Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Saw a couple of good kaidan-eiga (supernatural period dramas) recently. Crest of Betrayal (1994) takes the Ghost of Yotsuya story and mushes it together with the Chushingura, resulting in the wicked ronin Iemon (actually not so wicked in this version) as a member of the Loyal 47 Ronin of the Asano clan. (He was apparently hired on right before Lord Asano lost it and tried to hack up the manipulative Lord Kira; Asano's subsequent enforced seppuku has, of course, left his retainers bent on revenge.) Iemon's wife, Oiwa, is poisoned by the family of Oume, a rival for Iemon's affections, and becomes the classic long-haired, vengeful lady ghost. Kinji Fukasaku directs with style and flair. Playing Iemon is Koichi Sato, whom you might have seen in the Shinsengumi flick When the Last Sword is Drawn (2003, reviewed in my forthcoming book, Warring Clans, Flashing Blades, due out in June). Oiwa is played by the beautiful and buxom Saki Takaoka (who'll be co-starring in a film with Danny Glover this summer). And you won't want to miss cult film fave Renji Ishibashi in a bizarre turn as Oume's rich weirdo daddy.

Demon of Mt. Oe is an all-star Daiei epic from 1960 starring Raizo Ichikawa, Shintaro Katsu, Kazuo Hasegawa, Tamao Nakamura, Kojiro Hongo, Jun Tazaki and many others. Raizo plays Yorimitsu "Raiko" Minamoto, a storied samurai warrior of Japan's medieval period known for going up against supernatural foes. (Kei Sato played Raiko in the classic Kuroneko, another film drawing on the spooky folklore of the period). Demon of Mt. Oe offers a thrilling blend of samurai sword action and fanciful (and at times cheesy) special effects involving a giant spider, demonic creatures coming down from the skies, spectral sorcerers and the like. I highly recommend this forgotten gem to anyone interested in Japanese film and folklore.

No comments: