Maybe I am just talking to myself, but I thought I'd share my opinions of the less seen but bitingly funny and wild Epoch of Murder and Madness (or Age of Assassins, 1967)
. The film begins with exposition as a lunatic asylum "mad scientist" ex-nazi played by Amamoto Eisei -capture 1
- (he and his pals switch back and forth between menacing Japanese and scary German the whole film) discusses how a massive diamond was lost and a young Japanese (Nakadai Tatsuya) has it in his possession. A league of assassins make comedic attempts at Nakadai's life (along with a girl, Dan Reiko -capture 3
-, Yuriko from Ozu's The End of Summer and a goofy pal) which are all thwarted, naturally, since even playing a little bit of a "dweeb" -capture 2
-, Nakadai is still graced with luck and a certain charisma (a natural fighting ability). Turns out the diamond is a stolen Nazi item which was placed in Nakadai's body when he was eight.
Okamoto used the same cinematographer for this as Kill!, so it has that same crisp detail, but it's a bit more high contrast -capture 4
- (the black and white world of assassinations, I suppose.) The score is almost inappropriately "emotional" at times, but it does nothing but enhance the odd factor. The action is believable in a "chase film" sort of way, but the real greatness of Epoch of Murder and Madness is in the comedy. Not too broad (though Nakadai's small-enough-to-pedal-with-your-feet car, which emits burps and farts as it runs, runs counter to that claim) and like most of his films anti-authority and anti-war, a fair bit of cynicism and a love for the details of human nature seem to be the ideas behind it. A bit of his earlier The Elegant Mr. Everyman can be seen in the way Nakadai uses his voice as a blunt instrument of humor, streamlining dialogue in a way that almost sounds like narration. The cynical soldier, with aims at the ridiculousness of war, is then best exemplified in his Human Bullet (which Isolde Standish's Myth and Masculinity in Japanese Film does a thorough job of explicating), where Nakadai's character, Kikyo Shinji seems to be transposed into the Special Attack Forces. Properly enough, Nakadai narrated Human Bullet and the evil as hell Amamoto Eisei plays the main character's father (i.e. the villain). The "main character" of Human Bullet, played by Terada Minori, goes unnamed.
Someone needs to bring this, and the rest of Okamoto's late sixties work, to DVD badly. All the Toho discs look fantastic (there're only a couple I haven't seen) and not a clunker in the bunch.