The Executioner, The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno (1974)
Directed by: Teruo Ishii
Written by: Shinichi Hashimoto, Teruo Ishii
Starring: Eiji Gô, Makoto Sato, Masahiko Tsagawa, Ryô Ikebe, Sonny Chiba, Yukata Nakajima
THE EXECUTIONER COLLECTION [THE EXECUTIONER, THE EXECUTIONER: KARATE INFERNO 
AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: NOW, from ARROW VIDEO
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
Was Sonny Chiba Japan’s biggest martial arts film star? There are a lot of who suppose so, whereas I haven’t seen wherever close to sufficient of his movies to guage for myself, however Arrow have come to my rescue with two of his outings, the primary of which is Quentin Tarantino’s favorite Chiba film.
THE EXECUTIONER 
AKA CO KUGEKI! JIGOKU-KEN, DIRECT HIT KILL FIST
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
Ex-police commissioner Arashiyama and his niece Emi need to bust a Mafia drug ring which is starting to flood Japan with their items. As a result of essentially the most seen member of the gang is the Latin American [country unspecified] ambassador’s spouse, it’s laborious to the touch this group by authorized means. So Arashiyama decides to rent three males to take them out; expert ninja who nearly makes a residing as a second-rate personal detective Koga; disgraced police officer turned free-lance murderer Takeshi Hayabusa; and petty criminal and aikido knowledgeable Sakura whom Koga has to interrupt out of jail. They first must interrupted an change and seize a case of medicine, however how can they succeed after they preserve arguing and even preventing amongst themselves….
Twice in The Executioner we’re informed that “The Manner of the Ninja is the bringing collectively of superhuman mind and indomitable spirit by way of years of self-discipline”, which could sound as if this movie is a severe have a look at the topic, however we even have a scene the place a dying dangerous man says “Handle my automotive funds” earlier than expiring, absolutely one of many strangest previous few phrases on movie, so that you’ll know that there’s additionally quite a lot of humour. Actually total silliness principally dominates on this actually somewhat unusual however immensely entertaining romp which mixes goofy [if often very un-PC but they didn’t care much about that in the ’70s, especially in the more exploitation arenas] laughs and brutal motion to excellent and under no circumstances jarring impact. The plot is fairly minimalist – three not notably good guys exit to get numerous dangerous guys who’re spreading medication – but it surely’s simple to see why Tarantino particularly likes this one, what with the interaction between its properly performed most important characters which is usually fairly sharp. Effectively, I say “Effectively performed” however Chiba is an acquired style whom newcomers is probably not positive about. His appearing is extraordinarily broad and he typically fights like Bruce Lee [some of the mannerisms are extremely similar] on medication, however boy does he have quite a lot of chemistry. Likewise, if you happen to’re used to Hong Kong film motion, it’s possible you’ll discover the karate and ju-jitsu on provide to be lots easier [there’s a lot less acrobatics] and roughly choreographed – even the digital camera work is erratic and filled with awkward compositions – however there’s a ok selection within the brawls, and in the long run this film isn’t all in regards to the preventing anyway.
Most opening credit score sequences, in the event that they showcase the primary star, present him at a distance displaying his experience on the martial arts. This one simply exhibits his arms, to some extent the place they’re nearly fetishised, as they transfer round and are freeze framed. Arashiyama – sure, he’s performed by Ryô Ikebe star of my favorite non-kaiju Toho science fiction fiction film Battle In Outer Area! – recruits his three heavies to do the job that he can’t do legally. Koga is first proven as a boy performed by none apart from Hiroyuki Sanada being educated by his grandfather to leap over a bush, the ultimate time with a sword protruding of it. Then he will get him to disloclate his joints in a queasy second; ft are simple however palms are extra vital. Why is Koga being put by way of all this? As a result of “It’s the responsibility and the responsbility of the reputable inheritor of the Koga clan”. Younger Koga has understandably had sufficient of this and tries to sneak away at nighjt, however the at all times watchful [well he is a ninja] grandfather catches him they usually prepare and struggle some extra, with grandfather throwing powder in his eyes so his different senses are stronger. Now we’re launched to Hayabusa in a pair of scenes which intentionally appear to recall the primary two scenes that introduce Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes in The Good, The Unhealthy And The Ugly, although with some intercourse added. Hayabusa kills the particular person he’s been employed to kill although stated particular person supplied him cash, as a result of, very like Angel Eyes who says “I at all times see the job by way of”, he tells us “I at all times ship, it’s my skilled fame”. Right here although, the sufferer has a lady with him whom the killer then sleeps with, then gives him cash to bump off the one that paid him to kill her husband. As for Sakura, he’s at the moment awaiting execution in a jail, so Arashiyama’s niece Emi will get Koga, who’s probably not making it as a PI [ninja skills aren’t always that useful in the modern world] has to go and get him, however provided that he can preserve the drug cash being smuggled in, cue a number of spectacular if edited collectively and unbelievable leaps and kills.
All of them sit down to look at movie of the results of medicine being smuggled in – influenced by an identical scene in Enter The Dragon? We get a somewhat complicated flashback which I feel particulars Arashiyama’s first try to seize the woman who’s primarily the untouchable face of the Mafia [though sometimes we’re told Yakuza, it’s not entirely clear] which ends up in six cops getting killed. “You’re a shame to the police”, he’s informed. The reply is “Not me, I used to be fired three years in the past”. Sakura’s truly reluctant to go on this mission to go and get the dangerous guys, however Emi tells him that she’s like an octopus, referring to a line a couple of minutes earlier the place Sakura describes a sexual fantasy involving a lady behaving like an octopus. So Sakura is now able to go, although he can’t cease perving at Emi at any time when he has the chance, in moments that is probably not thought of amusing by some right now, although it’s vital to notice that Emi takes all of it in her stride and even laughs at instances. She’s taking part in him. Our heroic trio first must seize a case of medicine. After some staking out and stalking round in a restuarant, Chiba will get his first correct struggle and it’s a doozy. When the villains spill yellow and blue paint on the bottom, Chiba leaves leaving yellow and blue footprints throughout them as he kicks their asses – then rips a person’s rib from proper out of his chest! This isn’t proven in closeup however remains to be fairly startling. Sakura is meant to choose him up in his automotive and retains on slowing down however then drives away. What a humorous man! Nonetheless, they’ve damage the dangerous guys, so have to hold on doing the identical, however most important dangerous man Mario Mizuhara has introduced in some tremendous heavies; Leone of Sicily, Lone Wolf and Blazer Nashiyama, so their job might be more durable than anticipated. Then once more, a few of these villains don’t appear to love one another a lot, however neither do Koga, Hayabushi and Sakura. Thoughts you, Koga is ready to kill a canine [surprisingly restrained this moment], so issues must be okay, shouldn’t they?
Even the connection between the three is paying homage to The Good, The Unhealthy And The Ugly, and it helps that the chemistry between the three performers, and in addition Yukata Nakajima as Emi who’s typically alongside for the trip, is nice. All is resolved in a closing reel filled with brawling and extra attainable Sergio Leone referencing when Koga is crushed by laughing dangerous guys, right here with the twist that the nasties are competing to see who can punch, throw, push or hurl him furthest, however this doesn’t cease him from displaying off some actually spectacular rope nunchucku abilities quickly after. The 2 Caucasian wrestlers are defeated somewhat too simply, however then they clearly aren’t as nice as they’re constructed as much as be, which might be the intention in fact, whereas Chiba’s character, although he’s capable of punch folks within the face so laborious that eyeballs can come out of their sockets or tooth can fall out, doesn’t actually present a lot in the way in which of ninja abilities aside from typically hanging on the ceiling – oh, and a extremely humorous second the place he interrupts a man having intercourse after which makes use of his abilities to cover underneath the sheets along with her with out the opposite man seeing him accomplish that. The climax entails Chiba hanging off and climbing up a cliff whereas the grapple hook a part of his rope is embedded in a foul man. The ultimate struggle between him and Rikiya Yasuoka as Blazer Nashiyama is a little bit of an anti-climax, not a lot as a result of it’s quick – fights in Japanese movies are usually shorter anyway, the goal clearly being to kill your opponent[s] not mess around with him / them – however as a result of it’s filmed principally in closeups and even appears to have some pictures lacking. One part can also be fairly clearly filmed on a set although the remainder of the struggle takes place on location. Was the manufacturing rushed to fulfill a deadline? The camerawork isn’t at all times regular and typically settles on cluttered compositions, but I shouldn’t complain an excessive amount of, as a result of there’s nothing that will get near the incoherent, eye-hurting vomit-cam that was a typical characteristic in fashionable motion although which fortunately appears to be retreating.
Ikebe as Arashiyama is allowed some moments of gravitas which make you care about his character, but it surely’s actually Makoto Sato as Hayabusa who’s given the primary appearing duties which he definitely pulls off. He’s additionally required to do some motion regardless of clearly not being a educated martial artist; fortuitously the enhancing and staging in these moments helps to promote us on Hayabusa’s prowess, and Sato has a robust sufficient presence for us to purchase the character being so highly effective. Yasuaki Kurata [or should that be Bruce Lo as that’s how he was billed a few times in the States?] exhibits up for 2 fights although his character is fairly pointless. Gô as Sakura hardly does any preventing and as an alternative largely features as the main, although definitely not the one, supply of comedian reduction which is usually very crude in nature. Whether or not he succeeds on this or not, in a movie the place a rushing automotive can pull some garments hanging which can also be capable of pull a lady’s garments off, will in fact be as much as the viewer; I used to be stored chucking, although admittedly this was partly as a result of it could be unlikely for a few of his moments to seem in a movie right now until the character was not one we had been supposed to love. Generally Eshii, who additionally wrote, appears to be mocking the thought of ninjas, similar to when Koga hides in a swimming pool that’s a few two ft deep. There’s additionally a stunning emphasis on the unnamed blonde who’s the seemingly always excessive girlfriend / prisoner of the top of the gang. He slaps her about and publicly humiliates her, but she’s at all times clinging on to him and kissing him, desperately craving affection. She’s a tragic, pathetic character about which we need to know extra. Additionally a personality is Hajime Kaburagi’s funky music, which is about as ’70 as you possibly can however is filled with cool tracks which can not at all times go together with what’s going down on display screen or appear to be making an attempt to ramp up the joy, however which helps the lightning tempo to maintain hurtling ahead in a whirlwind of blows, blood, boobs, and automobiles racing round.
Fairly brazenly carrying its influences on its sleeve but as quintessentially a Japanese exploitation film from the golden age of the shape as you will get, The Executioner truly appears somewhat recent and positively doesn’t have a uninteresting second in its complete operating time.
THE EXECUTIONER 2: KARATE INFERNO 
AKA CHO KUGEKI JIGOKU-KEN: DAI-GYAKUTEN, DIRECT HIT KILL FIST: GREAT TURNABOUT
RUNNING TIME: 86 MINS
“We have now an emergency, collect the three of them” says Arashiyama to his niece Emi. So Emi rounds up Ryuichi Koga, Takeshi Hayato and Ichiro Sakura. Heiress Sabin Kaufman has had the priceless Jewel of the Pharoahs stolen and her eight 12 months previous daughter kidnapped by crooks who demand a million yen, in any other case stated daughter can be killed, and he or she’s requested Arashiyama to assist. An change, the daughter and the jewel for the cash, is ready up, and Koga, Hayato and Sakura got down to disrupt it in order that the cash can also be retrieved together with the daughter, however issues go fallacious and the jewel stays within the possession of the dangerous guys….
I did get pleasure from The Executioners: Karate Inferno, however there’s little question that it’s a considerably weaker effort than its predecessor. When an authentic movie works so properly, one would anticipate a sequel to be properly crafted, the easiest way to go for my part being to offer audiences extra of what they appreciated whereas including a number of new parts. Nevertheless, there have been fairly a number of cases the place a sequel has been rushed out purely to make simple cash, and that basically seems to be just like the case with this movie. Along with having two actors return taking part in completely different folks, it reunites the 5 most important characters from the primary film, and it’s nice to see all of them collectively again- all 5 performers play extraordinarily properly off one another. And that’s simply as properly, as a result of there’s far much less motion and a hell of quite a lot of footage of the characters simply goofing round or just speaking, the tempo due to this fact being significantly slower. The elevated quantity of humour can’t assist however induce quite a lot of laughs, however the screenwriters. Ishii being helped by Shinichi Hashimoto right here, both appear to have forgotten a number of the main motive as to why the primary movie labored so properly [the title is misleading] or [this could be more likely] needed to cobble one thing collectively rapidly and cheaply with restricted money and time. There’s a little bit of graphic violence and sexual humour, however quite a lot of the comedy is so simple as you will get. When Sakura is cooking eggs and accidently lets them fly off the pan into the face of Hayabusa who then smears Sakura’s face with them earlier than pouring tomato juice over him, one would possibly marvel at what age group the filmmakers had been aiming for, although I personally get pleasure from that sort of slapstick so it didn’t trouble me. Many others will discover it tiresome. Bogey, wee and dandruff are all used for comedian impact; it’s a marvel that they didn’t cram in a poo joke. In the meantime the plot, whereas it’s extra complicated than what we had earlier than, is filled with holes and the motion, when it comes, is respectable however decidedly inferior aside from some parts of a size heist sequence.
The opening titles are a montage of very fast pictures from each movies, which hardly will get us excited for the remainder of the movie. So what have our threesome been as much as because the occasions of the final film. Koga joined “the Rangers Unit of the Self Defence Forces” and is proven parachuting out of a aircraft in black and white in order that a number of inventory pictures don’t stick out an excessive amount of. His boss asks him what the primary rule of his place is, this being absolute secrecy, earlier than informing him that he’s damaged stated rule as a result of any individual has confirmed as much as see him. That is, in fact, Emi, for some motive carrying massively extreme make-up but it’s nonetheless apparent that it’s her. Koga isn’t too eager on going again on the market, so Emmy tells him she’ll reveal secrets and techniques about his previous [which we never learn] if he doesn’t play ball. Hayabusa is again to working as an murderer for rent once more, although we don’t see this. He’s doesn’t need to work with Koga who he speaks poorly off, even contemplating his ceiling hanging as “retardisation”, however then a samurai determine involves life and out of it bursts Koga who was there all alongside! They’re ready for Sakura, however he might not come “due to a lady”. Apparently he was imprisoned for rape and safe-cracking however is now married to the lady he raped and is interesting his time period as she’s fallen in love with him. She seems to have an enormous mole beside her nostril. Ho ho ho? Most likely not for a lot of, at the least lately, however if you happen to’re watching this movie you then in all probability understand how un-PC issues might get. These three aren’t enthused about having to work with one another once more, and spend a lot time intentionally getting on one another’s nerves. Actually it takes some time for the primary plot to be set in movement, however fortunately these guys and the one gal all share chemistry and plenty of it.
As for stated most important plot, it’s launched in a convoluted method, probably to make use of up extra display screen time than it might need finished in any other case. Movie is proven of Sabine, who has to make use of a wheelchair, and the “Honorary Chairman of the Worldwide Philanthropic Organisation”. Koga, Hayabusa and Sakura suppose that they’re being requested to steal from stated philanthropic organisation which matches in opposition to their considerably restricted rules, however then we get a flashback to Arashiyama being informed in regards to the theft of the necklace and the kidnapping of Sabine’s daughter, then a flashback inside a flashback of Sabine getting her telephone name from the dangerous guys, then a macabre doll with a few of its hair lower off and a pin in one in every of its eyes which apparently signifies that the daughter can be killed if this cash isn’t paid. Sabine’s secretary Bruno Imamura is to drop off the case full of cash in return for the woman and the necklace, and our three must get the suitcase again. There’s a rooftop change, then Koga pursues the man who takes the case, however is intercepted by some heavies and our first motion sequence takes place. Ultimately our heroes get neither the cash nor the necklace and due to this fact don’t receives a commission, one thing that understandably irks them – after which Sabine makes a take care of the villains whereupon she is going to change one billion yen for the necklace. With the necklace now in Sabine’s possession, Koga decides to go and steal it with out telling anyone else, however finds Sakura underneath the woman’s mattress, although that’s in all probability nothing new for Sakura contemplating what he’s like. I shouldn’t be divulging all the plot, but it surely’s bizarre in that it tries to shock and offers the phantasm of being properly labored out for a couple of minutes till the large gaps in logic turn out to be apparent. I suppose time was once more the issue right here. Anyway, all of it winds up with this huge heist adopted by an odd coda which finishes the proceedings on a barely downbeat and somewhat incongruous. to not point out pointless, word.
Koga, Hayabusa and Sakura bicker and fiddle endlessly, and are fairly incompetent too, however then this movie is ready in a world the place anybody might be a idiot, proper right down to a man who drops his glasses and due to this fact can’t see anybody and thinks that persons are in a completely completely different place to the place they really are. Any excuse for amusing is put in. Our three go to a complicated restaurant and do not know what to do, together with pondering that the serviettes are there for them to placed on their heads. Highly effective glue wanted for the heist leads to somebody being caught to a desk by their hand. Dandruff is put in a drink and is retaliated with by snot put within the different particular person’s drink. Koga is hanging exterior of a high-rise constructing and a bikini-clad girl leans out of the window along with her monumental breasts hanging over his head. Sakura’s physique catches fireplace and Koga doesn’t see a lot urgency in the issue till he ultimately places out the hearth together with his urine, which is one thing I consider would have been one of the best plan of action anyway. This isn’t the primary wee wee gag within the movie. With a lot comedy, I feel each viewer is certain to snicker a number of instances, and that’s good, as a result of the motion content material actually isn’t very excessive. The rooftop struggle after the change is nearly ruined by extreme shakycam and rapidly modifications into Bond-style stuff as Koga and his quarry find yourself hanging onto a balloon. A aircraft later goes by way of a tunnel which means that perhaps the funds truly was larger than I assumed. A closing brawl, against this to the sooner one, has some attention-grabbing compositions that recommend Ishii and his cinematographer [uncredited] had been making an attempt to do one of the best they might regardless of being significantly restricted. The preventing is okay and Chiba will get to point out off his rope nunchucku abilities once more however tends to repeat gags similar to leaping up a fence with the intention to kick somebody. Graphic violence makes a return right here, most notably with tooth being knocked out adopted by a coronary heart ripping, but it surely nearly appears misplaced as a result of we’ve bought used to it not being current.
Ishii rises to the event within the heist sequence which had moments which might be fairly suspenseful but that are normally capable of combine within the comedy with out detracting from the strain – and ~I’m most definitely not simply saying that as a result of I actually dig heist motion pictures and set items. When Koga and Sakura are crawling the wrong way up on a ceiling, the afore talked about tremendous robust glue being lastly put to good use, it’s damned thrilling and funky, and when the chuckles are introduced in they aren’t intrusive. Now this will likely largely be as a result of by now we’re used to having a lot comedy on this film, however I do suppose that, regardless of no matter flaws The Executioner 2 might have – and there are lots of – the steadiness is very well pulled off on some events. The various technical imperfections, most notably some completely atrocious rear projection in two scenes, can usually be laughed at although the woman taking part in Sabine often is the worst actresses you should have seen in a while – however then this film was clearly very low cost certainly. And at the least Chiba,Sato and Go are simply nearly as good as earlier than, if perhaps even higher as they’re clearly sinking into their roles. Ikebe has much less to do right here, and Yukata Nakajima’s Emi stays somewhat enigmatic; in addition to being a personality that we need to know extra about, with Nakajma having such a display screen presence that your consideration can’t assist however be drawn to her. Chiba appears barely uneasy right here, as if he is aware of that the movie isn’t making one of the best use of his abilities, although Gô seems to be having a ball as a result of almost everybody acts as foolish as him at instances. His interaction with Sato is just terrific. If Toei had allowed extra time and care be allotted to this sequel, then I’ve little doubt that it could have had an excellent reception and been adopted by a number of extra. It’s actually a little bit of a disgrace. Kaburagi’s musical rating goes extra for the comedy with numerous use of a synthesised whistle, however avoids reprising earlier tracks and if something goes with the visuals greater than earlier than.
The Executioner: Karate Inferno will disappoint many, but if approached with the proper mindset it’s a movie that may nonetheless be loved, particularly if you happen to’re within the temper for a giggle. I feel my liking of of it could increaase with re-watches.
Excessive Definition Bluray (1080p) presentation
Each movies look extraordinarily of their time however clearly made to look one of the best they will. Subsequently there’s some softness within the image, although some out of focus pictures had been clearly the results of a fast taking pictures schedule somewhat than any flaws within the restoration. Grain is extraordinarily evenly managed and blacks are pretty deep.
Authentic uncompressed Japanese mono audio for each movies
Authentic uncompressed English mono audio monitor for “The Executioner”
I watched a number of the film with this dub. It’s a kind of ones the place the voice actors try to sound Japanese, or ought to I say vaguely oriental. This is able to in all probability be thought of insulting right now, however no offense was clearly meant. It’s not dangerous actually.
Non-compulsory English subtitles
Model new audio commentary by Chris Poggiali and Marc Walkow
This monitor begins properly with the identification of these rocks being splashed with water, the Toei emblem. It then quickly turns into obvious that there’s little manufacturing information on this movie so Poggiali and Walkow must say plentiful issues about each performer on display screen which may get barely tiring when there’s a lot enjoyable and attention-grabbing stuff going down on display screen, however some good associated information is revealed, similar to Bob Shaye on New Line Footage touring to the Toei places of work to discover a good Yakuza movie and, on the way in which out, noticed a poster for The Streetfighter, the discharge of which broke Chiba into the West. together with clarification of the Mafia / Yakuza difficulty and the figuring out of a TV sequence named Key Hunter as the primary inspiration. Poggiali and Walkow have good, if fairly laid again, interaction and are there good to spend time with.
Sonny Chiba, Karate King – a 30 minute featurette on the legendary Sonny Chiba, that includes Grady Hendrix, Tom Mes, Chris Poggiali, Marco Joachim and Seiji Anno, from the band Guitar Wolf [30 mins]
Chiba’s profession and affect is checked out right here. He initially needed to be an Olympic gymnast, then turn out to be a clear lower matinnee idol earlier than he reworked right into a vicious display screen hero who’s as a lot of an anti=hero. His aggressive and mannered performing model might have hid appreciable insecurity about his appearing. The feedback of Grady Hendrix, the son of the editor of a number of the American trailers for Chiba’s movies, are particularly attention-grabbing; he did quite a lot of the work himself. This might have finished with being longer, however it should definitely whet your urge for food for extra Chiba if, like me, you haven’t had a lot expertise with the person.
Picture galleries for “The Executioner” and “The Executioner II: Karate Inferno”
Reversible sleeve that includes authentic and newly commissioned art work by Lucas Peverill
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet that includes new writing on the movies by by Mark Schilling
“The Executioner” is essentially the most sheerly entertaining movie I’ve seen shortly; the sequel isn’t wherever in the identical league however does have its pleasures. Although not as loaded with extras as we’ve come to anticipate from Arrow, the corporate make up for this by promoting the one-disc launch across the similar value as they might some other single film Blu-ray. Beneficial!