Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 4th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1968
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Shinji Fujiwara
Cast: Hiroki Matsukata, Tomomi Sato, Akira Jo, Hideo Murota
DVD Released: January 13th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Home Vision
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Blackmail is my Life is a tale of four partners Shun (Hiroki Matsukata), Otoki (Tomomi Sato), Noguchi, “Zero” (Akira Jo), and Seki (Hideo Murota). Shun spends his time busing tables and cleaning toilets while his boss gets richer. He accidentally over hears the boss who has been watering down the scotch sold to bars and night clubs. We learn through a series of flashbacks how the partners meet and discovered blackmail as a career. Shuns girlfriend is one of his former victims, a beautiful movie star (Yoko Mihara).
When they discover a near by “safe house” is secretly filming the call girls and their clients. With a potentially lucrative opportunity, they decide to infiltrate the house with their blackmail scheme. When Zero’s old man is murdered by drug traffickers the stakes are raised as Shun and his cohorts turn their blackmailing skills to revenge. Shuns accidental saving of a government minister from an assassin’s bullet provides them with the chance to obtain a secret memo that could potentially bring down the government. Later when Shun and his partners become involved with a high-stakes memorandum, that is in the hands of a rich loan shark (Kenjiro Ishiyama).
Blackmail is my life was thrown together in great haste by director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royal, Battle Without Honor or Humanity), who adapted Shinji Fujiwara’s story over a weekend. Kinji Fukasaku’s use of black & white and tinted flashbacks, with highly stylized compositions and use of multiple freeze frames used for dramatic punctuation. Kinji Fukasaku takes a routine crime melodrama and gives it an art house sophistication that helps further the scripts flat exposition.
Blackmail is My Life is presented in its original Shochiku Grand Scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with a 16:9 anamorphic transfer. The image is sharp and has good color, but the source elements are grainy at times, especially during nighttime scenes. The image overall is not as good as Home Visions other Kinji Fukasaku DVD’S.
The only audio option on this DVD is the original Japanese Mono track and the sound is sufficient as all the action and dialog are easy to hear. The subtitles are easy to read and follow.
The main extra is a lengthy (18-minute) interview with Fukasaku, conducted just months prior to his death in January 2003. The Director’s filmography and Patrick Macias’s author of (ToykoScope) informative liner notes. Home Vision did neglect to put Blackmail is my life’s trailer on the DVD, even though the put it on another one of their DVD’S.
Kinji Fukasaku films are diverse and experimental. Blackmail is my Life is fascinating film that encompasses most of Fukasaku’s cinema style and I recommend this title whether or not you are already a fan of Kinji Fukasaku, because after you watch this film you will be.