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Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection)
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I AM WAITING (1957): In Koreyoshi Kurahara's directorial debut, rebel matinee idol Yujiro Ishihara (fresh off the sensational Crazed Fruit) stars a restaurant manager and former boxer who saves a beautiful, suicidal club hostess (Mie Kitahara) trying to escape the clutches of her gangster employer. Featuring expressionist lighting and bold camera work, this was one of Nikkatsu's early successes.
RUSTY KNIFE (1958): Rusty Knife was the first smash for director Toshio Masuda, who would go on to become one of Japanese cinema's major hit makers. In the film, Yujiro Ishihara and fellow top Nikkatsu star Akira Kobayashi play former hoodlums trying to leave behind a life of crime, but their past comes back to haunt them when the authorities seek them out as murder witnesses.
TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN (1960): At the beginning of Seijun Suzuki's taut and twisty whodunit, a prison truck is attacked and a convict inside is murdered. The penitentiary warden on duty, Daijiro (Michitaro Mizushima) is accused of negligence and suspended, only to take it upon himself to track down the killers.
CRUEL GUN STORY (1964): Fresh out of the slammer, Togawa (Branded to Kill's Joe Shishido) has no chance to go straight because he is immediately coerced by a wealthy mob boss into organizing the heist of an armoured car carrying racetrack receipts. After gathering together a ragtag bunch to carry out the robbery, Togawa learns that all is not what it seems in Takumi Furukawa's thriller. Cue the double (and triple) crosses!
A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (1967): One of Japanese cinema's supreme emulations of American noir, Takashi Nomura's A Colt Is My Passport is a down-and-dirty but gorgeously photographed yakuza film starring Joe Shishido as a hard-boiled hit man caught between rival gangs. Featuring an incredible, spaghetti-western-style soundtrack and brimming with formal experimentation, this is Nikkatsu at its finest.
Top Customer Reviews
Hats off to Criterion/Eclipse for stepping up and unleashing more great Nikkatsu films!
What I enjoyed were characters who could convincingly slouch like a Japanese version of Zoot-suited Bogart, plots with match-ups and double-crossing like the "Good, the Bad and the Ugly". These movies provide an immersion in a time and world (Japan post-war low-lifes and gangsters) as lost to us all as a Jurassic forest, or the royal court of the Sun King. Gives me faith that in the worlds of film, literature and music there is more to explore.
These can probably best be classified as slightly poppish crime-noir, nothing as over the top as Suzuki's "Branded to Kill", but nothing as realistic as say "Pale Flower" Pale Flower (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]. Some are better than others, and of course over a 10 year span you'll see some changes in tone and style. Considering the age of the films you will see minor transfer/quality issues here and there, but overall still very, very good. The movies vary somewhat as to theme, but most focus on some aspect of "redemption", "trying to go straight", or "rescuing your lover/friend/oneself" from corruptive influences. It is hard as an outsider to know if this was directly reflective in any way as part of the healing process of losing World War II, or just a reason why some of the typical aspects of these types of films struck a nerve and became so popular in Japan at the time.
The best of the bunch is "A Colt Is My Passport" (1967), directed by Takashi Nomura and starring Joe Shishido. You could give this 5 stars, but it does contain a very annoying spaghetti western soundtrack that does not fit well with the movie and is played so frequently that it proves to be distracting. Shishido plays a hitman that falls into the inevitable web of betrayals and doublecrosses, but it contains several nice touches and an ending that for '67 was fairly innovative.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
ORE WA MATTERU ZE (I AM WAITING/I'LL BE WAITING). EXCITING AND POWERFUL GANGSTER FILM!
Director: Koreyoshi Kurahara
Rating = ***
Film = a solid... Read more
This set includes five popular crime films produced in the 1950s and 1960s by Japan's Nikkatsu studio. Read morePublished on January 18, 2013 by Jon Corelis
This boxset is no way the best Nikkatsu had to offer if you read Mark Schilling's book, "No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema" you'll see the best Nikkatsu crime films... Read morePublished on August 26, 2012 by Joseph
Included in this boxed set are 5 fantastic Japanese films noir produced by the Nikkatsu studio in the 1950s and 1960s. Read morePublished on September 25, 2011 by Christopher Barrett
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