Archive for akira kurosawa

DUNGEON DIRECTOR PROJECT: My 50 Favourite Directors #5 – #1

Posted in movies with tags , , , , on August 9, 2012 by goregirl

My 50 Favourite Directors #5 – #1

This is it…the final five! Two things bothered me a wee bit when I reviewed my final list; I only had two Canadian directors and no women at all in my entire top 50. I did shortlist the Canadian directors Denys Arcand, Bruce McDonald and Atom Egoyan, but to be honest I did not have any women shortlisted. I even tried to reach for a woman or two to add. I loved Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Patty Jenkins’ Monster, Sophia Coppolla’s Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation and Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman. Alas, at the end of the day the women just did not have enough credits for films I loved. So the list is what it is. You can really consider every single director in my top 10 a number one! Starting on Monday August 13 it will be all about the zombies in anticipation of the 2012 Vancouver Zombie Walk on August 18! Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Zombies right through to the end of the month! If you have any zombie art, books, trailers, shorts or pics I would be happy to post them during the next few weeks with a link! BRAINS!!!!

*NOTE: I did not include any made for TV movies in the numbers I used for each director’s full-length feature films.*

#5. Mario Bava

What I’ve Seen: Shock (1977), Rabid Dogs (1974), Lisa and the Devil (1974), Baron Blood (1972), Bay of Blood (1971), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), 5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), Kill Baby, Kill (1966), Viking Massacre (1966), Planet of the Vampires (1965), Blood and Black Lace (1964), The Whip and the Flesh (1963), Black Sabbath (1963), The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), Hercules in the Center of the Earth (1961), Black Sunday (1960), I vampiri (1956), Ulysses (1954)

I have seen 20 of Italian director Mario Bava’s 30 full length feature films. Mario Bava paved the way for every great horror and Giallo director. His film The Girl Who Knew Too Much is generally considered the first Gialli and his film Bay of Blood is considered one of the first of the slasher sub-genre! Apparently Bava’s Planet of the Vampires was the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien! Horror in Italy might have been a completely different looking beast if it was not for the groundbreaking film work and effects of Mario Bava; evidently Bava created all his own special effects for his films! My personal favourite Bava is Black Sunday, Blood and Black Lace, Bay of Blood, Kill Baby, Kill, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Whip and the Flesh and Black Sabbath. I actually enjoyed in varying degrees all 20 of Mr. Bava’s films I’ve seen! I highly recommend checking out the documentary Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre. I happen to think “Maestro of the Macabre” is a great title for the brilliant multifaceted Mario Bava!


#4. Akira Kurosawa

What I’ve Seen: Dreams (1990), Ran (1985), Kagemusha (1980), Dersu Uzala (1975), Dodes’ka-den (1970), Red Beard (1965), High and Low (1963), Sanjuro (1962), Yojimbo (1961), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Throne of Blood (1957), I Live in Fear (1955), Seven Samurai (1954), Ikiru (1952), The Idiot (1951), Rashômon (1950), Stray Dog (1949), The Quiet Duel (1949), Drunken Angel (1948), No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)

I have seen 20 of Akira Kurosawa’s 31 full-length feature films. Kurosawa is probably Japan’s best known director; he was certainly one of the first I had ever heard of. Kurosawa is hard-core hands-on in the making of his films. Kurosawa acts as not only director, but screenwriter, producer, and editor. He was a stickler for accuracy in everything from his period piece costumes to his fight scenes and went to infamous lengths to achieve perfection. Kurosawa was well-known for using multiple cameras which had the most phenomenal effect; particularly in fight scenes like the spectacular battle in the rain in Seven Samurai! Not every Kurosawa film is about Samurai/Ronin but a good chunk of my personal favourites are. What can I say? I love a Samurai! My favourite Kurosawa films are Seven Samurai, High and Low, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, The Idiot, The Hidden Fortress and Rashômon. Every single film on this list is at very least good. Every freaking single one! I am also extremely fond of Kurosawa’s three handsome regular actors Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Tatsuya Nakadai! Akira Kurosawa’s films are stunning and engrossing masterpieces; the man is a bloody legend!


#3. Sergio Leone

What I’ve Seen: Once Upon a Time in America (1984), A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot (1975), My Name is Nobody (1973), A Fistful of Dynamite (1971), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), For a Few Dollars More (1965), A Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)

I have seen 9 of Italian film director, producer and screenwriter Sergio Leone’s 13 full-length feature films. I was really surprised when I initially learned Leone had only directed 13 full length feature films! The man is such a legend in my mind and heart I guess I just expected the list to be more grand. It may be a small list but it sure is mighty! Sergio Leone is best known for his considerable contributions to the “Spaghetti Western” genre. I am still exploring the Italian westerns but with just about every Django film and perhaps a half dozen others, I am still waiting for one to top Leone’s quartet of perfection; Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dynamite, For a Few Dollars More and My Name is Nobody. I literally love every single one of the 9 films I’ve seen from Sergio Leone; outside of the quartet of perfection I am especially keen on Once Upon a Time in America and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly! So much is said with visuals in Leone’s films which have very spare dialogue. Leone also understands the importance of music in a film and Ennio Morricone’s brilliant scores truly are the ultimate compliment! Whilst perusing another blog, I found myself watching Grover from Sesame Street explaining “near” and “far” with visuals. It made me think of Sergio Leone! Yep. Sergio Leone and Grover should have teamed up because Leone also likes to visualize “near” and “far”! Extreme close-up on Clint’s face, a distance shot of three duellers, close up shot of another face, and another distance shot. You get the gist! I also happen to think that Leone more than anyone else has put the slow-mo shot to its best and most effective use! And of course the cast of amazing talented actors is icing on the cake. I absolutely love Sergio Leone and his beautiful, violent epic contributions!


#2. Lucio Fulci

What I’ve Seen: Voices from Beyond (1991), Demonia (1990), Nightmare Concert (A Cat in the Brain) (1990), Zombi 3 (1988), Touch of Death (1988), Aenigma (1987), Murderock (1984), The New Gladiators (1984), Manhattan Baby (1982), The New York Ripper (1982), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Beyond (1981), The Black Cat (1981), City of the Living Dead (1980), The Smuggler (1980), Zombi 2 (1979), The Psychic (1977), The Four of the Apocalypse (1975), Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), The Eroticist (1972), Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), Perversion Story (1969)

I have seen 22 of Lucio Fulci’s 53 full length feature films. Fulci has directed films in a variety of genres but I have concentrated mainly on his magnificent horror entries. From his brilliant 70s Giallo Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling and The Psychic to his groovy gorefest Zombi 2 which would unleash a series of gruesomely entertaining delights like City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery and The New York Ripper. Four of Fulci’s films are on my top 100 favourite horror films of all time; Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling, The Beyond and Zombi 2. Not all of Fulci’s horror is as magnificent as the aforementioned but what shines is 100% gold! Practical gore effects really turn me on! Fulci’s visuals are superb. He does some pretty trippy stuff in his early 70s films and of course there is his deliciously gag-worthy gore effects and makeup in his later stuff. His zombies are the cream of the crop with the addition of real worms and maggots! I freaking love it!! One of the great masters of the horror genre who has earned his nickname The Godfather of Gore!


#1. David Cronenberg

What I’ve Seen: Cosmopolis (2012), A Dangerous Method (2011), Eastern Promises (2007), A History of Violence (2005), Spider (2002), eXistenZ (1999), Crash (1996), M. Butterfly (1993), Naked Lunch (1991), The Fly (1986), The Dead Zone (1983), Videodrome (1983), Scanners (1981), The Brood (1979), Fast Company (1979), Rabid (1977), Shivers (1975)

I have seen 18 of Canadian director David Cronenberg’s 20 full length feature films. I have not seen David Cronenberg’s first two films; Crimes of the Future (1970) and Stereo (1969). I dig this term “body horror” that has been associated with Cronenberg’s horror films big time. Although “venereal horror” also has a nice ring to it! Cronenberg so beautifully melds the physical with the psychological and it certainly makes for a unique viewing experience. The kind of experience that burrows under the skin and stays with you for days on end. I recently did a post called Fifty Wishes: The horror film edition. My number twenty-five wish was that David Cronenberg would make another horror film. Not that Cronenberg’s non-genre films haven’t been good. As a matter of fact I loved Naked Lunch, Eastern Promises and especially Dead Ringers. I know there is a strong argument that Dead Ringers is a horror film but I really consider it more of a psychological thriller. In any case, it is a freaking awesome film! But Cronenberg won my heart with his horror films; Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, Videodrome and The Fly. That is a hell of a horror quintet! Cronenberg’s wild, weird, wonderful and grotesque films are the holy grails of horror. Not only is David Cronenberg a bloody Canadian national treasure he is one of the most dauntless, imaginative and unique directors working today.


DRUNKEN ANGEL (1948) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by goregirl

While I consider myself a fan of director Akira Kurosawa I had not seen many of his early entries. In preparing for this feature I borrowed several Kurosawa films from the library. Three 1940’s titles I had not seen; Stray Dog, No Regrets for Our Youth and Drunken Angel and a few favorites; Yojimbo, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood. I had no intention of reviewing these favorites; I just wanted to get a sense of how his older films compared to those I was more familiar with. Okay, who am I kidding? All three of these Kurosawa films are worth revisiting on a regular basis! I quite enjoyed both Stray Dog and No Regrets for Our Youth but of the trio Drunken Angel appealed to me the most. It should be noted that Drunken Angel is Toshirô Mifune’s first appearance in a Kurosawa film. The handsome and talented actor would make several more films with the director. However it is another Kurosawa regular that really steals my heart. Takashi Shimura is one of the finest and most likable actors on the planet. He has this wonderful kind face that makes me want to give him a big hug; but he is also immensely talented! To be honest, I have never seen a Kurosawa film I didn’t like. The man is simply a brilliant director. Enthralling stories, wonderful characters, and epic visuals; Kurosawa is truly a master of his craft!

The titular “drunken angel” is Sanada; a doctor in a crime-ridden slum district. He is a caring but blunt and painfully honest man who also happens to have a drinking problem. Low-level Yakuza Matsunaga come to Sanada to have him remove a bullet from his hand. Sanada’s no bullshit delivery and contempt for Yakuza does not sit well with Matsunaga; nor does the news that he has contracted tuberculosis. Despite his attitude Sanada takes pity on the young criminal and the two develop a tumultuous friendship.

Based on this summary you might be expecting a heavy-handed affair. While I certainly would not call Drunken Angel a heart-warming story it does have its share of humorous and light moments. Most of these bits are supplied by Sanada our alcoholic doctor. At one point he turns his nose up at the alcohol-free ice-tea he is served. In protest he creates his own special version of long island ice-tea by mixing it with some rubbing alcohol. Admittedly, the humour included is generally of the ironic type.

Sanada’s advice to Matsunaga is to lay off the drink and the women and get lots of rest. Despite his hard exterior Matsunaga takes the doctors advice to heart and gives up his vices. Complicating matters former Yakuza member Okada is released from prison. To maintain his reputation Matsunaga once more turns to drinking and womanizing. It doesn’t take long before Okada slips right back into his former position and he even steals Matsunaga’s girl Nanae. A further complication involving Sanada’s female assistant; formerly the abused girlfriend of Okada presents itself. Matsunaga feels an obligation to help out the doctor and confronts Okada. In the end, Matsunaga comes to the sad and lonely realization that he is expendable in this world of crime.

Drunken Angel is basically a cautionary tale about the choices we make in life. Not a particularly original idea even in 1948. While the premise may ring familiar the presentation is what makes Drunken Angel shine. The slow but steady pace suits the material and the constant change of scenery keeps things interesting. As mentioned previously Takashi Shimura and Toshirô Mifune are both wonderful talented actors. Mifune and Shimura have great chemistry. Both actors get to play characters that are as fragile as they are intense and the result is electric and extremely watchable. The use of a lone guitar player strumming each evening in the center of the district is magnificent. I was particularly impressed with the scene where Okada fresh out of prison asks to borrow the guitar and plays a favourite tune. A melody that is recognized by his abused ex-girlfriend. Quite a beautiful piece of music to introduce an ugly character. The scenery is effectively bleak and dreary and the ugly sewage pond smack-dab in the center of the district is a constant focal point. It is insinuated that the polluted pond is the cause of the tuberculosis spreading across the district. Children are seen playing in and around the filthy water and it is not difficult to imagine a young Matsunaga growing up here surrounded by black market profiteers and yakuza. There is some action thrown in the mix but it is decidedly secondary to the drama.

The Criterion version I borrowed from the library had an excellent supplement called Kurosawa and the Censors. The film was produced and released during the American occupation of Japan. Filmmakers were not allowed to show anything that could be construed as negative about the occupation. Kurosawa managed to sneak in all sorts of commentary that was subtle enough to be missed by the censors. Makes me appreciate the director that much more! Drunken Angel comes highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Takashi Shimura, Toshirô Mifune, Reisaburô Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure, Chieko Nakakita, Noriko Sengoku, Shizuko Kasagi, Eitarô Shindô, Masao Shimizu, Taiji Tonoyama, Yoshiko Kuga, Chôko Iida, Ko Ubukata

Seven Samurai vs The Magnificent Seven

Posted in Japan, movies, USA with tags , , , , on March 12, 2012 by goregirl

Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film Seven Samurai is outstanding in every way a film can be outstanding! It is one hell of an act to follow! While Seven Samurai vs The Magnificent Seven is a no contest win for Seven Samurai in my mind; John Sturges’ 1960 remake The Magnificent Seven is also pretty bloody superb!

Seven Samurai vs The Magnificent Seven with Music by The Clash – The Magnificent Seven!

Toho March has arrived!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2012 by goregirl

Toho March has arrived! I am celebrating Japanese studio Toho’s contributions to cinema all month long! I will not only be reviewing horror films either. In the queue are the films of Ishiro Honda, Mikio Naruse, Takashi Tsuboshima and Akira Kurosawa. Speaking of Ishiro Honda, he will be the subject of my first post, which I will be following up with a review of his monster extravaganza Destroy All Monsters! I will have my first post up shortly! TOHO RULES!

Now this is my kind of Christmas Tree!