May 6 – 16, 1999

Return of the JAPANESE    OUTLAW MASTERS

Sponsored by the JAPAN FOUNDATION

Series compiled by Chris D., Dennis Bartok and Isao Tsujimoto

Special Thanks To: Yukio Homma/TOEI COMPANY; David Shultz/BLUMPS

DISTRIBUTION; Makoto Kakurai/SHOCHIKU CO.; Yumiko Takahashi/DAIEI CO.; Ayako

Kuroda/NIKKATSU CORP.; Yukio Kotaki/TOHO CO.; Mona Nagai/PACIFIC FILM

ARCHIVE; Robert Woodhead/ANIMEIGO; Scott Kennedy/KIT PARKER FILMS;Yoshiki

Hayashi, Merlin David, Stuart Galbraith, Dr. Akiko Agishi, Toshiko Adilman,

Kurando Mitsutake.


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Between the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Japanese cinema literally exploded with some of the greatest genre filmmaking ever seen – a mindbending Cinemascope paradise of samurai swordfests, crazed yakuza thrillers and low-budget erotica. Most of these films have been lost to American audiences – buried in overseas film vaults, excluded from the "classic" definition of Japanese cinema.

As a follow-up to our sold-out OUTLAW MASTERS OF JAPANESE FILMMAKING series in June/July of 1997, we’ve uncovered a whole new treasure-trove of ultra-crazed action films and Pop-Art thrillers from directors Shunya Ito, Kazuo Mori, Kinji Fukasaku, Yasuzo Masumura, Norifumi Suzuki, Masaki Kobayashi, Masahiro Shinoda, Yasuharu Hasebe, Seijun Suzuki, Kihachi Okamoto, Kazuo Ikehiro, Kon Ichikawa and Shinya Tsukamoto. This year’s series also features the U.S. Premieres of two of the most legendary, unseen Japanese genre classics: Shunya Ito’s spectacular, comic-book inspired FEMALE CONVICT "SCORPION" – JAILHOUSE 41 and Norifumi Suzuki’s notorious sex-film SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEASTS !!

 

Thursday, May 6 - 7:00 PM

U.S. Premiere - - New 35 mm Print!! FEMALE CONVICT "SCORPION" -- JAILHOUSE 41 (JOSHU SASORI - DAI 41 ZAKKYOBO) 1972, Blumps Distribution 93 min. Phenomenal surrealistic exploitation with action-goddess Meiko Kaji (LADY SNOWBLOOD) as the legendary inmate, Scorpion, breaking out of stir with fellow prisoners. They traverse a desolate blasted landscape - a village half-buried in volcanic ash, melancholic autumnal woods and barren mountains of stone - all the time retaliating against pursuing guards and bestial, vacationing salary men. A transcendental, exhilarating masterpiece of violent 1970s cinema, JAILHOUSE 41 is second in the JOSHU SASORI film series, adapted from the popular manga comics by director Shunya Ito.  

Thursday, May 6 - 9:15 PM

Ninja pyrotechnics!! MISSION: IRON CASTLE (SHINOBI NO SHU), 1970, Daiei Co., 79 min. w/ Kojiro Hongo, Michiyo Yasuda. Hiroki Matsukata, a ninja whose parents were murdered by evil warlord Nobunaga, joins three other master spies to kidnap noble lady Shiho Fujimura from the impregnable Iron Castle. They navigate a treacherous universe of midnight betrayals, clandestine rendezvous and supernatural killers. Noirish, chiaroscuro atmospherics courtesy of acclaimed director Kazuo Mori.

Friday, May 7 – 7:00 PM

U.S. Premiere! Japan’s Most Notorious Sex-Film!! SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEASTS (SEI JUU GAKUEN), 1974, Toei Co., 91 min. Sexploitation guru, Norifumi Suzuki, plunges us into a maelstrom of hidden torture, secret masochistic desires, and blasphemous rites as Yumi Takigawa takes religious vows to find out what terrible things happened to her mother inside the Sacred Heart Convent. She finds out – with the help of lecherous archbishops, a lesbian mother superior and a line-up of fellow nuns ready to whip her (in the film's most deliriously over-the-top scene) with a gauntlet of rose-thorns. A shocking, subversive masterpiece – Dario Argento meets the Marquis de Sade.

 

Friday, May 7 – 9:00 PM

Hardboiled Double Feature!!

Pulp-Master, Seijun Suzuki’s Erotic Masterpiece!! GATE OF FLESH (NIKUTAI NO MON) , 1964, Nikkatsu (Kit Parker), 90 min. Director Seijun Suzuki’s annihilating tale of four prostitutes in post-WW2 Tokyo and the reversion of three of them to subhuman savagery. Yumiko Nogawa is the innocent orphan from the countryside given a crash-course in what it takes to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of a conquered nation. Jo Shishido is a war veteran-turned-thief who likes to murder U.S. Occupation soldiers. This unlikely pair commit the unpardonable sin when they fall-in-love – a crime punishable by death as far as their underworld comrades are concerned.

Brand New 35mm Print!!

WOLVES, PIGS AND PEOPLE (OKAMI TO BUTA TO NINGEN), 1964, Toei Co., 95 min. One of the first yakuza films by action-expert Kinji Fukasaku (BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY) to receive critical acclaim. Legendary tough guy Ken Takakura plays a lone-wolf hood who convinces his younger sibling (Kinya Kitaoji) to leave his yakuza clan, and join in robbing elder brother Rentaro Mikuni’s gang of fat cats. Familial tragedy ensues in gritty noir fashion.

 Saturday, May 8 – 6:30 PM

U.S. Premiere!! Playgirl Assassins A-Go-Go!! BLACK TIGHT KILLERS (ORE NI SAWARU TO ABUNAIZE), 1966, Nikkatsu, 87 min. "Josie and the Pussycats" meets AUSTIN POWERS in this wild tongue-in-cheek gangster/spy spoof starring Akira Kobayashi as a combat photographer trying to rescue stewardess girlfriend, Chieko Matsubara, from an alliance of American mobsters and Japanese yakuza. He’s aided by a strange band of girl assassins who use razor sharp 45 rpm records as weapons and wads of bubble-gum to blind pursuers. This first film from one of Nikkatsu’s most talented late ‘60s directors, Yasuharu Hasebe, shows a definite Seijun Suzuki influence. A Pop-Art classic!

 

Saturday, May 8 – 8:30 PM

HARA KIRI (SEPPUKU), 1962, Shochiku (Kit Parker), 134 min. An intense, intricately-composed meditation by master director Masaki Kobayashi (KWAIDAN) on the war between the feudal ethos and humanity in the Japanese psyche. Recently impoverished samurai Tatsuya Nakadai attempts to take vengeance on the clan who forced his son-in-law (Akira Ishihama) to commit seppuku (hara-kiri). Using the clan’s own code of honor against them, Nakadai slowly, ruthlessly forces the film to its shattering climax. Toru Takemitsu provides the scarily dissonant score. With Tetsuro Tanba and Rentaro Mikuni.

 

Sunday, May 9 – 4:00 PM

Back by Popular Demand!! PALE FLOWER (KAWAITA HANA), 1962, Shochiku Co., 96 min. Dir. Masahiro Shinoda. The standout hit of our first OUTLAW MASTERS Series is back – one of the greatest yakuza films ever made, a gorgeous, obsessive blend of Jean-Pierre Melville and GUN CRAZY. Emotionless killer Ryo Ikebe gets out of prison and heads straight for the gambling parlors – where he runs straight into thrill-seeking Mariko Kaga, looking like Audrey Hepburn’s twisted sister. Together the two drag-race across the Tokyo underworld, accompanied by composer Toru Takemitsu's’amazing gangster score.

 

 

Sunday, May 9 – 6:15 PM

BLIND BEAST (MOJU aka WAREHOUSE), 1969, Daiei Co., 84 min. A deranged, sightless sculptor (Eiji Funakoshi) kidnaps an artists’ model (Mako Midori) and introduces her to his rural warehouse of horrors – a forest of giant sculpted female body parts. Before long, Midori finds herself succumbing to a deliriously tactile shadow world where sight is replaced by touch. Master Yasuzo Masumura chisels a monument of erotic terror from Edogawa Rampo’s perverse short story.

 

Friday, May 14 – 7:00 PM

Shintaro Katsu Night!!

U.S. Premiere – New 35 mm Print!! HOODLUM SOLDIER (HEITAI YAKUZA), 1965, Daiei Co., 103 min. Direcor Yasuzo Masumura’s justly-famous anti-war epic about a yakuza gambler (Shintaro "Zatoichi" Katsu) drafted into the pre-WW2 Manchurian conflict. His only friend is another outcast, pacifist intellectual Takahiro Tamura. This black comedy is exuberantly kinetic, irreverent, punctuated by outbursts of perverse violence that showcase the full scope of the Japanese military’s often-sadistic discipline. HOODLUM SOLDIER showcases Katsu’s remarkable ability to switch from razor-sharp comedy to jaw-dropping mayhem in the blink of an eye.

 

Friday, May 14 – 9:15 PM

Blind Swordsman Double-Feature!!

FIGHT, ZATOICHI, FIGHT! (ZATOI ICHI KESSHO TABI), 1964, Daiei Co., 87 min. Dir. Kenji Misumi The Zato Ichi film series began in 1962 and ran for an astonishing 26 films. With the wandering blind masseur/swordsman, Shintaro Katsu achieved super-stardom in Japan, blending the pathos and humor of Chaplin’s "Little Tramp" with the action-hero authority of a Robert Mitchum or Clint Eastwood. Here, Ichi has to transport an orphaned baby to its nearest kin while braving a gauntlet of killers after the bounty on his head.

ZATO ICHI AND THE CHEST OF GOLD (ZATO ICHI SEN-RYO KUBI), 1964, Daiei Co., 82 min. Ichi (Katsu) attempts to retrieve a persecuted village’s stolen tax payment and comes up against real-life brother Tomisaburo Wakayama (LONE WOLF AND CUB), as a gleefully sadistic, whip-wielding villain. Kazuo Ikehiro directs with breathless, cliffhanger dynamics, climaxing in one of the most nerve-wracking duels in the series.

 

Saturday, May 15 – 4:00 PM

The Japanese "Easy Rider"!! THE WANDERERS (MATATABI), 1973, Toho Co., 96 min. Despite being set in the mid – 19th century, director Kon Ichikawa called this his take on EASY RIDER. Three dirt-poor youths idolize the matatabi (wandering gambler) idyll, but constantly betray their own yakuza code and any conception of common sense or human decency. Ichikawa debunks the chivalrous gambler myth – these kids are too miserably cold and hungry to worry about honorable behavior – and creates a brilliant, bleakly hilarious film that still manages to keep its characters sympathetic. With Isao Bito, Ichiro Ogura and Kenichi Hagiwara.

 

Saturday, May 15 – 6:30 PM

Hallucinatory Horror!! HIRUKO – THE GOBLIN 1991, Shochiku Co. 90 min. Shinya Tsukamoto (TOKYO FIST) supposedly directed this bizarre, dreamlike horror film to raise funding for TETSUO 2 – BODYHAMMER (his follow up to the popular TETSUO: THE IRON MAN). Kenji Sawada, an absent-minded professor-turned-demon hunter goes to a rural school in search of a colleague who has gone missing at the beginning of summer vacation. Scouring the rambling grounds with the man’s son, they discover the institution is built over one of the gates to Hell. Before long, blue-skinned ghosts and huge spiders with human heads turn up, and the roller-coaster ride begins.

 

Saturday, May 15 – 8:30 PM

Encore Double Feature!!

FEMALE CONVICT "SCORPION" --JAILHOUSE 41 (JOSHU SASORI - DAI 41 ZAKKYOBO) 1972, Toei Co. 93 min. [See May 6th @ 7pm for film description]

SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEASTS (SEI JUU GAKUEN), 1974, Toei. Co., 91 min. Dir. Norifumi Suzuki With Yumi Takigawa. [See May 7 @ 7pm for film description]

 

Sunday May 16 – 5:00 PM

New 35mm Print – Yasuzo Masumura’s Masterpiece!! RED ANGEL (AKAI TENSHI), 1966, Daiei Co., 95 min. Awe-inspiring war legend of a nurse (Ayako Wakao) who gives herself to the scarred and crippled soldiers of the front-line horror hospitals in 1930s Manchuria. Shinsuke Ashida is the disillusioned, morphine-addicted doctor who befriends her. Wakao embodies the transcendental strength of the female spirit – a merciful, healing angel who survives the carnage, but cannot overcome a male system of beliefs obsessed with honorable death.

 

Sunday, May 16 – 7:00 PM

SAMURAI ASSASSIN, 1965, Toho Co. (Animeigo), 122 min. Toshiro Mifune is the drunken, expert swordsman bent on joining anti-shogunate conspirators in killing the local lord. The traitors, led by Yunosuke Ito, decide that the tormented Mifune is too unstable and plot to kill him, too. He not only survives but joins the attack in the graphic, fever-pitched final massacre in the snow. Director Kihachi Okamoto (SWORD OF DOOM) and screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto (SEVEN SAMURAI) supply one of the most perverse twist endings in 1960s Japanese cinema. With Michiyo Aratama.