Saturday, April 19, 2008


Caught A COLT IS MY PASSPORT last night w my sister and it was A W E S O M E ! So much frickin fun! A Japanese gangster noir with a lot of cowboy western style. Reminded me in mood and style of EXILED, Johnny To's recent (kickass!) gangster western.

The film is the first in a series playing at the Brattle thru Thursday, Nikkatsu Action & 60s Japan. The Nikkatsu studio films are travelling together and were assembled by this fellow Marc Walkow, who spoke briefly before the screening about where this film and the others in the series came from. Most of them have been seldom screened in or outside of Japan since they were first released in the 60s. After watching and loving COLT, I really don't understand why that is. None of the films are available on video, but the prints in this show are in excellent condition, and I'm hoping to catch the rest of them in the next few days. A pretty serious warm-up I guess, before tackling the Independent Film Festival of Boston, kicking off on Wednesday night.


The Brattle blurb follows...

A Colt Is My Passport
(1967) dir Takashi Nomura w/Jo Shishido, Jerry Fujio [84 min]

In Takashi Nomura's chilly noirish thriller, Shishido plays a hitman hired by a gang to whack a rival boss. He does the deed with a sniper rifle and, together with sidekick, makes his escape. But before they can board their getaway plane, they are snatched by thugs from the rival gang. They make a narrow escape and arrange passage out of the country, but deadly complications ensue, forcing Shishido to improvise yet another escape for himself and his partner, but before they can depart, they're forced into an explosive showdown with killers from the rival gang. The final showdown between a solitary Shishido and a bullet-proof car full of gangsters staged on a deserted beach at dawn, the howling wind sweeping sand across the ground, is as impressive as anything of the era in this neglected masterpiece. NOT ON VIDEO!

Shot in black and white. It's like watching a pulp detective novel. Broad strokes almost instantly describe familiar archetypes of characters and stories. And this has just about everything. Professional killer. Loyal brothers and partners. The girl with a past. Rival gang bosses. Thuggish lieutenants. Rival killers. And it's got an amazing score that jumps from classic western twangs to jazzy and loungey brushes on drums. And it SO works.

Also, a guitar ballad performed by the killer's young partner, brother Shun. He sings a little love song to calm his nerves while the two of them are holed up in a gangster hideout of a truckstop inn. The innkeeper's serving girl, Mina, invites them to hide in her room, where the police and thugs wouldn't think to search. The killer is concerned that Shun is too nervous and stressed being on the lam, so he reaches deftly behind him to pull down the guitar that just so happens to be propped up against the wall. It's a sweet "oh no you di-int" moment. =)

One of many. Another happens later, when the killer agrees to face his hunters, who turn out to be the gang boss who hired him, the boss's bodyguard, and the son of the gang boss he killed, now the leader. The two gang leaders have come to an understanding, but, as is typically the case in this all-too-common situation, to seal the deal, the head of the killer must be delivered. The night before their showdown, the killer spies on his enemies and learns that they will attempt to sucker him into attacking them in a bulletproof car. We see him assemble his answer when he first buys some stolen dynamite, and then... visits a clockmaker's shop! Every kid knows what's happening now, y'know? Get dynamite. Get clock. Lick back of clock. Affix to dynamite. Voila! Time bomb!

Heh. It's not quite as cartoony as that (we see the killer construct the bomb, and it's pretty cool—I love "process" stuff in gangster/detective world), but you can almost see the lightbulb that goes on in the head of every member of the audience (and you can definitely feel and hear the reaction and enthusiasm from the crowd) when they cut to the killer shopping at the clock shop. Too frickin Fun! =)

Okay, so he can put together a bomb. How the heck is he gonna get this bomb in that car? You'll hafta watch the showdown to find out. Act one is a brilliant little one-vs-many gun battle in the "Reclamation Area," a barren dusty wasteland (the Nagasaki aftermath?). It's the perfect setting for dialing up the cowboy western feel. Act two is the final showdown with his enemies in the bulletproof car, and it does not disappoint.

When the movie was over, I felt like the little kid on the big wheel at the end of THE INCREDIBLES. =)

Early in the film, the killer is being given an outline of his target's habits by one of his employer's lieutenants. He's taken to follow the target's routine and the camera follows him to several possible vantage points where he might be able to execute him. When the killer decides to go for it in earnest, we're shown the the same routine, but the killer is nowhere to be seen. It's a pretty cool little bit that I really dig.


Check out the rest of the series at the Brattle if you can. I'm definitely gonna hit all the Nikkatsu flicks. And if you're not a Boston local, keep your eyes peeled for this series possibly traveling to your favorite indie/art house theater! I think that they travelled together before under the title "No Borders, No Limits," also the title of a book about Nikkatsu action cinema.

Keep on keepin on~

1 comment:

zorknapp said...

I'm just happy to see that "Wack" is still, and always shall be, in your vernacular... ;)