If there is ever a bower-bird of Japanese cinema, it has to be Quentin Tarantino. The Kill Bill franchise contains a dozen references, and probably a ton more which are easily missed, not having the benefit of his vast film library. He pillaged Yasuharu Hasebe’s Lady Snowblood which is sort of okay – or at least made okay by the appearance of the catholic nun assassin team and some strategically naked swordplay scenes. Hasebe also turned out gems like Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter with teenage girl knife fights. Other pearls include Female Prisoner Scorpion #701: Grudge Song.
I’m certainly glad I wasn’t introduced to Pinky Violence flics when I was a young impressionable who regularly went to the drive-in. Gauzy soft porn, much envisceration with knives, swords and other sharp objects. They would have been responsible for destroying a whole generation of school boys.
Hasebe also made the pretty slick yakuza flic Bloody Territories in 1969. You can read a flawed synopsis HERE. Flawed, simply because the movie reflects the yakuza’s image of themselves:
Yakuza have always prided themselves upon the code of bushido, or way of the samurai. Violent death was traditionally seen as a poetic, tragic, and honorable fate, and the concepts of giri and ninjo are central to the relationships among members. Giri, or obligation, refers to the strong sense of duty that is felt between members, and in a sense is the “social cloth” that binds much of Japan together. Ninjo is roughly translatable to emotion, or human compassion, and denotes “generosity or sympathy to toward the weak and disadvantaged, and sympathy towards others (Kaplan and Dubro 28).” This tie to chivalry and patriotism gave the Yakuza a sort of Robin Hood type of romantic image when viewed in the public eye.
Reference HERE and some additional reading provided by Jake Adelstein, who has recently monetised his life of crime reporting in Japan into a Hollywood production. (Don’t expect much though.)
Brothers with full body tats. Men of honour in a tightly organised, rule-governed hierarchical order.
Yakuza inner-gang life was/is Hobbesian to put it mildly. Greed, betrayal, extreme violence, side deals at odds with the corporate charter, bosses who don’t think twice about sacrificing underlings, all in all behaviour which displays a distinct lack of brotherhood. If Bloody Territories reflects the conventional yakuza myths, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles without Honour or Humanity is the ultimate revisionist take on the modern yakuza reality which rose out of the ruins of WW11.
Just dig this for an opening musical sequence.
Highly complicated plot which begins in a black market with a GI intent on rape, a murder and other general mayhem. Ominous RKO voice overs hold the narrative sequences together. Lurid burlesque jazz soundtrack. Reviews HERE and HERE.
This is the big daddy of all yakuza movies. No competition.