Masked swordsmen from the 1920s

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 4

This 1926 promotional flyer from the Nishiki-za movie theater in Kobe, Japan features some sweet hooded misadventure!

From the text, this Nikkatsu production was called Teru Hi Kumoru Hi: Zenpen, (roughly Sunny Day, Cloudy Day: Chapter 1) based on a novel by Kurama Tengu originator Jiro Osaragi. Don’t know a thing about this film, other than an obvious visual kinship to Tengu, Kurozukin and ilk.

A photograph from the same film. I love how defined and expressive the silent-era heavy eye make-up looks with the hood.

The magenta/rose ink and 85-plus years aging of what was already cheap thin stock makes this piece a bit frustrating to make out. Converting the images to B&W helped a bit though.

From the flyer text, here’s the rundown on this film:

Director: Hisayasu Takahashi, Camera: Ihaya Eiichi
Goro Kawabe as Haku’unsai (Fortune teller)
Denjiro Okochi as Kano Hachiro
Haruko Sawamura as Shiramine Ogin (Woman thief)
Umeko Sakuragi as Iwamura Otae
Yayoi Kawakami as Tsuruya Orin (Geisha girl)
Yuzuru Kume as Hosoki Toshio
Rizaemon Arashi as Iwami Kido
Sennosuke Nakamura as Mshira no Genji
Kakumatsuro Arashi as Hosoki Shinnojo
Setsuo Satsuki as Musashiya Rokubei


Many thanks to Aizu Shingo.

JIRAIYA THE BRAVE: Ninja and toad magic in the roaring 20s

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 2

This 1921 silent movie might just be the first time the legend of Jiraiya was put on film. It could also well-be the first time giant toad and snake magic with special effects transformations appeared on screen, four decades before heroic ninja and tokusatsu monster action were all the rage.

If the tale of toad-powered Jiraiya and snake-powered Orochimaru seems familiar its because it’s been adapted and re-imagined over and over, from the technicolor era to Naruto today.

There’s even a sidekick employing SLUG MAGIC! Not sure how menacing a big ass slug actually is, (that’s him in the middle, below) but there you are…

Silent films in any country are beyond rare, with most lost to the ravages of time, but throw in the war and it’s a miracle any of these flicks still exist. The ritualized combat choreography and simple but ground-breaking effects work here have real charm. Glad this not only survived, but is on YouTube!

Want to credit Ninja Attack co-author Matt Alt for turning me onto this video. Read his article on toads in Japanese popular media here. A new edition of his book is due in July.