East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Bandit, Samurai, Pirate

I was doing my homework for the next episode of Paura & Delirio, digging out information about the Toho classic Matango (aka Attack of the Mushroom People), and I was checking out the credits of actress Kumi Mizuno, that pretty much owns the movie from the word go.
And it was there, in the list of movies these gorgeous ex-model was cast in, that I found The Lost world of Sinbad, starring Toshiro Mifune, from 1963.

And if you are reading this blog, you know me … a lost world, Sinbad the Sailor, Toshiro Mifune AND Kumi Mizuno, all in a single package?
In TohoScope?!
I mean, check the poster … the Giant of Amurkand … the Rain of Flaming Death … the Whip Dance of the Virgins!
I have to see this. Like, now!

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To me, Toshiro Mifune will always be half of the cast of John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific – the first film I ever saw featuring the Japanese actor. Later came Rashomon, Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, the latter long after Magnificent Seven had become one of my favorite westerns.

Toshiro Mifune’s power as an actor was perfectly showcased in Hell in the Pacific, a movie in which he had very little dialog, but projected such overwhelming physicality that words were unnecessary.

And so I went and watched Mifune, the Last Samurai, a few nights back.

The bad thing about Steven Okazaki’s Mifune is, it is too short.
The documentary covers the birth of the chanbara – with a great selection of silent movie excerpts – and then charts Toshiro Mifune’s rise as the quintessential samurai actor through his early years and his collaboration with Akira Kurosawa. And then stops.
And leaves us wanting more.

But apart from that, there’s a lot of good in the documentary – the already mentioned relics from the silent era, the interviews with actors and technicians that worked with Mifune and Kurosawa, Shiro Mifune’s (Toshiro’s son) recollections. Lots of photos, lots of movie clips.
It’s a small tribute to a man that was larger than life, and that cannot fit the frame of a simple documentary.
But a great show, and well worth watching.


The Mysterious West

moon-elis-foldThis is a request post.
The first in a series of request posts – or better still, the start of a side-project which started as a request post.

I was talking, a few days back, with my friend Claire, and we hit on the idea of the Mysterious West, or, if you prefer, the West as seen through the eyes of Eastern Fantasy.
We were discussing the fascination the Japanese seem to have for European historical settings and melodrama – from the middle ages to the very early 20th century, references are quite frequent, in anime, manga, narrative.
Our chat started because of Takarazuka, really.

So, Claire said, why not explore this idea, this concept of the Mysterious West? Continue reading

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Kigan Castle

The Italian poster played the Arabian Nights factor to the hilt.

The Italian poster played the Arabian Nights factor to the hilt.

Something weird today.
The short movie clip you’ll find below is the only thing I was able to find to show you something of Kiganjou no Bouken, also known as Kigan Castle Adventure, also known The adventure of Taklamakan.

The Adventure of Taklamakan is a thoroughly enjoyable, low-budget-but-great-fun 1966 movie featuring the great Toshiro Mifune.
The plot is a weird mash-up of ancient Chinese folklore, Arabian Nights style fantasy and a few dollops of Wu Cheng’en‘s Journey to the West.
But it’s actually based on a story by Dazai Osamu. Continue reading