Vintage Pulp Dec 15 2022
HARD TARGET
His wife sometimes made him so mad he felt like he could kill her. Then the opportunity came.


We've watched a lot of movies this month, and today is the day we begin squeezing them onto the site before the end of the year. The shooter's POV poster above was made for Aiyoku no wana, aka Trap of Lust, which is a roman porno reinterpretation of Seijun Suzuki's 1967 gangster classic Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded to Kill. It's the story of a veteran hitman who botches an assignment, with the unexpected consequence that he's ordered to kill his own wife.

It isn't a punishment thing, exactly, that brings this about. The reason she becomes his target is narratively more complex. But killing one's spouse is not easy even for a cold-blooded professional terminator, and ultimately he's pitted against a couple of top yakuza hitmen, one of whom is a freaky deaky assassin who does his work alongside a nearly life-sized marionette that he voices like a schoolgirl. We know it sounds out there, and it is. Look at the screenshots below for an idea what this disturbed character is about.

The marionette gimmick isn't totally gratuitous. It contributes to a pivotal duel that by itself nudges the movie onto the positive side of the watch/don't watch ledger. While we're tempted to get into the weird psychocultural reasons why embodiments of pure human evil in Japanese films are often covered in brown shoe polish, we'll just leave the obvious unspoken. Ready for something bizarre? Then go for it. Aiyoku no wana premiered in Japan today in 1973.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 2 2013
SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT
He can’t hit the side of a barn with those shades on but he looks damn cool.

The above represents a bit of an addendum post. A few years ago we shared a poster for Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded To Kill. This is a second promo poster we recently found and decided was worth a share. See the first poster along with a rundown of the movie here. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2010
SUNGLASS MENAGERIE
Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades.

Above is a poster for Seijan Suzuki’s 1967 underground gangster flick Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded To Kill, with Jo Shishido and Annu Mari. This is about as stylish a movie as you could hope to see, with some stunning directorial flourishes and a cool jazz score. When Tokyo’s No. 3 Killer misses a mark because a butterfly lands in front of his rifle scope, he must pay the price for his failure. Pretty soon he’s facing off against No. 1 Killer, who was supposed to be a myth but turns out to be very real.

Shot in black and white, Koroshi no rakuin is all shadows, flames and frantic shootouts between guys in skinny ties. Suzuki goes on a whirlwind tour of Tokyo and its environs, seeking out every unusual backdrop imaginable for his meticulous and surreal set pieces. We think the movie is worth viewing for the fire stunt alone—a gangster holes up in a WWII bunker, and when it catches fire he flees while fully aflame and manages a fifty yard sprint down a rocky slope, running so fast that the wind of his passage pushes the flames behind him like the crest of some exotic bird.

Like everything else in Koroshi no rakuin, the moment is over all too quickly. That could also be said of its theatrical run—the film was a flop, and its failure resulted in conflicts between Suzuki and his studio Nikkatsu that got him blacklisted for ten years. In a sense, we can understand Nikkatsu's disappointment—it's clear Suzuki didn't take his assignment to direct a gangster film as literally as he might have. But as always, the most important critic of all is time, and Suzuki’s nervous, absurdist, disjointed noir masterpiece has survived. Koroshi no rakuin opened in Tokyo today in 1967.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 14
1935—Dust Storm Strikes U.S.
Exacerbated by a long drought combined with poor soil conservation techniques that caused excessive soil erosion on farmlands, a huge dust storm known as Black Sunday rages across Texas, Oklahoma, and several other states, literally turning day to night and redistributing an estimated 300,000 tons of topsoil.
April 13
1953—MK-ULTRA Mind Control Program Launched
In the U.S., CIA director Allen Dulles launches a program codenamed MK-ULTRA, which involves the surreptitious use of drugs such as LSD to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function. The specific goals of the program are multifold, but focus on drugging world leaders in order to discredit them, developing a truth serum, and making people highly susceptible to suggestion. All of this is top secret, and files relating to MK-ULTRA's existence are destroyed in 1973, but the truth about the program still emerges in the mid-seventies after a congressional investigation.
April 12
1945—Franklin Roosevelt Dies
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait in the White House. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt's body is transported by train to his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and on April 15 he is buried in the rose garden of the Roosevelt family home.
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