When the Japanese director Fukasaku Kinji died in 2003, a world-wide rediscovery of his work was just beginning. Though he had a lengthy career and received great public and critical acclaim in Japan, it was only after his death that the best and most representative portion of his work started to reach larger audiences in other countries.
Of course, there’s a down side to Fukasaku’s posthumous reputation: we’re in danger of forgetting the other Kinji, the director of the international mass-market movies many of us grew up with. Sure, he may have made them to put food on his table — but he brought the same professionalism and vitality to his hired-gun work that he did to his gritty, intense urban dramas.
All in all, Fukasaku was nothing less than a one-man movie industry. You could program an entire film festival with his work alone, and still have an incredibly diverse and entertaining lineup. Japanese gangster movies? Kinji re-invented them. Samurai flicks? He made them, too — though reluctantly at first. Rubber-suit monster movies? Quasi-manga live action sci-fi and fantasy? Love stories? Comedies? War movies? Disaster flicks? Horror films? High camp pop-art? He did them all, and he did them justice.
Now, here’s a look at some of the best and worst movies by a true master of genre film…
|1000 Misspent Hours and Counting||Black Lizard||Just about all of the scenes set in one of the Black Lizard’s several lairs are as far over the top as a boundary-pushing director, a transvestite leading “lady”, and a gay, imperialist warrior-poet could make them, with garish sets, flamboyant costumes, and cartwheel-turning midgets all over the place.|
|And You Call Yourself A Scientist!||Battle Royale||Battle Royale….is a steel-capped boot to the head, a knee to the groin, and a sucker punch to the solar plexus.|
|Braineater||Legend of the Eight Samurai||Fortunately for Tamazusa, she has a handy pool of blood to immerse herself in, so she may restore her youth and beauty. Once again, we interrupt our story for the requisite naked chick; but — since this is the Ultimate Evil Woman — we get to see a heck of a lot more of her. There is no plot so diffuse, nor character development so weak that it can not be redeemed by a naked chick dribbling handfuls of blood down her body… that’s what I always say.|
|Virus||In Virus, because of the artificial nature of the threat, the survivors are all scientists, researchers, military personnel… all people whose lives revolve around structure, order, and hierarchy. Thus Virus doesn’t show us a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world where the pathetic remains of humanity must revert to brutality to survive. No. Instead, the pathetic remains of humanity have meetings.|
|Cold Fusion Video||Samurai Reincarnation||Having defeated their enemy, the Shogun’s men take some time to celebrate, by which I mean they sit stock still with stony expressions while a single masked dancer gyrates and sings a mournful-sounding dirge. (History remembers this as the “Partying Shogunate.”)|
|Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension||The Green Slime||Eliot is meeting with the officers. “Commander Rankin and I have doped out a plan we hope will work,” he explains. (When did this happen? Didn’t they split up like five minutes ago?) Given what we’ve seen so far, ‘doped out’ sounds like a remarkably accurate turn of phrase. Meanwhile, I’m sure the men are assured by the phrase “we hope will work.” That’s better than being told, “We have formulated a plan we are convinced is doomed to kill each and every one of us,” but not by much.|
|Stomp Tokyo||Battles Without Honor or Humanity||The movie quickly settles into a pattern of establishing a grudge between two characters, then following it through to an inevitable outburst of violence that leaves one of the characters covered in red paint. Often it’s difficult to keep a handle on who all of the characters are and what their motivations might be, but as they usually end up dead it’s best to focus on Hirono and not get too bogged down trying to figure out all of the side stories.|
|Teleport City||Battles Without Honor or Humanity II||I’ve been sitting here trying to think of an adequate way to describe exactly what it is that Sonny Chiba does and wears in this second film in Kinji Fukasaku’s high enjoyable, highly influential Battles without Honor and Humanity series of films that delve into the world of organized crime and the role it played in rebuilding post-war Japan. The closest I can come up with to summarize the acting display by Chiba is to say that you should try to imagine William Shatner and Jimmy Walker being merged into one creature, which the director then instructs to “stop being so subtle.”|