At first glance, Last Tycoon is a movie that seems custom-made for me and based entirely on some of my favorite obsessions: Shanghai during the 20s and 30s, old-time fashion, Jazz Age decadence, shidaiqu, a title stolen from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and Chow Yun-fat in a cool suit blowing suckers away. Pretty perfect set of ingredients, right?
They are, in a sense, representatives of the Japanese population at large, only in bigger hats and higher platform shoes. They don’t consider themselves racist, but they blind to the racism running rampant in Japan. At least, that is, until Meiko’s Alleycats come into contact with a mixed-race gang led by the hunky Kazuma.
Sgt. Chris Kenner is a cop on the edge who plays by his own rules. He’s also a Japanophile, which is communicated by having him wear a leather jacket with a dragon on the back.
Goro himself seems neither disappointed or enthused by his small-time pursuits. His only regret is that he can’t yet go back to his beloved Tokyo.
In the end, Underworld Beauty is perhaps not as singular a viewing experience as Suzuki’s later, more idiosyncratic masterworks like Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter and Gate of Flesh, but it is nonetheless noteworthy.
Made in eighteen days for less than half a million dollars, Black Caesar went on to become a big hit, and AIP were quick to demand that Cohen provide a sequel as soon as possible. Adding to the time pressure on Cohen was the fact that his star, Williamson, would soon be leaving the country for some shooting overseas.
Emboldened, perhaps, by the success of the first film and the amount of creative leeway given him by Toei, Ito this time largely dispensed with genre trappings and delivered a film that was even more obviously the product of a singular directorial vision.
Female Prisoner #701 is a thrilling piece of exploitation cinema, as well as a challenging work of visual artistry. But, as great as it is, it merely set the stage for what was to come.
The Pinky Violence films of Norifumi Suzuki represent one extreme of the tendency of Japanese exploitation films of the seventies to combine a very high level of craftsmanship with an unflinching preoccupation with human behavior at its most sleazy and mysteriously perverse.
You’ve perhaps picked up a dvd because its cover bore a picture of, say, Amitabh Bachchan in shades and a bowtie carrying a scope rifle with something blowing up in the background, only to find that the movie contained therein had a couple of underwhelming action set pieces, but was mostly three hours of some guy crying about his mom.