Film Writing Nov. 2016 – April 2017

It’s been awhile. Work obligations, as well as personal projects and other responsibilities, have taken precedence over updating my blogs. Of course, you can always find me on my Tumblr as well as Twitter & Facebook. Before I let another month get away, I thought I’d finally share an update to the film writing I’ve done for the last 6 months.

I’ve broken topics up into 4 categories (Horror Cinema, British Cinema, Japanese Cinema and Other) since I tend to focus on 3 subjects more than any others. Hopefully, it will make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. As always, I write about film every week for FilmStruck’s Streamline blog and you can find my latest updates here: http://streamline.filmstruck.com/author/cinebeats/

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Horror Cinema:
Devil’ Advocate: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Venomous Snakes & Poison Ants: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
A Double Dose of Boris Karloff
The Devil Made me Do It: La Main Du Diablo (1943)
An Actor’s Revenge: Theatre of Blood (1973)

LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, THE (1962)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

British Cinema:
Angry Cinema: The British New Wave
Losey Let Loose: The Criminal (1960)
Margaret Lockwood is The Wicked Lady (1945)
Equal Shares For All: The League of Gentlemen (1960)

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Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Japanese Cinema:
– Screen Sorcery: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Nippon Noir: Celebrate #noirvember with FilmStruck
Everyone’s Gone Crazy: Violent Cop (1989)
Tokyo Gone Gagaga: Otaku (1994) The film is actually an international production directed by French filmmaker Chris Marker but the focus is on Japan

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Red Desert (1964)

Other:
Surveying the Red Desert (1964)
My Melancholy Valentine: Dans Paris (2006)
There Are No Safe Spaces: An Arturo Ripstein Double Feature
Adventure in Istanbul: Topkapi (1964)
Joan Bennett: Fritz Lang’s Muse
Stranger Than Fiction: The Baron of Arizona (1949)
Creative Collaboration: Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988)
Adolescent Adventure: The World of Henry Orient (1964)
The Search for Common Ground: A Separation (2011)
Strokes of Genius: Moulin Rouge (1952)
The Future is Now: Remembrance of Things to Come (2001)

Jan. & Feb. 2016 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in Jan. & Feb.

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Jan. 7: William Cameron Menzies: Chandu the Magician (1932)

Excerpt: “In recent weeks, you might have heard about the upcoming Doctor Strange film currently scheduled for release in November of 2016. The news caught my attention because I’ve always liked the comic book character and the cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is impressive. I mention all this because tonight TCM is launching their month-long spotlight on legendary production designer and director, William Cameron Menzies. Some classic film fans might balk at the idea of mentioning the upcoming Doctor Strange movie and William Cameron Menzies in the same paragraph but there are slender threads that connect the two thanks to Menzies’s creative contributions to Chandu the Magician (1932)”

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Jan. 14: 15 Favorite Films of 2015

Excerpt: “Many of the best performances I saw last year were given by actors who were 65-years old or older suggesting younger generations of performers could still learn a lot from actors like Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Ian McKellen, Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell (who will be turning 65 in March!). I hope it also encourages future filmmakers to create roles that allow these veteran actors to strut their stuff.”

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Jan. 21: ’60s Spy Stories: Gila Golan

Excerpt: “Femme fatales are as important to ‘60s spy films as they are to Film Noir but one of the most frequent criticisms of the genre is its questionable depiction of women. While it’s true that they’re often treated as mere sexual objects in these espionage romps and are regularly introduced into the paper-thin plots to give the male leads something to ogle, the particulars are a bit more complex than that. If you watch enough of these panache productions you begin to notice how subversive many of them are. Sure, the women might dress in sexually suggestive clothing and use their feminine wiles to lure men to their doom, but they are frequently put in positions of power. They’re also regularly portrayed as being smarter or at least as capable as the men they encounter and occasionally save the day. If and when they decide to fall into the hero’s arms they’re often the ones initiating the relationship and control much of the action.”

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Jan. 29: A Minor Picture Compendium of Classic Movie Nurses

Excerpt:”Movie nurses come in all stripes. They can be mean and cruel like Nurse Ratched or gentle as doves like Audrey Hepburn’s character in The Nun’s Story. They can also be sexy, smart, compassionate, laugh-out-loud funny and ruthless blood thirsty monsters. What follows is a picture gallery featuring some of my favorite movie nurses.”

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Feb. 4: Melvin Van Peebles: The Story of A Three-Day Pass (1967)

Excerpt: “Seemingly Influenced by both the French and British New Wave, including the early films of Godard and John Schlesinger, Melvin Van Peebles first full-length feature film subverts conventional narrative methods to delve deeper into its characters conflicted psyches. The Story of A Three-Day Pass bounces, pops and glides like a musical composition and the innovative freewheeling nature of the film mirrors its jazz inspired score. Van Peebles uses a number of experimental film techniques including dolly shots, freeze frames, jump cuts, jarring dissolves, split-screen and lengthy POV shots that impart the film with an intimacy and immediacy that immediately draws you in and demands your attention. We’re encouraged to see the world through Turner’s eyes and we experience the bigotry he faces in a very direct way. It was refreshingly straightforward and progressive stuff in 1967 that retains its power to shock and provoke audiences today.”

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Feb. 11: Jean-Claude Killy in Snow Job (1972)

Excerpt: “Snow Job was filmed on location in the Italian and Swiss Alps by American director George Englund (The Ugly American; 1963, Zachariah; 1971, etc.) and Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Pogány (Two Women; 1960, Bluebeard; 1972, Night Train Murders; 1975, etc.). According to interviews, they used helicopters extensively throughout the shoot, which allowed them to capture all the action on the slopes. The camerawork is occasionally breathtaking as we watch Jean-Claude Killy jump and drift across the alpine landscape like an agile bird while risking serious injury or even death. Killy insisted on doing all his own stunts and it’s remarkable that he got through filming unscathed. If you appreciate seventies heist films with dynamic action sequences or the kind of risky professional skiing typically reserved for Warren Miller documentaries, you should find Snow Job a particularly rewarding and enjoyable watch.”

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Feb. 18: Jack Palance: Horror Star

Excerpt: “I first saw the tall, broad featured and chiseled actor in Man in the Attic (1953) where he played Jack the Ripper in this fourth film adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’s 1913 novel, The Lodger. I was only a kid at the time but Palance’s quietly seething performance impressed me due to the sympathy he was able to generate for his unlikable character. Jack the Ripper is typically portrayed as a cold-blooded maniac or sexually motivated monster but Palance, despite his menacing presence, was able to imbue his Ripper with a complex psychology that was thought provoking and surprisingly contemporary. As a seemingly harmless killer with an unmanageable Oedipus complex, Palance’s Ripper prefigures the often-cited character of Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho.”

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Feb. 25: Douglas Slocombe: A Tribute

Excerpt: “What follows is a gallery of some of my favorite screen shots from Douglas Slocombe’s distinguished oeuvre. They demonstrate that the accomplished cinematographer was much more than an artless journeyman or technician who simply took orders from a director. The images I’ve gathered are linked together by a unique creative vision that spans the length of his 50-year career in film.”

Regular visitors to Cinebeats over the years might recall my affection for many of the films Slocombe worked on, which I’ve written about here including The Third Secret, Boom! and The Servant. An image from The Servant even graces my “testimonials” page.

RIP Mr. Slocombe.

6 Months of Film Writing

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I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting Cinebeats again but I’ve been busy with various personal projects and obligations. I’ve also recently started writing for Publishers Weekly but I thought I’d finally update with some highlights from TCM’s Movie Morlocks. Here’s some of the more interesting (in my estimation) film related writing & entertaining babble I’ve produced in the last 6 months. You might notice that the topics I cover have gotten a little “lighter” in content and that’s by design. TCM’s blog readers generally prefer light reading about familiar topics so I’ve been trying to accommodate them more often.

March, 2015:
Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)
Bold! Noble! Daring! BATWOMAN (1968)
William Mortensen in Hollywood
Hammer Noir: A Poster Gallery
April, 2015:
“Robbery & Murder Were Their Code of Living!” – THE CATS (1968)
A Troy Donahue Top 10
Cooking with Sophia Loren
Orson Welles at One Hundred
May, 2015:
Think Pink: The Enduring Appeal of Lady Penelope
Two on the Run: DEADLY STRANGERS (1975)
The Hollywood Style
June, 2015:
Hollywood Comes to Hearst Castle: Memories & Musings
Men Among Monsters: Remembering Christopher Lee & Richard Johnson
Bugging Out! A Poster Gallery
Classic Hollywood Actors Discuss Women, Beauty & Femininity with Arlene Dahl
July, 2015:
Underrated ’65
Elisabeth Lutyens: Horror Queen of Film Composers
Midsummer Reading Suggestions
Q&A: Michael Kronenberg From the Film Noir Foundation
Birdwatching in Bodega Bay
August, 2015:
A Few Fun Facts About Michael Caine
The Kitten & The Cowboy: When Ann-Margret Met The Duke
Mae Clarke: Frankenstein’s First Bride
Closing Act: Shelley Winters

A Joan Blondell Blogathon

Joan BlondellThe funny & fabulous Joan Blondell

From my latest post at the Movie Morlocks:

“During the month of August TCM highlights the work of a select group of talented performers as part of their annual Summer Under the Stars festival. The Movie Morlocks were asked to select one overlooked star from the Summer Under the Stars line-up to spotlight during a weeklong celebration of their work. Last year the Morlocks highlighted the accomplishments of Woody Strode and before that, Gloria Grahame and Fred MacMurray. This year the Morlocks are setting their sights on Joan Blondell with a blogathon that takes place August 18th – 24th.”
Kona Coast (1968)

I decided to kick start the blogathon with a look at Kona Coast (1968), which was just released on DVD from the Warner Archives and will be playing on TCM August 24th. Kona Coast may not rate as one of the best films that Blondell ever appeared in but it does contain some elements that should appeal to fans of groovy ’60s cinema, including one of the best 7-minute openings I’ve seen in a long time and a terrific score by by composer Jack Marshall. Kona Coast is a fun late night summer movie that probably should be watched while you have a few Mai Tai’s on hand. You can read my full review by following the link below.

Joan Blondell Goes Hawaiian @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I also created a special Flickr gallery of images from Kona Coast that you can find here.

Johnny Cool (1963)

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Elizabeth Montgomery (1963)

I neglected to mention that I wrote a brief piece about the movie Johnny Cool (1963) for Turner Classic Movies last month. It’s an interesting crime film with a standout performance from actress Elizabeth Montgomery who is mostly remembered as the witch with the twitchy nose in Bewitched. Episodes of that popular television series and Johnny Cool were both directed by the same man, Elizabeth Montgomery’s husband William Asher. Unfortunately Johnny Cool isn’t available on DVD yet but it occasionally plays on TCM so keep an eye out for it.

Johnny Cool (1963)

Celebrating Woody Strode

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Woody Strode in The Italian Connection (1972)

Apologies for the lack of direct updates lately but I’m still getting moved into my new home and my free time is limited at the moment. In the meantime you can still find me posting at the Movie Morlocks every week and you can also occasionally find me posting film related images and other fun stuff over at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats and at my personal home blog Mid-Century Living.

This week the Morlocks are celebrating the life and career of actor Woody Strode. Strode’s acting accomplishments are unfamiliar to many movie fans so I’m really excited about this week long tribute to the man and his work. I decided to write about Woody Strode’s powerful performance in the Italian poliziottesco (crime) film The Italian Connection aka La Mala Ordina (Fernando Di Leo; 1972). I haven’t had the opportunity to write about any of my favorite poliziotteschi movies so I wanted to rectify that and TCM’s decision to celebrate Woody Strode’s career gave me the opportunity to finally focus my attention on a great Italian crime movie. You can find my piece on The Italian Connection as well as many other terrific blog posts about Woody Strode and the film’s he appeared in at TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog.

Jewel Thieves & Giant Monsters

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After recently reading and writing about Peter H. Brothers’ book Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda, I was motivated to watch one of Honda’s lesser-known films that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see yet, Dogora (1964). I’m not sure how I managed to overlook this little gem involving a giant jellyfish from space with an appetite for diamonds but I’m glad that I finally caught up with it on DVD. It’s undoubtedly one of the oddest monster movies produced by Toho Studios in the ’60s and it has quickly become one of my favorite Ishiro Honda films.

Want to read more? You’ll find the rest of my post over at the Movie Morlocks.

Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa!

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Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune in Stray Dog (1949)

Stray Dog (1949) was the ninth film made by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and I think it’s one of his very best. Like many of my favorite Kurosawa films, Stray Dog features no rogue samurai or mad emperors and it’s set in modern Japan instead of feudal Japan, but it does contain many of the major themes that Kurosawa enjoyed exploring in his work throughout his long career. Stray Dog began life as a novel that the director wrote after being inspired by the crime fiction of French author Georges Simenon, but when Kurosawa adapted his novel for the screen his work took on a life of its own. Stray Dog was transformed into one of the best noir thrillers made in the late ’40s and it’s one of the director’s most compelling films.

The film stars a very young and incredibly handsome Toshiro Mifune in one of his earliest roles as Murakami, an ex-solider turned rookie detective in postwar Japan. The aftermath of the war and the American occupation has taken its toll on the Japanese people who were literally baptized by fire and have been reborn in a cruel and often brutal representation of the modern westernized world. With little food and even less hope, many people have naturally turned to crime in an effort to survive. Others like Detective Murakami are attempting to forge a new life for themselves out of the destruction, but it isn’t easy. After starting his new job Murakami has his gun stolen by a thief (Isao Kimura) who uses it to commit terrible crimes. Guns are a rare commodity in postwar Japan and Murakami’s shame at loosing his weapon forces him to hunt down the criminal so he can retrieve his weapon with help from an older and wiser detective named Sato (Takashi Shimura). This hunt will take them through the war torn city streets of Tokyo’s criminal underworld made up of shanty towns, black markets and seedy night clubs.

Stray Dog takes place during an unprecedented heat-wave and you can literally feel the steam rising from the city streets. Akira Kurosawa enjoyed using the effects of the changing weather such as falling rain, snow storms or the blossoming spring in his films to represent the changing moods of his characters and to signal important events. In Stray Dog the hellish summer heat almost becomes a character of its own.
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One of the movies most remarkable qualities is the way in which the film makes use of Tokyo’s battered and burned exteriors to create an unsettling mood of destruction and desperation that haunts every frame. It presents a part of Japan that was rarely if ever seen in previous films of the period. Some of the credit for the look and feel of Stray Dog must go to Ishiro Honda who worked as a second-unit director on the movie. Honda is mostly known to western audiences as the director of Godzilla (1956) but before becoming a filmmaker Ishiro Honda served with the Japanese military during WW2 and the experience left him deeply troubled. His firsthand knowledge of the firebombing of Tokyo and a visit to Hiroshima after the war left psychological scars on Ishiro Honda that he never fully recovered from. Honda often seemed compelled to revisit the trauma he had suffered in the films he created later on. During the making of Stray Dog Akira Kurosawa asked Ishiro Honda to explore the ruins of post-war Tokyo and film whatever he saw there. Honda made exceptional use of his personal observations and experience while he was shooting and almost everything that he caught on camera was used in the final cut of Stray Dog.

There’s just no getting around the fact that the aftermath of WW2 and its effect on the people who survived it is what really fuels Kurosawa’s film. Tohsiro Mifune’s detective is an ex-soldier but the criminal he is chasing is also an ex-soldier. Both men survived similar circumstances but afterward they followed very different paths. The detective and the criminal are both “stray dogs” trying to find their way in a new and unfamiliar world that has risen from the ashes of war. As a filmmaker Kurosawa’s sympathies seem to be with no one and everyone. You’ll find very few cookie-cutter bad guys or good guys in the movie. I think that’s a reflection of what postwar Japan was experiencing at a very trying time. The examination of their previous alliances and adversaries is mirrored in Kurosawa’s film. The complexity of the characters that populate Stray Dog is something that you don’t often see in crime movies made during the ’40s and that’s just one of the reasons why it’s so rewarding. Stray Dog is one of the most nuanced film noirs I’ve seen but it’s also one of Kurosawa’s most style-conscious efforts.
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The film is full of perfectly composed interior shots as well as lingering close-ups that seem to focus on the most mundane things in unexpected ways. Police procedures are meticulously depicted in the film, but unpredictable moments such as a wonderful dance number and a baseball game, keep the movie exciting. There’s an intimacy between Kurosawa and his actors that is reflected in the way the director’s camera lingers on their warm limbs and sweaty brows. It could be argued that women are often reduced to background characters in Kurosawa’s work but Stray Dog features a remarkable performance from Keiko Awaji as a beautiful but troubled showgirl named Harumi. Like many of the best femme fatales, Harumi isn’t given as much screen time as her male costars but she’s unforgettable as the criminal’s feisty girlfriend.

Stray Dog isn’t my favorite Akira Kurosawa film (that would be High and Low) but if you’re looking for the perfect film to watch while celebrating Akira Kurosawa’s 100th birthday today, I highly recommend giving Stray Dog a look. It’s a thrilling viewing experience and arguably the director’s first true masterpiece which makes it the perfect introduction to his body of work. It also features Kurosawa’s longtime collaborator, the great Toshiro Mifune, in one of his best roles. Mifune is so beautiful in Stray Dog that he’ll take your breath away. Few male actors have looked as good as he does in a white linen suit. You’ve been warned!

Stray Dog airs on TCM today (March 23rd) and it’s currently available on DVD from Criterion.
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“A stray dog sees only what it chases.”

Remembering Yasuharu Hasebe (1932-2009)

btk01Akira Kobayashi in Yasuharu Hasebe’s Black Tight Killers (1966)

While I was trying to compile a post for the Japanese Cinema Blogathon currently happening at Wildgrounds I read the sad news that one of my favorite Japanese directors, Yasuharu Hasebe, has died after he contracted pneumonia on June 14th. Hasebe was 77 years old, but he was still an active director and his last project was the police drama The Case Files of Mamoru Yonezawa (Kanshiki: Yonezawa Mamoru no Jikenbo; 2009).

After learning about Yasuharu Hasebe death I immediately decided to put aside my previous plans to write about one of my favorite Japanese actors (Akira Kobayashi) and focus on writing a bit about Hasebe’s work instead. In a sad coincidence, Akira Kobayashi also appeared in some of Hasebe’s best films.

Only a handful of the movies that Yasuharu Hasebe made are currently available on DVD in the US but they showcase the work of an incredibly talented director who injected his action-packed dramas and violent pink films with pertinent social messages and bucket loads of style. Although he’s not as revered as many of his contemporaries, Yasuharu Hasebe was able to masterfully navigate through the Japanese studio system while carving out his own distinct creative path. The director wrote or co-wrote many of his best films, which often touched on similar themes including female oppression and exploitation, as well as race relations and the American occupation of Japan. Yasuharu Hasebe’s films are frequently sited for their orchestrated action and extreme violence but I think that many of them have maintained their power because of the director’s socially conscious scripts and keen sense of mise-en-scène.

Yasuharu Hasebe seemed to enjoy placing his camera in unexpected places and shooting his films in an intimate manner that is often surprisingly innovative. Although I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else, I firmly believe that the recurring visual motifs and framing techniques seen throughout many of Hasebe films mark his work with an individual flair that is undeniably his own. I wouldn’t hesitate to call Yasuharu Hasebe an “auteur” but I know that I’m in the minority. It’s important to point out (as I’ve often done before) that western film criticism of Japanese cinema is still in its infancy and I suspect that Yasuharu Hasebe’s films will receive much more critical attention and acclaim in the future as more critics and film scholars are exposed to his work.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of my favorite Yasuharu Hasebe films and television productions that are currently available on DVD in the US . . .

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Resurrecting Yusaku Matsuda

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The many faces of Yusaku Matsuda (1950-1989)

Toru Murakawa’s Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (aka Yomigaeru kinrô; 1979) is a wildly uneven Japanese crime film that left me wishing it had been helmed by another director. The film’s script was adapted from a popular novel by Haruhiko Ooyabu and directors like Seijun Suzuki have had great success turning Ooyabu’s hard-boiled fiction into films, but Toru Murakawa doesn’t have Suzuki’s eye for detail or his pop art sensibility. Resurrection of the Golden Wolf runs much too long and the dramatic filler weighs down the action, but even with its flaws the movie still keeps your attention thanks to the star performance of Yusaku Matsuda (aka Yuusaku Matsuda).

In the film Matsuda plays a ruthless super criminal named Tetsuya Asakura in the grand tradition of Fantomas, Diabolik and Kriminal. During the day he pretends to be a mild-mannered accountant wearing Clark Kent style glasses and a bad wig, but once the sun goes down he leaves his suit and tie act behind and heads to a secret lair to plot his diabolical schemes. When the film opens Tetsuya has just committed his greatest heist yet, which nets him a cool 100 milllion yen. But he soon finds out that the bills are all marked and in turn, utterly useless. He decides to invest the bad bills into heroin in an effort to turn a profit, but this leads Tetsuya into the dark underbelly of the Japanese criminal underworld and things soon become more complicated than he had imagined. Sex, drugs, blackmail and murder are just a few of the film’s key ingredients, but unfortunately the movie never really comes together like it should have.

Some of the action scenes are impressive and creatively shot, but just when you think the film’s picking up steam it seems to stumble and lose its focus. This made watching Resurrection of the Golden Wolf an incredibly frustrating experience at times. I found myself wanting to yell at the screen more than once and I wondered out loud why the director had made certain choices that didn’t pay off like they could have if someone like Seijun Suzuki was behind the camera. The film also has a misogynistic streak that’s a little nasty and hard to stomach. There’s absolutely no interesting female characters in the entire film and the ones that do appear are terribly underwritten and lifeless. But in the final analysis my complaints about the movie stand in the long shadow of Yusaku Matsuda’s unforgettable performance as tough-guy Tetsuya Asakura and he’s the real reason to watch Resurrection of the Golden Wolf.

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Yusaku Matsuda in Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (1979)

Yusaku Matsuda is a remarkably physical actor and his tall, lean, confident frame owns every scene he appears in. He doesn’t just say his lines, he growls and barks them at his costars. Even fellow actors like the great Sonny Chiba seem intimidated by Matsuda’s powerful presence. Much like his predecessor Joe Shishido, Matsuda is a lone wolf who doesn’t run with the rest of the pack. He inhabits the nasty character of Tetsuya Asakura so completely that you’ll find yourself wondering about the actor’s history. Is he just another talented thespian or does Matsuda have the kind of past that would make real criminals blush? In truth, he’s a bit of an enigma in real-life and on film. Much of Matsuda’s background is a mystery, but it’s believed that he was born in a Japanese brothel and grew up on the island of Honshu before finding himself on the streets of San Francisco. His youthful memories consisted of drunken fights and botched suicide attempts according to Mark Schilling who wrote a detailed biography about the actor for the Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture (1997). Matsuda overcame his reckless adolescence and painful past when he returned to Japan and became involved in acting. While working in theater he learned to channel his inner rage and personal turmoil into his performances, which gave him an authenticity that is rarely seen in modern actors

Like many American filmgoers, I first encountered Yusaku Matsuda in Ridley Scott’s action-packed police drama Black Rain back in 1989. In the film Matsuda plays a ruthless Yakuza gangster by the name of Sato who struts through the film sporting dark sunglasses and a long black trench coat. Once you’ve seen the film you’ll never forget his wicked grin and maniacal laugh. He’s arguably the best thing in Ridley Scott’s film. Unfortunately for film audiences, Sato would be Yusaku Matsuda’s last role. The actor was diagnosed with cancer before shooting Black Rain began, but his desire to make a Hollywood film and star opposite popular American actor’s like Michael Douglas made him postpone possible treatment. Could doctors have kept Yusaku Matsuda alive for a few more years? We’ll never know. The disease killed the 40-year-old actor just a few months after Black Rain was released.

Even though Yusaku Matsuda’s career ended prematurely, he did leave us with a rich and fascinating legacy. His talented son Ryuhei Matsuda (Taboo, Cutie Honey, Izo, Rampo Noir, Big Bang Love Juvenile A, Nightmare Detective, Tokyo Serendipity, etc.) is one of the best actors working in Japan today. Like his father before him, Ryuhei Matsuda is also a very physical performer, but his personal approach to acting is completely different. His father is symbolically tied to the image of a lone wolf, but Ryuhei seems to have much more in common with an unwieldy reptile. Instead of a tough-as-nails facade, Ryuhei possess an almost feminine grace as well as incredible beauty that is both charming and disarming.

In Japan Yusaku Matsuda has become an iconic figure and the subject of countless books, film festivals, comics, music tributes and art exhibits, but this legendary actor remains virtually unknown in the US. This is mainly due to the fact that so few of the films and television shows he appeared in are available here and most have never been shown outside of Japan. Information about him at IMDB.com and Wikipedia is woefully sparse and inaccurate, but that might change in the future since the films that Yusaku Matsuda’s starred in are slowly finding their way onto DVD. Hopefully we can look forward to a time when Yusaku Matsuda’s work becomes accessible to a whole new generation of American film fans, historians and critics.

Resurrection of the Golden Wolf was released on DVD by Adness in 2005, but since then the DVD has unfortunately gone out of print. You can currently find new and used copies of the film selling for as low as $2 at Amazon.

Yusaku Matsuda Films Currently Available on DVD in the US:
Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (Toru Murakawa; 1979)
Kagero-za (Seijun Suzuki; 1981)
The Family Game (Yoshimitsu Morita; 1983)
Black Rain (Ridley Scott; 1989)

Recommended Links:
Offical Site for Yusaku Matsuda
Yusaku Matsuda Forever (Fan site)
Offical Site for Ryuhei Matsuda (Yusaku Matsuda’s son)