The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).
Even before I arrived in Saskatoon, I felt like Fantastic Film Festival-action was meeting me like a herald of things to come. It had something to do with the man waiting at my flight’s gate conspicuously wearing a black eyepatch that threatened spy movie villainy. It also had something to do with the man behind me in security and his laptop that tested positive for “explosive residue.” Fortunately for me, action-thrillers weren’t slated until Day 2 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and my flight proceeded without complication, bringing me to Day 1 of SFFF and a block of films featuring some disturbed title characters.
IT’S A MEAN MACHINE – CUTS YOUR HEAD OFF CLEAN!
This classic martial arts death match pits two wuxia icons against each other – the famed One-Armed Boxer (Hong Kong superstar Jimmy Wang Yu) versus a blind assassin (veteran character actor Kam Kong) and his legendary Flying Guillotine. Set in 1730, during the early part of the Ching dynasty, ethnic Chinese Hans formed bands of rebels to fight their Manchurian oppressors. After the One-Armed Boxer, a stoic kung fu expert and Han revolutionary, disposes of two would-be assassins, their master, a formidable blind emissary of the Ching posing as a Buddhist monk, swears revenge, searching out every one-armed martial artist and snatching their heads with his tethered decapitation device called the Flying Guillotine.
Arguably the most famous Hong Kong martial arts film of the post-Bruce Lee, pre-Jackie Chan period, this independently-produced classic is more popular than ever, with a legacy extending to films like Kill Bill and video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. With its wild, fantasy face-offs and its cosmic Krautrock soundtrack, Master of the Flying Guillotine is undoubtedly a film worthy of losing your head over!
- New High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Mandarin version and English dub track (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
- New optional English subtitle translation
- Audio commentary with film critics Andy Klein, Wade Major, and Alex Luu
- Interviews with star/director Jimmy Wang Yu
- Spinning Vengeance – director Quentin Tarantino on Master of the Flying Guillotine
- Design for Decapitation – Grant Imahara on the mechanics of the Flying Guillotine
- Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Lines
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Little Sister.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) is a scenic and gently sensitive domestic drama that confirms its maker’s reputation as a great director in the tradition of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse. Adapted from a popular Japanese comic book, the film concerns three twentysomething sisters – Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika – who live together in an old, large house in the seaside city of Kamakura. When their long absent father dies, they travel to a small countryside town for his funeral and meet their shy, teenage half-sister for the first time. Bonding quickly with the orphaned Suzu, they invite her to live with them and the four sisters commence a new life of tentatively joyful discovery. With documentary precision and picturesque elegance, Our Little Sister is a touching survey of love, generosity, and the weight of family histories.
- New high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Hirokazu Kore-eda and cinematographer Mikiya Takimoto, with DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Documentaries on the making of Our Little Sister including revisiting locations with the cast and cooking dishes featured in the film
- Interview with Kore-eda for French television
- Footage and interviews from the red carpet at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival
- 2015 Cannes Film Festival press conference
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by Japanese film scholar Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano
MMC!‘s proposed collection of Tai Katô films continues with another exceptionally titled movie – Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man (1964). Adapted by Katô and Noribumi Suzuki from Gohei Kamiya’s novel, Shafu yukyoden – kenka tatsu (Fighting Tatsu‘s Japanese title) is a lighter take on the yakuza genre, injecting a romantic comedy into its story of mob politics and gang warfare. The film still manages its share of bloodshed, untimely deaths, and wild, riotous street fights to satisfy strict genre fans.
The movie opens in 1898 with scruffy and truculent rickshaw driver Tatsu (Ryôhei Uchida) arriving from Edo to Osaka ready to start his career with the town’s only rubber-wheeled carriage. Before even leaving the Victorian-designed train station, Tatsu bumps into a high-ranking official and gets into a brawl with him, his assistant, and his bodyguard. When told to mind his place and defer to the official, Tatsu proclaims that they live in a new era where all are “born equally now.” By these first few minutes, the film’s main character is immediately and perfectly defined – headstrong, independent, egalitarian, pugnacious – and no question is left as to how Fighting Tatsu will develop its dramatic conflicts.
JAPAN’S ANSWER TO SAM FULLER AND BUDD BOETTICHER
In Cruel Story at the End of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kato offers a merciless view of the Shinsengumi, an elite police force in the service of Japan’s military government. Starring Okawa Hashizo (breaking from his typically lighthearted roles) and Junko Fuji (who would later star as the Red Peony Gambler), this bloody tale chronicles the brutal indoctrination of a young peasant into the Shinsengumi and the secret plot that hides within its ranks.
Next, Akira Shioji stars as Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man, an independent and confrontational young rickshaw driver who falls in love with a local geisha played by Rumiko Fuji and becomes embroiled in a local gang war. Here, Kato creates a highly entertaining film that is equal parts romantic comedy and gangster action movie.
By a Man’s Face Shall You Know Him is a sprawling, gutsy account of a Korean-Japanese gang’s ruthless rise to power in 1948 Osaka and a local doctor’s unexpected opposition to the hoodlums. Told though vibrant colour cinematography and a complex series of flashbacks, Kato traces the influences of sex, violence, and racism in post-war Japan.
Finally, I, the Executioner provides one of Japanese cinema’s most disturbing dissections of the serial killer, as five women are stalked by a sadistic sex killer intent on avenging the suicide of a 16-year-old boy. Contrasting an uninspired police-investigation with lurid, solarized flashbacks and on-location shooting in Tokyo, I, the Executioner is a shattering story often hailed as Kato’s finest movie.
Presented on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature some of Kato Tai’s smartest, toughest work.
- Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
- High definition digital transfers of all four films from the original film elements by Toei Company
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentation
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
- Original trailers for all four films
- Extensive promotional image galleries for all films
- Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork
- Booklet featuring new writing on all the films and a director profile by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, Mark Schilling, and Chris D.