Gradually rewatching the Suzukis I saw on DVD back in the day. This is one where Jo Shishido plays a tough dude, if you can imagine. He rolls into town acting like the biggest badass in the world, which impresses the local gangsters. He’s hired by one gang boss, and separately by the boss’s girl, and he barges into the other gang boss’s office with a shotgun and gets hired by him, too. Every genre cliche flying fast and furious to a swinging soundtrack. It all sounds like the usual until you see how this thing looks and moves.

Turns out Jo is an ex-cop out for revenge on the bastards who killed his partner, and all his noisy pot-stirring gets the gang war riled up. He’s assigned a gun crazy dummy sidekick (Eimei Esumi, second banana to Jo in a few other movies) by Boss Nomoto (played by the tormented youth star of Everything Goes Wrong). Boss Sanko is Kinzô Shin of Man Without a Map – a hands-on guy, he rigs a bomb and kamikazes his car into Nomoto’s house. Jo discovers that his ex-partner’s widow (the rich second wife from the first Kwaidan episode) is the gang’s secret puppetmaster, and killed her husband, so he sics Boss Nomoto’s razor-crazy gay brother on her, a happy ending.

Jo and Sanko at his office behind a movie screen:

This kind of scenario comes up pretty often:

Super colorful and energetic movie – I probably liked this more than his acclaimed Branded To Kill. Very good music, all bendy strings and gunshot percussion.

Green Maya (the typecast Yumiko Nogawa of Story of a Prostitute and Pleasures of the Flesh) joins a group of color-coded prostitutes in postwar Japan – purple Mino (Kayo Matsuo of Tattooed Life), yellow Roku, and red leader Sen. Ofuku wears white so you know she’s not gonna last, then black Machiko is the next to go, each accused of the crime of giving it away for free.

Maya:

Sen:

Machiko with Jo:

The four have a good thing going, living together in a delapidated building and scaring away all competition – until puffy-cheeked fugitive Jo Shishido (returning from Youth of the Beast) arrives to shake things up, barging in and joining the group. He sleeps with Machiko, then Maya (causing discord and some whipping), but he also steals and slaughters a cow (providing much food and cash) and amuses them with his post-traumatic stress war anecdodes, so he’s allowed to stay.

Mino:

Roku:

Chico:

Maya seduces a priest (Chico Roland, the jazz-hating fugitive soldier in Black Sun) driving him mad. But ultimately she falls hard for Jo. “You’re the first man I’ve ever loved. For the first time, I’ve felt human, but now I’ll get kicked out of here. The moment I become a real woman, I’m an outcast.” But when they try to run away together, he’s killed and she’s left roaming.

Remade in ’77. The same writer did Story of a Prostitute, unsurprisingly.

When Maya is stripped of her green clothes and whipped, the whole image is shrouded in green:

IMDB says:
“A hit-man, with a fetish for sniffing boiling rice, fumbles his latest job, putting him into conflict with his treacherous wife, with a mysterious woman eager for death and with the phantom-like hit-man known only as Number One.”

I say: “She was his wife??”

Crazypants movie, seems to have been semi-remade in Suzuki’s own even-crazier Pistol Opera (they share a writer). This one has four credited writers, but Suzuki seems to have paid the script little mind, leading to his firing from the studio.

Starring my favorite chipmunk-cheeked badass Jo Shishido, who I just watched in the same year’s A Colt Is My Passport.

Joe, the third-ranked hitman, busts around with new partner Kasuga (Hiroshi Minami of a couple Miyamoto Musashi movies), gets a contract to protect a dude, but Kasuga seems unstable.

Kasuga loses it and charges the fourth-ranked hitman in a tunnel, killing both of them.

Joe kills the second-ranked hitman next – I’m not sure if he was supposed to, or if there was any plan, but he sets the guy on fire. Joe returns home to his wife and snorts rice fumes. It gives him energy (AKA makes him horny). But she tries to kill him and runs off.

Next, Joe is hired by a mysterious girl with a funny nose named Misako (Anne Mari of The Killing Bottle and Mini Skirt Lynchers).

But she is confusing, aims a gun at him, and maybe wants to kill herself.

Joe kills his own wife, the guy he was protecting ends up dead, he fails a job for Misako when a butterfly lands on his rifle scope. The movie begins to confuse Joe excessively.

Shadowy, mysterious Number One (Koji Nanbara of The Human Condition I) begins to threaten Joe, saying he’s kidnapped Misako.

Joe checks the film, says “this can’t be right”:

Joe is set up, hides under a car for cover, dragging it along as a ludicrous shield. But he can’t escape Number One, who leads him to a boxing ring, where Joe accidentally shoots Misako, and either Joe or Number One or maybe both are killed.

John Zorn loves it:

Born in 1923 during the short-lived and quirky Taisho period in Japan, Suzuki inherited a powerful appetite for Haikara (modern style) that was tempered by his experiences in World War II. As the member of a meteorological unit, he was twice shipwrecked in the Philippines and Taiwan, and bore witness to atrocities we can only imagine. His nihilistic philosophy is quite apparent in this work—“Making things is not what counts: the power that destroys them is”—as a kind of playful irreverence that echoes the French New Wave that influenced Suzuki and his contemporaries.