One of the great action stars of Japanese cinema turns 74 today and I’d like to wish Joe “Dirty Joker” Shishido a very Happy Birthday! It’s hard to put into words all the joy that Joe has managed to give me over the past 18 years or so since I first discovered his work, but I will say that whenever I’m asked what my favorite films are Youth of the Beast (1963), Gate of Flesh (1964) and Branded to Kill (1967) all instantly come to mind. Joe made many incredible films in the sixties, but he’s still acting today and has never really stopped.
Joe (or Jo) got his start in acting in 1954 after he auditioned for the Nikkatsu film studios. He began appearing in action films almost immediately, but he wasn’t getting the tough guy roles he wanted. Like many actors, he ended up undergoing some plastic surgery to alter his appearance and after the surgery he went on to appear in some of Nikkatsu’s most popular action films and quickly became a star. He often worked with the great Japanese director Seijun Suzuki and together they made some of the best Japanese films of the sixties.
Joe Shishido has appeared in almost 300 movies, but unfortunately most of them are not available in the US. I would love to see more of Joe’s sixties era Nikkatsu films find their way onto DVD. Besides countless crime films, Joe also made some Japanese westerns or “sukiyaki westerns” and the publicity stills I”ve seen look amazing, but they I haven’t been seen much outside of Japan. Hopefully more of Joe’s films will be made available on DVD for American audiences in the future,
Besides acting, Joe Shishido is also an accomplished author in Japan and he has written many cookbooks and even hosted a long-running popular cooking show. He also sings and has recorded a few albums. To celebrate Joe’s birthday, I thought I’d share one of the hard to find Japanese songs he recorded for the film Rokudenashi Kagyo in 1961.
Recommended Joe Shishido films on DVD:
– The Trap (1996)
– The Stairway to the Distant Past (1995)
– The Most Terrible Time in My Life (1994)
– 8 Man (1992)
– Doomed Megalopolis (1988) – An amazing anime film that Joe did voice work for
– Bloody Territories (1969)
– Branded to Kill (1967)
– Gate of Flesh (1964)
– Youth of the Beast (1963)