Life is a Carnival

The Japanese film poster for THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS (1961).

Most Japanese film fans and cult movie buffs are certainly familiar with maverick director Seijun Suzuki for his ultra-stylish and unconventional yakuza thrillers Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967). Not as well known are the numerous genre films he was assigned by his studio Nikkatsu in the late fifties/early sixties. One of his most atypical efforts is The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain Pass (Japanese title: Toge o wataru wakai kaze, 1961), which is like a more adult variation on James Otis Kaler’s Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks with a Circus except, in this case, the protagonist is not a kid but a college student majoring in economics. There is also no circus, just a traveling carnival troupe with an uncertain future. Yet, the tone is surprisingly upbeat and cheerful with moments of slapstick comedy, musical interludes, dramatic incidents and a subplot involving competitive yakuza gangs, who are closer to bumbling schoolyard bullies than menacing gangsters.

A massive lantern float lights up the nightime sky in THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS (1961), a Japanese film about a traveling carnival troupe.
Continue reading

The Pinku-Yakuza Eiga Combo That is Something Else Entirely

Hitman Sho (Yuichi Minato) fantasizes about killing his rival Ko (Shohei Yamamoto) in Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967, aka Dutch Wife in the Desert)

Hitman Sho (Yuichi Minato) fantasizes about killing his rival Ko (Shohei Yamamoto) in Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967, aka Dutch Wife in the Desert)

Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands sounds like a make-believe movie title but it actually exists. Made in 1967, this genuine head scratcher that is also known as Dutch Wife in the Desert (Koya no Dacchi waifu) has elements of two popular genres in Japanese cinema – softcore erotic films (Pinku eiga) and gangster dramas (Yakuza eiga) – but is unlikely to please fans of either due to its fragmented narrative structure and emphasis on style at the expense of delivering the expected goods (sex and violence) in a logical linear progression. In other words, it’s chaotic, rude, goofy, pretentious, misogynistic (big surprise), and unafraid to be boring or narcissistic.    Continue reading