|Most of these are productions of Toho Co., Ltd., Japan.|
Not all of them actually made it to release in Holland; the rest were only shown to what you might call pretty select audiences. The titles are often linked to whoever sells them. Sorry, I have not found all the original Japanese titles (yet).
|High And Low * Tengoku to Jigoku|
1964. I think this is Akira Kurosawa's best movie. I may be wrong, and not everybody agrees with me; most come up with The Seven Samurai or Rashomon.
Kurosawa's "most Western" film, based on Ed McBain's Kings Ransom, one of his 87th Precinct novels. Like the book, the movie is much more than a documentary on police work. The scene in the Bullet train is just about the most exciting sequence I ever saw in films, and the ending is just about the heaviest. If you have half a chance, don't miss it!
Ed McBain does mention in other novels that (as Evan Hunter) he wrote Hitchcock's The Birds, but only started talking about High and Low after the movie was released in VHS format in the USA, around 1996. More power to him, anyway.
|Samurai Pirate * Daitozoku
Made by Shenkichi Taniguchi, with Toshiro Mifune and Mie Hama.
Taniguchi is an interesting guy. Once assistant director of Kurosawa, who also wrote some scripts for Taniguchi, he is mainly (un)known in the West as the director of Kagi no Kagi * Key of Keys, the original for Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily , invariably described as a Japanese B-movie. (He also directed Outpost of Hell.) While Key of Keys is definitely not what you'd call high brow, it's no such thing like a B-movie at all. (I don't even believe the Japanese have such things).
Samurai Pirate is a sword-fighting swash buckler, set in the Middle East; as exotic to us as to the Japanese, if from a different point-of-view. This lucky combination even made the film a reasonable hit in Holland. It has so many great special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, we actually had to cut some out as they got boring. They should do that with some movies I could mention these days!
My friend Noune Hiroshi of the Toho Paris office never could understand what I, usually wanting to look at Kurosawa films, saw in this movie. Mifune flying a giant kite in front of the gigantic Toho bluescreen made the cover of LIFE magazine.
My old Nijmegen friend Jozef Hoekx had a small inheritance to invest and decided to put it to use for this movie. At least, even though things went rather off-track for a while, he made his money back.
|TheBad Sleep Well * Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru|
Made right before High and Low, and it shows. Great intro. There is one scene where it really is a matter of Mifune blinking and the knife edge balance will be disturbed, so he'll join us and the rest of the rotten human race. Marvelous. Not a movie that's much fun to watch, you'd better be warned. Really heavy.
|Flying Super Sub * Atoragon|
Lots of fun in this Ishiro Honda science fiction, special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, and no pretenses at all. Honda also worked as assistant director of Kurosawa and they were good friends. Honda and Tsuburaya were the guys who gave us the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters , albeit they were not the actual men in rubber suits. What I like about their special effects is, they sell them as obvious fakery, a transparent make-believe you go along with just for the hell of it. Alien girls are just regular chicks with interesting costumes and wigs in outrageous colors.
Interestingly, the only Japanese movie in Agfacolor I ever heard of was Tsuburaya's special FX legend The Three Treasures, which must have been a giant undertaking even for Toho. But Tsuburaya, no doubt for reasons of his own, stuck to Eastmancolor after that.
Noune also told me how Toho was not satisfied with the color Godzilla movies—they thought the technique was not good enough and that the only decent Godzilla was the original B/W one. This was long before the digital age, of course.
I haven't seen the latest versions, spelled Atragon.
Rebellion * Joi-Uchi |
A classic by now, directed by Kon Ichikawa, with Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai. What really sticks in my mind it is the shot of a carefully patterned gravel garden, trampled all to hell after a "fierce battle has ensued": the end of civilization.
|Outpost of Hell|
Really stark and tight movie on a squad of Japanese soldiers in W.W.II, left behind when their army retracts to defend a bunker to the death. This movie should convince you that Taniguchi really is a better movie director than Woody Allen (but Woody is much funnier), and that not all Japanese soldiers were Evil Yellow Dwarfs From the East—if you still don't know.
Always loved this one, the classiest horror movie I ever saw. Superb cinematography in the best of TohoScope, and Tatsuya Nakadai in an outstanding performance. Pretty solid horror, too. Shiro Toyoda was one of Kurosawas best loved directors. He died much to young. Try to lay your hands on any Toyoda movie; they're scarce, alas.
Red Beard * Akahige|
The last B/W movie Kurosawa made, after High and Low. He just grew too expensive for Japan and it shows. He had an outdoor set built and wither for a year before starting to shoot. About an intern who, much against his wishes, is sent to assist doctor Mifune. I love this movie with its great pacing. For some reason, nobody ever mentions it.
|The Face of Another|
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigara, starring Tatsuya Nakadai. Wonderfully mystifying, about a man who is forced to wear a mask and thus loses his identity. The Japanese have this thing with masks anyway, but then, so have we. Not to mention actors.