Shadow Hunters (1972) aka Kage Gari

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In the late Tokugawa period, the Edo government is using Spies from Iga Province to cause the downfall of innocent provincial Daimyo. The Shogun needs to claim the assets of fallen clans in order to boost the failing economies of Edo. The Ninjahunters, jesting Sunlight or Tadanoshi Unui (Ryuhei Uchida) & gaunt Moonlight or Denosuke Kusaba (Mikeo Narita), are led by a brooding fellow named Jubei Muroto.

Yakuza Graveyard (1976) aka Yakuza no hakaba: Kuchinashi no hana

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I’d like to say straight off that I freakin love Kinji Fukasaku films. I think the man was a genius and I regard every one of his films that I have seen thus far as awesome. This may bias me somewhat Although there are one or two that i like more I still regard Yakuza Graveyard as exceptional. The story follows a predictable arc, but not the fine acting and characterisation do not. There are many films, from Hollywood and elsewhere that try to make us sympathetic towards gangsters because of their upbringing, but most stray into glib justification. Yakuza Graveyard shows how bad upbringings and societal pressures lead to antisocial behaviour without showing this behaviour in a way that condones it. It also shows how a police officer can come to an understanding of this and become, in the eyes of the law though not necessarily the eyes of the sensible, corrupt, without making him seem like just an ordinary decent guy. The main cop in in is pretty mental, and very well played, as are all the other roles. The incredibly fine Meiko Kaji appears and does well, turning the more melodramatic parts towards the end into something really moving. Although I perhaps could have done with more savagery and a more advanced plot, nonetheless this is pretty immense stuff. Just, in my opinion a tiny rung below some of Fukasaku’s other work.

Bloody Shuriken (1965) aka Akai Shuriken

v5i9jag8Ibuki Shinnosuke, a master knife thrower whose signature are red-handled knives, leave a bloody trail wherever he travels. Arriving in the lawless town of Shukuba, where three families, the Sumiya, Hotoke, and Kanzo are competing to rule the area, he is hired as a bodyguard by Sumiya. In response, the other two hire assassins with the intent of killing Ibuki and taking over the town. Structured somewhat like a Spaghetti Western this tale of violence, romance, and betrayal is a true classic.

Hiruko the Goblin (1991) aka Yôkai hantâ: Hiruko

hiruko_the_goblinA school was built on one of the Gates of Hell, behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be free to roam the Earth. Hiruko is a goblin sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission. He beheads students in order to assemble their heads on the demons’ spider-like bodies. Hieda, an archaeology professor, and Masao, a haunted student, investigate the gory deaths and eventually battle Hiruko.

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (1968) aka Hebi musume to hakuhatsuma

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Extremely fun Daiei adaptation of two Kazuo Umezu shojo horror manga into a single, crazily fx-laden story. Directed by Noriaki Yuasa, who directed all the classic Gamera films, & many ep’s of Ultraman, Casshern, etc. – this has loads of classic, in-camera effects, double exposures, genuinely excellent makeup, and crude but effective wriggly beast props.

It follows the fairy tale formula of an adorable pixie taken from a benevolent nun’s care into a terrifying home seemingly haunted by not only a malevolent silver-haired witch, but also a curiously disfigured and hostile stepsister. The innocent child is named Sayuri, played well by Yachie Matsui as a very genuine and resourceful heroine.

The story is very simple, but has a level of weirdness and simulated child endangerment still effective for fans of contemporary horror.