Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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Re: Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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VoD Review / Not Available on DVD

Song of the Night: Woman (夜の歌謡シリーズ おんな) (1969)
Part 8 in the Night series, a hugely atmospheric nocturnal drama about bar girl Yumiko Nogiwa coming across night hustler Tatsuo Umemiya. The film opens with devastated Nogiwa pulling a knife on Umemiya. "Go ahead, stab me. I'll give you a present, a worthless life" he says with tired voice, before the film cuts back to show how things came to this. Turns out Nogiwa used to be working in as a hostess for a mean mama Yasuko Matsui and Umemiya, then light headed little sister (Teruo Ishii muse Masumi Tachibana) arrived the town to further complicate things. This is visually intoxicating, remarkably well written By Masashige Narusawa) and atmospheric film with great performances. Umemiya in particular is excellent as impulsive and tragic sociopath who is not in full control of himself. He is, in fact, keeping up appearances while being too weak to leave Matsui. Director Ryuichi Takamori deserves credit for not fucking this up; in fact he does really well. The only weakness is the films 2nd half which, while good, doesn't quite have the momentum of the 1st. But this is still a very good film.

Umemiya and Nogiwa
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Yasuko Matsui
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Tachibana
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Tachibana
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Re: Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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TV Review / Not Available on DVD

Kyomaiko satsujin jiken: Kyofu no uwaki shutcho (京舞妓殺人事件 恐怖の浮気出張) (1980)
Teddy bear family man Hiroyuki Nagato visits Kyoto on business, soon has a dead geisha in his hands and the police on his tail. Annoying TV film / Kyoto travel advertisement full of "funny overacting" and "old man does silly mistakes" scenes as Nagato tries to hide from the police. Awful musical score completes the wreckage. Phenomenal waste of talent in the casting: pink hip girl Kahori Takeda as travel guide co-star (also does a tiny bit of awful karate), fellow Roman Porno star Junko Miyashita as older (alive) geisha, Escape From Reform School runaway Fujika Omori as younger (dead) geisha, Tatsuo Endo is in the film too, and even Etsuko Shihomi appears for about one minute as a lady cop. And the film is directed by bloody Yuji "Shogun's Sadism" Makiguchi! And written by Atsushi Yamatoya! Shows how Japanese TV can turn men into pale shadows of their former selves, except there's not even a shadow left here. The title translates roughly as The Kyoto Geisha Murder Case: Horrifying Illicit Business Trip. Should've been The TV Viewer Suicide Case: Horrifying Boring Movie Experience.

Takeda
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Nagato and Omori
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Shihomi
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Junko Miyashita and Tatsuo Endo
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This is Miyashita as well
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Re: Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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TV Review / Not Available on DVD

Lone Kanto Yakuza (関東やくざ者) (Japan, 1965)
Dir. Shigehiro Ozawa
Cast: Koji Tsuruta, Tetsuro Tamba, Junko Fuji, Hideo Murata, Saburo Kitajima, Shingo Yamashiro

A standard ninkyo film with honourable yakuza Koji Tsurura going against merciless, but not entirely rotten businessman gangster Tetsuro Tamba. There are too many talking heads scenes and a storyline that isn’t awfully interesting, but also solid filmmaking and drama that sneaks into the film almost unnoticed. Tamba is always interesting, and the bloody final sword duel against him is quite powerful. There’s also some old fashioned charm stemming from an extensive use of songs, which shouldn’t necessarily be surprising since Toei’s prominent enka singer actors Hideo Murata and Saburo Kitajima are both in the film.

This was the 2nd movie in the Kanto series, one of Toei’s early ninkyo series. Shigehiro Ozawa wrote and directed them all five of them. While I have not seen the others, it appears Tsuruta plays the same character only in the first two, and different characters in the rest.

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and a badass still
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Re: Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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TV Review / Not Available on DVD

Woman Boss: Chivalrous Fight (女親分 喧嘩渡世) (1969)
Dir. Takashi Harada
Cast: Nijiko Kiyokawa, Shingo Yamashiro, Bin Amatsu, Bunta Sugawara, Minoru Oki, Hiroko Minami, Masumi Tachibana, Yumiko Katayama

A standard ninkyo film elevated by star Nijiko Kiyokawa. At 57 years of age, she wasn’t quite the cutie idol Toei put in their other movies. An actress since the early 1930s, she was probably best known to Toei yakuza audiences as the battle axe wife in the Tomisaburo Wakayama’s Gokudo series. This film is somewhat a derivative, with mostly the same cast (Kiyokawa, Shingo Yamashiro, Bunta Sugawara, Minoru Oki, Bin Amatsu) and a similar feel. Kiyokawa gets her gang into female wrestling, quarrels with delinquent girls (Hiroko Minami, Masumi Tachibana, and Yumiko Katayama with some amazing fashion), and shoots a bad guy in the eye! Mediocre Takashi Harada helms it with professionalism albeit without originality. But it is lovely Toei gave Kiyokawa a film of her own at this point of her career…. even if they couldn’t refuse a bunch of (non)sex appeal jokes.

Kiyokawa
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Hiroko Minami and Yumiko Katayama
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Masumi Tachibana
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Re: Rare Japanese Cult Cinema reviews (No DVD / BD)

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TV Review / Not Available on DVD

Sakariba Blues (盛り場ブルース) (1968)

Part 2 in the Song of the Night series, this time based on a Shinichi Mori song (he’s also a supporting actor in the film). Umemiya works for a hostess club that hires Nogawa, a woman who needs money for her husband who is waiting at home. Nobuo Kaneko plays two roles, and they are both rich pervert geezers! Spectacular production design and use of colours aside, this is pretty unmoving at first, but gains momentum from halfway on and ends up a dramatic tale of manipulation and love losing out to greed. Umemiya does his usual pimp / hustler / seducer role, which by 1968 was turning into a one man genre of its own, ala Liam Neeson revenge films. Norifumi Suzuki wrote in his book that the sexy “seducer films” with Umemiya and others were in high demand at Toei, because they made ideal B-features in Toei’s double bill system, where an overly masculine ninkyo yakuza film (void of any sexual themes) was the main audience draw. But the sexy films remained notably tame most of the time, and like this one, were often void of any graphic nudity (Mako Midori’s sex melodramas tended to be more daring and twisted, however).

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Kaneko
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Kaneko again
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