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Thursday, March 24, 2011

BAKUHA 3-BYO MAE / 3 SECONDS BEFORE EXPLOSION (1967)

With Criterion issuing the cream of the ‘60s actioners from Nikkatsu Studios, Kino-DVD is left with slim pickings like this mindless shoot-em-up, haphazardly helmed by Tan Ida. Akira Kobayashi (who’s a bit like Chow Yun-Fat) stars as an undercover government agent on the trail of a stash of gems & gold, missing since the end of WWII. Hideki Takahashi is also on the hunt as a rival agent, but these two soon join forces against a barrage of Yakuza gangs, German mobsters(!), and various independent operators. It’s a workable set up for dramatic mayhem, but the action & plotting are laughably arbitrary. Nothing adds up, and the action stuff plays out like James Bond gone Dada. (That makes it sound better than it is.) There’s fun in the KodaChrome look of it all, but it’s really not worth the effort. And to think this bland time-filler came out just as Nikkatsu was about to fire their great eccentric helmer Seijun Suzuki, proving that Japanese studio execs are just as dumb as their Hollywood counterparts.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Get your Nikkatsu Studios game on with YOUTH OF THE BEAST/’63; unmatchable pulp from Seijun Suzuki at his ‘pop’ best.

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