- Ravi Swami
Go To Hell Bastards!!...Dir: Seijun Suzuki, 1963
Updated: 3 days ago
"Go to Hell Bastards!" or to give it its full title "Detective Bureau 2-3, Go To Hell Bastards!", directed by Seijin Suzuki, is one of a series of hard-boiled thrillers centering on the murky underworld of the Japanese "Yakuza" and produced by the Nikkatsei Studios - a counterpart to the American gangster film and pulp fiction genres of the 1920' and 30's that preceded and clearly influenced it.
I watched this last week after reaching something of a stalemate in my lockdown viewing - some films I wanted to see were not available in the U.K for streaming, for example, and quite how this came up as a suggestion is hard to pinpoint, though it's likely that it was based on my viewing of several Japanese films where there is a genre overlap eg some films of Akira Kurosawa that have a contemporary rather than historical setting.
I'd certainly never heard of or seen the extraordinary lead of the film, Joe Shishido, an early adopter of cosmetic surgery in 1957 to make his former matinee idol looks more rugged, and the end result may be responsible for the moniker "Chipmunk Face" - he's certainly very watchable and it paid off well for him as an actor since he went on to play similar roles in a string of Yakuza thrillers, of which this and two others - "A Colt is My Passport" and "Youth of the Beast" - are standout examples of his work as an actor - even more extraordinary is the fact that he died only this year !
Various weapons figure prominently, as they do in later films, something that reaches a peak in "Youth of the Beast" and that is reminiscent of Brian De Palma's "Scarface" and a lot of 80's / 90's films, especially in the work of Quentin Tarantino, who has acknowledged the influence of these films on his work.
Another common trope of these films is the treatment of female characters - as mentioned in an earlier blog entry, certainly within the male-dominated ranks of the Yakuza, women are relegated to being playthings and expendible and here it is no different. However for the most part in spite of the sometimes terrible indignities they suffer at the hands of various men, their roles are treated sympathetically in the context of a period in history where traditional roles for women in Japan were being challenged, though admittedly to a lesser extent than in the West.
A key influence in terms of style of film-making and tone appears to be the French New Wave, which was roughly simultaneous in time, and can be seen most noticeably in the work of Jean Pierre Melville, with films like "le Doulos", where Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a hitman who has no qualms about roughing up a female character in order to extract a confession from her, a scene that is quite shocking even now.
A friend recommended "A Colt is My Passport" and I duly watched it last night - shot in B/W, it follows a hit-man - who else but Joe Shishido ? - on the run from a rival Yakuza gang after being hired by another Yakuza rival to assassinate their boss, all set to a "Spaghetti Western" score, with Shishido doing a good impression of Clint Eastwood - grimy suburban hotels stand in for the stock desert cantinas and saloons of Westerns and there's a gripping shoot-out at the climax at not quite high-noon (7.00 a.m) in an expanse of landfill on edge of town.