“We, the Futori family, are the oldest family on the island. In recent years, our transgressions have caused trouble on the island, therefore, I now promise the gods that the Futori family will never go out to sea, and I will keep Nekichi in shackles. We will topple the rock and restore the paddy fields of the gods. Once we have made good our promises, please let us associate with the islanders again, please let us go out to sea again, and please let us participate in the Dongama Festival.”

What island? A primitive place, owned by Japan but left largely untouched until now, when industry is trying to creep in. What rock? The massive one desposited on the fields behind the Futoris’ house by a tidal wave. What transgressions? Nekichi slept with his own daughter because her husband wouldn’t, impregnated her, and even worse as far as the islanders are concerned, he was caught fishing with dynamite.

Nekichi with his father:

I actually lost track of how everybody was related – I know, an unforgivable crime in a family/incest film such as this. But I think I figured it out again. Grandpa Futori has two children, the chained Nekichi (Rentaro Mikuni, lead actor in the first segment of Kwaidan) and island priestess Uma (Yasuko Matsui, who runs the inn of In the Realm of the Senses).

Uma and Kametaro:

Nekichi’s father might also be his grandfather, and Nek’s two kids are the straightforward Kametaro (Choichiro Kawarazaki of Kurosawa’s Rhapsody In August) and retarded Toriko (Hideko Okiyama of Kurosawa’s Dodes’ka-den)

Things look up for the family when Ryu from the local sugar factory (Yoshi Kato of Double Suicide) hires Kametaro as assistant to a visiting engineer. But the engineer falls to the same fate as previous engineers, getting caught up in island life and derailed by sabotage (perpetuated in part by Nekichi, who slips out of his chains regularly). He also gets himself into an affair with daughter Toriko, whose heart is eventually broken when the engineer is sent away and replaced by a team that finally gets the work done.

Toriko makes a dream appearance before Kametaro’s train:

Nekichi, meanwhile, is having an affair with his own sister. They murder Ryu and escape by boat during the festival. Kametaro has finally been allowed to join, which means he must also join the search party that rows out to sea, bludgeoning his father to death and leaving his aunt tied to the mast.

What plot description and screenshots can’t convey is how awesome is this movie, a real masterpiece. It just maybe feels a tiny bit long at three hours, but comes together so well at the end, and is lovely to watch. Peppered with closeups of wildlife, like a more grotesque version of the Thin Red Line cutaways (or more relevantly, a less rampantly indulgent version of A Tale of Africa)

G. Kenny:

Every shot in Imamura’s film (which was lensed by Masao Tochizawa) is a feast of often-golden light. The film is set on the sun-drenched fictional island of Kurage (actually Okinawa, of which the fictional construct is merely a thinly disguised version), and the light here functions as a character, as does the water and all the other natural elements that surround the characters. The film’s narrative is nearly three hours of quintessentially Imamurian insanity, wryness, wisdom and acute anthropological observation.

Our narrator/storyteller:

J. Sharp:

By all accounts, Imamura found himself similarly seduced during the production process, embracing island life with a verve that saw the original shooting schedule expand from six to eighteen months, and the budget snowball accordingly. The film’s resulting commercial flop saw Imamura retreat from fiction filmmaking into television documentary for almost ten years, while the studio that financed it, Nikkatsu, migrated away from such ambitious projects to the low-cost/high-impact world of sex film production with the launch of its Roman Porno line in 1971.

The thin line that exists between man and beast remained a salient point of Imamura’s worldview throughout his career, notably in The Insect Woman, his first collaboration with the surrealist scriptwriter Keiji Hasebe … but seldom has man’s precarious position in the natural order of things been so scintillatingly evoked as here.

Something like my tenth Suzuki movie. They’re always so reliably entertaining – except to Katy, who still hasn’t forgotten how much she hated Kageroza four years later. Maybe she’d like these earlier, more straightforward films over the late, poetic, bonkers ones.

This isn’t stylistically bonkers, but it’s got a super-twisty plot compared to A Colt Is My Passport, or even to a similar disgraced-cop detective story like Stray Dog. Lead character Tamon (Michitaro Mizushima of Underworld Beauty) isn’t even a cop, just a prison security guard, but he does as well connecting the dots as Mifune in Stray Dog. He was on duty when a sniper took aim at the police van, and now that he’s suspended from duty he spends his free time trying to solve the case independently.

Tamon with his Underworld Beauty costar Mari Shiraki:

Shadowy suspicion:

Dancing girls:

No U Turn:

Finally checking out that Nikkatsu Noir set. I liked this, a cool little hit-man flick, but it didn’t jump up and grab me, so afterwards I watched Take Aim at the Police Van, which did.

Chipmunk-cheeked Joe Shishido (Branded to Kill, Youth of the Beast, Fugitive Alien), whose face never fails to amaze and confuse me, is a hit man for the __ family. Joe assassinates the head of the Shimazu family, gets paid, and is making his company-assisted getaway with junior partner Shun (Jerry Fujio of Masumura’s A False Student). But Shimazu’s son is now in charge, and he partners with __. One last piece of old business: he wants the hit-men dead.

Shun, who sings us a song halfway through the movie:

We still need a girl in our movie, so they meet Mina at their laying-low hotel. She doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life in this dead-end town, so she plots to escape with our (anti)heroes. But of course the now-teamed-up gangsters know exactly where everyone is, since they sent ’em there, so Shun is kidnapped, and noble old-school Joe offers himself in exchange, shipping Shun off to escape with Mina. Kind of amazing how honorably the exchange takes place, that they release Shun without any plan to recapture him, and Joe meets them at the appointed time. He never said he wouldn’t come armed, though – blows away four guys then explodes the baddies’ car (you should never put all your gang leaders in the same car) by jumping in a ditch and tossing up a homemade magnetic time-bomb. Joe, surprisingly, stays alive up to the final credits, though he’s probably mortally wounded.

Mina and her employer:

C. Stevens for Criterion:

Opening with the moans of a haunted harmonica, a sudden gunshot, and the florid, Morricone-oni twanging of an electric guitar, Colt begins by practically begging to be seen in the light of the spaghetti westerns that had been sweeping the globe since 1964. And much of what follows—in mukokuseki terms, anyway—remains true to that already distinctly hybrid Euro-American form, as triggerman Joe Shishido and his guitar-strumming sidekick, Jerry Fujio, go on the lam after a job Joe’s done too well incurs the wrath of the very mobsters who hired him.

Dragging a golf bag filled with guns and a freshly crafted time bomb through a dust storm on some barren wasteland, Shishido prepares for the film’s astonishing climax by digging a hole in the dirt: Is that his own grave? Is that tiny, skittering fly in the rubble a measure of his own mortality? The answers arrive in the sudden shapes of marksmen materializing from the swirling silt all around him.

I love that the cars screech whenever they move. Lot of zooms, and guns pointed right at the camera. Ends with six hundred gunshots in 20 minutes. What is not to like?

Joe’s cheeks might make me laugh, but he is still a badass: