Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 12th, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1960 (Tokyo Mighty Joe), Japan, 1962 (Danger Pays), Japan, 1965 (Murder Unincorporated)
Directors: Buichi Saitô (Tokyo Mighty Joe), Kô Nakahira (Danger Pays), Haruyasu Noguchi (Murder Unincorporated)
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Arihiro Fujimura, Hiroshi Kondô, Shôichi Ozawa, Toranosuke Ogawa (Tokyo Mighty Joe), Jô Shishido, Hiroyuki Nagato, Ruriko Asaoka, Arihiro Fujimura, Eiji Gô (Danger Pays), Yumiko Nogawa, Eiji Gô, Jô Shishido, Daizaburô Hirata (Murder Unincorporated)
BluRay released: June 13th, 2016 (UK) / June 21st, 2016 (USA)
Approximate running times: 79 minutes (Tokyo Mighty Joe), 83 minutes (Danger Pays), 89 minutes (Murder Unincorporated)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free / Region Free NTSC
Retail Price: $49.95 (USA) / £24.99 (UK)
Tokyo Mighty Joe: Shortly after his return to Tokyo from Paris, Jiro opens a French cuisine restaurant in the Ginza district. Along the way he runs into some unwanted trouble and with the help of an eccentric former politician he confronts his problem head on.
Tokyo Mighty Joe was directed by Buichi Saitô whose other notable films include, The Rambling Guitarist and Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril. Key collaborators on Tokyo Mighty Joe include, cinematographer Kuratarô Takamura (Tattooed Life, Gangster VIP) and composer Taichirô Kosugi (Cyborg 009).
Content wise, this musical is equal parts romantic comedy and melodrama, with the bulk of the conflict coming from gangsters who are extorting protecting money from local businesses. With that being said, these are a different kind of gangsters, then the ones have since become synonymous with Nikkatsu action cinema.
The narrative ensures that there is never a dull moment by keeping things moving forward and at a brisk momentum. The main characters are well defined and their motivations are never in doubt! And when it comes to the use of humor, this film hit the mark more often then it misses the mark. With the funniest moments revolving Toranosuke Ogawa’s character a former prime minister.
From a production standpoint there are no areas where this film is lacking. With the one area where this film far exceeds expectations are its visuals. And stylistically this film owes a great debt to Hollywood musicals.
Performance with the cast are all good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance coming from its leading man Akira Kobayashi (Kanto Wanderer, Black Tight Killers) in the role of Jirô Shimizu, a young man who has just returned to Japan after studying French cuisine in France. Other notable performances include, Ruriko Asaoka (Goyokin) in the role of Hideko Matsuda, her character finds herself in a love triangle with Jirô and Sanae Nakahara in the role of a young woman whose own story plays a large role in this film’s subplot.
Danger Pays: When one billion yen goes missing a resourceful criminal named “Joe the Ace” sees the opportunity to get rich. Unfortunately, things quickly go awry when it becomes apparent that he is not that only one with the same ambition. Will he be able to stay one step ahead of his competition or will he join forces with some of his competitors to improve his odds?
Danger Pays was directed by Kô Nakahira whose other notable films include, Crazed Fruit, The Hunter’s Diary, Inter-Pol, Rica and Rica 2: Lonely Wanderer. Key collaborators on Danger Pays include, cinematographer Shinsaku Himeda (The Pornographers, Vengeance is Mine) and composer Harumi Ibe (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, A Colt Is My Passport).
Outside of Japan Nikkatsu primarily known for their stylized action films, most notably Tokyo Drifter. And yet these type of films were just a fraction of the type of films what they were known for. In the latter half of the 1950’s and early part of the 1960’s they would often delve into the action / comedy hybrid. With the emphasis more on the latter.
This brings us too Danger Pays, a crime themed adventure that is overflowing with well-timed humor. Another strength of this film is its premise and the way its exploits said premise. Also the narrative is straight forward and easy to follow. The characters are well defined and their motivations are often in doubt! With this latter element lending itself to some of the funniest moments in the film. And when it comes to pacing there is never an issues or a dull moment as things move along briskly.
From a production stand point there are no areas where this film does not deliver. Band besides the aforementioned use of humor, another area where this film often excels are its rock solid visuals. Standout moments in this film include, a scene where Joe the Ace crosses paths with a receptionist named Tomoko Akiyama who is well versed in Judo and another standout moment includes, the scene where Joe and his four associates are locked in a room filling with gas and left to die. Not willing to give up so easy, these ever resourceful group of criminals’ band together and escape. Unfortunately, for them something more deadly is waiting for them around the corner.
Performance wise the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With film’s standout performance being the ever reliable Jô Shishido in the role Joe the Ace. Other standout performances include, Hiroyuki Nagato (My Second Brother, Koto) in the role of Tetsuzô ‘Slide-Rule” Okita, Kôjirô Kusanagi (The Warped Ones) in the role of Ken “Dump-Truck” Serizawa and Ruriko Asaoka in the role of Tomoko Akiyama.
Murder Unincorporated: When the ever elusive and mysterious killer named “Joe of Spades” kills one of the bosses from a major crime syndicate. This causes a panic amongst the remaining bosses who then hire all of the unemployed assassins as their bodyguards.
Murder Unincorporated was directed by Haruyasu Noguchi whose other notable films include, Debt Paid with Flesh and Cat Girls Gamblers . Key collaborators on Murder Unincorporated include, cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka (Voice Without a Shadow, Branded to Kill) and composer Keitaro Miho (Everything Goes Wrong, Vigilante in the Funky Hat).
Content wise, Murder Unincorporated bears many similarities to Danger Pays. And though comedy plays a strong role in this film, the comedy in this film falls into screwball comedies like Bringing up Baby, His Girl Friday and My Man Godfrey. Also when it comes to the action this film does a great job balancing it with the aforementioned humor.
The premise is simple and the narrative is easy to follow. Pacing is never an issues and each new revelation is given an ample amount of time to settle in. Also the characters and the motivations are clear and never in doubt!
From a production stand point, the visuals lend themselves to this film’s aforementioned slapstick comedy. Also when it comes to the humor in this film, it can at times be more divisive then the humor employed in Danger Pays. And this has to do with slapstick comedy being an acquired taste.
Performance wise the cast are enjoyable in their respective roles. With the standout performance once again coming from Jô Shishido in the role Joe of Spades. Other performance of note is Kon Ohmura whose character Konmatsu provides some much needed comic relief and out of all of the assassins this character has one of the more interesting weapons.
Tokyo Mighty Joe, Danger Pays and Murder Unincorporated come on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. All three films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfers for these three films were all sourced from original film preservation elements. Colors look accurate and at times appropriately vibrant, black levels fare well and details look crisp. Also grain looks natural, print damage is very minimal and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles are available for each film. There are no issues with background noise or distortion and everything sounds balanced. Also dialog always comes through clearly and the more ambient aspects of the soundtracks are well represented.
Extras for this release include image galleries and trailers for Tokyo Mighty Joe, Danger Pays and Murder Unincorporated and trailers for all six films from the Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection.
Other extras include, two interviews with Jasper Sharp titled, Introduction to the Diamond Guys. The first of interview is titled Diamond Guy: Jo Shishido (9 minutes 13 seconds) and the second interview is titled Diamond Guy: Akira Kobeyahsi (11 minutes 2 seconds).
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and forty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Aiming High with the Tokyo Mighty Guy written by Tom Mess, an essay titled Danger’s Where the Money Is written by Mark Schilling, an essay titled Comedy Unincorporated written by Stuart Gailbraith IV and information about the transfers. Also included with this release are two DVD’s that have the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Diamond Guys Volume 2 is another solid release from Arrow Video.
Note: This is a limited edition release, the UK is limited to 3000 units and the US is limited to 3000 units.