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Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts: Sogo Ishii’s Late Period Punk Masterpiece
Posted on 07.14.06 by David @ 7:37 am

Country and Year: Japan (2001)
Director: Sogo Ishii
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Masatoshi Nagase

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars (great)

Release through Boxing

Electric Dragon 80,000 V almost completely does away with plot, dialogue, reducing film to its audio-visual essence. The editing, the music and sound design are as much the stars of the film as Tadanobu Asano and Masatoshi Nagase. It’s an audacious punk masterpiece that would fit in as comfortably as an installation in any museum as it does as a narrative film.

(Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Great ★★★★ and People: Tadanobu Asano and DVD Companies: Discotek
Comments: None

Lupin III – Strange Psychokinetic Strategy: Just Because It’s Live-Action Doesn’t Mean It’s Not A Cartoon
Posted on 02.28.06 by David @ 10:21 am

AKA: Rupan sansei: Nenrikichan sakusen
Country and Year: Japan (1974)
Director: Takashi Tsuboshima
Starring: Yuki Meguro, Kunie Tanaka, Hideko Ezaki, Shiro Ito, Poppies

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars (average)

Fujiko in the Jewelry Robbery

Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (based on the light-hearted popular Japanese anime series about a gang of goofy international thieves) is a live-action cartoon. Not merely a cartoon films, or a silly one, but one that simulates, with live-action and special effects, the world of a cartoon. And not the grim, stylized world of a Sin City or Spawn, but the anything-goes wacky world of a Looney Tune. Lupin III is not the first film to try this – The Mask is a good example, as are Lemonade Joe and Kung Fu Hustle.

As special effects have gotten more advanced, it’s become easier to twist bodies and reality in order to mimic the cartoon world (if not easier to actually make a good movie using this technique, see Son of the Mask). Lupin III comes from a time well before CGI made a lot of these techniques possible, so the film does things the old-fashioned way – tricks and acting. Yuki Meguro, playing Lupin, doesn’t have the aid of CGI that can stretch his face and distort his expressions, so instead he mugs like crazy and does double takes, using all the exaggerated acting techniques common to Japanese film and then some. Lupin can’t really jump up a wall, or run 5,000 miles an hour (like in the brilliant Bugs Bunny chase from Kung Fu Hustle), so in-camera editing tricks come to his aid. Traditional animation, Benny Hill-style camera speed-up, and good, old-fashioned dummies come in handy also. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Average ★★ and DVD Companies: Discotek
Comments: None

Zatoichi TV Volume 1: An Important Relic Unearthed
Posted on 02.07.06 by Charlie @ 5:32 pm

Country: Japan (1974)
Director: Kazuo Mori, Shintaro Katsu
Starring: Shintaro Katsu

Review by: Charlie Prince
Rating: 3 out of 4 Stars

Another day for Zatoichi

Honestly, I never thought it would be released in any legitimate format. The Zatoichi “the blind swordsman” television series had joined an elite list of drool-at-the-thought-of-a-release titles, up there with the lost Turkish “Kilink” films (one of which did actually, well, partially, come out this past year), and the lost John Ford westerns. Not all of the episodes were lost, of course, and intensely over-priced vhs copies of some of the early episodes (never getting beyond the first 40) would occasionally surface on ebay. I heard a rumor that the later episodes had once been legitimately aired on Hawaiian tv, and that terrible dubs of dubs of dubs existed among fans. But even after a hefty survey of every grey market source known –and after chasing down every single link in a Google search for “Zatoichi TV” — I had come to the conclusion that at least 25% of the episodes, including the all-important 100th episode of the television series (I won’t spoil it for you, but rumor has it’s a special episode) were just lost to us for good. And the other 75 or so episodes were doomed to crummy vcd or worse dubs. I figured even if they still existed, who would ever release these episodes? How big a market could there be — after all, how many of us have seen all 26 of the theatrical releases, such that we were starved for more and wanted to see all 100 hours of the TV series? (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: DVD News: Japan and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and DVD Companies: Media Blasters and Contributors: Charlie and Rating: Good ★★★ and TV and Cable Reviews: US and International
Comments: 5 Comments

King Kong Escapes: Everybody Loves Mecha-Kong
Posted on 12.08.05 by David @ 9:14 am

AKA: Kingukongu no gyakushu
Country and Year: Japan (1967)
Director: Ishiro Honda
Starring: Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Akira Takarada, Eisei Amamoto, King Kong, Mecha-Kong, Gorosaurus

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

We’re ready for your close-up, Mecha-Kong

In honor of King Kong’s newest adventure, we bring you a review of one of his more obscure exploits, during the wild and woolly days when Kong found himself trapped inside … the Toho Zone. That’s right, for those of you who didn’t know, Kong briefly did a stint in Toho films, starring alongside (and against) such luminaries as Godzilla and Gorosaurus. Kong doesn’t mention it much anymore, being bashful, but I’m sure if asked, he’ll happily bring out his little photo album, and reminisce about stomping Tokyo with the big boys.

Gas Attack!

The producers at Toho, makers of all things monstrous and rubber-suited (excepting bondage gear), were just wild about Kong. After much effort, they eventually secured the rights to do a couple of pictures using the big ape. On their first outing, they went straight for the headlines, with King Kong vs Godzilla. And no, there were not two alternate endings, and yes, it was a draw. The second was this film, King Kong Escapes, where they decided to let the big guy carry the marquee all by himself. It’s a doozy. I don’t know how I missed this one as a child, I would have loved it (I still loved it). (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News and DVD News: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Good ★★★ and Studios: Toho Company Ltd.
Comments: 8 Comments

The Pinky Violence Collection: Four Aspects Of One Genre - Pre-Release DVD Review
Posted on 11.28.05 by David @ 7:53 am

Country and Year: Japan (1971-73)
Directors: Norifumi Suzuki, Kazuhika Yamaguchi, Atsushi Mihori
Starring: Reiko Ike, Reiko Oshida, and Miki Sugimoto

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars (great)

TGHS – Disciplinary Committee

The Pinky Violence Collection is a fantastic entry-point to a genre that, until very recently, was almost completely inaccessible to the Western viewer. In the 1970s, facing stiff competition from television, the Japanese film industry fought back by providing viewers with what television couldn’t – excessive sex and violence. Nikkatsu started with its Roman-Porno line of bizarre soft-core films, and Toei, in response, chose to follow a more action-oriented route. The resulting Pinky Violence films featured female heroines, and unprecedented levels of on-screen sex and violence. The closest parallel would be the blaxploitation films of the U.S., which created a similarly heady mix of eroticism, action, and social justice. Similarly, the Pinky Violence films blur the line between empowerment and exploitation. Just as blaxploitation films were among the first to star strong African-American protagonists but simultaneously traded in the crudest stereotypes possible, the Pinky Violence films depicted strong, independent female characters, while subjecting them to intensely degrading situations, and filling the screen with gratuitous nudity.

CW – Winsome Chiyoko Kazama

Panik House has selected four different movies from four different series, in an attempt to present the cream of Toei’s crop. The films are Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless To Confess, Girl Boss Guerrilla, Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom, and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. All share certain characteristics – a gang of tough outlaw girls, who have only their camaraderie and their fists (knives, grenades) to protect them from a harsh male world of gangsters and officials. Within the confines of that basic premise, the four films run the gamut from biker gang roughies, to schoolgirl sadism, to revenge sagas. They also vary in tone from the relatively light-hearted and more traditional DGB, to the absolutely vicious TGHS, to the brutal but slapstick-filled GBG. The sleaze factor is considerable, though not overwhelming, ranging from the somewhat chaste DGB to soft-core content in TGHS, and most films feature an underlying S&M theme (which will come as no surprise to frequent viewers of Japanese genre cinema). Following is my comprehensive review of the set and all four movies included in it. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and DVD News: Japan and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Great ★★★★ and Rating: Average ★★ and Rating: Good ★★★ and DVD Companies: Panik House
Comments: 3 Comments

Zero Woman - Red Handcuffs: Solid ‘70s Exploitation Is Held Back By Weak Heroine
Posted on 10.18.05 by David @ 8:28 am

AKA: Zeroka no Onna: Akai wappa
Country and Year: Japan (1974)
Director: Yukio Noda
Starring: Miki Sugimoto, Eiji Go, Tetsura Tamba, Yoko Mihara

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

Special Gear

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is the latest in a recent series of releases of old Toei Pinky Violence films, long unavailable in the US (see also my reviews of Toei’s Sex and Fury and Female Yakuza Tale). The film at hand is the inspiration for a series of recent direct-to-video sleazefests, all going under the “Zero Woman” name. Don’t confuse the original with its imitators though – Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is a piece of prime-grade, gritty ‘70s exploitation, more on the same wavelength as Coffy and Female Convict Scorpion. Unfortunately, the film fails to live up to the promise of its fantastic opening. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News and DVD News: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and DVD Companies: Discotek and Contributors: David and Rating: Good ★★★ and People: Tetsuro Tamba
Comments: None

Female Yakuza Tale: Follow-up To Sex And Fury Is Somewhat Sleazier And Less Arty, But Still Has Some Great Moments
Posted on 10.11.05 by David @ 11:10 pm

AKA: Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture; Yasagure Anego-den – Sokatsu Rinchi; Story of a Wild Elder Sister – Widespread Lynch Law
Country and Year: Japan (1973)
Director: Teruo Ishii
Starring: Reiko Ike, Ryohei Uchida, Tatsuo Endo

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

Bullet In The Eye

Female Yakuza Tale, the sequel to Sex and Fury, is fun but rarely rises to the level of its predecessor (click here for my review of Sex and Fury). Director Teruo Ishii, working with a lower budget, includes all the sex and violence of the earlier release, but focuses more on the mystery plot and includes considerably more slapstick and sexual ugliness (as befits one of the great ero-guro directors). The result is more straight exploitation than artsploitation, and worse for it. Nonetheless, Ishii made the most of his small budget, Reiko Ike is great, and bizarre and imaginative sequences abound. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News and DVD News: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Good ★★★ and DVD Companies: Panik House and People: Teruo Ishii
Comments: None

Sex And Fury: Prime Japanese Trash Cinema
Posted on 10.06.05 by David @ 11:15 am

AKA: Furyo Anego-den – Inoshika Ocho; Story of a Bad Elder Sister – A Deer Amongst Wild Boars
Country and Year: Japan (1973)
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Starring: Reiko Ike, Christina Lindberg, Masataka Naruse, Hiroshi Nawa

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars (great)

Reiko and Cubist Jesus

Sex and Fury is glorious, mind-blowing trash – the kind of film that gives exploitation cinema a good name. From a nude Reiko Ike massacring an entire yakuza gang in a snowy courtyard, to the confrontation with a group of switchblade-wielding nuns on a moving train, director Norifumi Suzuki delivered the goods – and created a pop trash tour-de-force in the process. Throw in psychedelic sets and colors, and a dolled-up Christina Lindberg, and you’ve got a film that no fan of Japanese exploitation should pass up. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News and DVD News: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and DVD Companies: Panik House and Rating: Great ★★★★ and People: Christina Lindberg
Comments: 2 Comments

The Calamari Wrestler: Pre-Release DVD Review
Posted on 08.29.05 by David @ 8:00 am

DVD Production Company: Pathfinder Pictures
Release Date: September 6, 2005
Run Time: 86 Mins
Extras: Still Gallery, TV Spots and Trailers, Music Video, “Making of” documentary

DVD Review By: David Austin

Calamari<br />
Wrestler

The Calamari Wrestler is finally getting a US DVD release on September 6, after its brief theatrical run earlier in the year. For those who haven’t heard of it, the movie is an odd little treat about giant sea creatures duking it out in the wrestling ring. While the film isn’t getting the Citizen Kane treatment, Pathfinder (www.pathfinderpictures.com) has included a surprising amount of extras for a no-budget cult item.

First, and most importantly, Calamari is presented in a clean, 16×9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Considering its low budget, this is as good a picture as one could ask for. Sound quality is also fine.

Two versions of the television spot are included, one of which includes the chorus of the … um … unique “Ika Resuraa” theme song, along with two versions of the trailer. A still gallery contains some of the more ridiculous scenes from the film. Pathfinder has also included a music video, featuring a surprisingly serious song by a quasi-Goth Japanese woman whose singing is intercut with scenes from the film, which isn’t quite as fun as it could have been. I do wish her name and the name of the song was included though.

The main bonus is a lengthy (20 min) “Making of” documentary. Viewers get to see the early stages of the creation of the costumes, and the stunt men training to perform their moves in costumes. It’s fun watching the stunt man lounge around in the Calamari costume with his head sticking up above the eyes. The best thing is seeing how much the crew enjoyed making this movie - a lot of the documentary shows cast and crew trying desperately to keep straight faces during filming. The documentary also shows footage of mock battles put on to promote the film at press conferences and film festivals. The only flaw is that the footage is only intermittently subtitled - however, it’s pretty easy to get the gist of what’s going on.

Pathfinder’s DVD is a pretty nice little package considering the complete obscurity of the film. It’s good to see a weird one like this treated with some respect.

Click here to see my full review of the Calamari Wrestler

© David Austin

Where to Find: This is out on DVD from Pathfinder Pictures on September 6, 2005.


Filed under: Movie Reviews and DVD News and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and DVD News: Japan and Movies: The Calamari Wrestler (2004)
Comments: None

Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster: The Big G Tangles With A Big Lobster
Posted on 08.10.05 by David @ 2:53 pm

AKA: Gojira, Ebirâ, Mosura: Nankai no daiketto;
Godzilla, Ebirâ, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Sea; Ebira, Horror of the Deep

Country and Year: Japan (1966)
Director: Jun Fukuda
Starring: Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Toru Watanabe, Godzilla

Review By: David Austin
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (good)

Gojira, Ebirâ, Mosura: Nankai no daiketto

I hadn’t seen Sea Monster in many, many years, and during the intervening time my memory of it curdled a bit, resulting in low expectations when I revisited this much maligned middle period Godzilla flick. Thus I was pleasantly surprised on revisiting it to find a nimble plot, a better than average adversary, and some fun monster wrasslin’. Of course, when I say nimble plot, I mean by Godzilla standards. The human storyline is as throwaway as usual, and character interaction is a low priority. In fact, despite the presence of cutie-pie Kumi Mizuno as a bikini-clad islander, the creators couldn’t even be bothered to write in a love story. Still, the pace is quick, the atmosphere is jaunty, and Ebira and Godzilla sure mix it up good. (Click Here To Read More…)


Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: David and Rating: Good ★★★ and Studios: Toho Company Ltd. and People: Godzilla and People: Kumi Mizuno
Comments: None

Crazed Fruit: The Criterion Collection Introduces a Forgotten Genre of Japanese Film
Posted on 08.03.05 by Charlie @ 8:17 am

By: Charlie Prince
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Director: Ko Nakahira
Year: 1956
Starring: Ayuko Fujishiro
Country: Japan (aka Kurutta Kajitsu)

Crazed Fruit Crazed Fruit epitomizes a little-known genre of film often referred to as the “sun tribe” films – created more or less single-handedly by Shintaro Ishihara who had written the short stories from which the first three sun tribe films were adapted. Together these films painted a picture of a young, unambitious post-war generation that rejected traditional Japanese values, lavishly wasted money and wallowed in idleness and immoral behavior. And by wallowed I mean they went to a lot of wild parties and nightclubs and had a lot of sex. Sure, it’ll end badly, and adults at the time may not have been impressed, but for the most part the kids on screen sure looked like they were having a lot of fun. In between their parties, the kids put forth a virtual manifesto of anti-adult philosophy – they feel disenfranchised, and they’re convinced that even if they tried, there’d be nothing for them to do. So, the rant continues, the only real problem is figuring out how to kill time.

Filed under: Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews: Japan and Contributors: Charlie and Rating: Average ★★ and DVD Companies: Criterion Collection
Comments: 1 Comment

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