Sunday, August 30, 2020

Movie Ads of the Week: THE HAUNTED WOMAN a.k.a. TATTOOED SWORDSWOMAN (1971)

Best known today as BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE, Teruo Ishii's weird yakuza horror pic KAIDAN NOBORI RYU, starring Meiko Kaji, opened at the Toho Theatre in Honolulu as THE HAUNTED WOMAN on September 22, 1971.

A month and a half earlier, it had opened at the Toho La Brea Theatre in L.A. as TATTOOED SWORDSWOMAN, co-billed with THE VAMPIRE DOLL, on August 6, 1971.

Kevin Thomas' review in the Los Angeles Times was positive.

This double feature also played at the Bijou in New York City beginning January 19, 1972.

TATTOOED SWORDSWOMAN was screened at the Elgin Theater and Bleecker Street Cinema several times and played numerous samurai and Japanese film festivals for the rest of the decade, most notably the 10-week Cinema East festival at the Regency Theatre in New York (April 14-June 22, 1974), where it screened with the first RED PEONY GAMBLER movie (under the title LADY YAKUZA)...

...and Samurai, A Film Festival at the Entermedia Theatre in New York (November 21, 1980-January 3, 1981).

It also received a positive review (and A-III rating) in The Catholic Film Newsletter!

Saturday, August 29, 2020


Remember the scene in THE BODYGUARD where Sonny Chiba punches through a door, rips off an assassin's arm, pulls the bloody arm through the hole in the door, then kicks open said door, charges into the room and flings the arm at another assassin, knocking him on his ass? Nothing in this sequel even comes close to that level of savage hilarity, though I'm happy to report that it is a better film overall. It certainly moves faster than the first one. Bodyguard Kiba destroys special guest star Masashi Ishibashi for blinding his sister Maki (Etsuko Shihomi) during a dispute between karate schools, gets sent to prison, befriends Okinawan crook Nanjo (Tsunehiko Watase) behind bars, is let out of prison and picked up by a beautiful woman (Yukiko Kuwahara) with a job offer, all in the first 10 minutes! Kiba's latest gig is protecting nightclub owner Akamatsu (Akiyoshi Fukae) from backstabbing business partner Tatsumi (Hideo Murata) and his pack of karate thugs. Years earlier, both men were part of a team that killed some American MPs during a robbery of $420,000 and double-crossed Nanjo, who has just been released from prison and is looking for his share of the loot. There are a few too many coincidences in the storytelling, and for a movie called KARATE KILLER it seems a little light on karate, but it's never boring and the bit where one of Tatsumi's thugs tries his hardest not to pour a beer for Chiba is very funny.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Endangered List (Case File #165)


Marsha Jordan

Caleb Goodman [Michael Pataki]
Shannon Lane
Lola Babbette
Fran Marlow
Sebastian Gregory
Jane Louise

Produced and Directed
John Hayes

Released by
Clover Films

Sunday, August 23, 2020


Shortly after New World Pictures acquired the Filipino production BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT, company heads Roger Corman and Larry Woolner decided it needed a co-feature, so Woolner made a deal with Sam Sherman of Independent-International Pictures to license the German-made CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND from him. Four years later, when Woolner was running Dimension Pictures, he reissued the two films with the Italian horror movie THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT (under the new title THE DEVIL'S CRYPT) on a "Triple Terror!" program that played in Buffalo, NY on April 18, 1975.

Friday, August 21, 2020


Here's a nice change of pace: a Toei 'gambler' movie that actually has gambling in it. No hanafuda games either -- this one is about tausagi, a dice game that originated in Kumamoto. Koji Tsuruta, our new favorite actor, plays Tsunetaro Asakura, a notorious South Kyushu gambler better known as Dynamite Tsune who has come to Chikuho looking for "a rich game of tausagi" and finds it at the home of Kaichi Ishijima (Tomisaburo Wakayama), owner of the Ishijima Coal Mine and head of the Chikuho Miners Association. Tsune loses all of his money plus a bundle loaned to him by Sugi Hanamura (Michiyo Kogure), president of Hanamura Shipping, so he goes to work for coal mine owner Arao (Kenjiro Ishiyama) as a chief foreman until he can win big and repay his debt. Meanwhile, Ishijima has been sending association goons to rough up Hanamura's stevedores in an attempt to get her to lower the fees for coal shipments, and also muscling in on Arao's deal with Hanshin Steel by promising to hook up the company president's idiot son Yoshio (Kanbi Fujiyama) with Arao's daughter Aya (Masumi Tachibana), who only has eyes for Dynamite. No need for spoiler warnings here; you've probably already guessed that there's a mine cave-in and rescue sequence, and the only way the story's going to end is with Tsune (a) wagering his life on the roll of the dice, (b) slamming his tantō into a dozen tattooed torsos, or (c) both a and b. Maybe, like me, you'll have so much fun you won't care how predictable it all is.

Thursday, August 20, 2020


Viewers expecting just another ninkyo eiga from Toei will be disoriented by this film's opening shot: a pullback from Our Lady of Penha Chapel to one of the 32 cannons atop the Fortaleza do Monte in Macao. Yes, this is certainly shaping up to be Shigehiro Ozawa Week here at the Temple, isn't it? And I only have 60 or 70 more of his movies to watch.

Four years after killing each other's boss -- and nearly killing each other with axes during work detail -- Naojiro (Koji Tsuruta) and Sugiyama (Kyôsuke Machida) emerge from Abashiri Prison as sworn brothers and head home to Yokohama. Sugiyama's clan has been disbanded thanks to the rotten Koizumi brothers (Toru Abe and Shigeyoshi Fujioka), the same thugs who sent the visiting Naojiro to do their killing for them. Naojiro quickly discovers that his wife Osata, who was pregnant at the time he fulfilled his yakuza obligation, was sold into prostitution by the same damn Koizumi creeps as part of a deal that involves sending teenage girls to flesh-peddling Mr. Chow (Hôsei Komatsu) in Macao in exchange for opium. So Naojiro and Sugiyama set out for Macao to find Osata and wipe out the Koizumi-Chow connection --

"But wait!" you say, "I only count two gamblers! Who's the third?"

That would be Nagano (the great Ryō Ikebe from PALE FLOWER), a wife killer with terminal lung disease who's been dispatched by the brothers Koizumi to kill Naojiro -- and also happens to be sworn brothers with Sugiyama.

Maybe I'm overrating these Ozawa-Tsuruta collaborations (there were at least 30 of them) but they really scratch the Don Siegel-Phil Karlson itch for me, plus the comic relief characters that pop in every so often are actually funny. This time it's a chubby rickshaw driver who idolizes Naojiro and Sugiyama ("Japanese gangsters are so cool"). I also like how "mafia" starts showing up in the subtitling instead of "yakuza," and the machine gun's a nice addition as well -- which reminds me: I'm probably never going to grow tired of seeing Toru Abe get his bloody comeuppance.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


The Kikuya Group, run by Boss Kijima (Chiezō Kataoka), controls a large share of the street vendor business in Asakusa but is beginning to feel the squeeze, both from a rival yakuza gang trying to muscle in on their turf as well as a supermarket that's due to be constructed in the neighborhood. Kijima's older son Ryutaro (Koji Tsuruta) has been disowned for killing another Kikuya member in a drunken rage and is now eking out a living as a bodyguard while staying on good terms with his immature younger brother Katsuo (Hiroki Matsukata) and school chum Mizuno (Minoru Oki), now Kikuya's second-in-command. Tetsurō Tamba plays another childhood pal, an understanding cop trying to keep Ryutaro and Katsuo out of jail. Director Shigehiro Ozawa is dismissed as "mediocre" in Paul Schrader's 1974 Film Comment article "Yakuza-Eiga: A Primer" but he was a better than average studio craftsman, as adept at handling the humor and pathos as he was at staging dynamic action sequences. This feels a lot more confined to studio sets than the other films of his I've seen, most likely a budgetary decision but one that also works thematically given the constricted lives of its characters. Tsuruta is excellent, particularly in the scene in which he reveals the true reasons for his banishment to Matsukata. When this opened in Honolulu in March 1965 the title was CRIME STREET, TOKYO.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Vagabond gambler Ryuji (Koji Tsuruta) returns to his hometown of Tobata after learning from bumbling con men Kinpachi (Asao Koike) and Toramatsu (Rinichi Yamamoto) that two competing yakuza outfits, Naomasa and Mojitoku, are vying for control of the city's annual Gion Yamagasa festival, which for generations has been the responsibility of the Wakashu Union. Thirteen years earlier, Boss Wakashu's son Sanjiro (Minoru Oki) killed a few gang members during an attempted takeover, but Ryuji willingly went to prison for the crime so it wouldn't tarnish the union's reputation and compromise its control of the festival. Sanjiro has since gone blind and finding it difficult to retain control, so Ryuji schemes with Kinpachi and Toramatsu to destroy both Naomasa and Mojitoku by turning them against each other. His YOJIMBO-like plan hits a snag when he befriends lady gambler Sen (Akiko Kudô), who is indebted to Mojitoku, and further complications arise when Tetsugoro the killer (Bin Amatsu) shows up seeking revenge for his older brother, one of the gang members killed by Sanjiro. Highly entertaining, with a couple of exciting, bloody sword and gun battles and a believable relationship between Tsuruta and Kudô. This highly entertaining ninkyo from the reliable Shigehiro Ozawa really hits the sweet spot, with a cast full of familiar faces, a typically convoluted but compelling storyline, exciting action scenes and an engaging, believable performance by Kudô. Originally titled FUDATSUKI BAKUTO, it opened in Honolulu on December 29, 1970 as FESTIVAL OF LANTERNS.

Monday, August 17, 2020


This feels like a TV pilot but it's actually a feature film based on a concurrent television series, yet it's so well done that someone who's unfamiliar with the show and its characters can drop in and easily be brought up to speed. The premise is great: respected merchant Otowaya Hanyemon (So Yamamura) runs an assassination bureau in Edo with bachelor acupuncturist Dr. Baian Fujieda (Jirô Tamiya) and ronin Sanai Nishimura (Kôji Takahashi), a family man whose legit front is a blade polishing/sharpening business. Their main stipulation is that they only eliminate individuals who are predatory and a detriment to society. What starts off as a simple job -- rubbing out the scheming second wife of a local wholesale candle merchant -- leads to the killers accepting several additional contracts, including a corrupt magistrate (Hideo Murata) who wants to hire Sanai as his deputy and a deceitful widow (Yôko Nogiwa) who might be Baian's long-lost sister. The female contracts usually go to Baian, since he's handsome and something of a lady-killer already; he attacks from behind with his needles, while Sanai prefers male victims he can challenge with his sword. I liked this so much I watched it twice in one week, and will definitely buy the two sequels, PROFESSIONAL KILLERS: ASSASSIN'S QUARRY (1973) and PROFESSIONAL KILLERS: ASSIGNMENT BY NIGHT (1974), as well as the complete TV series when/if they ever come out on Blu-ray or DVD.