Re: RARA-AVIS: Kurosawa and English subtitles

From: David Moran (
Date: 06 Jul 2004

Mark Sullivan wrote:

> David, it sounds like you know a whole hell of a lot more about Japanese
> films than I do (not that that takes much), so since you just mentioned
> the second Yojimbo, have you seen Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo? Any good?

I'd never even heard of it until you mentioned it. The IMDB opinion seems to think that's it's not so good. My guess would be that it probably isn't, as is the case with just about any sequels that have progressed that far from their source material.

Samurai and yakuza pics are a mixed any genre. Taken objectively, most American westerns and noir/thrillers are junk (anyone who thinks otherwise is probably just nostalgically remembering the gems more than the drek)--more so for westerns because they were churned out at a far greater pace and for far longer. But man...all you have to do is stumble upon a bona fide cheapie classic like Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour" or an idiosyncratically weird programmer like Joseph H. Lewis's "Terror in a Texas Town" or Andre de Toth's "Pitfall" or Sam Fuller's "The Naked Kiss", or an admirable bit of solid genre craftsmanship like Phil Karlson's "Gunman's Walk" or, well, Phil Karlson's "Phenix City Story" or "Kansas City Confidential" or "The Brothers Rico" or...I could go on. But anyway, after hitting one of those gems, who cares about the four bad genre movies you watched before that? It's all good.

Samurai and yakuza movies are a lot like that. Most of what's around is mediocre to bad. But when you hit one that really shines, you'll forget about all those.

Honestly I don't know as much about foreign genre pics as I do about American movies (what can I say? ours are the best) but for rudimentary off-the-beaten-path samurai pic recommendations, I have three:

The Gates of Hell (I don't think I ever knew what the Japanese title was, and now I can't find it on IMDB...)

Miyamoto Mushshi (with Toshiro Mifune doing his "crazy samurai" act again...but it's a good movie despite that)

Chushingura (When I saw it it was called the 47 Ronin, but it's not a sequel or remake of any sort of the Mizoguchi movie of the same name...they just both take their plots from the same historical episode).

And, yes, Kobo Abe. Overall a strange gentleman. I've never read him, but I did see the Japanese movie made out of his "Woman of the Dunes." Weird is about all I've got to say about that. I don't much understand movies made after 1960, whether they're American or Japanese.

David Moran

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