KILL!
KIRU
1968, Janus Films, 114 min, Japan, Dir: Kihachi Okamoto

In this pitch-black action comedy, a pair of down-on-their-luck swordsmen arrive in a dusty, windblown town, where they become involved in a local clan dispute. One, previously a farmer, longs to become a noble samurai. The other, a former samurai haunted by his past, prefers living anonymously with gangsters. But when both men discover the wrongdoings of the nefarious clan leader, they side with a band of rebels under siege at a remote mountain cabin. Based on the same source novel as Akira Kurosawa’s SANJURO, KILL! playfully tweaks samurai film convention, borrowing elements from established chanbara classics and seasoning them with a little Italian Western.


SWORD OF DOOM
DAIBOSATSU TOGE
1966, Janus Films, 120 min, Japan, Dir: Kihachi Okamoto

Director Kihachi Okamoto made a slew of great films, including KILL!, DESPERADO OUTPOST, AGE OF ASSASSINS, SAMURAI ASSASSIN and THE HUMAN BULLET – to name only a few! – but his ultimate masterwork is this uncompromising samurai film. It is a riveting, desolate picture, anchored by a mesmerizing portrayal from Tatsuya Nakadai as paranoid killer Ryunosuke Tsukue, an outcast from his family and a hunted man recruited by the notorious Shinsengumi band of assassins. There have been many movie renditions of Kaizan Nakazato’s popular novel The Great Boddhisatva Pass since it first appeared 70-plus years ago, but Okamoto’s version in ashen black-and-white ’Scope best captures the nihilistic netherworld of the sociopathic swordsman. Masaru Sato’s music is at the pinnacle of a multitude of great Japanese movie scores from the 1960s. The supporting cast, including Toshiro Mifune, Michiyo Aratama and Yuzo Kayama, are all excellent. Screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto (who co-wrote many of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces) provides an expert distillation, going back


THE FACE OF ANOTHER
1966, Janus Films, 124 min, Japan, Dir: Hiroshi Teshigahara

This haunting meditation on identity focuses on Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai), a businessman who has been horribly disfigured in an industrial accident. Through his psychiatrist, the man is fitted with a lifelike mask molded from a stranger - but the new face sparks changes in Okuyama’s personality and he begins to lead a double life. Reunited with his WOMAN IN THE DUNES screenwriter Kôbô Abe and cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa, Teshigahara imbues this film with striking imagery and an unsettling atmosphere that recalls the creepiest corners of “The Twilight Zone.”


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