Monday, May 8, 2017

BACK FOR MORE! Another Monday Night at the Movies!

Tickets for tonight's show! Photo by Brett Homenick. 

It was that time again. I returned to the Laputa Asagaya to take in some more films. Tonight's lineup featured two movies that were brand-new to me.

The poster for Toho's Hakone-yama. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

First up was Hakone-yama (1962), a black-and-white Toho drama that is sort of a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The film stars Yuzo Kayama and Yuriko Hoshi as the young lovers, but their blossoming romance is complicated, Shakespeare-style, by the conflicts of two competing Japanese inns during an explosive period of growth in Hakone's tourism industry.

Black Rose's poster. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Following Hakone-yama was the Kinji Fukasaku-directed Black Rose (1969), a pseudo-sequel to Fukasaku's Black Lizard (1968), from Shochiku Studios. I'd never seen Black Rose before, despite knowing of its existence for nearly 20 years. Honestly, I've never seen it available anywhere, officially or unofficially. This was my first opportunity to see the film. What did I think of it? I'll get to that in a moment. But let's return to Hakone-yama first.

While there is something to be said for the merits of Hakone-yama, I must admit that it bored me much of the time. Of course, this isn't entirely the movie's fault, as it's to be expected when you're watching an unsubtitled drama in a foreign language, but so much of the movie moved at a glacial pace that I must ding it for that. Still, the performances were strong, and I do hope to have the chance to see the film subtitled someday.

Black Rose was a much more dynamic and interesting film, even with no subtitles. That said, it is a much less ambitious and much less of a genre picture than Black Lizard, and it has virtually nothing to do with its predecessor, aside from the fact that male actor Akihiro Maruyama returns as a female character. In fact, some actors from Black Lizard return here, but in completely different roles. The camp you'd expect from a film like this is certainly evident, but in much less quantities. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I appreciated the fact that it didn't try to rehash the first film.

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