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January 14, 2019

Movie Review: Brutal Tales of Chivalry (aka Shôwa zankyô-de, 1965)

Directed by Kiyoshi Saeki

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Following the end of World War II, the nation of Japan is in ruins. In order to survive, the civilian population of the Asakusa neighborhood in Tokyo must make do with illegal open air black markets for food, clothing and other necessities. But even in these squalid conditions, there is honor. The Kamizu, one of the nascent groups that would later become part of the dreaded Yakuza criminal gangs, attempts to bring fresh food and high quality goods to compete against Iwasa’s (Michitarô Mizushima) clan, which floods the market with cheap goods, violently threatening all forms of competition.

When the elderly leader of the Kamizu group is murdered, his role is assumed by returning soldier Seiji (Ken Tarukuru). In a strange twist, according to the leader’s dying wishes, he wants the Kamizu to continue their activities without any retaliation against Iwasa’s clan.

This is just the beginning of Seiji’s problems as the woman he has loved before the war has since married another man. While she continues to makes romantic overtures to him, he must refuse as a man of honor and integrity.

While Iwasa’s men tighten the screws among the populace with threats and sporadic acts of violence, Seiji’s men refuse to answer in kind and begin the process of politically winning over the local politicians. Seiji hits upon the idea of creating indoor shopping center, only to have Iwasa’s gang burn it to the ground while embarking on similar plans. Seiji’s strict moral codes are pressed to their limits – and the conclusion is expectedly drenched in blood.

Brutal Tales of Chivalry may be tough going for western viewers. It is wholly and unapologetically Japanese, unconcerned with compromises for foreign markets. It is important to remember that this film came at a time when the average Japanese went to the cinema in excess of three times a week in lieu of watching television. Many of these films are awash in history and customs only known to the Japanese. One stumbling block that many non-Japanese viewers will have is how saintly and bound by honor Seiji is, and how slow he is to turn the violent tactics used against him by the rival clan. It has been suggested by other reviewers that this is a somehow slanted view of history, as the early Yakuza, in the best of times, were never governed by altruism.

Coincidentally, lead actor Ken Takura would later become a major action star in Japan and internationally, lending his charisma to such diverse projects as The Yakuza (1974), Black Rain (1989) and Mr. Baseball (1992) with Tom Selleck.

The usual limited to 3,000 copies by Twilight Time has restored this film the best as they can, given its age and source materials. The sole extra – discounting the liner notes by Julie Kirgo, is the lengthy documentary “Brutal Tales of Filmmaking: Toei Producer Toru Yoshida,” a talking head interview about the film and the similarly themed films that followed afterwards.

Burdened with windy discourses on honor and integrity, the film is a bit too slow going, only erupting into gory violence towards the very end. Brutal Tales of Chivalry is best appreciated with those of knowledge and an understanding of postmodern Japanese history.

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January 7, 2019

Animalistic (2015) Movie Review


Okay, it’s time to get back on this movie reviewing mechanical horse! Hey, you have your mixed idioms, and I have mine…

We begin 2019 with a screener for a movie that came out in 2015 (though I just got it last summer, which is why I don’t feel too bad for being so late in bringing you this review.) Animalistic brings us the story of a young woman, Emma, who is kidnapped on her way back from a big business interview. The shady taxi driver, Shirley, chloroforms our not-so-savvy professional woman, and when she wakes, Emma finds herself the captive of a greasy man named Jim, and his slow-witted buddy, Peter.

Over the course of the next few days, Jim rapes and sodomizes Emma. Peter is more there for the gross stuff – I’m pretty sure he fucked the corpse of the previous victim – or to keep an eye on the captive while Jim goes about his normal life with his buddies, and WIFE AND KID.

Eventually, Emma finds the means to escape (a couple of times,) and is able to get revenge on her captors before walking off to freedom.


Um….yeah.

If you’re into the gritty look and feel of an exploitation film, this could be up your alley. It tries a little too hard in my opinion, but it doesn’t miss the mark by much. The brutality is there; the blood and gore is certainly present; that uncomfortable sphincter clench comes into play often. And while I don’t mind some good ultra-violence now and then, I prefer my revenge served cold, after months of planning and prep work. Not that immediate vengeance is a bad thing. It’s just not as satisfying.

Is that weird?

Da fuq?

The film is shot to look dark and gritty, like a classic exploitation, but it has a more modern feel. Unfortunately, the music/sound effects are much louder than the dialogue, making it difficult to hear what characters were saying. Didn’t really matter though, since it’s the action that drives the film, not so much the story/exposition.

The acting is better than most independent film. But Ralf Beck, who plays Jim, is certainly the cream floating to the top of this bucket of curdled milk. We see how dark he is; we learn how fucked up his logic works; his absolute pleasure at the suffering of another is disturbing, to say the least. Ralf pulls it all off beautifully, so much so that I kept shouting for Emma to “BLOW HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF!” once she turned the tables on him.

The few things that irked me were probably just my own personal issues, and most other people could overlook them. Everyone in this film is Swedish, so when they all speak with Swedish accents, but the characters are supposed to be from Illinois, it’s distracting (Shirley’s Taxi ID card shows the state of Illinois – now it’s possible they are all FROM Sweden and just happened to all move TO Illinois, but I ain’t buying it.) I also find it difficult to believe that if your feet are being chopped up in a wood chipper, you’d be coughing up blood. Last I checked, the feet bones are not connected to the lung bones, uknowwutimeen? There were a few other things, but not really worth mentioning.

(*coughserratedsawswontcutthroughbonecough*)

How many times do I have to tell you to PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN!

Not a terrible film by any means, but just not my cup of tea. Decent effort, good acting, marginal character development, good kills.

2.5 Hatchets (out of 5)







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January 1, 2019

A Binge Too Far #2: Waterloo Bridge

Frame from Waterloo Bridge (1940).
Robert E. Sherwood wrote a stage-play called Waterloo Bridge: A Play in Two Acts, based on his own experiences with a prostitute during WWI (World War I). Although the Broadway play lasted for a mere year and a total of 64 performances, it gained good reviews, and the buzz that it created was such that producing extraordinaire Carl Laemmle Jr. decided to turn it into a movie. We take a look at Waterloo Bridge (1931) and its first remake.

Spanish DVD box art for Waterloo Bridge (1931).
Waterloo Bridge (1931)

Set in WWI, In London, this is about two young Americans, Myra [Mae Clarke from Frankenstein (1931)], a prostitute, and Roy [Douglass Montgomery, later in The Cat and the Canary (1939)], a soldier, who fall in love when they meet by chance.

The major studio (Universal Pictures), the producer (Carl Laemmle Jr.), and the director (James Whale), that brought you the unforgettable horror of Frankenstein (1931), also made this the same year, which is shamefully neglected, mainly because it is not a genre picture per se, but is leaning towards the straight drama area.

This pre-Code flick was made on a modest $252,000 budget (and a shooting schedule of a mere 26 days), and the source material was adapted for the screen by Benn W. Levy and Tom Reed. The film enjoyed a proper theatrical release (albeit with some issues with censors in places such as Chicago and New York, due to the sensitive – for the time – subject matter), but it proved impossible to be re-released after the imposition of the Production Code in 1934.