Monday, May 18, 2009

Two more Outcast jobs hit the street

Streeting tomorrow are two new DVDs from Synapse Films, the first Toei productions starring Meiko Kaji, Wandering Ginza Butterfly and its sequel, Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: She-Cat Gambler. (We did a bit of creative editing on the title to the latter (no #2 in the original Japanese), but that's mainly to make it easier to handle the discs at U.S. retailers.)

Though my relationship with parent company Synapse has unfortunately soured (due to some unwarranted penny-strangling on the part of their financial chieftain), I'm proud of these discs and hope that classic Japanese cinema fans give them a try. The film transfers are top-notch, and entirely due to the efforts of Synapse tech and creative guy Don May, Jr. Neither film has seen a release in Japan except on VHS, so these represent the best versions available worldwide at the moment. I'm willing to bet I see a ton of these on sale at Shinjuku Disc Union in Tokyo the next time I'm there.

The extras are also pretty good, if I say so myself. We interviewed Pinky Violence expert J-Taro Sugisaku way back in November 2007, and a short piece with him appears on the second of the
Ginza discs, where he talks about the appeal of star Meiko Kaji.

Appearing on both discs is a lengthy interview with series director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, one of the shining B-stars of the Toei universe, responsible for all the films in the
Delinquent Girl Boss and Sister Street Fighter series, not to mention Sonny Chiba's Karate for Life movies, and various other genre classics. Yamaguchi talked at length about working with Chiba, Kaji, Etsuko Shiomi, American porn star Sharon Kelly, Reiko Oshida, and others, and the interview is a treasure trove of stories for fans of classic Japanese exploitation. Want to know about the genesis of the Female Convict Scorpion series? You can learn about it here.

Both discs also feature the usual trailers, poster galleries, biographies, and other goodies, plus the first disc features an informative audio commentary by Japanese film expert Chris D., where he talks about Kaji's career, Toei's reputation in the early 1970s, director Yamaguchi, and all the minor character actors appearing throughout both films.
Hours of entertainment await - what are you still sitting in front of your computer for? Get out there and buy them!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

At long last...

The Criterion / Eclipse Nikkatsu Action box set has been announced!

This release has been in the works, in one way or another, for over a year and a half and it's a relief to finally see it written up online. The long road to holding it in my hands will finally end in late August.

For many Japanese films fans - basically anybody who was unable to attend any of the Nikkatsu Action screening series' dates last year - this will be their first opportunity to see every one of these five films, each of which is fantastic. I can't wait to read about peoples' reactions to A Colt is My Passport and, especially, Cruel Gun Story, a fantastic Japanese riff on Stanley Kubrick's The Killing which probably less than ten people outside of Japan have seen at this moment in time. Soon, that will all change.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A big hint

This one should do it.

More details to come, once they're confirmed to be ok to announce.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Next interview

Here's another hint. Then again, he was in at least as many Miike films as Ren Osugi was!

Truly talented and prolific actor - since the mid-1950s! - Renji Ishibashi. We chatted about the Miike film in question, plus his other works including films for Kinji Fukasaku, Tatsumi Kumashiro, Noboru Tanaka and others.

More updates to come.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Still in Tokyo, still working

Another brief update, and two pics.

That's prolific character actor Ren Osugi with assistants Midori and Masato, after an interview taping for the aforementioned Miike DVD. Still can't say what it is...and not sure why Osugi-san looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He and his manager were in a hurry for another appointment, and were kind enough to give us an hour to discuss his long career, including collaborations with Miike, Takeshi Kitano, Sabu, Sion Sono and others.

And here he is with the gracious Laputa staff, who were thrilled to meet such a famous guy.

More to come on Monday, with three additional interviews before heading home.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday in Tokyo

Finished up a great commentary with The Man, Takashi Miike. Still can't say what release it's for, but hopefully soon.

From the left are assistant / translator Midori Inoue, and Eiga Hi-Ho writer and commentary host Masato Kobayashi.

More to come, later this week.