Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2024
JO COOL
Shishido and his last line of defense.


Jo Shishido fronts this poster for Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded To Kill, flanked by armed and dangerous sidekicks Mariko Ogawa and Annu Mari. This serves as a second alternate promo to the original, which we showed you years ago. See that here, and the tateken promo here. Koroshi no rakuin premiered in Japan today in 1967. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 15 2022
HARD TARGET
His wife sometimes made him so mad he felt like he could kill her. Then the opportunity came.


We've watched a lot of movies this month, and today is the day we begin squeezing them onto the site before the end of the year. The shooter's POV poster above was made for Aiyoku no wana, aka Trap of Lust, which is a roman porno reinterpretation of Seijun Suzuki's 1967 gangster classic Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded to Kill. It's the story of a veteran hitman who botches an assignment, with the unexpected consequence that he's ordered to kill his own wife.

It isn't a punishment thing, exactly, that brings this about. The reason she becomes his target is narratively more complex. But killing one's spouse is not easy even for a cold-blooded professional terminator, and ultimately he's pitted against a couple of top yakuza hitmen, one of whom is a freaky deaky assassin who does his work alongside a nearly life-sized marionette that he voices like a schoolgirl. We know it sounds out there, and it is. Look at the screenshots below for an idea what this disturbed character is about.

The marionette gimmick isn't totally gratuitous. It contributes to a pivotal duel that by itself nudges the movie onto the positive side of the watch/don't watch ledger. While we're tempted to get into the weird psychocultural reasons why embodiments of pure human evil in Japanese films are often covered in brown shoe polish, we'll just leave the obvious unspoken. Ready for something bizarre? Then go for it. Aiyoku no wana premiered in Japan today in 1973.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 2 2013
SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT
He can’t hit the side of a barn with those shades on but he looks damn cool.

The above represents a bit of an addendum post. A few years ago we shared a poster for Koroshi no rakuin, aka Branded To Kill. This is a second promo poster we recently found and decided was worth a share. See the first poster along with a rundown of the movie here. 

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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.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
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