Vintage Pulp Oct 31 2014
HELL AND BACK
Amid medieval Japan’s manners and restraint, how can a person tell the difference between love, honor, and duty?


Above is a poster for Teinosuke Kinugasa’s masterwork samurai drama Jigokumon, which was known in English as Gate of Hell. It was the first Japanese film shot in color, via the process Eastmancolor, which was a leap beyond three-strip Technicolor, and one that makes Jigokumon blaze like a supernova. The story, from a play by Kan Kikuchi, concerns a Heian-era samurai named Moritoh whose bravery during a battle is rewarded by his lord granting him anything he desires. What he desires is the Lady Kesa. Problem is she’s married to another samurai. The lord mistakenly grants Moritoh’s wish, which is soon revealed to be impossible, but Moritoh resolves to have Kesa anyway, by any means necessary—trickery, bribery, even all-out murder. What develops is not just a thriller about entitlement and lust, but a meditation on honor, love and, especially, social strictures.

Jigokumon was a sensation. A hit in Japan, it was a revelation to foreign audiences. It took home the Palme d’Or from the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a 1955 special Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Oscar for Best Costume Design in a color film, and more prestigious nods. Along with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s Genji Monogatari, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari, and other films from the early 1950s, it marked the emergence of Japanese cinema onto the international scene. We’ve posted a large group of screen grabs below—perhaps overkill, considering how many—but the film just looks so damn good and the shots are so spectacular that we couldn’t help ourselves. Jigokumon premiered in Japan today in 1953.


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Vintage Pulp Jun 23 2014
MONA RIZA MYSTERY
Like the mysterious Da Vinci painting we can’t figure out this piece of art.


Above and below are two posters for Iwataro Ishii’s Mona Riza okyo, which was based on the graphic novel of the same name by Teruo Tanashita, and stars Mari Atsumi as a pickpocket trying to get her hands on a valuable but elusive diamond pin called the Star of the Sea. Strangely, the word “Kyoto” clearly appears in the poster titles—it’s the last symbol on both—but all the sources we checked said the film is called Mona Riza okyo. It’s a mystery too deep for us to solve, but if any of you can shed some light on it please drop us a line. Mona Riza okyo premiered in Japan today in 1971.

Update: David W. writes in and tells us: Indeed the last word on each poster is Okyo, not Kyoto.

Mystery solved. Thanks, David, for your help.

Update 2: NelC offers a more detailed explanation of the title. Here's what he wrote: The transliteration of the subject line is indeed Mona Lisa O-Kyō. The proper name for Kyōto is 京都市, "Kyōto-shi" or "Kyoto City" in English. 京都 is "Kyōto." 京 is "Kyō." 京 by itself means "capital" as in "capital city," and お is an honorific, so お京 might be read as "the capital." (モナリサ is, of course, "Mona Lisa.")

So the title might be read as "The Capital Mona Lisa." The significance of this is beyond my meagre abilities in Japanese, though. A colloquialism for "the great," maybe, as in Wodehouse-era British English? I don't know.

Thank you NelC. Your excellent explanation is more than we could have reasonably hoped for. Mystery solved, again.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 27 2014
NINJA TURTLE
Eiko Yanami strikes a kick-ass pose.


Although many directors and performers were involved in the Girl Boss movies, on some level Nikkatsu Studios was behind most of them as either producers or distributors. This one is an exception. The movie was called Soft-Shelled Turtle Girl Boss, it was made by Dai Nippon Eiga Seisaku Kabushiki Kaisha, which was known as Daiei Film Co. for short, and it had Taro Yuge in the director’s chair and Eiko Yanami in the lead. We don’t know anything about the plot, but it’s a pinku girl boss flick, so she probably seeks and achieves revenge against a bunch of gangster types. We’ll look for more info, if not a copy of the movie. In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy the poster, which is absolutely killer. Soft-Shelled Turtle Girl Boss premiered in Japan today in 1971. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 20 2013
MONSTERS BRAWL
Yôkai hyaku monogatari is part creature feature and part primer on Japanese folklore.

Above, two great posters for Daiei Film Company’s Yôkai hyaku monogatari, aka 100 Monsters.  In the movie you get giants and faceless men and witches—i.e., things that are familiar to most cultures—but you also get some specifically Japanese weirdness like the rokurokubi, which can stretch its neck to extreme lengths (see below), and the karakasa oabake, which is a parasol that has come to life. Apparently, household items animating is a major part of Japanese folklore, and some of the objects that can haunt you include quilts, clocks, mirrors, gongs, sake jars, and sandals. That last one doesn’t surprise us, because we once had a roommate whose Crocs scared away any woman who saw them. Anyway, we gather this is more or less a kid’s movie, but to us it seems like one that would permanently warp anyone under the age of ten. For adults, it’s just amazing to watch so many people in rubber suits in one place at the same time. If you want to see the rokurokubi get all sassy with her sinuous neck, check here, and you can see the haunted parasol come to life here. Yôkai hyaku monogatari premiered in Japan today in 1968.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 25 2012
MARI XMAS
Topless in Tokyo.

Above, a poster for Yoshio Inoue’s Kawaii Akuma: Iimono ageru, aka Just for You, starring Mari Atsumi and Keiko Takahashi. Atsumi became a major star in Japanese cinema, appearing mainly in Daiei Film Co. productions, and later transitioning into television and pop music. We have more Atsumi here and here, and we'll feature her again later. Kawaii Akuma: Iimono ageru premiered in Japan today in 1970. 


 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 1 2011
ATSUMI POSITION
Drowning in the sea of love.

Above is a beautiful promotional poster of Mari Atsumi for her 1970 pinku flick (and here we go again with the made up titles, but what can we do?) Night Sea Anemones, or possibly Sea Anemones at Night. We’ve explained this title thing before—i.e., for these films that never had a western release we have to come up with a title without actually understanding Japanese. We recognize some characters, and can look up others, but ultimately what we produce can be, let’s just say, fanciful. On this one, though, we think we’re pretty close. And even if we aren’t, screw it—our title sounds cool. Another Atsumi below, and more here. 

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Vintage Pulp May 2 2011
PROUD MARI
Have you ever been to Electric Medusa land?

Above, another Japanese promo poster featuring Mari Atsumi, this one for director Yasuzo Masumura’s Denki kurage: kawaii akuma, which was known internationally by the great title Electric Medusa: Lovely Wicked Woman, but which was known in the U.S. as Play It Cool. It premiered in Japan today in 1970. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 24
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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