Some Kiwami Films For Yakuza Fans

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With Yakuza Kiwami out now and hopefully selling well for Sega as an evergreen title into the future, overall interest in the long-running series over the past few years seems high enough that I’m thinking some of you folks might be interested in a few of the many Japanese gangster films out there. If you’re new to them, this very short list of recommendations may pack a ton of surprises on a few fronts.

If you’ve played Yakuza 0, Yakuza 4 or more recently, Kiwami (which means “extreme” in Japanese), you’ll very clearly see cinematic influences in abundance throughout the series. Even though the games are set in a more modern version of Japan, most of these films have very similar scenes that show how in general, some criminal behavior never really changes and it’s quite a draw for some who choose to live that lifestyle despite the risks.

Anyway, just step into this alley over here and I’ll set you up right… or set you upright after setting you up, right?

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Cops Vs Thugs * – Prolific director Kinji Fukusaku made a number of great yakuza-themed films, but this 1975 gem is probably his best. Notable for a brutal interrogation scene where an actor playing a gangster is actually beaten by actors playing crooked cops (the rehearsal footage is included as one of the bonuses), that scene is somehow very tame once added to the assorted forms of other violence on display.

When crooked but loyal to a fault cop (Bunta Sugawara) and his equally crooked and loyal to a fault Yakuza pal Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) clash with a gung-ho young detective who wants all corruption purged from the force, plenty of mayhem ensues. There’s not a dull moment at all here and it’s also a case of seemingly minor characters having major roles as the plot twists pile up.

Fukusaku’s candid camera catches it all, sometimes tilting mid-action during certain scenes and freeze-framing during others for added emphasis. The imminent threat of random violence and no clear black and white heroes makes you almost root for both sides. But you’ll see that there’s no winners here when all is said and done. This one’s a must despite the kind of goofy title as well as a great way to embellish your Kiwami experience outside the game.

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Arrow Video’s April Showers of Awesome Flicks

If you’re an Arrow Video collector here in the U.S., things are about to get even more interesting in your library thanks to the company’s SIX April releases through MVD Entertainment Group.

death walks twice boxsetThe month of solid releases kicks off April 5th with Death Walks Twice: Two Films By Luciano Ercoli – Limited Edition Boxset (MSRP $69.95), a Blu-Ray/DVD combo featuring two films, Death Walks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks at Midnight (1972). Both films star the lovely Nieves Navarro (billed as Susan Scott) and are two seminal giallo classics worth snapping up.

Only 3000 of this set will be made and as usual, Arrow is packing that LE box with both films and special features galore:

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) containing Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight
  • Brand new 2K restorations of the films from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
    Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
  • Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing new writing on the films from authors Danny Shipka (Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France), Troy Howarth (So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films) and writer Leonard Jacobs

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • From Spain with Love – featurette comprising newly-edited archive footage of director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro, interviewed at their home in Barcelona
  • Master of Giallo – screenwriter Gastaldi on Death Walks on High Heels and how to write a successful giallo
  • Death Walks to the Beat – a career-spanning interview with High Heels composer Stelvio Cipriani
  • Original Italian and English trailers
    Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Extended TV version of the feature
  • Crime Does Pay – screenwriter Gastaldi reflects on his career in the crime film-writing business, including a look at Death Walks at Midnight
  • Desperately Seeking Susan – visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

And that’s only the first of six great genre films and film sets coming next month… Continue reading