Sunday, April 30, 2023

Yakuza Graveyard: Limited Edition – Radiance Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1976
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Meiko Kaji, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hideo Murota, Jûkei Fujioka, Nobuo Kaneko, Mikio Narita, Kei Satô, Nagisa Ôshima, Kin Sugai

Release Date: May 15th, 2023 (UK), May 16th, 2023 (USA)
Approximate running time: 95 Minutes 53 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £16.99 (UK), $34.95 (USA)

"When he falls for the beautiful wife of the jailed boss of the Nishida gang, things start to spiral out of control for detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari, Graveyard of Honour). In a world where the line between police and organised crime is vague, he finds himself on the wrong side of a yakuza war when his superiors favour Nishida’s rivals, the Yamashiro gang." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "Yakuza Graveyard was transferred in High-Definition by Toei Company Ltd and supplied to Radiance Films as a High-Definition digital master."

Yakuza Graveyard comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 23 GB

Feature: 19.8 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape; there are no issues with source-related damage. Colors look correct, image clarity is strong, and compression is very good. That said, the black levels in some of the darker scenes are not as convincing as they should be. During these moments, image clarity is not as strong.

Audio: 4.25/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Japanese with removable English subtitles. There are no issues with distortion or background hiss. Dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. Range-wise, this track at times sounds surprisingly robust.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a gallery of promotional imagery, a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), a visual essay by critic Tom Mes on Meiko Kaji and Kinji Fukasaku’s collaborations titled The Rage and the Passion (12 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an appreciation by filmmaker Kazuya Shiraishi (14 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an Easter Egg interview with Kazuya Shiraishi tilted Kinji Fukasaku’s Influence on Kazuya Shiraishi’s Blood of Wolves (4 minutes 9 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), reversible cover art, removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings, and a 32-page booklet (limited to 3000 copies) cast & crew information, an essay titled 'Zainichi Koreans' In Japanese Yakuza Films written by Mika Ko, an archival article titled Could Rice Still Fall From The Screen? written by Kazuo Kasahara, a contemporary review titled Kinji Fukasaku's Boundary Crossing: An Attempt To Decipher Yakuza Graveyard written by Masao Matsuda, and information about the transfer.

Summary:

The narrative revolves around a hot-headed detective whose anger often gets him into trouble. He reluctantly formed an unlikely partnership with a yakuza clan that put him in the crosshairs of his superiors and fellow police officers.

With Yakuza Graveyard, director Kinji Fukasaku returns to familiar territory. In 1970s Japanese cinema, no name was more synonymous with Yakuza cinema than Kinji Fukasaku. His most celebrated foray into Yakuza cinema is the epic five-film Battle Without Honor and Humanity Films series.

Content-wise, there are many similarities between Yakuza Graveyard and the Battle Without Honor and Humanity films. Notably, the way in which information is told via voice-over narration and still images That said, with Yakuza Graveyard, Kinji Fukasaku comes full circle with the thematic ideas that he spent most of the 1970s exploring.

Kazuo Kasahara wrote Yakuza Graveyard’s screenplay. He worked with Kinji Fukasaku a year before on Cops vs. Thugs. When compared to Cops vs. Thugs, Yakuza Graveyard does a better job fleshing out its characters.

The action sequences are best described as controlled chaos. The bulk of the visuals are shot with handheld cameras, which gives them a documentary feel that adds to their gritty realism. Kinji Fukasaku’s direction is rock solid, as he employs every trick in his arsenal.

Music is always an important part of any film. And my favorite sequence is a scene where the protagonist, Kuroiwa, is playing his music too loud. The neighbors have called the police because he is disturbing the peace. Kuroiwa resolves the situation by showing the beat cop his badge before assaulting him.

Yakuza Graveyard has a phenomenal cast. With the most memorable performance being Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) in the role of Kuroiwa. Also, the way his character slaps his knuckles when he is agitated further enhances his performance.

Another performance of note is that of Meiko Kaji, who is best remembered for the Lady Snowblood and Female Scorpion films. In Yakuza Graveyard, she is cast in the role of Keiko, the wife of a Yakuza boss who is in prison. This is a different kind of role for Meiko Kaji, in which she gets to portray a vulnerable character instead of the cold-blooded femme fatales she's most known for.

Yakuza Graveyard is a film that dives in headfirst. From its exemplary pre-credit opening montage, which does a superb job laying the foundation for what follows, there is rarely a moment for viewers to catch their breath. With an exceptional ending that provides a perfect coda for Kuroiwa's journey.

Though elements that are related to the yakuza’s way of life are what drive yakuza cinema, Kinji Fukasaku’s films often interject social commentary, and in the case of Yakuza Graveyard, he returns to a familiar theme: Japan's ill feelings towards half-breeds. Notably, Kuroiwa and Keiko form a bond because of their mixed nationalities, which also makes them outsiders. Also, Kinji Fukasaku’s films are filled with anti-heroes, and Yakuza Graveyard has one of his most compelling ones in Kuroiwa. Ultimately, Yakuza Graveyard is an extraordinary film that stands out as one of the best examples of yakuza cinema.

Yakuza Graveyard gets a first-rate release from Radiance Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a trio of insightful extras, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Volume 1: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1958 (Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier), Japan, 1959 (The Rambling Guitarist)
Directors: Seijun Suzuki (Voice Without a Shadow), Toshio Masuda (Red Pier), Takeichi Saitô (The Rambling Guitarist)
Writers: Ryuta Akimoto, Seichô Matsumoto, Susumu Saji (Voice Without a Shadow), Ichirô Ikeda, Toshio Masuda (Red Pier), Gan Yamazaki (The Rambling Guitarist)
Cast: Hideaki Nitani, Yôko Minamida, Jô Shishido, Nobuo Kaneko (Voice Without a Shadow), Yûjirô Ishihara, Mie Kitahara, Masumi Okada, Sanae Nakahara, Shirô Ôsaka (Red Pier), Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Misako Watanabe, Nobuo Kaneko, Kyôji Aoyama, Jô Shishido (The Rambling Guitarist)

Release Date: January 25th, 2016 (UK) / January 26th, 2016 (USA)
Approximate running times: 91 Minutes 45 Seconds (Voice Without a Shadow), 98 Minutes 50 Seconds (Red Pier), 77 Minutes 24 Seconds (The Rambling Guitarist)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B (Blu-ray), Region 1,2 NTSC (DVD)
Retail Price: OOP

"Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these Diamond Guys with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill), Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife) and Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril).

An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (Tokyo Drifter, Massacre Gun) stars in Suzuki's Voice Without a Shadow. Asako, a former telephone operator once heard the voice of a murder suspect which has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realises his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect...

Next, 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) stars in Masuda s Red Pier as Jiro the Lefty , a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop...

Finally, in Saito s The Rambling Guitarist, mega star Akira Koabyashi (Battles Without Honour and Humanity) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Red Pier, The Rambling Guitarist), 3.75/5 (Voice Without a Shadow)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, “Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier, and The Rambling Guitarist were transferred from original film preservation elements by Nikkatsu Studios in Japan. The films were delivered to Arrow Films as remastered files.”

Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier, and The Rambling Guitarist come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.2 GB

Feature: 14.6 GB (Voice Without a Shadow), 14.6 GB (Red Pier), 13.4 GB (The Rambling Guitarist)

Though all of the sources are in very good shape, all of the films have some minor print debris, but fortunately nothing that is intrusive. Voice Without a Shadow and Red Pier were both shot in black and white, and The Rambling Guitarist was shot in color. The image looks crisp, the contrast and black levels are strong, and there are no issues with compression. The color saturation for The Rambling Guitarist is very good.

Audio: 4/5

Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese, and removable English subtitles are available for each film. All issues related to background noise and distortion are minimal. Dialog comes through clearly, and range-wise, these audio mixes sound balanced.

Extras:

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include image galleries for Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier and The Rambling Guitarist, theatrical trailers for Voice Without a Shadow (3 minutes 8 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), Red Pier (3 minutes 22 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles) and The Rambling Guitarist (3 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), Diamond Guys Vol 2 theatrical trailers for Tokyo Mighty Guy, Danger Paws and Murder Unincorporated (11 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with Jasper Sharp titled Diamond Guy: Hideaki Nitani (10 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), and an interview with Jasper Sharp titled Diamond Guy: Yujiro Ishihara (15 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles).

Included with this release are two DVDs that have the same content as the Blu-ray included as part of this combo release.

Other extras include reversible cover art and forty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Voice Beyond the Shadow written by Stuart Galbraith IV, an essay titled Tough Guy, Nice Girl, Hard Choice: Red Pier written by Mark Schilling, an essay titled North by Northwest: The Timeless Adventures of a Rambling Guitarist written by Tom Mes and information about the transfers.

Summary:

Voice Without a Shadow: A woman is reminded of a traumatic event from her past. When she recognizes the voice of one of her husband’s colleagues. Three years before, while working as a phone operator, she accidentally heard the voice of a murderer who has yet to be brought to justice.

Voice Without a Shadow was directed by Seijun Suzuki, a versatile and prolific filmmaker who is most remembered for directing Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill. The latter of these two films led to his being fired from Nikkatsu. Key collaborators on Voice Without a Shadow include screenwriter Seichô Matsumoto (The Castle of Sand, The Demon), cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka (Branded to Kill, Massacre Gun), and composer Hikaru Hayashi (Onibaba, Blind Beast).

Content-wise, there are two clear influences on Voice Without a Shadow: Alfred Hitchcock and film noir. The narrative is a meticulously constructed whodunit, and there are even a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. As mentioned before, there is a clear Hitchcock vibe going on, and nowhere is this more evident than in the opening setup.

Another strength of Voice Without a Shadow is how it pulls away from the tension-filled opening for a few scenes and lets the characters establish who they are. From there, it does not take long for Voice Without a Shadow to hit its stride, and this occurs when the voice from the past moments arrives. Needless to say, Voice Without a Shadow does a superb job of building and maintaining tension.

When it comes to the visuals, Voice Without a Shadow does not disappoint. Seijun Suzuki perfectly infuses the film noir look with his own unique sensibilities as a filmmaker. The strongest moments visually revolve around the woman who is the key to discovering the killers’ identity. More specifically, the moments where her fragile state of mind is now in question.

Performance-wise, the entire cast is very good in their respective roles. With the standout performance coming from Yôko Minamida (Hausu) in the role of the protagonist. She delivers an exceptional performance that perfectly captures the state of mind of her character. Another performance of note is Jô Shishido (Gate of Flesh) doing what he does best, portraying a menacing character.

Red Pier: A notorious criminal's arrival in town puts him in law enforcement's crosshairs when it is discovered that he accidentally witnessed a murder.

Red Pier was co-written and directed by Toshio Masuda, whose other notable films include Rusty Knife, Gangster VIP, Shadow Hunters, and Shadow Hunters II: Echo of Destiny. Key collaborators on Red Pier include screenwriter Ichirô Ikeda (Youth of the Beast) and cinematographer Shinsaku Himeda (Never Give Up, Vengeance is Mine).

Though Red Pier starts off with a mysterious murder, the end result is far removed from the thriller genre. The bulk of the narrative is spent following Jiro as he tries to get closer to a young woman named Keiko. She also happens to be the sister of the man who died in the opening moments of the film. Other prominent characters include a detective named Noro who watches his every movement, and a secondary love interest for Jiro is a clingy nightclub dancer named Mami.

Content-wise, the first two acts play out like a melodrama, and it is not until the film’s final act that things start to get interesting. It is during this act that the gangster side of Jiro's character comes into play. Though they had let him be for the bulk of the film. Those responsible for killing Kieko’s brother don’t want to take a chance on Jiro turning on them. So they hire a hitman to take him out.

It is like Red Pier is comprised of two distinctly different halves. A more lighthearted side that takes place primarily during the daytime and a more sinister alter ego that comes out during the nighttime scenes. The first of these two halves focuses more on getting to know the characters, while the other half is more concerned with the characters past and their inability to free themselves from said past. Of course, it is always the darker side of humanity that proves to be the most compelling to watch.

From a production standpoint, there are not that many areas where Red Pier does not excel. The one area where things could have been improved was the narrative. And nowhere is this more glaring than in regards to pacing. Which tends to drag because of these lulls in the narrative. That being said, whatever Red Pier lacks when it comes to the narrative, it more than makes up for in areas like its visuals, which are filled with a tremendous amount of style. With the most striking moment visually being saved for its finale.

Performance-wise, the cast is all great in their respective roles. With the best performance coming from Yûjirô Ishihara (Alone on the Pacific) in the role of Jiro. Another performance of note is Mie Kitahara. They had both previously acted together in Crazed Fruit.

The Rambling Guitarist: The narrative revolves around a wandering musician who reluctantly accepts a job offered to him by a crime boss.

The Rambling Guitarist was directed by Takeichi Saitô, who is most known for directing Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril. Key collaborators on The Rambling Guitarist include screenwriter Gan Yamazaki (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, Gappa the Triphibian Monsters) and cinematographer Kuratarô Takamura (Tattooed Life, Hellish Love).

The main premise of The Rambling Guitarist has an air of familiarity to it. A stranger arrives in town and finds himself caught between two rivals’. And though this premise would be used in several samurai stories and countless spaghetti westerns, the premise is where the aforementioned similarities end, since the tone and level of violence in The Rambling Guitarist pale when compared to those films. That being said, though The Rambling Guitarist outwardly plays itself off a Japanese gangster film, it is not too hard to see the influence the western genre had on The Rambling Guitarist.

The look of The Rambling Guitarist is at times reminiscent of a Hollywood musical, and the leather jacket-wearing protagonist could pass off as Elvis Presley’s doppelganger. Other avenues the plot explores include a love story and redemption for something that happened in the protagonist's past.

From a production standpoint, not only does The Rambling Guitarist feature rock-solid visuals, but it also does a remarkable job when it comes to its use of color. The nightclub scenes are some of the best in regards to the use of color. Pacing is never an issue, as this film moves along at breakneck speed.

Performance-wise, the cast is all more than adequate in their respective roles. Surprisingly, the standout performance comes from Jô Shishido (A Colt Is My Passport) in the role of a hitman named Killer Joji. And though his role is not much more than a secondary one, he dominates every scene he is in. Another performance of note is that of Akira Kobayashi (Kanto Wanderer) in the role of Taki "The Rambling Guitarist".

Another solid release from Arrow Video that has unfortunately gone OOP, highly recommended.



























Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, April 28, 2023

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 2. Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1957 (Eight Hours of Terror), Japan, 1960 (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line), Japan, 1961 (Tokyo Knights, The Man with a Shotgun)
Director: Seijun Suzuki (All Films)
Cast: Keiko Shima, Nobuo Kaneko, Hiroyuki Nagato, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Yuji Kodaka, Sanae Nakahara, Kôji Wada, Mayumi Shimizu, Yôko Minamida, Hideaki Nitani, Izumi Ashikawa

Release Date: April 16, 2018 (UK), April 17, 2018 (USA)
Approximate running times: 76 Minutes 55 Seconds (Eight Hours of Terror), 81 Minutes 5 Seconds (Tokyo Knights), 83 Minutes 38 Seconds (The Man with a Shotgun), 86 Minutes 12 Seconds (The Sleeping Beast Within), 83 Minutes (Smashing the 0-Line)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Eight Hours of Terror), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line, Tokyo Knights, The Man with a Shotgun)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B (Blu-ray), Region 1,2 NTSC (DVD)
Retail Price: OOP

"The Sleeping Beast Within (1960) is a gripping crime thriller that sees a newspaper reporter s search for his girlfriend s missing father lead him into heart of the criminal underworld of Yokohama s Chinatown. Its companion piece, Smashing the 0-Line (1960), follows two reporters descent into a scabrous demimonde of drug and human trafficking. In Eight Hours of Terror (1957), a bus making its precarious way across a winding mountain road picks up some unwelcome passengers. In Tokyo Knights (1961), a college student takes over the family business in the field of organised crime, while The Man with A Shotgun (1961) marks Suzuki s first entry into the territory of the borderless Japanese Western." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line, The Man with a Shotgun), 3.75/5 (Tokyo Knights), 3.5/5 (Eight Hours of Terror)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "The films in this collection were remastered in High Definition and delivered to Arrow Films. Additional restoration and grading work was completed at R3store in London."

Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.5 GB

Feature: 11.4 GB (Eight Hours of Terror), 12 GB (Tokyo Knights), 18.5 GB (The Man with a Shotgun)

The Sleeping Beast Within, and Smashing the 0-Line come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.5 GB

Feature: 16.5 GB (The Sleeping Beast Within), 16 GB (Smashing the 0-Line)

The source for Eight Hours of Terror has some minor instances of print-related damage, and the grain looks natural. And though there is an inconsistency when it comes to contrast and black levels, There are also moments where contrast and black levels look very good.

The source used for Tokyo Knights is in good shape, and though colors fare well, there is room for improvement. The image looks crisp, and the grain looks natural.

The source used for The Man with a Shotgun is in good shape, and when compared to Tokyo Knights, the colors for this transfer fare much better. Details look sharp, black levels fare well, and grain looks natural.

The source for The Sleeping Beast Within is in good shape; details generally look crisp; contrast and black levels fare well. And though grain is noticeable throughout, there does appear to have been some DNR applied to this transfer.

The source for Smashing the 0-Line is in very good shape, and it is the best-looking film included as part of this collection. Details generally look crisp, black and contrast levels remain strong throughout, and grain looks natural.

Audio: 4/5

Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese, and removable English subtitles are available for each film. All issues related to background noise and distortion are minimal. Dialog comes through clearly, and range-wise, these audio mixes sound balanced.

Extras:

Extras on Blu-ray disc with Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun include stills galleries for Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights and The Man with a Shotgun, and theatrical trailers for Tokyo Knights (3 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles) and The Man with a Shotgun (4 minutes 16 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles).

Extras on Blu-ray disc with Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun include stills galleries for The Sleeping Beast Within and Smashing the 0-Line, theatrical trailers for The Sleeping Beast Within (3 minutes 25 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles) and Smashing the 0-Line (2 minutes 54 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with film critic/historian Tony Rayns (49 minutes 23 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic/author Jasper Sharp for the film Smashing the 0-Line.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a sixty-page booklet with cast and crew information for each film, an essay titled Seijun Rising: Border Crossings written by Jasper Sharp, a Seijun Suzuki filmography, and information about the transfers.

Included with this release are two DVDs that have the same content as the Blu-ray included as part of this combo release.

Summary:

Seijun Suzuki was born on May 23rd, 1923, in Tokyo, Japan. Seijun Suzuki’s calculated B-movie renditions of Yakuza thrillers put him in the company of other postmodern artists (Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, and Samuel Fuller). Seijun Suzuki's work is now being recognized.

Seijun Suzuki’s style is deliberate, as the flow of his narrative structures and the experiments in his symbolic use of colors and stylized acting show in every frame. He was just ahead of his time. In 1956, Seijun Suzuki would make his first feature for the Nikkatsu Studios, and he would go on to direct 42 films over an 11-year span for Nikkatsu.

During his peak period of 1963–1967, Seijun Suzuki would go on to create some of the most ambitious and daring B-films in the history of cinema. With each new film, he would try to top himself as an artist and keep the audience’s attention. Films like Toyko Drifter and Branded to Kill (a film that is now regarded as Seijun Suzuki’s masterpiece worldwide) would lead to Seijun Suzuki being fired from Nikkatsu.

In an unprecedented move, Seijun Suzuki, feeling cheated, sued Nikkatsu for wrongful dismissal, a case that the director won three and a half years later. Though he won in court. He was effectively blacklisted by all the major studios for nearly ten years. Seijun Suzuki would work on and off for the next 35 years, and with the film Pistol Opera, he appears to have returned to his more experimental roots.

Eight Hours of Terror: When a typhoon prevents passengers on trains from getting home. The more determined passengers get on a bus that travels across treacherous terrain,

From a production standpoint, Eight Hours of Terror takes full advantage of its limited resources. The premise is well executed, and the briskly paced narrative allows key moments to resonate. Another strength of Eight Hours of Terror is its colorful cast of characters.

Without a doubt, Eight Hours of Terror's greatest asset is its claustrophobic visuals. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the visuals reinforce the characters isolation from the rest of the world. Standout moments include the scene where the occupants on the bus discover that a murderer is in their midst and the scene where one of the women passengers’ lures one of the fugitives into a bear trap. This latter scene’s off-screen bloodcurdling screams from the fugitive accentuate this moment.

Performance-wise, the cast is all very good in their respective roles. With the standout performance being Keiko Shima in the role of the woman who seduces one of the convicts that have taken the occupants of the bus hostage, another performance of note is Nobuo Kaneko (Youth of the Beast) in the role of Mori, a murderer who is in the custody of a police officer. Despite the actions of his character, he creates a performance that exudes sympathy.

Tokyo Knights: When a college student takes over his family’s crime syndicate, he discovers that his family’s business has been infiltrated by a rival crime syndicate that wants to take it over.

Though organized crime is once again front and center in Tokyo Knights, the tone of the film is in contrast to the harsher reality depicted in Seijun Suzuki’s other Yakuza films.

Content wise Tokyo Knights is closer to a melodrama than a crime film. With humor and romance playing a significant role in the story at hand. And not to be overlooked is the role that music plays in Tokyo Knights.

Though Tokyo Knights features an interesting premise, the end result is a by-the-numbers film that any director could have made. And nowhere is this clearer than in how Tokyo Knights lacks the cinematic flourishes that have become synonymous with Seijun Suzuki’s most celebrated films.

The performances are best described as adequate. With the most memorable performance being the actor who portrays the bumbling music teacher, unfortunately, there is a lack of information about who portrayed this role. Another performance of note is Kôji Wada (Gate of Flesh) in the role of Matsubara Kôji, a high school student who becomes the head of a crime syndicate after his father's untimely death.

The Man with a Shotgun: A shotgun-carrying wanderer with ulterior motives infiltrates a remotely located mill run by criminals.

Though the western film genre is the one that never really gained traction in Japanese cinema, there is no denying the impact of western genres on Japanese filmmakers. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the core elements of the western film genre were transferred into crime/Yakuza-themed films. Case in point: The Man with a Shotgun

From a production standpoint, The Man with a Shotgun achieves all of its goals. The premise is well executed, and there are ample tense moments that build up to a superbly realized crescendo. Standout moments include the scene where the wanderer (the man with the shotgun) character’s introduction occurs and the scene where Ryoji and Masa settle which one of them will be the new sheriff by dueling.

Performance-wise, the cast is good in their respective roles. With the most memorable performance being Hideaki Nitani (Voice Without a Shadow) in the role of a wanderer named Ryoji. Another performance of note is Yuji Kodaka (Tattooed Life) in the role of Masa, whose motives are linked to a tragic event from the past.

The Sleeping Beast Within: A businessman who has just returned from a trip abroad gets entangled with a religious cult involved in criminal activity.

The premise puts an inventive spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s "wrong man" scenario. The narrative is well constructed, and there is an ample amount of misdirection. The Sleeping Beast Within saves its biggest red herring for its last act.

From a production standpoint, The Sleeping Beast Within achieves all of its goals. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to its film noir visuals. Standout moments include the scene where the daughter discovers the truth about her father, a scene where a reporter who is investigating a religious cult turns the table on a woman who tries to poison him, and a superbly realized finale that ends in a fiery inferno.

Performance-wise, they are all good in their respective roles. With the most memorable performance being Yûko Kusunoki (Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell) in the role of a femme fatale character named Hiroko. Other performances of note include Shinsuke Ashida (Red Angel) in the role of the father and Hiroyuki Nagato (The Insect Woman) in the role of the protagonist, a reporter named Kasai.

Smashing the 0-Line: Two competitive reporters whose sense of morality couldn’t be further apart investigate an underworld crime syndicate's drug ring.

Content wise Smashing the 0-Line has many of the elements that have since become synonymous with Seijun Suzuki’s most celebrated films. The film’s opening setup does a superb job of laying the groundwork for the events that are about to unfold, and the briskly paced narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat.

From a production standpoint, there is not an area where Smashing the 0-Line does not excel. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the film noir visuals perfectly capture the tone. Standout moments include a scene where gangsters kidnap a reporter and his sister. The gangsters try to extort the reporter by threatening to harm his sister, and when he refuses to cooperate with them, they rape her. And the scene during the film’s finale where the two rival reporters, who are now trapped on a boat, must now work together

Performance-wise, the cast is all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performances being Hiroyuki Nagato (Pigs and Battleships) and Yuji Kodaka (The Man with a Shotgun) in the roles of two reporters whose sense of morality is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 2. Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies is a phenomenal release from Arrow Video that showcases five of Seijun Suzuki's lesser-known films, highly recommended.



































Written by Michael Den Boer

Fangs of the Living Dead – Shout! Factory (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Italy, 1969 Director: Amando de Ossorio Writer: Amando de...