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Watchable for Meiko...,
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This review is from: Wandering Ginza Butterfly (DVD)
GINJO WANDERER is a fairly typical Toei produced Ninkyou (chivalrous) Yakuza tale which means that if you've seen more than three or four films from this genre you should know exactly how the plot will play out!
While this is not a criticism as such because the Ninkyou Yakuza genre has always been pretty predictable so what usually makes one film stand out from the other is the quality of the final showdown battle and the appeal of it's star.
In this regard GINJO has a superb final scene, but it's only 5 minutes long so I leave it up to viewers to decide if the pay-off is really worth it...
What makes this fairly unmemorable entry watchable, of course, is the remarkable Meiko Kaji. Her role here sits a little awkwardly between her tough-girl performances of the STRAYCAT ROCK series and the SASORI (Scorpion) trilogy, which will make her name. Those who know her only from those exploitation classics will see a more animated heroine here than the sexy cool she is normally associated with. But that's a good thing, in case anyone out there thought Meiko was a one-hit note!
Made in 1971, GINJO rightly feels more like a Ninkyou Yakuza film of the 1960s in both its look, pacing and narrative. For me one of the highlights of these films has always been the location filming in and around Tokyo and we get some nice images of Ginza in that era - so Tokyo obsessives like me score a point there!
Sadly there's not really much more to say about the film. It's got the requisite over-the-top Yakuza thugs without honor, a young man who (apart from being the male audience identification figure) will help Meiko and a fallen hero who must be avenged...
There is however a tense (and oddly instructive - an actual on-screen explanation with voice-over appears!) game of "Three-Cushion" (!?!) - and before anyone gets too excited, I'm sorry to say it's only a kind of snooker... Although what is to get excited about are the thigh boots Meiko wears during the game! So bizarrely out-of-place that it's riiiight on! ;)
There is some beautiful photography, specifically when Meiko goes to the final battle in the neon-lit rain (looking like the iconic YUKIHIME character she will play in a few years), accompanied as always by her own vocals on the soundtrack, and the showdown is equally impressive in all its hand-held fury with ringing katana blades and blood sprays.
It's a very well transfered print, although the subtitles are a bit off-key at times. I have a lot of gripes with subtitlers of Japanese who feel the need for equivalency. I think anyone who is actually sitting down to watch a Yakuza movie that's nearly 40 years old would be aware that when a girl calls a dying man "oniichan" she is not crying "Mister," as the subtitles unemotionally state, but a respected "Older Brother" - and even if the viewer doesn't know the Japanese - does it harm to educate us? How do people effectively learn from another language - or, more sadly, are we expected not to learn anything? More annoying is '''''''' "KURABU BURONKO" (which is shown clearly on screen in katakana and spoken equally clearly by ever character) which is ludicrously and non-meaningfully "translated" as "Club Broncho"!!! What the heck is a "Broncho?" A kind of poncho??? - it's "Club Bronco" for heaven's sake!
For completists only - and Meiko-fans. (Which should be you if you're reading this!)