Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2010
SUNGLASS MENAGERIE
Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades.

Above is a poster for Seijan Suzuki’s 1967 underground gangster flick Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded To Kill, with Jo Shishido and Annu Mari. This is about as stylish a movie as you could hope to see, with some stunning directorial flourishes and a cool jazz score. When Tokyo’s No. 3 Killer misses a mark because a butterfly lands in front of his rifle scope, he must pay the price for his failure. Pretty soon he’s facing off against No. 1 Killer, who was supposed to be a myth but turns out to be very real.

Shot in black and white, Koroshi no rakuin is all shadows, flames and frantic shootouts between guys in skinny ties. Suzuki goes on a whirlwind tour of Tokyo and its environs, seeking out every unusual backdrop imaginable for his meticulous and surreal set pieces. We think the movie is worth viewing for the fire stunt alone—a gangster holes up in a WWII bunker, and when it catches fire he flees while fully aflame and manages a fifty yard sprint down a rocky slope, running so fast that the wind of his passage pushes the flames behind him like the crest of some exotic bird.

Like everything else in Koroshi no rakuin, the moment is over all too quickly. That could also be said of its theatrical run—the film was a flop, and its failure resulted in conflicts between Suzuki and his studio Nikkatsu that got him blacklisted for ten years. In a sense, we can understand Nikkatsu's disappointment—it's clear Suzuki didn't take his assignment to direct a gangster film as literally as he might have. But as always, the most important critic of all is time, and Suzuki’s nervous, absurdist, disjointed noir masterpiece has survived. Koroshi no rakuin opened in Tokyo today in 1967.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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