She may get pushed around but eventually she always pushes back.
Rashamen Oman: higanbana wa chitta, for which you see he promo here, is known in English as Foreigner’s Mistress Oman: Falling Autumn Flower. The movie starred Sally Mei, aka Sally May, an enigmatic half Anglo half Japanese actress who appeared in a handful of movies and had a short singing career, here playing the character Oman in a sequel to Rashamen Oman: ame no Oranda-zaka (poster here). She'd do one more film in this series called Enzetsu jokyo-den: Oman midarehada, and all of them premiered between March and August of the same year, which shows you how fast Nikkatsu churned these Krispy Kremes out.
The plot of the first movie saw Mei travel from Shanghai to Japan in search of her mother, only to be betrayed by her companion and sold to a brothel, where she becomes a geisha and gambler. Luckily, Mei had picked up some sword skills along the way and put those to good use julienning her captors. The sequel, then, picks up after she's served a prison sentence only to find that her sister is in the clutches of a group of yakuza lowlifes. Mei is up the challenge once again. Starring as her sister, by the way, is Yuri Yamashina, who we've looked at before. Rashamen Oman: higanbana wa chitta premiered in Japan today in 1972.
Two of pinku's biggest stars headline a rare film festival in Tokyo.
If you find yourself in Tokyo today, Cinema Laputa Asagaya is hosting a retrospective of films featuring two of the biggest pinku stars of the 1970s—Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, who are not only big stars but also Pulp Intl. faves who we've discussed many times. A new film will be featured every weekend until April 1, with all the pair's most legendary efforts appearing on the program, including Yasagure anego den: sôkatsu rinchi, aka Female Yakuza Tale (discussed here and here), Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi, aka Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, for which you can see the badass promo poster here, and of course Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô, aka Sex & Fury, which we talked about way back in 2009. There will be thirteen films in all, and the festival represents the best chance to see all these movies on a big screen in many years, and in a pretty cool location too. If you're in the vicinity, don't miss it.
Take off your coat. Stay a while.
If the Siri voice application for iPad is ever given a visual form, we vote for this one. The two panels above show lovely Japanese actress Sayaka Seri, aka Meika Seri, who made her debut in 1973 with Yasagure anego den: sôkatsu rinchi, aka Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture, but became well known for the Nikkatsu hit (Maruhi) shikijô mesu ichiba, aka Secret Chronicle: She Beast Market, which was released in 1974. These photos date from that year. You may be wondering if Seri keeps disrobing in subsequent shots. Actually, she does, and if you're really good maybe we'll show you those a bit later.
Crime, mayhem, and murder in Japan.
Above, six Japanese posters for 1950s and 1960s gangster movies. These are, top to bottom, Shichinin no yajû: chi no sengen, aka Return of the Filthy Seven, Sono gosôsha wo nerae: “Jûsangô taihisen” yori, aka Take Aim at the Police Van, Kawaita hana, aka The Pale Flower, Kutabare akutô-domo—Tantei jimusho 23, aka Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, and finally two versions of Gendai yakuza: yotamono jingi, aka Hoodlum Yakuza.
The gangs that couldn’t shoot straight.
Furyô banchô: Inoshika Ochô, aka Wolves of the City, aka Wolves of the City: Ocho the She-Wolf was a significant hole in our Japanese actioner viewing résumé, but we solved that by watching the film a few days ago. In short, you get an amoral motorcycle gang in Nazi regalia pitted against evil Yakuza, with the tide eventually turning when the legendary hellion Ocho the She-Wolf teams up with the gang. The movie looks great. Yukio Noda’s direction—for the most part—is a marvel. He frames shots with six, seven, sometimes even a dozen interacting characters spread across the screen, yet it all seems effortless. Modern directors don’t seem remotely interested in using shots like these anymore, which is a shame, but it may also be a function of today’s screenwriters choosing to limit the number of characters who interact simultaneously. In any case, this is one thing we loved about the movie and we’ve shared some images of this technique below.
But Wolves of the City is a mixed bag. It relies upon numerous violent set pieces, but where the dialogue sequences feel so carefully thought out, the action is pure Keystone Kops. Because Noda continues framing large numbers of actors in single shots, his performers seem more intent uponhitting their stage marks than making these confrontations look realistic. They reach their required positions in the scenes, but these hardened gangsters handle pistols and machine guns as if they were rubber snakes, dealing a major blow to what should be the visceral thrill of such moments. By packing the screen during the gunfights Noda forces the audience to accept that nobody can successfully shoot anyone from five feet away. It feels very bang-bang-you’re-dead amateurish, complete with wounded gangsters clutching their chests, spinning around, and falling to the floor.
In the end the plot ushers us through various deals, deceptions, and shootouts, and you finally get the inevitable throwdown between the bikers and the Yakuza. This is the most unlikely sequence of all, with bikers motoring around none too swiftly inside a confined warehouse while still miraculously being missed by a hailstorm of screaming lead. But by now we know what we’re going to get and we just have to go with it. At one point Ocho puts out a gangster’s eyes and archly informs him (as if he can hear through the head-splitting pain), “You’re the seventeenth victim of Ocho of Inoshika’s eye attack!” This movie does attack the eyes rather beautifully, and if you look past the Vaudeville antics of the action scenes you may enjoy it. The panel length poster at top is rare, and as far as we know it’s the only one of its kind to be seen online. Furyô banchô: Inoshika Ochô premiered in Japan today in 1969.
Stuck in Abashiri Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
Above, a panel length poster for Teruo Ishii’s seminal yakuza thriller Abashiri Bangaichi, aka A Man from Abashiri Prison. It starred Ken Takakura in the story of a model prisoner handcuffed to a hardened criminal. When the bad prisoner escapes, the good prisoner is dragged along against his will. The movie was a huge hit for Toei Company, spawning nine sequels, which means we have plenty of opportunities to get into this subject later. Abashiri Bangaichi premiered today in 1965.
Slices a tomato so thin you can almost see through it! But wait! There’s more! It also works great on Yakuza!
It’s been a while since we had any Meiko Kaji on the site, so today we have four posters—two normal sized and two panel length—for 1971’s Ginchô wataridori, aka Wandering Ginza Butterfly, and 1972’s Ginchô nagaremono mesuneko bakuchi, aka Wandering Ginza: She-Cat Gambler. Haven’t seen them? Well, in our opinion, part two is vastly better than the first installment, but neither is up to the standard of Lady Snowblood. Still though, there are Yakuza and she kills them. What more could you want? You also get Meg Flower in part one, and Sonny Chiba in part two—both good additions. Kaji is still going strong in show business, by the way, having appeared in nine episodes of the Japanese television series Kekkon Shinai in 2012. We have some extremely rare posters of hers we’ll get to shortly.
Who you gonna call? Yakuza busters.
And speaking of amazing posters, check out this masterwork for the neo-pinku actioner Sukeban hantâzu: Sôkatsu nagurikomi sakusen. It was released internationally as Yakuza Busting Girls: Final Death Ride Battle, is known in the U.S. as Yakuza Hunters Final Death Ride Battle, and was released on DVD as Yakuza Hunters 1: The Ultimate Battle Royale. That last title implies more films are to come, and in fact we understand there’s already a sequel, but we haven’t seen the first one yet. However, the poster, painted by the genius Japanese graphic artist who calls himself Rockin’ Jelly Bean, has convinced us to seek the movie out. We’ll get back to you.
Story of a mad Japanese woman.
Here’s an alternate version of a poster we shared a while ago. It’s for Reiko Ike’s seminal pinku Yasagure anego den: sôkatsu rinchi, aka Female Yakuza Tale. Haven’t seen the movie? It isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. We tell you a bit about it here. Yasagure anego den premiered in Japan today in 1973.
Above, two Japanese posters for Sonny Chiba’s crime thriller Yakuza deka, aka The Assassin, aka Gangster Cop, 1970.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
1933—Blaine Act Passes
The Blaine Act, a congressional bill sponsored by Wisconsin senator John J. Blaine, is passed by the U.S. Senate and officially repeals the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, aka the Volstead Act, aka Prohibition. The repeal is formally adopted as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933.
1947—Voice of America Begins Broadcasting into U.S.S.R.
The state radio channel known as Voice of America and controlled by the U.S. State Department, begins broadcasting into the Soviet Union in Russian with the intent of countering Soviet radio programming directed against American leaders and policies. The Soviet Union responds by initiating electronic jamming of VOA broadcasts.
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