IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

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MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

Between 1970 and 1974 Toho Studios produced three vampire movies under the guidance of director Michio Yamamoto. The director had only one feature film under his belt before these flicks, a crime drama for Toho, and despite how well these turned out, he would come to direct only one other full length film. While certainly Japanese productions, this trio of vampire flicks display a lot of the traditions of the genre, with coffins, gothic houses, ghoulish villains, spooky and sexy vampire girls, along with beautiful damsels and brave heroes. They feature some familiar Toho faces and have become known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy. These three vampire flicks from the legendary studio are certainly worth a look by any vampire or horror movie fan.

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THE VAMPIRE DOLL (1970)

First of the trilogy finds Kazuhiko (Atsuo Nakamura) returning from business abroad to visit his fiancé Yuko (Yukiko Kobayashi from Destroy All Monsters). Her mother (Yoko Minazake) tells him Yuko died in an accident, but then why is he seeing her at night? When Kazuhiko disappears, his sister Keiko (Shogun Assassin’s Kayo Matsuo) and her fiancé (Akira Nakao) go to Yuko’s home village to investigate. What they find is something out of a nightmare…one they may not wake up from.

The Vampire Doll (Chi o suu ningyo) is a spooky flick as directed by Yamamoto from a script by Ei Ogawa and Hiroshi Nagano. It’s almost a gothic fairy tale as a young woman from tragic beginnings walks the earth in death, in search of blood. It’s got loads of atmosphere, a few surprises, follows the classic tropes well and has a charming cast. Yukiko Kobayashi makes for a sexy yet scary vampire and Kayo Matsuo, a classic damsel in distress. There is some blood, but the film is mostly atmosphere and Yamamoto proves he has an effective visual style for such a tale.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs!

Yukiko Kobayashi as the young woman turned monster, Yuko.

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LAKE OF DRACULA (1971)

Second film (known as Noroi no yakata – Chi o suu me in Japan) finds pretty Akiko (Midori Fujita) still suffering from a childhood trauma that she experienced as a little girl in a spooky old house. The nightmare returns, when the fiendish man (Shin Kishida from 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) she saw back then, now stalks her lakeside village draining blood from his victims. Can her doctor boyfriend (Osahide Takahashi) save her and her sister (Sanae Emi) from this bloodthirsty fiend?

Yamamoto’s second foray into vampire folklore is again written by Ei Ogawa, this time along with Masaru Takesue. Once more he delivers a film that is is atmospheric and spooky. Shin Kishida makes for a creepy vampire and the flick is filled with gothic visuals such as the expected old houses, coffins and fanged fiends. Here the vampire is said to be a descendant of Dracula, as his father had Dracula family blood in him. As usual in these films, our bloodsucker has some sexy vampire girls to accompany him. Another solid and spooky entry in this series.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as Lake of Dracula’s unnamed vampire.

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EVIL OF DRACULA (1974)

Final film in this trilogy shows Yamamoto is really sinking his teeth into vampire lore. It finds teacher Professor Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa) journeying to his new job at an all girls school. Soon he finds trouble as someone, or something, is stalking the nubile young students and there have been disappearances. A disturbing first night at the recently widowed principal’s (Shin Kishida) house leads Shiraki to believe he’s involved. Shiraki’s beliefs may get him and pretty student Kumi (Mariko Mochizuki) killed, as the principal and his recently dead wife (Mika Katsuragi) may be something unearthly.

Evil of Dracula, or Chi o Sū Bara as it is known in Japan, is Yamamoto’s last vampire film for Toho and is again written by Ei Ogawa and Masaru Takesue. It’s fiend’s origin comes from a legend that a Westerner, who was shipwrecked in Japan centuries before, was cursed for denouncing his Christian faith and thus became a vampire. The flick is atmospheric, Kishida once again makes a creepy bloodsucker, though his vampire principal here is no relation to Lake of Dracula’s fiend, and Katsuragi is also effective as his vampire wife. There is nudity in this one, as our vampire prefers to bite his pretty victims on the breast and it might be the most gruesome with bloodletting and face stealing among the ghoulish activities. This was the last film in the trilogy, Toho seemingly quitting while they were ahead with three solid entries.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as the fiendish principal snacking on his students.

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In conclusion, this is a spooky and atmospheric series. Three stand alone films that have no connection other than the subject matter and actor Shin Kishida playing the lead vampire role twice. They were moderately paced, but none of them overstayed their welcome, with the longest being only 85 minutes. Yamamoto proved he had an eye for gothic visuals and gave us plenty of fangs, blood, creepy old houses and a bevy of pretty vampire girls. Despite doing a good job with these three flicks, Evil of Dracula would be his last feature film before doing some television work and then fading from the business.

All three Bloodthirsty Trilogy flicks are now available on Amazon Streaming and in a blu-ray set from Arrow Video.

Japan’s Christopher Lee? Shin Kishida sans make-up.

photo: https://wikizilla.org/

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 -MonsterZero NJ
Sources IMDB/Wikipedia

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