Category Archives: Imaginary Japanese Cinema

#27 – Burakku kokoro sanzoku (Black Heart Bandits)

(1976, Jap, 76 min) Dir Taku. Cast Mitsuo Ibaraki, Gen Otori, Anna Shimura.

Japanese biker gang movie cashing in on the rise of bōsōzoku subculture in Japan in the seventies. Hideo is a gawky, nerdish young man with a small motorbike that’s more like a scooter. He has a big dream though – to cast off his studies and become a member of the legendary criminal biker gang the Black Heart Bandits. One night, by sheer coincidence, he meets their leader – the cool, black clad and perpetually sunglasses wearing Ichi – and of course he uses the opportunity to beg for a place among the crew. Ichi – who isn’t one for charity I’m guessing – says yes, but only when he has passed his initiation. His first task is running the gauntlet of the local girl gang, the Pink Heart Bandits, which ends with him at the wrong end of a chain whipping coupled with a zealous helping of sexual humiliation. His trials escalate to drug smuggling and murder, the film ending with his gruesome demise at the wrong end of a stick of dynamite. The first in the six entry series revolving around the gang and as psychedelic, flimsy and comically sadistic as the rest. A great theme tune too.

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#10 – Dorakyura no gyakushū (Dracula vs. the World)

(1960, Jap, 100 min) Dir Kon Ito. Cast Kon Ito, Fumiko Miyata, Yuki Maebara, Kanjūrō Arashi.

An unauthorised Japanese sequel to Hammer’s first Dracula film and an uncannily exact one at that – if you compare the last image of the first film and the first of this one the sets and the photography are perfect recreations, made all the stranger by every actor being Japanese. A labour of love for Kon Ito who wasn’t a director by trade – the owner of a steel company, he sunk his own money into the film’s production and plays the Count himself. But anyway, this expensive bit of fan fiction begins with the resurrection of Count Dracula via black magic from a handful of his dust from the end of the last film. Immediately he drains one of his saviours and with them as his army he sets out on nothing less than world domination! Not a bad film and certainly a gorier one than the original though it recreates the original’s turgid pacing along with the sets etc. A game cast of unknowns around a not embarrassing Ito also helps. It was released in drive-ins in the US for about six months under the title Dracula vs. the World before it was tied in the legal knots that have kept it within Japanese borders ever since. With the world being how it is these days there is a fanslated version floating about on the web (though you didn’t hear that from me).

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#9 – Yubi o tobasu! (Finger Flying!)

(1967, Japan, 98 min, b/w) Dir Shōgorō Nishimura. Cast Hiroshi Minami, Haruo Tanaka, Anna Shimura.

A Yakuza comedy – if that’s a genre – about an accident prone underling named Shiri (Minami) who starts the film drunk and showing off to the viewer the stumped, fingerless hands he holds his sake cup with. The rest of the film is made up of flashbacks showing how he shamed himself and lost his fingers, by being beaten up by a Shinjuku prostitute when shaking her down for payment, being so inept at bribing a police officer that he gets himself arrested, allowing himself to get drugged and then smashing up a pachinko parlour and, last but not least, getting his group embroiled in a turf war. Each vignette ends with Shiri sitting dolefully with the knife and chopping board before him, before cutting to the outside of the building where only his cries can be heard. A strange mix of slapstick and sleaze, the film was rumoured to have been among Seijun Suzuki’s proposed follow-ups to Branded to Kill before he was dismissed from Nikkatsu although this speculation has been denied by Suzuki himself. Though Nishimura is outside of his Roman porno comfort zone (where he directed the likes of the wonderfully named Confessions of an Adolescent Wife: Climax!) he handles the action competently.

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