|A Double Edged Sword: The
Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo
Sponsored by the
Information in Japanese
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Two of the most phenomenally popular and versatile stars of the
great postwar period in Japanese cinema, actors Shintaro Katsu (1931 1997)
and Raizo Ichikawa (1931 1969) remain almost criminally unknown outside
their home country. While they couldnt be more physically dissimilar
Katsu was an explosive bulldog of a man, while Ichikawa had an ethereal, almost alien
beauty to him both actors shared a sublime ability to transcend genre stereotypes,
creating action heroes who were wounded, soul-searching individuals.
Shintaro Katsu, blending the pathos and humor of
Chaplins "Little Tramp" with the masculine authority of a Robert Mitchum,
started work at Daiei Studios in the mid-1950s. More of a blustery extrovert
on-screen (and off-), Katsu became a huge star in 1962 playing the Blind Swordsman in the
ZATOICHI film series. He was so successful by the late 1960s that he started his own
production company, producing many of the later ZATOICHI pictures as well as all six of
the LONE WOLF AND CUB films (starring his brother Tomisaburo Wakayama). The success of the
Blind Swordsman movies allowed Katsu to branch out into other roles, working with master
directors like Yasuzo Masumura (HOODLUM SOLDIER, 1965) and Hideo Gosha (HITOKIRI, 1969.)
Katsu died of cancer in 1997, robbing Japanese cinema of one of its most distinctive
A native of Kyoto, Raizo Ichikawa began his career at Daiei
at the same time as Katsu, and worked there exclusively, becoming one of the studios
top box-office draws. He was a favorite of action auteurs like Kenji Misumi, Kazuo Ikehiro
and Kazuo Mori, who used his feline grace and eerie, mask-like features in period
thrillers like NINJA, BAND OF ASSASSINS and the KYOSHIRO NEMURI films, as well as
contemporary dramas like A CERTAIN KILLER and THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION (based on
the Yukio Mishima novel.) Ichikawas exquisitely romantic presence inspired legions
of female and male fans, and earned him the title of the "Japanese James Dean."
His meteoric career was tragically cut short by cancer in 1969.
We are very excited to present this long overdue tribute
honoring two legends of modern Japanese cinema, Raizo Ichikawa and Shintaro Katsu,
featuring brand new 35 mm. prints of three of the acclaimed ZATOICHI Blind Swordsman films
Friday, October 11 7:00 PM
SWORD OF FIRE aka BURNING SWORD
OF KYOSHIRO NEMURI (NEMURI KYOSHIRO ENJO KEN -- #5 of series), 1965, Daiei, 83 min.
Dir. Kenji Misumi. Created by writer Renzaburo Shibata, the half-breed Kyoshiro
Nemuri, whose noble mother was raped by a Portuguese missionary-turned-Satanist(!), was
one of the great anti-heroes of Japanese film and literature. Raizo Ichikawa was
perfect casting, portraying Nemuri with just the right amount of detached misanthropy and
lone wolf chivalry. In SWORD OF FIRE, Nemuri soon regrets rescuing duplicitous Tamao
Nakamura as she leads him into a maze of betrayal and violent death.
Friday, October 11 9:15 PM
Blind Swordsman Double-Feature Brand
New 35 mm. Prints!!
ZATOICHI ENTERS AGAIN aka NEW TALE OF
ZATOICHI (SHIN ZATOICHI MONOGATARI -- #3 in series), 1963, Janus/Daiei, 91 min. Dir.
Tokuzo Tanaka. When the visiting Ichi (Shintaro Katsu) plans to marry the sister
(Mikiko Tsubouchi) of his sword mentor (Seizaburo Kawazu), the angry teacher bars him from
their house. Ichi soon discovers that not only is his beloved teacher corrupt, but also
responsible for several murders -- which inevitably leads to a tragic, action-packed
confrontation between the two blade masters.
ZATOICHI, THE FUGITIVE (ZATOICHI
KYOJO TABI - #4 in series), 1963, Janus/Daiei, 86 min. Dir. Tokuzo Tanaka. Wandering
masseur Ichi (Shintaro Katsu) is forced to kill an unwanted attacker, then
compassionately decides to inform the dead mans mother, a feisty old yakuza moll.
Soon, Ichi is up to his neck dealing with an evil gang boss (Toru Abe), a former flame
(Masayo Banri), and a cruel yojimbo (Toshitaro Kitashiro). There are spectacular pitched
sword battles galore here, as well as one of Akira Ifukubes most beautiful scores.
One of the best in the series.
Saturday, October 12 5:00 PM
Raizo Ichikawa and Shintaro Katsu Together!
SAMURAI VENDETTA aka CHRONICLE
OF PALE CHERRY BLOSSOMS (HAKU OKI), 1959, Daiei, 109 min. Raizo Ichikawa is a
young samurai official betrayed by his fiancées family, with two-fisted Shintaro
Katsu the best friend who tries to minimize the damage while staying loyal to his
persecuted comrade. After nearly being killed in an ambush, Ichikawa disappears
only to later return as a heartbroken, one-armed swordsman. Kazuo Mori directed
this oft-filmed fable with an eye for pastoral beauty and tragic romance --
Ichikawas climactic swordfight in the falling snow while his long-separated love
looks on, is one of the classic moments in 1950s Japanese cinema.
Saturday, October 12 7:45 PM
Raizo Ichikawa Double Feature
SCAR YOSABURO (KIRARE YOSABURO),
1960, Daiei, 94 min. Director Daisuke Ito was a combination John Ford/King Vidor in
Japan, a silent film pioneer who thrived in the sound era with his intelligent and
romantic period pieces that never resorted to cheap sentiment. In SCAR YOSABURO, vengeful yakuza
thugs mutilate the face of an actor (Raizo Ichikawa) after hes caught with
the gang bosss mistress. Despite his physical and emotional wounds, Yosaburo manages
to find true love with a young noblewoman (Manami Fuji) being victimized by villains
until the lovers are forced to flee, with both police and gang in hot pursuit. A
misty, moonlit tale from kabuki origins and a stirring classic of Japanese period cinema.
THE LONE STALKER (HITORI OKAMI)
1968, Daiei, 83 min. An excellent example of the matatabi (samurai gambler)
picture, THE LONE STALKER ranks as one of Raizo Ichikawas all-time best.
Employing flashbacks within flashbacks and a style poised somewhere between Budd
Boetticher and early Sergio Leone, director Kazuo Ikehiro charts the chivalrous
Ichikawas descent from young-man-in-love to vengeance-obsessed wanderer. With Isamu
Nagato, Mayumi Ogawa.
Sunday, October 13 5:00 PM
New 35mm Blind Swordsman Print!
JOURNEY aka ZATOICHI AND THE SCOUNDRELS (ZATOICHI KENKA TABI -- #5 in series), 1963,
Janus/Daiei, 87 min. Dir. Kimiyoshi Yasuda. Once again, humble, peace-loving masseur Ichi
(Shintaro Katsu) finds himself the target of warring yakuza some want
the bounty on his head, others want to hire him for his legendary sword skills. Meanwhile,
hes busy trying to safely escort a kidnapped woman (Shiho Fujimura) back to her
family without getting killed in the process. With Reiko Fujiwara.
Sunday, October 13 7:00 PM
DESTINYS SON (KIRU) 1962,
Daiei, 71 min. Raizo Ichikawa stars as a swordsman bent on revenge after his
adoptive family are murdered by a jealous bureaucrat. Director Kenji Misumi creates
an astonishing, dreamlike samurai film from Kaneto Shindos amazing script a
demonic masterpiece awash with brilliant blues and reds, and fueled by the most deranged
organ score weve ever heard. With Masayo Banri.
SECRETS OF A COURT MASSEUR (SHIRANUI
KENGYO), 1960, Daiei, 91 min. Strangely enough, the ZATOICHI series was not the first time
Shintaro Katsu played a blind masseur/killer! But here, in director Kazuo
Moris stark period fable, Katsu is anything but a selfless hero. Instead, his
shrewd, greedy masseur murders his way to the top of the social and political ladder,
taking time to rudely seduce Tamao Nakamura (Katsus real-life spouse) along the way.