Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 25th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, July 26th, 1969
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
Writers: Kazuo Aoki, Yasuharu Hasebe
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ryoji Hayama, Tadao Nakamaru, Hiroshi NawaDVD Released: June 22nd, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Home Vision
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: A large crime syndicate is forced to dissolve under pressure from the police. They are forced to legitimize themselves only the Onogi clan isn’t quite ready to call it day and they refuse to join the rest of the Yakuza who have decided to go straight. Boss Onogi is the leader of the clan and two right hand men are Yuji (Akira Kobayashi) and Seiichi who loyalty that extends to dying if needed. The Kansai Association (another clan), moves in to take control of the territories abandoned by Onogi’s former allies. To prevent from going to war Boss Onogi meets with the Kansai Association and in the process of making amends through ritual and gambling, Onogi goes into deep debt. The Kansai Association through their schemes strips the Onogi clan of all their assets and in effect dissolves the clan. After Boss Onogi and Seiichi, Yuji seeks vengeance and meets up with the Kansai Association in a final bloody showdown.
At a time when most Yakuza films where usually set in the early 20th century with sword wielding protagonists. Yasuharu Hasebe’s Bloody Territories is a modern day yakuza tale in which hero’s and villains are mirror images of each other was part of the metamorphosis that had began in the late 1960’s as the studios in Japan decided to update the Yakuza for the modern audiences. Bloody Territories is more grounded then Yasuharu Hasebe’s other films from this time period. Knives and swords are the weapon of choice no guns are used in this film and the gritty action isn’t as creative as most Yakuza films from the late 1960’s.
The cast on a whole are satisfying and the only real standout is the brooding performance from Akira Kobayashi who plays Yuji. Yasuharu Hasebe is pretty standard through out still he manages to squeeze in a few moments of inspired direction. This film is loaded with violent images such as when a young girl is rapped in her hotel room and most of the knifings in the film with their spurting blood feel excessive as they stab their victims repeatedly. Bloody Territories in the final moments tries to be a cautionary tale only it is too late since we have gone through this journey with cold unfeeling characters with little of no redeeming qualities about them.
Bloody Territories is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been given the anamorphic treatment. The sharp image exhibits strong colors and grain is kept to a minimum. The flesh tones look healthy while blacks are rich in detail overall this transfer is one of American Cinematheque’s better releases.
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.
Extras included filmography for director Yasuharu Hasebe, the trailer, and the insightful liner notes by author Chris D. Other extras include a Zatoichi Collection promo trailer. Bloody Territories is nothing like Yasuharu Hasebe previous film Black Tight Killers, a James Bond like spoof. Instead with Bloody Territories Yasuharu Hasebe direction is not as flashy as his other films as he focuses more on making a straightforward Yakuza film that is grounded in brutal conflict. Bloody Territories is another winner from American Cinematheque and I highly recommend it.