Can an ex-yakuza just released from jail rebuild his life or will he be drawn back into underworld conflicts by a reckless and mysterious young woman?
New wave director Masahiro Shinoda’s breakout film is this crisp, black-and-white noirish adaption of Shintaro Ishihara’s novel. It begins with Murata (Ryo Ikebe), a yakuza who has just come out of prison for killing a man. He becomes attracted to the angelic, innocent looking Saeko (Mariko Kaga), who is hooked on gambling with hanafusa cards.
We now bring you a review of the second of two films released in the sixties entitled The Damned (read part 1 here.).
‘You must realise that today in Germany anything can happen, even the improbable…’
This line, spoken after about the first ten minutes, sets the scene for what you are about to see and hear – anything can and does happen.
The rich and respected Von Essenbeck family may have survived World War I and the subsequent depression, but now there is a new demand on their wealthy steel industry. As Hitler seeks to rebuild Germany’s infrastructure, munitions and its position in the world, the Von Essenbecks decide to do business with the Nazi party. However, the head of the family, Baron Essenbeck has no regard for national socialism. His murder early in the film is merely the start of this decadent, dysfunctional family’s scheming. Their plotting unfolds against the unmitigating political violence of 1930s Germany, such as the infamous ‘night of the long knives’.
Either end of the 1960s decade saw the release of films both entitled The Damned. The first was located in a contemporary England, the latter set in Nazi Germany. Into the Retroscope will provide you with a review of each film, with this initial article focusing on the earlier movie.
From the opening panoramic shots of the Southern England coastline to the closing sequences of a helicopter hovering over a doomed boat at sea, The Damned (aka These are the Damned) makes effective use of its Weymouth in Dorset seaside location.
When you have had a bad day, nothing beats Helen- dressed as a strawberry, dancing energetically and telling you not to worry about life.
Helen Richardson was born in Burma to a Franco-Indian father and a Burmese mother in the late 1930s. She fled the Japanese invasion with her mother and siblings, ending up in India. Helen’s film career began as a chorus girl in the early 50s, before she got her big break in the solo ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ in Howrah Bridge (1957).
Known simply as Helen, she became one of the most well-known dancers in Indian Cinema- with an incredible dancing career spanning from the 50s to the 80s.
Chijin no Ai (知人の愛) is based on the 1924 novel of the same name by renowned author Junichiro Tanizaki. It is one of several adaptions of Tanizaki stories dealing with unorthodox relationships and sexual obsession that were directed by Yasuzo Masumura in the 1960s and 1970s. Two other notable examples are Manji (卍, 1964) and Irezumi (刺青, 1966).
The film’s story takes place in a contemporary setting, like Masumura’s adaption of Manji. This is clear from the very first frames, which show a power station that is definitely postwar and not from the 1920s. The course of the story in its new time frame spans from 1966 to 1967- with fashions and cars to match. The crisp, warm colour of the print brings out the bold colours of Naomi’s psychedelic wardrobe.
It starts by introducing Joji Kawai (Shoichi Ozawa)-a quiet, serious and bespectacled middle-aged electrical engineer. His boss berates him for never joining the employees’ social activities, nor showing interest in getting married. After some prodding he admits that he did get a pet cat.
When he gets home that evening, he starts looking for his pet. The cat turns out to be a girl called Naomi.
Japanese New Wave cinema of the 60s and 70s was a rebellion against established styles of filmmaking. Major Japanese film studios began to promote young assistant directors to helm their own features- about young people and aimed at the youth market. These directors would deliver a kick of creative revitalisation into Japanese cinema. They would tackle challenging themes- sexuality, political radicalism, social inequality- all against the background of Japan’s postwar identity struggle.
In the late sixties Sir Lew Grade’s British based ITC company brought us the many cases that fell to war veteran and ex policeman turned criminologist Dr Adam Strange to solve. The plots of Strange Report were varied and some of them still feel very relevant today.
The series was mostly filmed and located in and around sixties London. Indeed, Strange’s preferred mode of transport is his own self driven old black London taxi cab. Each of the sixteen one hour episodes is given a case reference number ranging from ‘Report 0649 to Report 8944’. The eponymous title character is portrayed by Anthony Quayle. This was his first television series – Quayle was previously well known for his theatre work (particularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company) and major films such as Ice Cold in Alex, The Guns of Navarone and Lawrence of Arabia. Read more about Strange Report (1969) …
An analysis of two film adaptions of the gothic vampire novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.
Predating Dracula, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) has continued to provide inspiration for many vampire films and has spawned various adaptions.
It is a short story set in 19th century Styria about a young woman called Laura who becomes close friends with her mysterious houseguest Carmilla. Around this time Laura begins to have strange nightmares and her health starts to decline. Carmilla is later revealed to be the vampire Countess Millarca Karnstein by General Spielsdorf, whose niece Bertha was suffering the same symptoms. The vampire is subsequently staked by vampire expert Baron Vordenburg- yet it is implied that Laura never recovers from her encounter.
Recently, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla has been given an interesting new reimagining in the Youtube series Carmilla (2014), which sees the action transported to a modern day university.
This two part series will analyse two very different earlier adaptions of the source material- Et Mourir de Plaisir (And to die of pleasure, 1960) and Hammer Horror’s The Vampire Lovers (1970). First, we will look at Et Mourir de Plaisir– directed by Roger Vadim (Barbarella) and starring his then wife, Annette Vadim as Carmilla.
Introducing four of the best British psychological horror films from the early 60s- The Innocents, The Haunting, 80,000 Suspects and Repulsion.
……from Professor Spool’s archive
At Halloween most television and cinema schedules will be dominated by the usual ‘scary suspects’ – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, Freddie, Jason and maybe even a Mummy. Such horror creations are so readily visible on the screen whether they are steeped in folklore like vampires or based on real life Jack the Ripper type serial killers.
In concentrating on these overt, bloody and often very gruesome depictions, schedulers frequently overlook the primal basis of all horror – fear itself. The very fear that lurks deep in our psyche and that can manifest itself in so many different ways. One such manifestation is that which is unseen – you may be able to sense danger, your sub-conscious may play tricks on you, the sounds you hear may add to the dread and foreboding that occupy your thoughts. What you can’t see can hurt you – it can produce irrational behaviour, questions our very sanity and understanding of what is real or a figment of our fevered imagination.
Let me now recommend four fine celluloid examples that are immersed in the very atmospheric fear I have just described. This quartet of black and white ‘mind-chillers’ were all made in Britain in the early sixties.