|Vintage Pulp||Dec 6 2017|
|Modern Pulp||Dec 5 2017|
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 20 2017|
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 21 2017|
Below is a collection of Japanese posters for the amazingly entertaining film series Kozure Ōkami, aka Lone Wolf and Cub, starring Tomisaburô Wakayama as a warrior who has to single-handedly care for his child as legions of assassins try to murder him. More info below.
Two posters for Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx.
There's one more movie, 1980's Kozure Ōkami, aka Shogun Assassin, mainly put together using footage from the previous films, none of which had really been seen in the West to that point. Shogun Assassin, though not properly part of the series, is easy to find and as a one-off it's fine and entertaining, but we recommend you do yourself a favor and watch the canonical films.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 1 2015|
This promo is for Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon, aka Hells Angels: Crimson Roar, one of scores of girl gang movies that deluged Japanese cinema during the 1970s. This one is from Toei Company and concerns a gang member named Yoko, played by Yûko Iruka, who spends three years in prison for assault with a switchblade, and afterward emerges onto the mean, nightclub-lined streets of her coastal hometown. You know Japanese bars are sleazy when their names are English—Bar Lucky, The Apollo, The Happening, Club Ace, New York 3, et al. We especially liked the placard that read: Girls can get so excited and lustful sometimes, as shown in this picture. Why don’t you come in now? The girls working for me are so sexy. You can try to satisfy them. Yes, even sex club signage is polite in Japan.
These places are all geared toward American servicemen, of course, and the distaste for Western decadence, though subtle, is clear. But it isn’t Americans who are a problem for Yoko—it’s a group of pesky Yakuza who make their home at the Lonely Angel bar. After Yoko is drugged into paralysis and raped by two of the slimier specimens she hones that trusty switchblade of hers and goes on a revenge spree that, well, doesn’t end nicely for her enemies. She gets timely help from her boyfriend, and when he ends up on the point of a katana, that makes her even angrier. Turns out she’s deadly with a sniper rifle too. Standard stuff, but with an unusual and effective star in Iruka, and Reiko Ike’s 1973 hit song “Futen Gurashi Part 2” recurring throughout the soundtrack—a bonus. Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon premiered in Japan today in 1977.
|Modern Pulp||Aug 28 2015|
Based on a bdsm novel written by the acclaimed Oniroku Dan, Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku, aka Female Teacher: Rope Hell, is yet another Japanese exploration of the pleasures, pains, and limits of sexual obsession and bondage. Frankly, this one is a bit tedious. There’s a razor thin line between thoughtful and dangerous when dealing with this kind of material. When Japanese films, in particular, end up on the wrong side of that line, you really have a mess on your hands. We understand, yes, that bad men aren’t always punished in real life. But this isn’t real life. It's just a movie, and punishment is key. In fact, for us it’s the entire point. It’s the only thing that makes these films watchable. But in this case, the abusive male ties up the two objects of his obsession and is tormenting them when one of his candles sets an accidental fire. He and the bound women burn to death. His obsession destroyed them all. That’s the end. Roll credits. Hope we didn’t ruin it for you.
The fixation Japanese film has with sexual abuse is curious. It often occurs for pretty straightforward narrative reasons—rape, or perhaps the murder of husbands and children, or often all three, are the triggers that transform women into terrifying revenants. The mostly thirty-something writers and directors who conceived pinku plots were taking swipes at Japan’s patriarchal social structure by first explicitly revealing a sexist status quo, then allowing feminine power to demolish it. Or so it seems to us. In that way pinku does not differ from blaxploitation. In those, it’s a racist status quo that is revealed and demolished. However revenge movies represent only a slice of the Japanese whole. Many films in the roman porno sub-genre feature degradation without revenge, in which case we think it needs to be very carefully done to avoid endorsing such behavior. Major fail on that account here. All respect to Oniroku Dan, but excesses such as a forced enema and subsequent sloppy evacuation are not things we can get behind, so to speak. Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 31 2014|
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.
|Modern Pulp | Vintage Pulp||Sep 26 2013|
San Sebastian in general and Cinema Caravan in particular are keeping us busy, but we have time for a quick post, so here we go. Last night we attended a screening of Hiroyuki Nakano’s 1998 adventure/comedy SF: Episode One, also known as Samurai Fiction. It’s a quirky movie, imaginatively shot mostly in black and white, and involves a young samurai on a mission to both avenge a friend’s death and retrieve a priceless sword. He encounters an ex-samurai who tries to teach him the wisdom of non-violence, with limited success. The movie is set in 1689 and looks a bit like Kurosawa’s great period pieces, but subverts that similarity with its humor and modern rock 'n’ roll soundtrack. Since it was in Japanese with English subtitles, the mostly Basque audience was perhaps a bit baffled, but even those with language difficulties could enjoy the film’s visual creativity, and ultimately everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Watching Samurai Fiction got us thinking about our many Japanese posters, and because we actually have access to that stuff wherever we go, we decided to share five of the nicer pieces in our collection. In terms of information on these, time is a little tight to research them carefully, but here’s what we know: poster one—nothing; poster two—Nawa Hada Jigoku: Rope Skin Hell, with Naomi Tani, 1979; poster three—we’re unsure on that one, but that’s definitely Kayoko Honoo in the art; poster four—Kapone no shatei, yamato damashi, aka A Boss with a Samurai Spirit, with Tomisaburô Wakayama, 1971; poster five—nothing. But we'll see if we can find something about that one. See ya soon.
|Femmes Fatales||Aug 12 2013|
Well, it’s been awhile since we shared any 1970s Japanese actress promos, but today seemed like a perfect occasion. Above is roman porno star Terumi Azuma, and it just happens that today is her birthday. Azuma appeared in such films as Niizuma jigoku (Newlywed Hell), Ikenie fujin (Wife To Be Sacrificed), and Ikenie no onna-tachi (Harry and His Geisha Girls). Because it was illegal to show pubic hair in Japan when this photo was made in the mid-1970s, Azuma covers the offending area with her hand. You see this trick over and over in ’70s Japanese promos, and while it never ceases to bemuse, it also makes these shots infinitely better than something more graphic. Not that we’d mind if she moved her hand, but you know what we’re saying. Anyway, Terumi Azuma is fifty-seven years old today.
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 5 2010|
Vintage poster for Jitsuroku onna kanbetsusho: sei-jigoku, aka True Story of a Woman Condemned: Sex Hell, directed by Koyu Ohara and starring Hitomi Kozue, who you see below courtesy of a blog called Woman Becomes the Picture (or something like that). Jitsuroku onna kanbetsusho: sei-jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1975.