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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REVIEW: SHIN GODZILLA (2016)

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SHIN GODZILLA (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Shin Godzilla…meaning “true” Godzilla…is a reboot of the classic Godzilla series from Toho Studios and the imaginative minds behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi. In this new incarnation, Godzilla starts out as a mysterious tadpole-like creature that appears in Japanese waters causing structural damage to it’s Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line before making landfall. It cuts a path of destruction as the Japanese government flounders over what to do. As they struggle over how to handle this unprecedented event, the creature mutates growing larger and more destructive as it does. Worse still, this beast, the prying U.S. government calls “Godzilla”, is a walking nuclear reactor heading into the heart of Tokyo.

In this new incarnation of the long enduring classic character, Godzilla is a true monstrosity as it has the power to mutate itself at will, as it returns to Japan, no longer content or satisfied with feeding on the nuclear waste the Asian nation dumps into it’s oceans. There are hints that he is a nuclear created amalgamation of all sorts of sea and other life that now has formed into an ever changing leviathan in search of nuclear fuel. The creative duo also use the creature as a metaphor for the recent earthquake and typhoon disasters that struck Japan in 2011 and the Japanese government’s mishandling of it, due to being mired in bureaucratic red tape and politics. They also take some jabs at the United States prying into Japanese affairs and being a bit of a bully towards the island nation in bending to it’s will. This works for the most part, though if the film has an achilles heel, it’s that it allows it’s political satire to get a bit heavy-handed and overloaded in the second act, while we wait for an immobile Godzilla to recharge after battling a U.S. bomber attack with it’s new version of the atomic heat ray. The film does drag a while before it’s impressive but over-too-quick climax, at a point where it should be ramping up. Having Godzilla dormant for a good chunk of time after a fairly action-filled first half, really slows the film’s momentum. That and the points made here were pretty much the same made in the first half and it starts to get redundant. On a technical level, the FX are mixed. There are some truly spectacular sequences of destruction unlike any seen in a Godzilla film, including the multimillion dollar American flick from 2014. In contrast, there are some weak CGI FX that hinder the impact of some scenes, such as Godzilla’s creepy amphibious first form and some shots during his overall impressive unleashing of his new nuclear capabilities. Tonally, the film takes itself fairly serious, though there is some humor and plenty of satire. The last half could have used more tension instead of talk and after a spectacular battle with U.S. B2 bombers, it’s off-putting to see Godzilla just stand there for so long, allowing Japan to re-group. The traditional Godzilla gave little rest for the weary. Fans will be pleased that the film does use some of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla music for mood and nostalgia and there is also an effective score from Shirō Sagisu as well.

The cast, for the most part, perform well with lead Hiroki Hasegawa standing out as Rando Yaguchi, a young Deputy Cabinet Secretary who sees the flaws in the system and how they are negatively effecting Japan, especially in a crisis. Beautiful Satomi Ishihara plays Kayoko Ann Patterson, a U.S. born senator’s daughter who is the envoy to Japan during Godzilla’s attack. She could have been a bit stronger in a smug role and the fact that her english is terrible, doesn’t bode well for her playing a U.S. born character to an American father. Other than that, the cast all get the tone of their parts and balance the satirical humor with the more serious facets of the story fairly on-point. As for Godzilla, he is for the first time really creepy. He has nuclear energy glowing from points under his skin, like the burning Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Destroyah and actually evokes Hedorah, The Smog Monster, in the way it evolves from a disturbing reptilian-slug thing to a creature that resembles a giant walking, grinning zombie dinosaur. It is a startlingly original take on this iconic beast and his new way of unleashing his nuclear power was shocking and impressive. Too bad a few shots suffered from weak CGI as this sequence was one of the most powerful in the film.

Overall, this was a very interesting, entertaining and sometimes disturbing new incarnation of one of film’s most classic characters. It is still the Godzilla we know, yet with some daring new characteristics and a more contemporary origin. The film is more moderately paced than these movies usually are and comes with a lot of political commentary on Japanese government and it’s relationship with the U.S. It does stumble a bit with a very talky second half and by getting a little too heavy-handed with it’s messages, though it does recover somewhat with an impressive, if not a bit too quickly resolved finale. A bold new start for a franchise and a character that has endured for over 60 years and one of the most unique films in the series.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Godzillas.

godzilla 3 and 1-2 rating

 

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“ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 2 GETS A FULL TRAILER and “GODZILLA RESURGENCE” GETS A NEW ONE!

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New trailers for Ash vs Evil Dead season 2 and Godzilla Resurgence!

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Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead series (click HERE for our season 1 review!) is set to return this fall for a second season. The adventures of Ash, Pablo and sexy Kelly will continue on 10/2/16! For now, here’s a full NSFW trailer sampling some of the bloody fun!

 

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godzilla resurgence

Toho Studios has released an all new trailer for their upcoming Godzilla reboot! Check out the latest chaos and carnage as the Big G returns to Japan in Godzilla Resurgence! Flick opens in Japan 7/29/2016!

Sources: Facebook and Youtube

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