What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 20 Apr 2017, 04:27

Operation Plazma in Osaka (Japan, 1976) [35mm] - 3/5
My second time seeing in 35mm. Last time I probably should've gone with a three and half star rating but I let it slip to four. I may be making the same mistake again, this time to the opposite direction. The jitsuroku saga features little character depth or originality, but comes with fun action scenes and a wonderful cast of Toei actors (Matsukata, Watase, Murota, Ibuki etc.) not afraid to look dirty and disrespectable on screen. Roman Porno actress Yuko Katagiri has a small supporting role as well. Toshiaki Tsushima's badass score is almost a carbon copy of his work in Fukasaku films, and that's a mighty good thing. One just wishes the storyline (based on true events) and characters would be a bit more interesting.

Terrifying Girls' High School: Women's Violent Classroom (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3.5/5
A surprisingly mean spirited first film in the series with Miki Sugimoto as a nasty school gang leader. This film was remarkable not so much for being a side product of the Girl Boss series, but for being one of the movies that brought the Pinky Violence genre to darker grounds in 1972. Although the film is not terribly graphic, it is genuinely disturbing, not least because the heroine herself is a ruthless bully. A naive new male teacher tries to calm this down, but his attempts are futile with students greeting new teachers with knives and dead cats. The audience has to wait a good while for supporting star Reiko Ike to appear to find anyone to side with. Over-the-top action scenes are mostly missing, except for an iconic scene with two small school girl armies facing each other. The film also ends with one of the genre's defining moments as the girls burn their school uniforms at the school gate. Occasional silly humour does little to soften things; in fact it only makes the film feel dirtier. Masao Yagi's groovy score, on the other hand, ups the kick-ass factor.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby chazgower01 » 20 Apr 2017, 12:47

Voice Without a Shadow (1958) 3.5/5
One of Seijun Suzuki's earlier movies, this B&W whodunit is still pretty watchable, thanks to a few interesting visual touches and strong performances by the strikingly beautiful Yoko Minamida, chain smoking Hideaki Nitani and of course Jo Shishido.
It's about a telephone operator who when connecting a call one random day, hears the voice of a killer - a voice that will haunt her for years, as the murder he commits goes unresolved. Three years later, her husband gets involved with three new friends who play mahjong every night and one of them, is a little too friendly towards her. When he doesn't show up at the start of a game one night, her husband asks her to call him and - it's the voice of the killer from three years ago...
Apparently unseen since it's theatrical release in 1958, it's a Hitchcock like puzzle with some memorable supporting characters, some cool Suzuki visual flair, and a look at pre-60's Japan.
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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby grim_tales » 20 Apr 2017, 23:16

Sounds like a good movie.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 21 Apr 2017, 14:31

Carmen from Kawachi (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 2.5/5
A girl from a rural village goes to Osaka and first becomes a hostess first and then later a model. Director Seijun Suzuki was better known for wild gangster films. This drama feels a bit underwhelming in comparison, although there are moments where the film really comes alive with the typical Suzuki energy.

Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5
One of the finest films in the Pinky Violence genre, an anarchic, supremely stylish, erotic-grotesque end-of-the-world high school film. It is also, for its over-the-top nature, an easier movie to stomach than the first film in the series. Miki Sugimoto and her three pals (all brought into the film with ultra-cool introduction scenes) are bad girls coming to a new school to find who murdered Sugimoto's former gang boss. Turns out Ryoko Ema's gang is responsible; they've set up a torture lab in a classroom where they are draining poor victims out of their blood. The film's ending, where the entire school is demolished by the rioting students, is a dream come true to anyone who's ever felt frustration towards the educational system. However, the finest proof of director Norifumi Suzuki's talent is that he manages a handful of genuinely touching and beautiful scenes in the midst of all the chaos.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 22 Apr 2017, 07:18

Yoshiwara Story (Japan, 1968) [VoD] - 2/5
Daiei's in-period Women's Prison series is probably best known for the 5th entry, Decapitation Island (1970). This is the 3rd film, and an odd one for it is not set in a prison at all. Nevertheless, it is considered a part of the series. Rather than an inmate, the protagonist is a woman forced to prostitution in Edo. Director Kazuo Mori (of several Zatoichi films) helms technically adequate, but extremely tame exploitation drama. Like most of the entries in the series, this film suggests samurai film studio Daiei and their filmmakers were not keen on jumping the exploitation bandwagon, but could also not ignore the financial realities of the era, hence coming up with films that flirted with exploitation but rarely crossed the border.

Terrifying Girls' High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 2.5/5
The 3rd film in the series is a letdown after the supremely anarchic Lynch Law Classroom. This film doesn't really know what it wants to be. There's a bit of serious mother-daughter drama with Reiko Ike and Yoko Mihara, silly perverted high school teachers, the usual sukeban fights between rival gangs, and as a new addition, lots of gaijin raping high school girls. It all works alright as modest exploitation entertainment, but none of it packs too much punch. Director Masahiro Shimura seems to be to blame. He took over the directorial duties from Norifumi Suzuki for this and the following film, which remain his only directorial efforts. He also worked for Toei as an assistant director and contributing screenwriter. As a director he lacked the style, energy and kick ass factor that Suzuki was able to vent into the first two films.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 23 Apr 2017, 07:04

Ghost in the Shell (Japan, 1995) [BD] - 4.5/5
The mediocre live action adaptation made me want to revisit Oshii's film, which remains a mind blowing throwback to the 90s cyber punk anime. It's a movie I'm forever dreaming of seeing in 35mm as it is audio-visually an incredibly atmospheric film. It also crams so much complicated plot content and philosophical discussions into mere 82 minutes that it demands the viewer's full attention. It could be argued that it goes overboard with the latter, and even comes out a bit corny with some of the philosophical bits, but that only works in its benefit by giving the film the personality that the chewed out and bland Hollywood film solely lacked. It must be emphasized that Oshii also knows when to slow down and cut out all the talk. I feel it is in part this "inconsistency" - from long silent sequences to dialogue overkill, from juvenile nudity and action scenes to philosophical discussions - that characterizes Ghost in the Shell and makes it endlessly re-watchable.

Terrifying Girls' High School: Animal Courage (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 2/5
The last and the least in the series. This one is a notch more realistic than some of the earlier films in the series, but in Masahiro Shimura's direction that only translates to increased dullness. The film lacks both the groove and the nastiness of the first two films, and adds very little of its own. Reiko Ike is a new student who enters a school where two girl gangs are fighting while the corrupt management enjoys exploiting the students. Old stuff. Minor genre charm aside, probably the most enjoyable thing about the movie is comedic relief Akira Oizumi as a horny English teacher. Oh, and Ryoko Ema is basically a good (bad) girl here for once. I guess that counts for something. The ending is rather good as well, but that comes too late and offers too little.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby chazgower01 » 24 Apr 2017, 12:36

Red Pier (1958) B&W 4/5
I'm enjoying some of these older Nikkatsu films, and I'm amazed at how well they're made - Red Pier is a mostly perfect example of crime noir right down to it's (to me) very classic last line of dialogue.

Yûjirô Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) stars as Jiro 'The Lefty', a handsome, cool gangster who arrives in town just as a murder happens in front of him on the pier. A cop played by Shirô Osaka trails and questions him throughout the movie as different crimes happen, always a step behind him. Their relationship actually becomes important to the story.

Jiro tries to get involved, (unknowingly at first) with the murder victims sister Keiko (Mie Kitahara, his co-star from Crazed Fruit), but his sort of girlfriend Mami (the sexy Sanae Nakahara) refuses to give up easy. Her performance is a highlight in the movie, and as a performance dancer and sexually promiscuous female, I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows in 1958.

And there are others rounding out the story... Jiro's younger brother Teko (Masumi Okada), himself wanting to be a gangster; the menacing rival hitman Tsuchida (wonderfully played by Hiroshi Hijikata) and Hideki Nitani (the Detective from Voice Without a Shadow) as Jiro's superior in the Yakuza gang that has his reasons for wanting to betray him.

All of this is put together nicely as directed by Toshio Masada (Tora! Tora! Tora!) who uses all of the elements of the noir visual style to make a good looking entertaining film. Released as a part of Arrow Films Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 DVD, I watched it as a part of Amazon Prime online (geez, they have an amazing amount of good movies to watch for free).

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby chazgower01 » 24 Apr 2017, 15:54

Crazed Fruit (1958) 5/5
This movie apparently caused quite a commotion when it was released, and watching it in the context of the times, I can see why. Still, nothing I had read could really prepare me for it, and so... the less I say about specifics the better.

The whole movie takes place during a summer vacation at the lake. Rich spoiled Yûjirô Ishihara (Red Pier) as the older brother Natsu, and Masahiko Tsugawa (Summer Storm) as the younger brother Haru, who both fall in love with the pretty Eri, played by Mie Kitahara. I almost didn't recognize her, as she's bubbly yet mysterious here compared to Red Pier where she was reserved, quiet and demure.

Frank played by Masumi Okada (Jiro's younger brother in Red Pier) plays a parent neglected rich kid who sees girls as interchangeable, when Eiko Higashitani (Michiko) after spending the night is told, "I'll see you around sometime", she smacks him as he answers a phone call, and when questioned about it he says, "Oh that was Michiko. She was just leaving."

The sexual innuendo is pretty straight forward...When their father comes to visit, Haru goes to find his brother at a friends house and a woman in a nightgown starts to flirt with him. His brother interrupts and as they leave he tells him, "She slept in 'cause we all took turns wearing her out last night."

Or my favorite line: "Did you get a look at that body? Those ain't falsies."

It's a movie of first loves, lost loves, rebellious youth, infidelity, promiscuity, cultural divides, betrayal... oh man, honestly, after watching so much pinky violence and then crime noir movies, I thought this would bore me, but.... I got into it. And got further into it. And... well I'm not going to say anymore. I can see why it's a classic of Japanese Cinema.

Director Kô Nakahira, who would also direct 'Summer Storm' released that same year, would primarily be remembered for these first two movies of his, though his 1971 film 'Yami no naka no chimimoryo' (A Soul to Devil) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival (according to wikipedia).

I watched the Criterion Collection version of this movie and it includes a commentary track from the late Japanese historian Donald Richie, which I'll update once I watch it. Yeah... I'm going to watch it again!

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby chazgower01 » 01 May 2017, 23:52

Underworld Beauty (1958) 3.5/5 directed by Seijun Suzuki
A dark look at the yakuza underworld, where a boyfriend will cut the stones out his freshly dead girlfriend's brother just to get rich!

Miyamoto (Michitaro Mizushima) upon being released from jail, retrieves three diamonds from a robbery that put him there, only to tell the yakuza boss he's giving them to his partner, who lost a leg in the crime, kept his mouth shut, and is living in poverty. They're not keen on that idea. The beauty here is Akiko (Mari Shiraki), his partner's younger sister, who's more interested in partying and posing nude for a local mannequin maker, who she also dates.

The sets are impressive, the blacks are as jarring as I've ever seen them in a B&W film, and Suzuki moves this crime noir along at a pretty steady pace, already showing some of his interesting touches. His juxtaposition between the young teens dancing at the soda shop and the dark world of the yakuza is interesting... the pure joy and sexuality in their behavior against everyone trying to get their hands on the diamonds in their miserable dark spaces...

It's not a film without it's flaws - at times it looks so good, it's easy to forget it was put together cheaply and quickly, but it's worth seeing especially for an early look at Suzuki's work.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby grim_tales » 02 May 2017, 00:16

Those two films seem very daring for the late 1950s :o

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 03 May 2017, 13:44

grim_tales wrote:Those two films seem very daring for the late 1950s :o


As for Japanese cinema? Perhaps. I've only seen Crazed Fruit. It wasn't controversial so much for being graphic (which it isn't) but for content. It's a film about a modern, rebellious generation. There were actually a whole bunch of movies like that around that time. Lots of parents, teachers etc. were worried that youngsters would be influenced by the films. The (Sun Tribe) genre was brought to a temporary end as a result, although that only lasted for a few years.

It's ironic that the writer of the original novel (and the brother of the star Yujiro Ishihara), Shintaro Ishihara, later became a conservative politician. He was the governor of Tokyo for God only knows how long, and he was very much the Japanese Donald Trump.

I personally prefer the 1980s Kichitaro Negishi version of Crazed Fruit. It's not so much a remake in the sense we understand the word "remake" as the setting, era, storyline and characters are all different.

As for "daring" I can't help but to point out that I recently watched a Finnish 1952 mainstream horror film with plenty of full frontal nudity. Japan didn't do uncensored full frontal until the 1990s :lol:

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 03 May 2017, 13:46

Delicate Skillful Fingers (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 4/5
My second time seeing this, this time with my girlfriend. I picked this film because it's one of the few Roman Porno films I think are both great and somewhat female friendly... although from a female perspective Hiroko Isayama's (a naive young girl falling in love with a pick pocket) character could surely be stronger. That, and some poor acting and unnecessary sex aside this is such a good film. From the vivid depiction of the early 70s Tokyo to the pick pocketing scenes that are small works of art, the film is loaded with great scenes, not to mention a cool as hell Ichiro Araki performance and a fabulous score that is absolutely firing on all cylinders. It was probably the unlikely pairing of writer Tatsumi Kumashiro (known for his low key approach and social realism) and flamboyant director Toru Murakawa that made the film so great, giving it both style and substance. There's been some guessing that the film was in fact so good that it destroyed debut director Murakawa's career (following the raving reviews he directed 2 more films in the next 6 months, both less-well received, before retiring from cinema for almost a decade).

Japan's Violent Gangs: Boss (aka Japan Organized Crime Boss) (Japan, 1969) [VoD] - 3.5/5
The first film in the transitional yakuza film series that paved way for the jitsuroku true account films of the 70s. Koji Tsuruta stars as an old school gangster boss who has become something of a fish out of water in the modern gangster world. Despite some ninkyo elements, and a soundtrack that resembles Teruo Ishii's contemporary gangster films, this movie already leans heavily towards the jitsuroku style. The opening disclaimer states the film to be fictional, but that's not entirely true as it was heavily influenced by true events (the Yamaguchi gang moving to the Kanto area). Director Kinji Fukasaku's trademarks are already in a steady use, including documentary like footage of violent chaos, effective use of still photos, and a nihilistic storyline. While the film is loaded with good performances - Noburu Ando being one of the many who deserve a mention - it's Tomisaburo Wakayama who is the real stand out as a drug addicted, volatile boss who is like a time bomb trying keep himself from exploding.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 04 May 2017, 06:42

Japan's Violent Gangs: The Boss and the Killers (Japan, 1969) [VoD] - 2/5
The 2nd film in the series that started with Kinji Fukasaku's Japan Organized Crime Boss. This follow up by director Junya Sato feels somewhat disappointing in contrast. The documentary-like touches and the energetic visual output that made its predecessor feel ahead of its time are mostly missing here, although the film does have a fittingly dark ending. Koji Tsuruta stars again, this time playing a gangster boss who assassinates a yakuza in broad daylight, gets a bullet in his arm in the process, and then hides in a small shop. The main storyline (about what happened before) is then told in flashbacks. Lots of talk ensues. Not terribly bad, just not that exciting either.

Sex & Fury (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5
Most foreign viewers fail to put this film into a context. As much as a Pinky Violence film, it was also a late descendant of Toei's 60s gambler/yakuza movies. Once a hugely popular genre, Toei was still trying to keep it alive in the early 70s. After their biggest female star Junko Fuji retired, Toei tried finding a substitute. All attempts failed, and each new female yakuza film came out sleazier than the previous. Sex & Fury was the film that essentially burned all the bridges as it wholeheartedly crossed to the exploitation side. No more straight female gamblers were to come. Reiko Ike stars as a female yakuza on a mission of vengeance, while Christina Lindberg (drafted by Toei during a flight from Paris to Stockholm!) is a British (!) spy whose boss is trying to start an opium war in Japan. The storyline is messy with political aspects that director Norifumi Suzuki has no patience to develop; however, the film is visually stunning. Nowhere is that better evidenced than in the scene where Ike, attacked by enemies while taking bath, takes out the whole gang with a sword while in the nude in a snowy garden. The hypnotically choreographed carnage makes that one of the greatest scenes in exploitation film history.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 05 May 2017, 04:45

Japan's Violent Gangs: Degenerate Boss (Japan, 1970) [VoD] - 2.5/5
Koji Tsurura is a former yakuza gone straight, now running a jazzy night club, in the third film in the series. The films were not connected other than being part of the same series and all starring Tsuruta. This one was directed by Shin Takakuwa, whose brief filmography features one stand out (the superb Sonny Chiba cop drama A Narcotics Agent's Ballad, 1972) and handful of mediocre yakuza films. This film is sort of well made, with some steady handed cinematography, elegant use of colour and light (especially in the night club scenes) and a typically charismatic and stoic Tsuruta performance. However, it feels quite conventional compared to Fukasaku's film that was already reaching toward the 70s jitsuroku cinema. This one is a talkative film with the usual 'ex-yakuza trying to lead honest life while surrounded by underworld acquaintances' storyline. Not bad, and features a surprisingly sleazy op credits scene with a stripper, but a little pedestrian overall

Female Yakuza Tale (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Fun but hastily made sequel to Sex and Fury. Teruo Ishii directed the film, but it seems he didn't have much of a script to work with - more like a plot draft written in a hurry. There's a lot of incoherent nonsense between the opening and ending scenes. Ishii makes up for it with colourful images, a plot that revolves around a yakuza gang using girls who smuggle drugs in their vaginas, and a number of fantastic set pieces including the apocalyptic final massacre with two dozen naked ladies slaying yakuza with swords, nails, guns and hand grenades. There's a certain charm to seeing trash like this done with relatively amazing production values, something that would never happen in modern cinema.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 06 May 2017, 06:38

Japan's Violent Gangs: Loyalty Offering Murder (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 2/5
The 4th and last in the series was helmed by Yasuo Furuhata, a director whose films I have never especially cared for. He made talkative, character driven crime dramas that were usually neither ninkyo nor jitsuroku films. I suppose there is more-than-usual character depth to be found in his films - if you find them interesting to begin with. It sometimes seemed like he shouldn't have been working in yakuza films in the first place, but in the drama genre where he later ended up. Anyway, Tsuruta is the lead again, this time a guest at a gambling house where he kills two attackers and has to flee from the city. He settles down with old friend and gangster boss Tetsuro Tamba, whose clan is in a conflict with another gang. Tsuruta starts helping him but angers Tamba's neurotic underling Rinichi Yamamoto in the process. Chris D declared this as one of his favourite yakuza films (out of the 1000 or so that he has seen). As often is the case, I don't quite understand where his opinion is rooted. There are some good scenes with Tsuruta and Tamba, and Yamamoto is good in his role, but none of it feels especially captivating. It's not a movie you'd call "bad", just one you don't care much for.

Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 4.5/5
This is the most feminist of all the Pinky Violence films, in addition to being one of the best. Reiko Ike is the daughter of a murdered man, sent to prison after she fails to kill the yakuza boss responsible. She makes friends with a miscellaneous bunch of girls (each given the coolest introduction scenes since Lynch Law Classroom) who team up with her after they're out of the slammer. It's a relatively simple story told with impeccable style, superb pacing, functional plot and likeable characters. Especially notable is how the heroines are handled by the filmmakers with worshipping rather than sleazy hands. That's not saying the film is lacking it in the nudity and sex department, even featuring the infamous chainsaw intimidation scene and the longest girl fight ever filmed (with malfunctioning garments, of course). However, the approach is quite different compared to some other films in the genre. These women are goddesses, and the sleazy guys are doomed from the start. The men ain't got nothing on these girls.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 11 May 2017, 12:52

Student Wife: Weeping Silently (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 2/5
There's a bit of charm to these early Roman Porno melodramas that emphasized emotion more than sex. This one is about a high school girl (Yuko Katagiri) living in a small apartment next to an industrial site with a former rock star who is a bit of an asshole. Katagiri does what she did best: play a cute but a little slow girl who ends up abused by men. Her debut film Coed Report: Yuko's White Breasts (from which this film recycles music) was better, but this one isn't so bad either. While the storyline isn't that interesting, mediocre director Akira Kato manages to keep the film moving. Unremarkable, but intermittently entertaining. The "wife" part in the title is a bit misleading since she is not actually married.

Foreigner's Mistress Oman: Falling Autumn Flower (Japan, 1972) [VoD] - 2.5/5
The 2nd film in the Rashamen Oman series is better than the first. This one is groovier, slightly better paced, and feels more like a real yakuza film, albeit a porno hybrid one. It can't entirely decide what it wants to be, though. There's the usual ninkyo premise with a wandering gambler (Sally May) whose sister (Yuri Yamashina) gets abused by an evil gang, but also a modern twist with a supporting girl gang straight out of a 60s Nikkatsu action film. We also get rope torture, sadistic young yakuza boss, and blind dice master Akira Takahashi. The action at the climax is actually pretty decent and more stylishly staged than those in some of Toei's lesser ninkyo films. Takahashi goes full on Zatoichi with a sword, and the yellow haired May in her beautiful white yukata make a genuinely memorable and unusual sight in the midst of the carnage. There's an evident Seijun Suzuki influence to the scene. One only wishes the film had a bit more plot and a bit less sex as even at 65 minutes it comes with some boring moments.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 12 May 2017, 16:21

Zatoichi at Large (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 2/5
Part 23. Zatoichi picks up a baby from a dying mother on a road. Her other kid witnesses the tragedy and thinks Zatoichi killed her. As a result he keeps throwing stones at him (fun at first) and giving him trouble (not fun for long) for the rest of the film. Frustratingly, he's not the only one as there's a seemingly endless cavalcade of characters whose misunderstandings are used as cheap plot device. Later Zatoichi arrives a town terrorized by your usual nasty yakuza gang. There's also a super irritating street performer troupe providing mostly unfunny comedy. Thankfully the action is entertaining, there are some nice touches on the soundtrack, and a couple of the supporting characters are interesting. Katsu himself is great.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 4.5/5
The first (but not the best) film in the series established the unique formula, an assassin with a child. What gets mentioned a bit less often is how well director Kenji Misumi utilizes nature in the series, rooting the fantastical storylines to a living world, and bringing the world to life, in a way that many other movies don't. With Misumi's handling of the nature, as well as the father-son relationship, the series got a director that such exploitative films rarely got to enjoy. Equally important was Tomisaburo Wakayama, a prolific yakuza film actor and frequent comic relief prone to over-acting, who landed the role of his life with the series that put his silent charisma and impeccable sword handling skills to a full use. The first two sequels would further improve with even better action, pacing and character direction. The first film suffers a tiny bit for being a "beginning story". Lone Wolf and Cub would soon become stuff of the legends, and such mythical heroes are only hurt by too much background exposure.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 13 May 2017, 07:31

Zatoichi in Desperation (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 3/5
Part 24. This was Katsu's second directorial effort following the yakuza film The Boss (1971). In Katsu's hands the film came out quite dark and realistic compared to most Zatoichi films. Zatoichi saves a woman from a brothel, however, she's not all that grateful as she didn't really mind her job. Interesting twist! There's also quite a surprise at the end, which is better not spoiled. A lot of the film is spend witnessing evil yakuza boss Asao Uchida being mean, even bullying children and retarded people. Unfortunately a lot that plays just like these scenarios usually do these kinds of films (Toei's ninkyo output offers tons of similar examples). Action scenes are unfortunately filmed and edited in a way that it makes it a bit difficult to see what is going on.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at River Styx (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 5/5
The 2nd and best film in the series excels with terrific direction and writing. Especially interesting is the symbiosis between characters and the natural world that is done subtly enough for not every viewer to pay attention to it a on conscious level. The ninja troops move with the wind, the kunoichi women march by the riverside, and the nature heals the injured hero. In the boat scene fire first threatens the protagonist, then water saves him, and few scenes later the climax is set in a desert. There's also a constant feel of thread "in the air", something director Misumi handles amazingly well via top notch use of sound and silence. The atmospheric, near perfect film also comes with memorable characters and amazing action scenes, including a riverside scene that is not only the best scene in the series but one of the finest scenes in any movie. Simply mind blowing. An extra mention must be given to the 4 year old Akihiro Tomikawa who plays Daigoro with amazing silent intensity.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 14 May 2017, 15:11

Rica (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3.5/5
The term Pinky Violence, as originally coined by J. Taro Sugisaku, excludes films made by studios other than Toei. There are, however, movies by other studios that fit the bill even better than some of Toei's own efforts. Here's a case in point, an energetic and mean spirited delinquent girl exploitationer scripted by arthouse name Kaneto Shindo for Toho. Rika Aoki makes a terrific lead as half breed girl who leaves home after being raped by US soldiers and then by her step father (on the same day) and finds new life on the streets and on a gangster owned club where she sings. Loaded with outrageous scenarios, groovy music and a strong lead, the film's got almost everything you'd wish from a Pinky Violence film. The stumbling point is, ironically, Shindo's extremely episodic script that fails to establish any kind of plot until last 15 minutes. The lack of a plot makes the film feel longer than it is. Thankfully, much is forgiven for the ultra-cool ending credits sequence alone.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 5/5
This was the first movie with the Bohachi Clan, which would later star in their own two films, starting with Teruo Ishii's mind blowing Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight (1973). The villainous yakuza clan's portrayal in this film is far more restrained, yet it happens to be Ogami's encounter with the clan's female leader that is the film's most intense scene. That can once again be attributed to Kenji Misumi. His direction is amazing throughout the film, both in terms of how he handles characters and in how he shows great restraint in proceeding to the fights. There are many great moments where he lets DoP Chikashi Makiura's camera observe, rather than cut right to the action or use music to tell us what is about to happen. This film is a example of the naturalistic approach that Misumi utilized so successfully in his Lone Wolf films, and which created a perfect counterforce for the storylines that were pure samurai pop fantasy. The film's climax marks the first 1 vs. 100 battle in the series, however, it is the duel between Ogami's and a melancholic ronin that follows that is the best fight. The film's last reel also sees - or rather hears - Wakayama performing a wonderful theme song. An amazing film.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 15 May 2017, 14:01

Rica 2: Lonely Wanderer (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 2.5/5
Considering how good the first film was, this sequel is a bit disappointing. It doesn't have the energy of the first film, and it tones down the violence and sex in favour of a more comedic approach. Thankfully, it still comes with some great scenes like Rica singing at a club and yet another fantastic closing credits sequence. There's also plenty of entertaining (but unexceptional) action. If you're able to put aside comparisons to the first movie, and approach it modest expectations, you should be able to find it quite enjoyable however. In fact, feel like I'm being a little harsh here. A three star rating wouldn't be out of question.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in Peril (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 4.5/5
Another supremely entertaining, only slightly lesser entry. This one was directed by Buichi Saito, a Nikkatsu action director gone freelance after his former employer went Roman Porno. He was not quite Kenji Misumi's equal, which shows in how he places music where Misumi would've used silence - this applies to both action and drama - and tends to give characters unnecessary amounts of exposure with frequent flashback sequences. That is a bit of a shame as the supporting character of Oyuki, a bare breasted swordswoman beating her opponents with her short sword as well as looks, is great. The film also contains wonderful shots of Ogami travelling in the countryside, a beautifully atmospheric hot springs scene, and a shrine ambush that remains shocking to this day in its graphicness. There's also a cool tattoo sub-theme that reminds of Teruo Ishii's films, as does the casting of Asao Koike. Speaking of casting, Retsudo is played in this film by Toei slime bag Tatsuo Endo rather than Yunosuke Ito like in part 1.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 17 May 2017, 07:20

Rica 3: Juvenile Lullaby (Japan, 1973) [DVD] – 1.5/5
It’s strange how the Rica series went from the mean spirited original to the manga esque girl gang comedy complete with cartoonish sound effects that is this third film. This is closer to the following year’s (horrible) Lupin III live action film than almost anything else in the girl gang genre. If it wasn’t for the occasional raping, you could label it as a family flick. The only saving graces are occasional glimpses of skin by star Rika Aoki and the usual racial themes. Not only is the protagonist (and many supporting characters) half breed, but many of the villains are also foreigners or Japanese people who became villains after being traumatized by gaijin bastards! How's that for political incorrectness?

Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in the Land of Demons (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 4.5/5
Kenji Misumi returned to the series with this 5th film without quite reaching the finesse of his finest work. This time Ogami is hired to assassinate a local lord and his entire family. It's a fascinating and morally ambiguous storyline that comes with very strong parts but also some sequences that underline the father-son relationship a bit too much. Daigoro getting in trouble is an example of this. In parts 2 and 3 Misumi was able to achieve similar results more subtly and without words. Another drawback is cinematographer Fujio Morita, whose work lacks the clarity and naturalistic touch of Chikashi Makiura who shot parts 1-3. Ultimately though, these are small flaws in a tremendously entertaining film that comes with loads of wonderful scenes (desert sledge, young lord giving a kill order etc.), fascinating spiritual dimensions and an immersing fantasy world populated by swordsmen, masked clansmen and assassins sailing to a sunset.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 18 May 2017, 04:14

Bankaku Rock (Japan, 1973) [TV] - 3/5
One of the lesser known Toei girl gang films. This one has a fantastic opening with school girls walking to the train station where they strip down to their panties and change to casual wear in front of everyone as they just don't give a damn. From here on, despite the usual gang rivalry plot, the film takes a bit more serious and character driven path. There is relatively little action and the film offers a more credible portrayal of the lower class (gang) life than most films of its kind. It feels perhaps closer to Nikkatsu Action than Toei's Pinky Violence, no doubt partly due to screenwriter Atsushi Yamatoya. Further enhancing the Nikkatsu feel is rock band Carol that not only contributes the soundtrack but is also seen playing in the club sequences. Unfortunately the film's climax is exceptionally low key, realistic it might be. One can't help but to feel that the ending should've been a bit wilder, after all.

Lone Wolf & Cub: White Heaven in Hell (Japan, 1974) [BD] - 4.5/5
Under-rated 6th film sometimes gets criticized because it doesn't bring the storyline to a conclusion - thankfully so, because legends like this should not have an ending. The film's first third, which follows Retsudo's daughter seeing vengeance, ranks among the most beautiful segments in the series - and concludes with one of the best duels. Immediately after this the film cuts to funky blaxploitation tunes (not unlike Hanzo the Razor) and then takes a wild turn to the supernatural (Ogami vs. undead ghost warriors) before reaching its huge climax at the snowy mountains. Truly a film of opposites. It all works surprisingly well with a cartful of odd scenes not to be found in any other film of its kind. The huge final battle reportedly took 6 weeks to film and was a great way to retire the series. Direction by Yokai Monsters director Yoshiyuki Kuroda is solid, although not on par with Misumi's. The biggest liability is Isao Kimura who makes an uncharismatic villain.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 20 May 2017, 05:38

Blind Beast (Japan, 1969) [DVD] - 4/5
Yasuzo Masumura remains one the most under-appreciated Japanese filmmakers. He has always been difficult to categorize because he made both melodramas and genre films. I actually dislike half of his movies, but the rest, they are amazing. This Rampo Edogawa adaptation is probably his most notorious film, a psycho sexual story about a blind sculptor who abducts a nude photo model (Mako Midori). He locks her in a warehouse full of human body parts that he has created, including two giant, 20 metre full body models. What begins as a simple abduction tale grows into a twisted relationship study with a devastatingly powerful and disturbing ending. Midori, a fearless (former) Toei actress, always deserved to be directed by someone of Masumura's calibre. Masumura uses her well, especially her face. The film also features one of the most memorable movie sets ever created.

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Fujunna kankei (Japan, 1984) [DVD] - 4/5
It often happens with Roman Porno that when the film is good, you know it from the very first shot. Shogoro Nishimura nails it here with a man (Akira Sakai) sitting on a fence by the road on a cold night, with neon lights out of focus in the background, breathing warm air to his hands and waiting for a taxi that brings a young girl to him. She (lovely Natsuko Yamamoto) is hopelessly in love with him, and he takes her home while his wife is away. Next day just when he has brought a friend home for an after-party the wife doing laundry finds a stain and hair that doesn't belong to her in the bed sheets. Terrific scene! Former yakuza film director gone prolific but half-steam one man porno factory Nishimura delivers a major surprise with this well written, superbly directed relationship drama with exceptionally good characters that you really care for. The real stand out is the wife, played by the beautiful, underrated, eccentric Ako whose career was a mixture of Roman Porno, Arthouse Guild, Toei, Shochiku, and Toho films. The film's soundtrack is terrific as well. This is the beauty of Roman Porno: just when it starts to wear your out you'll stumble across a hidden gem. This currently ranks as my favourite Japanese film of 1984.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby Markgway » 30 May 2017, 16:25

A Girl at My Door (2014-South Korea) **½
A 14-year-old girl, having suffered years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her adoptive father and his mother, latches on to the new police chief, a lesbian transferred to a rural area due to past indiscretions (that may have involved an underage girl).
Not quite sure how to feel about this one. Both female leads are sympathetic, but potentially dangerous. Sometimes the development is so subtle, you're left to fill in the blanks in your own head, and perhaps I've got it wrong... if I'm right, the ending is creepy. If I'm wrong, it's happy.
Bradavon: As probably the only guy on this forum who has snogged another man (3 times in fact), it didn't do a lot for me but I didn't hate it either. Who doesn't like a snog?

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread postby HungFist » 31 May 2017, 14:28

Woman's Body and the Wharf (女体棧橋) (Japan, 1958) [DCP] - 3/5
"A town in the centre of Japan that is not Japan!" Teruo Ishii's moody noir about two detectives trying to bring down an international woman trafficking ring operating in the seedy night clubs of Tokyo. Stylish and delightfully shot at 75 minutes, but perhaps a bit too talkative. Ishii regular Yoko Mihara (still young and slim) appears in a major role.

Horrors of Malformed Men (江戸川乱歩全集 恐怖奇形人間) (Japan, 1969) [35mm] - 4.5/5
A nothing short of legendary Edogawa Rampo adaptation combining multiple source stories into a single narrative. The tale begins as an enjoyable mystery that later turns into a Japanese version of The Island of Doctor Moreau during its final and most remarkable third. It is during this segment that Teruo Ishii excels with some of his career-best sequences. While the film may not be half as gory as some expect, it's an atmospheric movie with a great mysterious score, great imagination, and a wonderful antagonist played by the unearthly Butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata. The film was elevated to cult reputation partly because Toei withdrew all prints just weeks after its release in 1969 following complaints about the film's politically incorrect nature. The original Japanese title, which more accurately translates as "The Horrifying Malformed Men" or even "The Terror of Malformed Men" depending on interpretation, was part of the issue in the post WWII, nuclear traumatized Japan. Up till this day the film has never been distributed on home video or broadcast on TV in Japan, although there are 35mm screenings almost every year.

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