Thursday, March 27, 2008


Black and White 1966 running time 87 min.

Country: Japan

Director: Takeshi Yamazaki

Starring: Aki Iwate, Randy Suzuki, Nana Yoshida & Shinju Tanahashi

This film starts and just moves, the result is incredible. Aki Iwate plays a young ninja it training named Ryu, but also referred to by his secret ninja name; Giant. The problem is Ryu just wants to have fun while he’s still young, before he devotes his life to the ninja profession. For this reason his teacher chastises Ryu, but he also lets out a boys-will-be-boys kind of chuckle when he is out of Ryu’s sight line. Ryu owns a roadster and always wears sunglasses. His best friend is a little kid named Hideo. Hideo dresses in a school uniform and sits shotgun in Ryu’s ride. Hideo is always reading. At one point he’s reading Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammet, and Ryu asks if the book is any good. Hideo says in English, “Eh, It’s all right, I guess”. At night Ryu hangs out at a club where his girlfriend Lisa works. Randy Suzuki shows up and it is clear these two do not get along. Suzuki plays a young Yakuza named Salamander he’s some sort of leader in a street gang, and he has a gaggle of yes-men with him at all times. A fight breaks out in the club when Salamander commands his men to attack Ryu. Giant takes them all out, but is clocked in the head with a pipe wielded by an unseen person. When Ryu awakes Lisa has been kidnapped. Her close friend and fellow dancer Mia played by the stunning Shinju Tanahashi offers her assistance. Mia saw Salamander grab Lisa so they have to find his lair. Giant hops into the roadster and their off to enlist the help of the Teacher. Sensei makes an invisibility potion and gives it to Giant. He also tells Giant he must use the Typhoon Kick special move to defeat Salamander. Giant complains, he has not mastered the move and it would be too dangerous to employ near civilians. Mia demands to be taken home, so she can change out of her dance/work clothes. Giant drops her off and waits in the car when he notices the elixir. He takes a chug and goes up to Mia’s apartment where she is changing. The music amps up and the-now-invisible Ryu gets a little show. When Lisa is dressed in an all black one-piece she goes to a cabinet and removes a box of ninja weapons. Could Mia be a ninja too? When Mia returns to the street the car drives away without a driver, she is confused. Next we get a strange POV shot of a dance club. Girls are getting goosed but they can’t see by what. A door opens on it’s own and we know Giant is lurking. Down in the basement we see Lisa with Salamander, and the whole lot of Salamander’s thugs but Lisa is unbound they are talking about their plan to get to Sensei through Ryu. They’re in it together! In shock, Giant knocks over a ladder. Salamander produces a German Luger and fires blindly at the area. Salamander orders, “Tadao, go check that out”,. Tadao is short and wears an all white tuxedo! Tadao lights a cigarette and blows smoke in the area of the ladder the smoke reveals the shape of Giant and a fight ensues. The Salamander gang gets Giant wrapped in rope just as the potion is wearing off. Ryu tells Lisa she’s a traitor. She laughs, and tells him how much she is going to enjoy killing him. Then Mia busts through the door with a hail of throwing stars. Poor Tadao gets one in the neck. Giant and Mia hop in the car and flee. Here Ryu explains the art of the Typhoon Kick. When landed properly the victim will first go deaf followed by blindness and eventual death. Also Mia and Ryu nearly kiss. The ninja team confronts the gang once again, but outnumbered they escape to the underground sewers of Tokyo. After several fights below ground they arrive at Sensei’s, but Salamander is out front holding the Luger to Hideo’s head. Hideo elbows Salamander in the groin, Sensei appears behind the group and nets all of them but Salamander. A long fight takes place between Giant and Salamander, but Salamander gets the upper hand and is about to fire a shot to the head. Suddenly Mia shouts “Typhoon Kick” and launches a super spin kick too Salamander’s head. Salamander looks to his trapped gang they are shouting but he hears nothing. Then we see him stumble blinded, groping at air. He grabs his head and collapses, dead. Sensei explains he had secretly been training Mia all along and he knew of the plot to assassinate him. They all laugh, then Giant and Mia go dancing.

This is very beautiful film. I am happy to have seen it. There are some terrible things about it though. For one I don’t know why it was shot in B&W. I guess it made the special effects easier to do. But it would have been truly fantastic in color. Also the tension is completely destroyed by the set-up and instant answer formula the film uses. But those complaints aside, this is a five star movie.

1 comment:

gardoni said...

Dear Mr. Kong,

I have read every single critique you've ever written. I am your biggest fan. Please don't stop.