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.

Listen to Joe sing Rokudenashi Kagyo

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)

Recommended Links:
Dirty Joker (Joe Shishido’s Official Website)
Yaju no (a great Joe Shishido fansite)
Joe Shishido at Wikipedia

16 thoughts on “The Dirty Joker Turns 74

  1. I freaking love Jo Shishido and his chipmunk cheeks. He helped put “The Most Terrible Time In My Life” over the top for me. But “Branded To Kill” is where I first saw him, so I’ll always see him as the guy with the compulsion to smell rice.

    He just has this presence…Not necessarily as the dominant person on screen, but the one where your eyes will settle.

  2. I’m with Anna. It’s amazing. Asian cinema produces voluminous amounts of films and the actors play hundreds of roles over their careers. I did a list a few months back on my blog about the most portrayed characters in movie history and the character Huang Fei-Hong was number five with 98. Actor Kwan Tak-Hing played him 77 times but the real stunner was that he made 25 Fei-Hong movies in 1956 alone!

    Happy birthday Joe and thanks for the song Kimberly.

  3. The baby faced guy who loved rice – that’s how I’ll always remember him. I’ve only seen “Branded to Kill”, but that was worth a while lotta other, less interesting films. I’d love to a western with him in it!

  4. Bob – I completely agree that Joe has an amazing screen presence – chipmunk cheeks and all! I think it’s terrific that he can still be such a powerful presence in modern films like the incredible Maiku Hama series.

    Anna – His career is amazing. Go go Joe!

    Jonathan – I’m glad you enjoyed the song! The volume of Asian cinema released every year is really astonishing. The idea of producing 25 films in one year just boggles the mind… I would bet money that many of them were probably better and more entertaining then most of the films Hollywood releases every month.

    Vanwell – I really hope some of his ’60s Japanese westerns get released on DVD w/subs in the near future. I’d love to see them myself, but I’ve only seen photos. Takashi Miike seems to be bringing back the western in Japan, so I hope his new film Sukiyaki Western Django generates interest in old “sukiyaki westerns.”

  5. Happy Birthday to Joe. I’ve only seen him in “Branded to Kill,” but I love that film. I’ve been wanting to see more of his work. I do think it’s fascinating that he has accomplished so much in many fields. What a great song. He’s definitely a Renaissance man.

  6. Wooo-hooo! Go Joe Shishido! I’m very excited to see you talking about the star of both films I talked about in my essay “Double Dose of Seijun Suzuki.” You are truly a connoisseur of cool, Kimberly.

  7. Wine & werewolves – Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the song!

    Ed – Well, I’ve talked about Joe on a few occasions as the links above pointed out and isn’t this the place you first heard his films mentioned? 😉 I felt the urge to celebrate his birthday and I’m glad I can share my longtime affection for Joe with others. I’m also glad to see you discovering and writing about more Japanese cinema Ed!

  8. I can’t believe you didn’t reference his “Captain Jo” in Fugitive Alien, so memorably lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000. Seeing this paunchy, puffy faced middle-aged guy playing an action hero in this (made for TV?) Japanese sci-fi film was strange. Seeing him later as the #3 killer in Branded to Kill was a real stretch.

  9. Fruity Bev – I’m not a Mystery Science Theater fan and I never watched the show, so I didn’t see Joe get lampooned on it. My first introduction to him was through his Japanese films some 18 years ago, which I love.

  10. Hey!
    This is a great little tribute to the always great Shishido Jo!!
    Thanks for including a link to my YAJU NO WEBPAGE site. I didn’t know anyone ever visited it, anymore!
    One of these days, I swear, I am going to update the Shishido site!

    Great job you are doing here!
    Keep up the good work!


  11. Thanks for stopping by Chris and sharing your thoughts! I love your site and hope you do update it soon. It’s a terrific resource for Shishido fans. Cheers!

  12. Sweet blog. Something about that era is fascinating. Hopefully we’ll have more dvd releases of his 60/70’s films.

    i don’t recall Jo in Hasabe’s “Bloody Territories”. I believe that was an Akira Kobayashi / Hiroshi Nawa / Tadao Nakamura driven film. I could be wrong though.

  13. Thanks for the feedback SPM! I also hope that we see more ’60s/’70s era Japanese films get released on DVD as well.

    Jo is only briefly in Bloody Territories and easy to miss. Even though he was a rather big star in Japan, he was nowhere near the kind of star that Kobayashi was.

    I like your blog by the way, and I’ve added it to my links.

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