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.
February 24
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
February 23
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
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