My fellow fans of J-Horror know that Japan practically invented weirdness. What none of us knew is how far back they go with that mastery of entertaining madness.
Their view of American history is mind-boggling. This 1861 work of “J-History” if you will, features little-known events like JOHN ADAMS FACING A GIANT SNAKE (left) and George Washington hitting a tiger. It also corrects the mistaken assumption that Washington’s wife was named Martha when her real name was apparently “Carol.” (?)
Balladeer’s Blog’s Presidential Action and Horror Films bit only WISHES it could be this mind-bending. Credit Nick Kapur with drawing attention to this item from the Waseda University Library. To see every page of this acid trip AND Continue reading
Give Them A Shoutout Before They’re Dead strikes again here at Balladeer’s Blog! In this case the shoutout goes to the Red Elvises and their song Boogie on the Beach. The video was released promotionally for the excellent but underappreciated film Six-String Samurai, which featured music by the Red Elvises and Brian Tyler back before Brian Tyler was synonymous with movie soundtracks.
AND FOR MY REVIEW OF SIX-STRING SAMURAI CLICK HERE
Raizo Ichikawa as the Son of the Black Mass
Balladeer’s Blog resumes my reviews of the Son of the Black Mass series of Samurai movies. This time around I will examine the fifth film with legendary Raizo Ichikawa. I will eventually cover the pre-Raizo and post-Raizo SOTBM flicks as well PLUS the original novels that the movies were based on.
Though the Son of the Black Mass series has also been released under alternate titles like The Full Moon Killer and Sleepy Eyes of Death (?) I go by the original title to the novel and movies. The recurring lead character is Kyoshiro Nemuri, a Ronin who is the product of the rape of a Japanese woman by a Portuguese Christian Missionary during a Black Mass.
Nemuri inherited his father’s red hair, marking him as a half-breed and leading to his disgrace. He wanders Japan of the 1780s, a time when Japanese Christians and the foreign Christian missionaries who converted them were being oppressed. As in imprisoned and told to renounce their faith or be executed through Crucifixion.
Raizo Ichikawa as the red-haired Samurai Kyoshiro Nemuri, the Son of the Black Mass.
I consider Passion-Fire Sword to be the worst of the Raizo Ichikawa movies in the series. Usually the Son of the Black Mass films go beyond typical Samurai movies and into a realm of quasi-horror and moral anarchy. This flick is instead so bland it could pass as just another Samurai story. It even takes a step backward regarding Kyoshiro’s supernatural abilities like his power to communicate with the dead and the hypnotic nature of his Full Moon Death Strike.
Stripped of the whispers our anti-hero hears from the dead, he winds up looking like just a man who makes incredible guesses as he sorts through the layers upon layers of deception in this tale. (The novel highlights the manner in which Nemuri’s most recent kills speak to him from beyond the grave to set him on the right path in this labyrinthine conspiracy.) And the story itself is a rehash of The Chinese Jade as crooked businessmen and outright criminals conspire to hide their joint activities from the Shogun and from the head of their own Clan.
One of the fresh elements of Passion-Fire Sword comes in the way Kyoshiro gets caught up in the intrigue. The conspirators refuse to believe that a man who interacted with our protagonist at his Edo hideout did not have time to tell him anything about their plot. Believing that Nemuri MUST have been given information that could lead to their death they have no choice but to continue to try killing him, no matter how many people die in the attempt. Continue reading
Raizo Ichikawa, the definitive portrayer of Nemuri Kyoshiro
I figured Halloween Month was a good time to – at long last – resume my reviews of the Son of the Black Mass series of Samurai movies. This time around I will examine the fourth film with legendary Raizo Ichikawa. I will eventually cover the pre-Raizo and post-Raizo SOTBM flicks as well PLUS the original novels that the movies were based on. FOR MY BRIEF OVERVIEW CLICK HERE
SWORD OF SEDUCTION (1964) – We revisit our protagonist Kyoshiro Nemuri – a red-haired Samurai, the offspring of a Japanese woman and the insane Portugese Christian Missionary who raped her. That madman was dabbling in Satanism and Nemuri was conceived during a Black Mass, hence the title of the novels and the subsequent film series.
Once again the story is set in Japan in the 1780s. The persecution of Japanese Christians continues, with the religion officially outlawed and with practitioners being imprisoned and – if they refuse to renounce their belief system – executed by crucifixion.
I always jokingly refer to the opening of Sword of Seduction as “the Casablanca opening.” A fugitive Christian approached a boozing Nemuri Kyoshiro at a tavern and showed him a logo of a cross inside a secret compartment of a piece of jewelry like the Free French ring used in Casablanca. To further the similarities to the Bogart film this Christian soon gets dragged off Ugarte-style for his Christian beliefs and he flees back to Nemuri Kyoshiro in a vain plea for help from our melancholy antihero. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the Son of the Black Mass series of Samurai films. This is the sixth film overall but just the third starring legendary Raizo Ichikawa. The films were based on Renzaburo Shibata’s novels about Nemuri Kyoshiro, a red-haired fallen Samurai whose odd hair coloring was the result of his mixed birth. A Portuguese Christian missionary dabbling in Satanism raped Nemuri’s mother during a Black Mass, hence his red hair, outcast status and supernatural abilities.
FULL CIRCLE KILLING (1964) – Beginning with the next film the Nemuri Kyoshiro series really hits the dark, offbeat and transgressive stride that it is most remembered for. Think of Full Circle Killing as a stylistic stepping stone, since it has a cynical Samurai Noir feel to it plus heavier blood & gore as well as further clues about the supernatural nature of our hero’s Full Moon Death Strike. We also get our first hint in the movies that Nemuri can sense the whispers of the dead whenever he passes by cemeteries, a concept more fully developed in the novels (which I will review separately). Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the Son of the Black Mass Samurai films from Japan. In the previous installment I reviewed the first of the films to star Raizo Ichikawa, the man who made the character his own even though there were three films made with the figure before Ichikawa and two after his death in 1969.
The title character was Kyoshiro Nemuri – a red-haired Samurai, the offspring of a Japanese woman and the insane Portugese Christian Missionary who raped her. That madman was dabbling in Satanism and so Nemuri was conceived during a Black Mass, hence the title of the novels and the subsequent film series. Continue reading
Raizo Ichikawa as the red-haired Samurai Kyoshiro Nemuri, the Son of the Black Mass.
Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of various Samurai films from Japan. In keeping with my blog’s overall theme I won’t be covering the uber-popular Samurai flicks like Yojimbo, The Seven Magnificent Samurai or the Musashi Miyamoto Trilogy. Regular readers who are familiar with my contempt for organized religion will not be at all surprised that I’ll be starting out with the Son of the Black Mass series of films starring Raizo Ichikawa, often called “the James Dean of Japan.”
In addition to the twelve Ichikawa movies I will also cover the two entries in the series made after Raizo’s untimely death from cancer. After that, to be a fully comprehensive look, I will also examine the original novels as well as the three Son of the Black Mass movies made in the 1950’s, even though they did not have the cinematic impact of the films starring Raizo Ichikawa.
The odd title of the movie series comes from the fact that the title character, former Samurai turned Ronin Kyoshiro Nemuri, is the child of a Japanese woman and the crazed Portugese Christian missionary who raped her. The insane missionary was dabbling in Satanism and Nemuri was conceived during a Black Mass ritual, hence the series title. The deadly swordsman inherited his hated father’s red hair and when a heavy rain washed out the black dye Nemuri was disguising it with, his exposure as a half-breed led to his shunning and his fallen status. Continue reading