Red Pier: a strong tragic-crook piece from Toshio Masuda, director of Outlaw: Gangster VIP. Yukiro Tashihara toplines as Jiro, a crook who finds himself in shady little town where he’s caught between love for a working girl and the treachery of the local yakuza. It’s an effective little mix of James Dean-ish melodrama and crime movie thrills with a compelling lead performance from Ishihara, who has an Elvis-style solo song atop a roof, and visually impressive direction from Masuda. Look out for an alleyway pistol duel that takes place against the backdrop of a festival and an unorthodox finale that achieves catharsis in a minimalist way.
The Rambling Guitarist: another Nikkatsu mix of yakuza and teen-appeal fare, with Akira Kobayashi as Shinji, a drifter who wanders into a seaside town where business and family troubles swirl within the local yakuza. He tries to fit in while sticking to his own code but things get complex when he meets a rival yakuza (Jo Shishido) who knows about his past. At 77 minutes, the film has an all-killer/no-filler feel as it rockets through action and melodrama at equal speed with dazzling Cinemascope color visuals that include a lot of ace location work. Kobayashi makes an interesting minimalist lead but the show-stealer is Shishido, who brings a sleazy charisma to his role as a hotheaded yet oddly principled yakuza who’s determined to force the hero into a showdown.
(Both of the above titles are included in Arrow’s Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 set alongside Voice Without A Shadow. The package includes trailers and galleries for each film plus a couple of interview shorts with Jasper Sharp to illuminate this set’s corner of Nikkatsu history.)
Sex Murder Art: a jam-packed box set from Cult Epics devoted to the work of notorious German horror/shock specialist Jorg Buttgereit. This set contains Nekromantik and its sequel plus Der Todesking and Schramm. All four are infamous button-pushers in the underground horror world but they also capture a unique avant-garde sensibility that you don’t often see in other films lumped into this category. The results are a specialized taste, to be sure, but anyone interested gets the best possible presentation with this set. Buttgereit approved the transfers, did intros for each film and is all over the impressive extras which include commentaries, making-of pieces and the director’s oft-bootlegged short films. There’s even two compact discs containing soundtracks for each film. Needless to say, it’s one-stop shopping for anyone interested in this one-of-a-kind shock specialist.