s death. An orphan raised by s kindly court official, Keiko too is world-weary because the role of women in the new Japan seem to be hovering in a kind of limbo, having both a kind of new independent freedom and yet still tied to the formal traditions of their ancestors. While not the typical Film-Noir female character in that she’s neither a femme fatale or a lost soul having difficulty finding her place in the world, Keiko is still a woman who feels she has a place she hasn’t found yet, and soon finds herself falling for the ex-gangster Tachibana, sure she can help him in the new life he wants to live. When it looks like she could hold the key to solving the crime her boyfriend is being hounded for, Tachibana and his buddy find themselves having to protect her as well as themselves.

Image result for rusty knife 1958

Akira Kobayashi, Ishihara’s compatriot in the singing industry and another aspiring actor, got his big break in the role of Terada. A friend of Tachibana who took the rap along with him for a murder charge, Terada is thinking of a similar quiet life for himself as he goes through closure in his old life. When he and Tachibana are fingered as involved in a politician’s death, he helps his friend in figuring out how a second rate, arrogant soldier in their former clan rose to the rank of boss. Kobayashi shows early on he would be a good actor, having a look alike face to Elvis, and a natural charisma that allowed him to well portray a man wanting a new life, but at the time has a time of breaking old friendships despite the risk continued association with said people would mean for him.

Image result for rusty knife 1958

In an early acting role, Joe Shishido, who’d later become one of Nikkatsu’s popular stars, has a brief, but important role as Shimabara. Shimabara is a small-time hoodlum who discovers the identity of the man who’s behind the rise of the local Yakuza boss. When he decides to go to the authorities after his blackmail attempts fail, Shimabara is conveniently thrown from a moving train bound for Tokyo. His death, and the cops’ loss of their only lead, is what catapults their hounding of Tachibana and Terada in what they may or may not know regarding the info Shimabara was about to give the authorities.

Image result for rusty knife 1958

Mixing both commentary on the growing economic prosperity and the corruption that followed in its wake, and pure entertaining mystery and suspense, Sabita Naifu makes for quite the complex and interesting film. Two hoodlums fighting for their lives and their chances to go straight are being thwarted by greedy opportunists and seriously hampered by obsessed police investigators make for exciting entertainment and a lovely homage to the classics of 1940’s Film Noir. Good performances, solid story, and fine use of cinematography and lighting help evoke a mix of new style and classic style.

(I highly recommend this one for its flawless mixture of entertainment value and keeping with showcasing the relevant issues of the period without sounding overtly intellectual or preachy. Yujiro Ishihara and Akira Kobayashi were able to prove to critics and producers alike they were more than just pretty faces and had some serious talent under their belts that would lead to better and better roles for them. The Criterion Collection’s showcasing the of the film in their Eclipse series Nikkatsu Noir set allows it to rise above obscurity and lets new audiences discover it. The audio is fine as always and while the picture shows clear age as the Eclipse series doesn’t do full on restoration, is still clear and fresh enough to not have the problems nearly forgotten prints have)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/Rusty Knife

Wikipedia/Rusty Knife

The Criterion Collection/Rusty Knife

(Please see my write up of A Colt is My Passport for the link to the Nikkatsu Noir Amazon page)

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Japan Pays Homage to The Italian West

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Yakuza & Crime)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild to Spoiler free)

Related image

Koruto wa Ore no Pasupooto (A Colt is My Passport) PG-13 (1967) ****

Jo Shishido: Shuji Karmimura (as Joe Shishido)

Jerry Fujio: Shun Shiozaki

Chitose Kobayashi: Mina

Shoki Fukae: Funaki

Kanjuro Arashi: Shimazu

Ryotaro Sugi: Shimazu’s Successor

Eimei Esumi: Senzaki

Jun Hongo: Kaneko

Takamaru Sasaki: Otawara

Asao Uchida: Tsugawa

Written by: Hideichi Nagahara & Nobuo Yamada, based on the novel by Shinji Fujiwara

Directed by: Takashi Namura

Synopsis: A hitman and his partner are targeted for death after an ambitious Yakuza member hires them to murder his boss, then pins the crime on a rival group, saying they ordered the hit to cover up his coup. The duo must now fight both gangs in order to stay alive.

Image result for a colt is my passport (1967)

1967 brought about many changes in the Japanese film industry, the Yakuza genre was going more towards realism and less on the romantic, director Seijun Suzuki was in a bitter battle with his former bosses at Nikkatsu who had framed him for misusing funds, and loyalty among studio employees and executives was being questioned and re-evaluated. Pasupooto represents a border between the classic era of genre cinema and the changes that were soon to be in full place by 1968. Here, the majority of the gangsters are devious from the get-go, others are blinded by misguided loyalty that will lead to their deaths, and only a select few regard the original rules and codes set by the founders of the organization as absolute and unchangeable. The very latter are the ones who matter most to audiences as they recognize these characters as shady, but also have ethics and honor which places them above the lot they associate themselves with. By having the hero and his buddy be totally alone in their battle goes a little more into Western style films, particularly Italian Westerns in that no one will come to their aid while in earlier Yakuza films there would be some characters who get wise to what’s being lied about and come to the hero’s aid to put things right, thus showing a radically different view to how such situations are handled.

Image result for a colt is my passport (1967)

The score by Harumi Ibe offers the most Western influence on the film. While most Yakuza film scores of the period were inspired by Jazz and Rock n’ Roll music, this score has a very Italian Western feel to it, particularly in the use of unique instruments not normally associated with traditional scores. Wind instruments play a big part in Japanese film scores and get to be used quite differently for new and curious sounds for this entertaining and delirious film. Jazz and Rock n’ Roll still play a big part, but Ibe’s decision to spice things up with occasional different sounds is a breath of fresh air.

Image result for a colt is my passport (1967)

Joe Shishido, one of the last of Nikkatsu’s Matinee Idols of the day, does really well in the role of Karmimura. Gearing a little more towards the Anti-Heroes of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Franco Nero than to the honorable and respectful gangster of earlier Yakuza films, Karmimura blends both the good guys of European cinema and Asian cinema. While a little more withdrawn into himself than most gangsters, Karmimura shows he has an honor and ethics code like his contemporaries and predecessors, and is fairly enraged when a cocky and arrogant underboss decides to cement his power by framing him and his buddy for the assassination of a powerful and respected Yakuza leader. Shishido’s unique facial features, the result of early plastic surgery methods, and a brooding stare made for a good loner character who, while never pledging loyalty to one specific person, honors the contracts and employment he’s offered and tries to treat the client with respect. As the film progresses, Karmimura begins to realize the things he’s missed out on being a hitman, but reminds his buddy and the woman he begins to love that an injustice has been done and the gang that did needs to be stopped.

Image result for a colt is my passport (1967)

Jerry Fujio, a Japanese entertainer and actor, does well in the role of Shiozaki, Karmimura’s partner. While a bit more personable and open than Karmimura, Shiozaki is still very much a gunman and honors the same system and Karmimura. Realizing at the same time they’ve been double-crossed for the assassination of a powerful Yakuza boss, Shiozaki remains loyal to his partner and sticks it out with him as they trade bullets with the lied to Yakuza thugs ordered to kill them. Karmimura and Shiozaki are shown to have a solid friendship, making Shiozaki one of the few people Karmimura really cares about. As it gets closer and closer to the big showdown, Shiozaki firmly states to Karmimura that he’ll see it to the end with him, resulting in Karmimura knocking his buddy over the head so he’ll have a chance to start afresh should anything go wrong, commenting Shiozaki was always true. While loyalty of this kind was not unusual in Japanese cinema, that it came from a character whose profession was in killing for money, this trait would enhance such a character’s humanity by a good stretch.

Image result for a colt is my passport (1967)

While probably one of the more generic films of the genre, Pasupooto still offers up plenty of action, character, and story. The intrigue involving the power hungry Yakuza add quite a bit of spice to the story, and the age old theme of a man having to protect himself when he’s put on the chopping block so as the real perpetrator of the act can save his own skin is done in such a way to keep it from being predictable.

(I highly recommend this film as it offers thrills, action, and good story. Very generic story wise, it’s still very fun and entertaining, and offers up fine characters that evoke the pathos and charm audiences came to know and love. The cinematography and score help to round out the charm of the film. The Criterion Collection DVD as part of their Nikkatsu Noir box-set, via their Eclipse line is very good audio and visual wise, and while there are no special features on the discs, that the Criterion offers the occasional bare bones box-set that presents films that would’ve otherwise fallen into obscurity at an affordable price is quite good.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/A Colt is My Passport

Wikipedia/A Colt is My Passort

The Criterion Collection/A Colt is My Passport

Buying option

https://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-17-Nikkatsu-Criterion-Collection/dp/B002AFX53W/ref=sr_1_2?crid=25FIEQQBV0LQE&keywords=nikkatsu+noir&qid=1555515264&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Nikkatsu+%2Caps%2C130&sr=1-2

(This set is region free for anyone overseas who’s curious about purchasing it)

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

The PI Plays the Thugs Against Each Other

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Yakuza & Crime)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

Related image

Kutabare Akuto-Domo: Tantie Jimusho 23 (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! /Go to Hell Bastards!: Detective Bureau 2-3) PG-13 (1963) ****

Jo Shishido: Hideo Tajima/Ichiro Tanaka (as Joe Shishido)

Tamio Kawaji: Manabe

Reiko Sassamori: Chiaki

Nobuo Kaneko: Inspector Kumagai

Kinzo Shin: Boss Hatano

Naomi Hoshi: Sally

Asao Sano: Father Tanaka

Yuko Kusunoki: Misa

Kotoe Hatsui: Irie

Hiroshi Hijikata: Horiuchi

Written by: Iwao Yamazaki, based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu

Directed by: Seijun Suzuki

Synopsis: Private Investigator Hideo Tajima offers to go undercover for the Tokyo Police to figure out who’s behind a rash of smuggling operations. Realizing this group is forcing two Yakuza mobs into consistent shoot-outs, Tajima decides to bring down both the smugglers and the Yakuza groups. Along the way he falls in love with the scarred mistress of the leader of the smugglers.

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

Seijun Suzuki, the Japanese filmmaker who’d become most famous for his psychedelic cinematography of the Yakuza film genre, and later for his lawsuit against the corrupt execs at Nikkatsu studios, gives an early success with Detective Bureau 2-3. What makes the film an interesting early effort is that the hero is actually a private investigator, a rarity in the genre as the leads were usually gangsters trying to maintain their personal codes of ethics or a stoic police officer trying to maintain law and order. Much like with his later hit Youth of the Beast, Suzuki has the protagonist go undercover within the Yakuza to break the gangs up, only the former has an independent entity helping out the police in these actions. The adding of some romantic intrigue between the male lead and both the Yakuza Boss’ mistress and a childhood sweetheart gives the film some extra spice in the audience wondering if these emotions will complicate the investigation.  By playing up the recent economic boom of the 60’s in Japan and the subsequent dirty dealings of the Yakuza underworld to line their own pockets off the honest workers, Suzuki creates a nice mix of mystery and action that keeps the viewer interested and entertained.

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

While Tajima has all the criminals wondering where his allegiance’s lie in the turf battles as he helps the cops rid Tokyo of some of the bad guys, this isn’t Suzuki’s take on Yojinbo. Yes, he’s looking to gain some publicity for his Private Investigation Agency, but he’s also a concerned citizen of Japan sick and tired of the Yakuza preying on the innocent and taking the hard earned money away from the middle class. What viewers get is a character who does something because it’s the right thing to do, but if he gets notoriety and money from it isn’t necessarily a bad bonus for his time and effort.

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

Joe Shishido, one of Japan’s more interesting looking character actors/matinee idols, shines very brightly in the role of Tajima. While not overtly patriotic or completely selfless in his actions, Tajima is a man looking to put a dent in the criminal activity that disgrace the honor of Japan. Shishido plays the character with his usual fast talking and charming approach, which fits the character like a glove. As the character finds himself going deep into the inner workings of the smugglers, he realizes the harsh realities of the world and the complete unscrupulous nature of the mind of the criminal. Shishido also portrays well the respectful nature of the Japanese people. While he’s very direct and blunt with many of the people he meets, Tajima shows both the respect some of who he meets deserve, and also compassion and apologies to the one woman he knows needs to escape to be free. Shishido’s background in Japanese musicals come into play as the character asks his childhood sweetheart on the fly to help him out so his cover isn’t blown which leads to a well crafted and funny song and dance duet that allow the viewer to feel relaxed in an otherwise tense situation. Shishido also gets to display his physicality, doing the majority of his own stunts and fight scenes, gained from years of involvement in dance and theater.

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

A nice irony within the film is the showcasing of Japanese Christians. Tajima, while undercover with the alias Ichiro Tanaka, tells one of the leaders of the smugglers that he’s a devout Catholic and the son of a born again priest. This ruse leads to Tajima having to create a situation with the aid of a local priest to help his cover look legitimate. With Japan being known mostly for the Buddhist and Shinto faiths, it’s quite interesting to see some of the country embracing aspects of Western observances. Even though its an irony, it’s a nice little touch to the film as it showcases Japan’s diversity and openness to the many different aspects of life.

Image result for detective bureau 2-3

A little different in the Yakuza genre in that the protagonist is neither a gangster or a policeman, this new take with the genre adds spice and interest in how the film will play out. Mixing thrills, intrigue, suspense, and action, Detective Bureau 2-3 is an entertaining little film from a director right before his successful mix of interesting cinematography and lighting.

(I highly recommend the film for its nice mix of action, suspense, and even a little comedy. A fairly straightforward plot, the film offers nice camera angles and shots, 2 ro 3 dimensional characters that fit the kind of people one would encounter in real life, allowing for sympathy and connection, and of course fine set pieces. Arrow Video does another fantastic job with the restoration and clean up of the film, offering quality audio, subtitles, and visuals that make the film pop and come alive.  Not as deep, complex, or artistic as later efforts of the genre, the film still offers thrills and action, and even takes a look at a growing concern of the public’s during the post war period.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!

Wikipedia/Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/Detective-Bureau-Bastards-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B07CQR5SRQ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1F391XR3Z4VHN&keywords=detective+bureau+2-3+go+to+hell+bastards&qid=1554917752&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Detective+B%2Caps%2C130&sr=1-2-catcorr

https://www.amazon.com/Detective-Bureau-2-3-Hell-Bastards/dp/B001U3TPPC/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1F391XR3Z4VHN&keywords=detective+bureau+2-3+go+to+hell+bastards&qid=1554917845&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Detective+B%2Caps%2C130&sr=1-2-catcorr

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Detective-Bureau-Hell-Bastards-Blu-ray/dp/B07CPDKPNX/ref=sr_1_1?crid=KLG1CFKURTO3&keywords=detective+bureau&qid=1554917881&s=dvd&sprefix=Detective+Bu%2Caps%2C209&sr=1-1

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics, Uncategorized

When the Boss Goes too Far

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Yakuza and Crime Series)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

Image result for massacre gun 1967

Minagoroshi no Kenjū (Massacre Gun/Guns of the Massacre) (1967) PG-13 ****

Jō Shishido: Ryûichi Kuroda (as Joe Shishido)

Hideaki Nitani: Shirasaka

Jirō Okazaki: Saburo Kuroda

Tatsuya Fuji: Eiji Kuroda

Takashi Kanda: Boss Akazawa

Ryoji Hayama: Midorikawa

Ken Sanders: Chico the Entertainer

Tamaki Sawa: Shino

Yoko Yamamoto: Aiko

Written by: Yasuharu Hasebe (as Takashi Fuji) & Ryûzō Nakanishi

Directed by: Yasuharo Hasebe

Synopsis: Yakuza hitman Ryûichi Kuroda decides to quit the organization when his boss Akazawa begins abusing his authority and ordering needless hits to prove loyalty, including that of Ryûichi’s girlfriend. With the aid of his brothers Saburo and Eiji, both of whom lost their livelihoods at the hands of Akazawa and his men, Ryûichi intends to take Akazawa down. The one obstacle to this goal is Shirasawa, Ryûichi’s mentor, who obeys the Yakuza law of honoring the boss implicitly, in spite of Akazawa’s clear maddening with power. What follows is a bitter turf war that spares no one in its wake.

Image result for massacre gun 1967

By 1967, the Japanese film studio Nikkatsu was in the early stages of an internal downfall. The executives were being investigated for mismanagement of funds and fraud, filmmaker Seijun Suzuki was suing the studio for wrongful termination of employment and attempts at framing him for the financial crisis the studio was in, and many of their stars were jumping ship to other studios or going freelance, tired of the mediocre work the executives were approving for filming. Massacre Gun was one of the studio’s attempts at putting the company back in the black profit wise, and that it could still turn out good films. Filmmaker Yasuharo Hasebe wasn’t new to the film game when he took on the task, but this was only his second film, and the first where he had creative freedom to tell the story his way. The Yakuza Action Crime Thriller was still very popular at the time, but Hasebe wanted to take the genre in a new direction to keep it fresh. What he came up with threw away the romantic ideals of such earlier efforts as Sabita Naifu (Rusty Knife), Kenjū Zankoku Monogatari (Cruel Gun Story), Akai Hatoba (Red Pier), and Tokyo Nageremono (Tokyo Drifter), and instead presented the Yakuza for what they really were: unscrupulous opportunists and power mad sadists who had no respect for anyone or anything. He did keep the morally conscious Anti-Hero and a few others who were inherently good, but were so brainwashed with the code of the Yakuza, that they’d rather die than betray it.

Image result for massacre gun 1967

Like with so many studio-oriented filmmakers, Hasebe wrote the screenplay under a pseudonym, in this case Takashi Fuji. While he didn’t write every film he was involved with, the ones with his personal touch tended to have something a little more that made them exceptional, so his using a pseudonym seems a little unusual. Whether Nikkatsu made it a practice for directors who also contributed to screenplays use aliases, or if Hasebe preferred to view himself as primarily as a director is anyone’s guess, but what is clear, is that the Hasebe was a very talented filmmaker, whose early successes were almost completely overshadowed when about two years after Nikkatsu declared bankruptcy, he accepted the new owners offer of doing dark and violent pornographic films.

Image result for massacre gun 1967

Jo Shishido, one of Nikkatsu’s most popular on contract players, gives a fine performance as Ryûichi Kuroda. Kuroda is a Yakuza hitman who finally reaches his breaking point when his clearly out of control with power boss orders him to kill his girlfriend. At first, he merely intends to devote his talents to a club he co-owns with his gambling brother Eiji, but when his other brother Saburo, an up-in-coming boxer, has his hands broken by the crazy boss’s henchman, all loyalty to the Yakuza code is off limits and revenge becomes first and foremost. Shishido plays his role as a man clearly in constant internal conflict: on the one hand, he knows his old gang will take revenge on him and his brothers if he attacks the boss, but at the same time he knows the boss has begun abusing the authority he inherited from the previous regime, going to levels that clearly violate the bylaws created in the post war period. Shishido also adds that Kuroda would be happiest simply helping his brother run a club in the Tokyo entertainment district, but again realizes his old life as a gangster will always be following him and that he’ll in one or another revert to relying on those skills. By giving Kuroda a deeper loyalty to his brothers than to the Yakuza, Shishido gives the character a fairly humane side that allows the audience to root for him, in spite of the life he leads, indicating there might be a type of hope of salvation or redemption if Kuroda plays his hands right. This film proved to be Shishido’s last leading role in a Nikkatsu film as the company was slowly declining in popularity and attempts at rebooting the steam of their products did little to nothing.

Image result for massacre gun 1967

Hideaki Nitani, one of Nikkatsu’s first major stars, excels in brooding conflict in the role Shirasaka. A loyal Yakuza thug since boyhood, Shirakasa is the embodiment of the blind dedication the post war youth of Japan were when inducted into the criminal world. Even though Shirasaka trained Kuroda himself and thinks of him as a brother, the blood oath he took upon his induction into the Yakuza forces him to go after his friend for leaving the organization. Nitani, like Shishido, plays Shirasaka as a man with constant internal conflict, only his conflict can end in death. Even though he sees Boss Akazawa is losing his sanity and becoming careless in his orders and actions, his dedication to the group is so deep and ingrained in, he would likely prefer suicide than to betray his employer. This idea hits its core very deep when Shiraska’s girlfriend asks him if he would blindly kill her if Akazawa ordered him to like he did with Kuroda. When he says nothing to her, the audience comes to the realization Shirasaka is completely brainwashed in his loyalty to the gang, and has no hope of ever breaking free from it. That he tries at one point to convince Kuroda to return to the group in a limited capacity or to leave Japan entirely and never return, shows he has sense enough only tragedy will result from Kuroda’s bad blood with Akazawa. When the time comes for Kuroda to take Akazawa to war, Shirasaka decides to die in battle, no longer able to live in the world of the Yakuza, nor in the real world.

Image result for massacre gun 1967

Gritty, realistic, and devoid of the romantic image of the Yakuza Gangster that had been in vogue for the last two decades, Hasebe managed to re-invent the Yakuza Crime film genre that would keep it going for another decade and a half. Thugs blindly loyal to their dangerous bosses, reprisal met with more reprisal, and characters who realize early on that their fate is sealed for their previous involvement in the group, and the price that must be paid for trying to break away from it. All elements harken back to the days of Hollywood’s Film-Noir craze, where life was cheap like liquor, and criminals had no real loyalty to each other, except when it suited them. The film was a real sensation and controversy when it came out, audiences heavily surprised by the dark atmosphere of the film and the desperate characters that inhabited it, but at the same time was popular and reflected the Cold War period the world was in.

(I highly recommend this Yakuza Thriller as it’s very good even with the bleak nature of the characters. Quality action and story abound well, and showed many of the Nikkatsu employees were able to make the budgets and decisions made by the shady executives work and allowed a profit and hit to be made and gain the public’s admiration. Arrow Video once again shows why it’s a great company for films like this with an high quality transfers and fine audio restoration. It’s a limited edition, but is still readily available and worth every penny.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Massacre Gun

Wikipedia/Massacre Gun

buying options

https://www.amazon.com/Massacre-Gun-2-Disc-Limited-Blu-ray/dp/B00SA7UGFO/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3RZZULCNZQHDF&keywords=massacre+gun&qid=1554305872&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Massacre+Gun%2Caps%2C136&sr=1-3

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Massacre-Gun-Blu-ray-Tatsuya-Fuji/dp/B071FP8S5L/ref=sr_1_1?crid=35PSSXEGGJ733&keywords=massacre+gun&qid=1554305912&s=dvd&sprefix=Massacre+Gun%2Caps%2C223&sr=1-1

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics