Serious trouble just rolled into town.
Furyô banchô: Ikkaku senkin, for which you see a killer poster above, was known in English as Wolves of the City: Fast Money, or sometimes Wolves of the City: Instant Fortune. It starred Tatsuo Umemiya, Reiko Oshida, and Bunta Sugawara, and we hear it's good, but we weren't able to find it to watch. We may circle back to it, though, because we located more promo art Toei Company made for it—for example the cool photos of Umemiya and Oshida you see below.
You notice the swastika tattoo on Oshida's back? We've mentioned before that the symbol's usage predates its appropriation by Nazi Germany, and has different meanings in Japan. However, in this case we suspect those meanings—good luck, eternity, etc.—have been set aside and the filmmakers meant to use the symbol's association with Nazis to suggest rebellion or lawlessness. If asked, they may have claimed they weren't, but they'd have been messing with people's heads in the same way as the Prussian cross in this post was meant to. But we won't know until we watch the film. We'll keep the rest of our promo material in reserve in case our search is successful. Furyô banchô Ikkaku senkin premiered in Japan today in 1970.
Bunta Sugawara spits hot lead in Machine Gun Dragon.
Cagney! Bogart! And... Bunta? This poster, if you look at the text in the righthand margin, suggests that Bunta Sugawara is a gangster on that level. We'll see about that in a minute, but one thing is sure—this is a kick-ass image of him. It was made for his crime flick Yokohama ankokugai mashingan no ryu, known in English as Yokohama Underworld: The Machine-Gun Dragon. Sugawara plays a rogue gunman, thief, and fashion plate who decides to rob the Matsumi yakuza clan of a billion yen worth of drugs. Ill gotten gains are hard to keep in crime movies, so you know already what the story arc is here: the people he robbed come looking for him.
However, there are some quirks. For example, Sugawara has a disturbingly close relationship with his mother. The two take baths together, as mom dispenses parental wisdom like, “The most important thing in the world is money. A guy without money is garbage. He might as well not have a dick,” while peeking at Sugawara's dick, which thankfully is out-of-frame. It's under mom's influence that Sugawara robs the Matsumi group, a heist the pair pull off in the first moments of the film. They plan to hold the goods until the heat cools, but another gang deduces that Sugawara was involved and demands half the drugs for not turning him over. The cops are soon closing in too, since the robbery resulted in a quadruple homicide.
Eventually, Sugawara engineers his own arrest. It's the only way he can avoid capture by the yakuza, and in jail he can presumably regroup. But Matsumi has men inside. Those men have no idea how ruthless and resourceful Sugawara is, and in the film's best sequences he shows how survival inside this particular prison is about who's willing to be the most vicious. He doesn't spend long in jail, which means that upon release his problems still must be faced. But fire breathing dragons are very hard to kill. As hard as Cagney and Bogart? Well, let's just say that if Bunta goes out, he'll go out guns blazing. Yokohama ankokugai mashingan no ryu premiered in Japan today in 1976.
Sugawara gives the red light to wartime slavery.
This blazingly colorful promo poster was made for the action movie Onna dorei-sen, known in English as Female Slave Ship, which is set during World War II and follows the adventures of a navy lieutenant played by Bunta Sugawara. The tale begins with him sent on a secret mission to obtain radar schematics to help salvage Japan's waning war fortunes, but unfortunately his plane is shot full of holes by a squadron of American F4Fs and he ends up in the drink. He's picked up by a Shanghai bound China boat, or slave ship, carrying twelve women meant to be auctioned to a gathering of Epsteins. Eleven of the women are prostitutes, but Rumiko, played by the lovely Utako Mitsuya, was tricked onto the boat. Naturally, she and Sugawara form an instant connection. Can he save her? You can be sure he'll try his best.
But just when you think Female Slave Ship is a straightforward white-knight-saves-damsel tale, the slave ship is attacked by pirates, and the women and Sugawara are suddenly at the mercy of the most ruthless band of unbathed thugs ever to steam the East China Sea. After some onboard drama the vessel lands, not in Shanghai but on a rocky Chinese coast where traffickers plan to brand and sell the women. This obviously can't stand, which means Buntawara must somehow throw sand in the gears. Why he's even alive at this point is a question. He's been nothing but trouble to the pirates, and the simplest solution would have been to toss him to the sharks. Failing to do that will be a costly and contusion making error.
We wanted to get away from Nikkatsu Studios' misogynistic roman pornos for a while and this effort from Shintoho Film fulfilled the requirement. Well, mostly. While generally tame, you'll rarely see so many women slapped around. But the treatment is meant to outrage. Mission accomplished. You will hate these traffickers. As for the movie overall, we suspect you'll like-not-love it. It's done in broad strokes, but as a sort of surf-to-turf soap opera it mostly works fine. Sugawara, who was soon to become a cinematic icon, has a charisma befitting his burgeoning status. And Yôko Mihara, already a big star at this point, is enjoyable playing a slippery slaver whose allegiances shift with the tides. She and Sugawara are worth seeing. Female Slave Ship premiered in Japan today in 1960.
Yôko Mihara dives into a family mystery.
This poster was made for the Shintoho Film Co. genre mash-up Ama no bakemono yashiki. What genres were mashed? The English title should answer that for you—Girl Diver of Spook Mansion. Yes, it's a mixture of an ama flick and— Wait, should we define that for you? We've talked about this a lot, but in case you weren't around for those discussions, ama films deal with female divers who scoured Japan's bay bottoms for pearls, abalone, et al, and, according to strict tradition, did so topless. Look here, quickly. So that idea was combined with a ghost story. We gather that the ama genre was so popular that injecting novelty into it was a can't miss proposition. And in fact, most of the reviews we checked were favorable.
The movie is about an ama, played by Yôko Mihara, living in a creepy old house and being haunted by her younger sister's ghost, which nobody else can see. Though others are skeptical at first, Mihara manages to secure help in the form of Bunta Sugawara. Sounds like a winner to us. Hopefully we'll confirm that later, since this film is actually out there to be seen, but at the moment isn't available to us. At least we found this rare poster. There are a couple of scans of it online, but the version above is better quality than those. We also found a few promo images, and they appear below. Ama no bakemono yashiki, aka Girl Diver of Spook Mansion (another aka was Haunted Cave) premiered in Japan today in 1959.
There's only one way out and it isn't retirement.
Above is a poster for Gendai yakuza: yotamono jingi, aka Hoodlum Yakuza, which premiered in Japan today in 1969 and starred Bunta Sugawara as a yakuza footsoldier trying to escape the life. He wants to run away with his girlfriend, and with the help of his brother hatches a scheme he hopes will make his freedom possible. Fat chance.
We shared a standard promo of this at the bottom of a collection we put together five years ago, but this piece is an exceedingly rare, horizontally oriented, two-piece promo, a style known as bo-ekibari. We have the halves uploaded separately below, and we have another rare poster for the film we'll share 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 headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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