A Colt Is My Passport (1967, Takashi Nomura)

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: