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  • "Yaju no Seishun" ("Youth of the Beast") is, without doubt, one of the greatest Japanese films of the 1960's. It is also, arguably, the best film from the amazing director, Suzuki Seijun. This was Suzuki-sensei's "breakthrough" film; in as much as it was the first film where he truly let his flamboyant, dizzying, artistic sense come forward. Full of intense, innovative, eye-popping visuals, the film never loses its solid narrative flow; thanks, in part, to a great script based on the novel by Hard-Boiled master, Oyabu Haruhiko. What more could one ask for? A great story, brilliant direction, and outstanding performances (especially by Shishido Jo). This is a superior example of the Japanese thriller--and, for that matter, crime cinema of the 1960's in general!
  • Joji 'Jo' Mizuno is a tough guy who walks into the lives of two rival crime gangs, playing each against the other for his own financial benefit, both are eager to have him working for them, but both will ultimately regret their decision, when his real motives are revealed. A fascinating crime story based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu, that pulls you in instantly, a story that reveals itself only little by little. Suzuki's film is also a pleasure to the eye, the glorious use of colours gives the film a vibrancy that when combined with the demented jazzy score, gives the film an overall pop art feel. The characters are all cool as hell and immaculately well dressed, the Tokyo street scenes are a pleasure to see in full colour, certainly the best use of urban Tokyo I've seen since House of Bamboo. Overall this is a thoroughly entertaining crime flick with pulp overtones, it may not be strong on violence but its certainly not to be missed.
  • This is one of the Yakuza movies made during the height of Seijun Suzuki's run at Nikkatsu Studios. It's not as abstract as the later stuff but it's just as brilliant. It can't be stressed enough that though he made "entertainment films" he did it with a vengeance. I've seen four of his films so far, ranging from 1958 to 1967, and they're all strikingly original. From this period 'Tokyo Drifter' seems to get more press than 'Youth of the Beast' (both star Jo Shisido) but I'll take this one. The colors and the composition of the wide-screen images draw you in, while the violence and the narrative jags keep you guessing. Highly recommended both for both its artistry and its energy, if you like gangster movies here's one for you.

    The plot revolves around Jo, a tough ex-con with a mysterious past who shows up and deftly goes to work for rival Yakuza bosses. He immediately pits them against each other and starts raking in as much money as he can. However, it soon becomes clear that he has ulterior motives involving a string of call-girls operated by one of the bosses. Literally no one is safe when he starts clawing his way toward the center of the web.
  • "Youth of the Beast" begins with what appears to be a double suicide--a cop and his mistress. However, this will play an important part in the film later. In the meantime, the ultra-cool Japanese actor, Jo Shishido, plays Jo Mizuno--a guy who is super-tough and wants to join one of the yakuza gangs. Hwever, he obviously has something up his sleeve, as he soon joins the rival gang--and soon he begins pitting them against each other. In many ways, this plays like a non-comedic version of Kurasawa's 1961 classic "Yojimbo"--as a crafty guy manages to gain the trust of both gangs in order to bring them down. The big question is why? Why does J constantly risk his life and what does this have to do with the two dead folks at the film's beginning?

    Because there are rival gangs and lots of betrayals, the film can get a bit confusing--especially at the end when everyone seems to be shooting everyone! These scum naturally don't wear uniforms so sometimes I did have a bit of trouble keeping track of who is who. Still, it is a very good gangster film--one that has plenty of action and the usual Shishido level of coolness. Well crafted and exciting--plus learning who was behind everything--that was a pretty fifty twist!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Seijun Suzuki is one of the more polarizing and ambiguous figures in Japanese cinema. Genius? Madman? Something in between? Perhaps it doesn't matter, the differences between these positions are in any case, quite sleight. An amazingly prolific director - he directed over forty films in the 1960s alone - his very productivity helped lend credibility to those who dismissed him as B-movie man, preeminent among these to be sure, but a B-movie man nonetheless. In recent years, however, his work has been increasingly appreciated, particularly in the West.

    In large measure, this uptick in esteem is can be traced to the film industry finally catching up to Suzuki. His classic mid-60s films (Youth of the Beast, Gate of Flesh, Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill) featured a powerful combination of brutal, explicit and often sadistic violence, morbid humor, a keen sense of the ridiculous and a visual and narrative style that is fractured and often hallucinatory, all held together (or, rather, defiantly not held together) by a totalizing nihilism that denies any higher or greater meaning to actions beyond the demonstrable consequences of action itself. This made for cinema that, at the time, was incomprehensible to many viewers, and Suzuki was famously fired by Nikkatsu in 1967 for making films that "make no sense and make no money." Decades later, however, the potency of his best films is keenly appreciated by many cinephiles raised on Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers (both almost completely derivative of Suzuki's work).

    Suzuki himself identified Youth of the Beast as marking the beginning of his most creatively fertile period, and all the distinctive elements of his film-making are in evidence, and meshing perfectly. The basic story - a mysterious tough muscles into the center of a war between rival gangs, then begins pursuing ends of his own as he plays each off the other - is strongly reminiscent of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, but where Yojimbo is a period piece set in a down and out town of the Edo period, Youth of the Beast is a (post)modern gangster film set in contemporary (1960s) Tokyo. Mifune's iconic role as the amoral ronin Sanjuro Kuwabatake is here filled by Jo Shishido as disgraced ex-detective Joji 'Jo' Mizuno.

    The film opens with police investigating the apparent double suicide of a detective and his mistress (we later learn that it was actually a double murder). The initial sequence plays at being a traditional police procedural, with middle aged men in rumpled suits and worn hats speaking clinically of the dead. The camera pans to a table and an incongruous splash of color, a single cut red flower in a vase. It is an image of fleeting life that is repeated as the film's closing frame.

    Suddenly, the film jumps to full color with a blast of hard bop from the soundtrack, cutting to a crowded street in Tokyo and the maniacal laughter of a woman. The camera soon finds 'Jo' Shisado, who explodes into violent action, attacking three men, pummeling one of them to the ground and kicking him repeatedly before fastidiously wiping the blood from his shoe onto the fallen man's shirt. He then turns with an air of total indifference and strolls into a hostess bar.

    His outburst provides an entree into the Tokyo underworld; the men he thrashed were low-level yakuza soldiers, and the ease with which he dispatched them attracts the attention of the local underboss. Soon, he meets the big boss, Hideo Nomoto, and becomes a hit-man for Nomoto's gang. It rapidly becomes apparent that Jo is playing a deeper game. He forces his way into the office of Nomoto's chief rival, earning a place on his payroll as well, this time by providing intelligence on Nomoto's activities. He plays the rivals off one another, eventually achieving the cataclysmic annihilation of both gangs.

    The great strength of Youth of the Beast is its combination of superb visual flair and unremitting nihilism. Suzuki's shots are almost invariably dynamic in their composition, a riot of color and movement against a gritty background of corruption and decay. They create at once a hallucinatory detachment and a gut level immersion in the violence. Even the relatively static shots are intensely poetic and loaded with symbolism. Several scenes take place in the office of Nomoto's hostess bar. The entire back wall of the office is a one-way mirror, looking out into the nightclub. The floor of the office is set below the floor of the club. It is a perfect visual depiction of an "underworld" existing side by side with everyday life, but invisible to most people.

    One aspect of the film will likely be extremely disturbing to many contemporary Western viewers. Suzuki's films were often possessed of a violent and virulent misogyny, and this is no exception. The female characters are invariably unsympathetic; prostitutes, addicts and murdering adulteresses. One scene features a pimp humiliating an addicted woman while she begs for a fix. In another, Nomoto beats a call girl with his belt and then rapes her. The movie reaches its climax when Jo leaves the woman who orchestrated the murder of his partner to the tender mercies of a straight razor wielding psychopath. It is a fitting end to one of the most relentlessly violent films of its era.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If hard boiled kitsch is your thing this movie is right up your alley baby. However, don't be fooled. This movie is full of guts and grit without the bad aftertaste. Seijun Suzuki built this movie on one of his early runs on his own and it shows. Free from the restraints of corporate influence, this movie is full of smart technical tricks from a somber black and white opening which blooms into vivid color to lovers kissing in the golden sands in tribute to "From Here To Eternity." These vivid colors are a perfect compliment to the overstylized characters and their desire for sadism and violence.

    The story starts out with a mysterious character Jo, played by the larger than life Jo Shishido, who blows into the lives of two rival gangs like a modern day gunslinger. He plays both sides of the fence and incites a war in order to find the whathappins of his former partner who was mysteriously killed amidst gang activity. Many have said that this plot construct is in the same vein as "Yojimbo" and "Fistful of Dollars" and it is interesting to note that respectively the films were released in 1961 and 1964, putting "Youth of the Beast smartly in between.

    What sets apart this film from the rest is its look and style, basically an overstylized pop gangster film with jazz interludes and objectified women. Among these colorful characters even lies a gay character portrayed as the crime boss's younger brother. This younger brother turns out to be the most dangerous (and most memorable) character of the film, and adds another sexual dimension in which Jo has to navigate in order to find his truth. It is also interesting to note that the female characters have a tendency to appear as victims caught in the mob world, but in actuality end up being the undoing of their male counterparts.

    This was the first of many films Jo Shishido and Seijun Suzuki collaborated on and led to many more successful films such as "Branded to Kill." In an interesting side note Joe Shishido before hooking up with Suzuki underwent plastic surgery in order to improve his facial appearance. This led to his typecasting of the tough guy character Jo is most famous for. Incidentally this film with all the important players, was one of the forerunners of a prolific decade of famous "Nikkatsu action films." This era promptly ended with "Branded to Kill" in 1967, as it is said that Suzuki was promptly fired on the spot by Nikkatsu President Kyusaku Hori fired for "making films that didn't make any sense and didn't make any money." It could very well be said that this film started Seijun Suzuki's style as the art house director we know as today and the undoing of the studio director in which he began his career.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    After the apparent "suicide" of a police officer, a mysterious, and yet strangely powerful, gangster appears on the street and quickly gets himself involved with the local yakuza crimelords. Seems Jo, as his name is, has a bone to pick with whoever really killed his police officer friend, and in the process inflame gang warfare and let the mobsters kill each other in their confusion.

    This strange but highly entertaining flick operates on a lot of different levels. At worst it's like a very glossy exploitation film; at best it's ultra-colorful film noir without the high contrast lighting. And while the movie won't necessarily keep you guessing, it's still pretty exciting as Jo maneuvers his way through the crime ranks, strutting and flaunting his expertise the entire way through. It's like a Japanese James Bond, only good! Also, this movie has a very deranged sense of humor, working off audience expectations as often as thumbing its nose at its more generic characters. It's easy to see why this movie has survived the years, despite the fact that sometimes it's 60s feel can come off as dated from time to time and it's mostly pulp fiction.

    --PolarisDiB
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Opening on a scene where a double suicide has taken place, the beginning of Youth of the Beast is filmed in black and white, but with the introduction of the violent, raucous Mizuno Joji, Shishido Joe, the film becomes emblazoned with pastel colors! Well, maybe not, but Youth of the Beast is one of Nikkatsu's earliest and Suzuki's first color films. Displaying color usage that would please Thomas Wolfe, Youth of the Beast takes on the stereotype of the yakuza being noble outlaws who fight against the system to preserve traditional Japanese culture. The yakuza in this film resemble more the modern mold: drug dealers, pimps, and extortionists. It is amidst this crowd that Jo tries to establish himself. Beating up random people, harassing waiters, hiring the services of several bargirls, and then saying that he does not have the money to pay, Jo at first is accosted by members of the Nomoto family, but because he is able to impress them with his considerable fighting skills, he is asked to join the gang. With it bespectacled, cat-loving, knife-chunking boss, the Nomoto family makes a chunk of its money by extorting local business owners. Employing such tactics as setting people's heads on fire by using a can of hairspray as a blowtorch, Jo quickly establishes himself as someone not to be messed with and it seems that the Nomoto family has within its ranks a strong guy to further their cause. However, is this man to be trusted? Behind Nomoto's back, Jo also mingles with the Sanko gang, Nomoto's chief rival. Stating that he is only doing it for the money, Jo gives a number of Nomoto's secrets to the Sanko boss. However, is Jo truly in it solely for the money? Visiting the wife of the detective whose body, along with his lover's, was discovered in the opening scene and avoiding other's at the service, it seems that Jo has something to hide…

    With the recent releases of four classic Suzuki films, Gate of Flesh, Story of a Prostitute, and Fighting Elegy being the other three, Suzuki fans have had a number of good films in which they can sink their teeth into. One of four films Suzuki directed in 1963, Youth of the Beast displays a number of elements that would become familiar aspects of his later films, such as the creative use of color and surreal backgrounds. Also, while primarily a serious film, Youth of the Beast has a comic element as well and, of course, Shishodo Joe is awesome!
  • One of Suzuki's best films. The scenes behind the one-way glass in the nightclub make for some brilliant camera angles. Joe Shishido turns in another fine performance as a brutish thug with a secret agenda. If you are a fan of 60's era violent gangster type cinema don't pass this up!
  • That's what I like so much about Suzuki (and other genre directors from back then). He made genre pictures on studio demand yet sacrificed none of his personal style and artistic aspirations in the process. As a result, Youth of the Beast is as entertaining as it is visually fascinating, the work of a true master craftsman.

    Jo Shishido plays Jo, a hard-ass guy that won't take no for an answer who inflitrates the local yakuza mob and quickly gains the trust of the boss and his underlings. But when he plays this and another gang against each other, it becomes apparent he has a hidden agenda and operates for reasons of his own. The story is rock solid with enough twists and turns to keep things interested, a whole assortment of colourful (and sociopathic) characters and plenty of violence and hard-boiled badassitude to boot. OK, the violence is relatively tame by today's stadards, but unlike other yakuza flicks from the 60's and 70's, the main character in Suzuki's pictures is his style.

    Vibrant colours from every end of the palette are combined into beautiful frames, with meticulous attention to detail and an eye for composition. Suzuki is good doing black and white but his work operates on a whole other level when he takes on colour. Clearly a challenge for any director that had to make the transition from b/w to colour (as Sidney Lumet details in his book Making Movies), Suzuki here excels in the task. Unusual yet beautiful compositions include the opening scene which is in shot black and white with with the only exception of a flower appearing in colour, until flashy colour and loud swing music boom at the next cut to reveal a busy Japanese street; or the scenes where Jo and the rival gang boss talk to each other while an old b/w Japanese movie plays in the back; the golden clouds of sand that blow outside the boss's house. There are many such examples yet for all its artistic intent, Youth of the Beast never deviates from its goal: to tell a highly entertaining pulpy crime story of revenge. Not as gritty and nihilistic as the works of Kinji Fukasaku and with a dash of film noir, this is a great ride for fans of 60's crime cinema.
  • I think one of the aspects of Youth of the Beast, the late genre- filmmaker master Seijun Suzuki's breakthrough, to take into account is that the story moves at a breathless pace. It's not that it is a story that is hard to follow - there are a good many characters to get to know, and after a black and white prologue (though at first I wasn't sure if it was a 'show-end-at-beginning' thing before going into full color for the majority of the film), we're put right into the physical space of this seemingly violent thug played by Jô Shishido (also named Jo here, good call) - it's that Suzuki, I think, is not so much interested in the story as in how a film MOVES. After all, it is a movie, right? Let's get that motion picture moving and vibrant and with energy. This is like a shotgun blast of 60's crime cinema that makes us feel a lot of things through a lot of intense visual choreography of the frame and what is in it (i.e. the old Scorsese axiom, cinema being a matter of what's in the frame and what's out, is paramount to Suzuki)/

    Youth of the Beast is not necessarily the most remarkable film as far as the story goes, and I'm sure there have been other Yakuza films and other gangster thrillers that have similarities; in a sense this isn't unlike Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars/Red Harvest, though this time the main character has more of a motive than in that story. What's remarkable is the direction and how the tone is brutal and yet it's staged in some creative ways. There's times when you know a character is about to lunge at someone else, or that we get a piece of visual information like a knife being held under a table or somewhere else, before that character lunges and strikes. Other times it's more about how he'll pan the camera, like when the car full of the one crime family gets ambushed by another car (the music cue here is especially, terribly exhilarating, and the rest of the score has a wonderful jazz rhythm to it), and when we see those faces of the guys with their masks on and how he pushes in.

    Hell, even just how Suzuki uses color cinematography is impressive, all of those reds (the woman being whipped on the carpet), and how he'll have a backdrop like at the movie theater where the Yakuza do some of their business and a film screen projecting some movie or other is in the background of the frame. It feels like one of those moments where post-modernism is creeping in to Japanese cinema, and of course Suzuki would continue making such advances with Tokyo Drifter and particularly Branded to Kill. The movie is hard and rough, violent and the characters' motivations - well, I should say Jo, who is basically undercover playing one side and then another until it's an all-out war - are intense enough that the cast rises above what could be basic (even boiler-plate) B-movie pulp. I don't know how much input Suzuki had on the script, but he knows how to keep his actors moving and being interesting, whether it's Jo, who is the stand-out of the film, or his 'friend' who has a thing for the ladies.

    This is pulp Japanese cinematic excellence, all feeding off of a vision that is unique.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched my first Suzuki film, Gate of Flesh, many months ago and was fascinated, almost against my will, by its vivid mixture of cheesiness and style. I wasn't sure what it was that so intrigued me until I saw Youth of the Beast and realized that I was watching the director that Tarantino, Miike, Chan-wook Park all would like to be. He is the real deal, sui generis, derivative of no-one, who single handedly broke out of the doldrums of Nikkatsu Studio's b-unit yakuza film grind of the late 50s early 60s to turn the genre into a bona fide art form.

    The story is Yojimbo like, enemy gangs played off against each other by Jô Shishido, alpha-male extraordinaire, a maverick thug, possibly concealing extra bullets in his pudgy cheeks, who shows up with no apparent history but some serious baggage. But the story doesn't matter, it just a frame on which Suzuki hangs his surreal, over the top sensibility, using slyly inventive camera work, splashes of brilliant color, and astonishing set design to create a dark parody of the genre that displays the jazzy hyper kinetic chaos of post war Tokyo. The honorable gangster of the 50s is dead, summarily shot in the head by Suzuki's fiendish wit, and only fools and sadists remain.

    The set pieces sustain a freshness even 44 years later, and illuminate what more recent (and derivative) genre directors might be trying to achieve. A sadomasochistic interlude plays out in an impromptu backyard dust storm painted in brilliant yellows. The invasion of a yakuza foot soldier's apartment yields a ceiling festooned with inexplicable face-bumping model airplanes. A one way mirror in the office of a yakuza nightclub examines the oblivious decadence of its patrons as violence plays out in the foreground. The rival gang is unaccountably headquartered in a movie theater, where the characters lay plots in the projection room as giant heads peer in and disembodied voices provide an eerie and distracting backdrop. Suzuki compels us to watch snippets of various Japanese and American noirs while we are watching his movie, how clever. A series of quick cuts hop around amongst a collection of candy colored telephones returning in full circle to settle in a slickly kitsch ultra stylish hostess club, where the camera, set in an invisible wall, follows the action by gliding effortlessly up and down a string of booths.

    It begins to be difficult to avoid the idea that Suzuki might just be poking fun at our voyeuristic lust for cinematic sex and violence. As the film progresses I keep getting an image of a puckish little fellow giggling gleefully from behind the camera - his humor is so infectious and so playful that I can't help laughing at myself right along with him. His mise en scène is all about disengaged observation, and when he isn't cramming his audience inside walls or behind glass partitions so we can a better view of a nice bit of torture, he makes us stand with the rest of the rubberneckers, at a safe distance, where we can enjoy the fun of a vicious street brawl without getting blood on our shoes. The camera pulls back whenever physically possible, not to demonstrate the wood block beauty of classic Japanese cinema, but to show us ourselves, sitting in the dark watching, or leaning in to discover just who is speaking from all the way across a room. He creates the same sense of distance for his characters, scattering them them liberally throughout the room, so that conversations occur with cuts that must leap the distance from one side to the other, while backs are often turned, and profiles more common than full face shots. Like us, they are permitted no empathy, no connection, all puppets in Suzuki's absurd universe.

    But we're still nowhere near the bottom of Suzuki's bottomless bag of tricks. His situational comedy is as broad as his camera is sly, taking care to subvert every code and convention of the genre along the way. There is a lot of fun to be had here as well, including a particularly amusing heist scene involving ineptly applied stocking disguises, smoke bombs and undignified scrambling, or Jo's decidedly un-stoic petulance regarding some Yakuza style finger whittling.

    As for pacing, there is no fat to be trimmed, and no fades, no dissolves and sparse transitional scenes. Suzuki's cuts are disconcertingly abrupt, he flings out plot points with utter contempt, often allowing mere seconds for us to absorb information. Quite challenging while trying to read subtitles, I made liberal use of the rewind button.

    A driving, jazzy score punctuates the film throughout that not only matches the amped up mobility of the visuals but the innovative jump cuts. The Criterion transfer is worth mentioning, it's a joy to behold. It rare to find such a crisp, brilliant restoration, and there aren't many b-level Japanese films from this era that look this good. Bonus material reveals Suzuki to be just what I'd expect, a sweet and unpretentious little old guy with a naughty gleam in his eyes. He's not very forthcoming about his film but seems very entertained by all the questions. Jô Shishido also has a brief interview where he ruefully discusses his cheek implants.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A recently imprisoned ex-cop pursues the person(..or persons)responsible for the murder(..ruled a double suicide with his body found poisoned along with a hooker)of his former partner, infiltrating powerful mobs in the city, pitting them against each other through cunning manipulation, with his life always in danger. But, what will his reaction be when he discovers just who it was that caused his partner's death? Not as overtly complex as the film tends to get due to the lengths for which Jo has to go to stage the eventual showdown between the two Yakuza groups. Oftentimes, Jo has to worm his way out of nearly impossible situations where his true identity(..and motives)could be discovered any moment. Intense and determined, somehow, someway, Jo will find the person he seeks, even if it eventually kills him. Often, Jo is either beating somebody to a pulp or receiving punishment himself, all par for the course when dealing with nefarious Yakuza types.

    Director Seijun Suzuki stages the action and plot with his usual eye-popping visual style and keeps the pace moving, always shooting characters from different angles..the film is never flat or static, and Suzuki is always able, it seems, to capture images and characters in unique and colorful ways. Most(..practically all) characters are criminals and lowlifes of some sort, and Jo, by default, is the easier person to root for because his reasons are motivated out of loyalty to a fallen comrade whose reputation was sullied by practitioners of evil. Jo Shishido is an interesting leading man(..reminding me of Takeshi Kitano after his unfortunate crash)because his face seems numbed into almost one expression, cold, driven, hate, willing to use anyone within the underworld to get his revenge. But, boy, that twist is a knock-out regarding the person responsible for his pal's death, and Jo's decision to allow punishment is equally shocking(..but somewhat satisfying).

    Stunning set-pieces include how Jo defends himself while tied upside down to a chandelier as gangsters shoot at him, an impressive exterior shot of Yakuza boss Nomoto's whipping of a drug-addicted prostitute in his backyard as a yellow dust storm is transpiring, and how Jo is able to mastermind an effective escape from a hotel room where he was supposed to gun down a rival gangster(..which ends in a frenzy of violence) as police soon arrive on the scene. My favorite set-piece, an exercise in pure style, has Jo meeting Nomoto's gang for the first time, their business room slightly lower from the restaurant/club upstairs(..a window available for the criminals to see the action upstairs), and how Suzuki covers a lot of area/space as the real plot is set in motion was quite impressively shot and staged. My favorite character has to be the gay brother of boss Nomoto who responds unkind to anyone that mentions his mother was a whore(..he's quite a calm, very mild-mannered fellow until then).
  • Really good action packed stuff! Hitchcock meets film noir. Could the warped, cat-loving, uber thug lord, Nomoto be the inspiration for Bond nemesis, Blofeld, from You Only Live Twice(1967)? (Hold pinkie to corner of lip). Remember the Godfather also liked to pet his kitty while he plotted mayhem. Are all those characters derived from this film? Watch and decide for yourself. This film has a great jazzy score, too. The high energy music really makes up for the hassle of having to read subtitles and provides a nice upbeat counterpoint to the graphic violence. Definitely a seminal movie for lovers of Coppola, Scorcese, Tarantino, Peckinpaw,and the rest of the directors of the hardboiled visceral films of the later 60's and 70's. I think this film is an essential movie for any action film aficionado.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    My introduction to the work of Seijun Suzuki was, in part, because of the book "Film Posters: Exploitation" in which appears the poster of "Koroshi No Rakuin" a.k.a. "Branded to Kill" and also a little description of how Suzuki films are. The other part of why I began to check the work of Suzuki was because of the Criterion Collection that released for the first time that mentioned film, so when I when I found that DVD it became in the first film of Suzuki that I watched.

    "Youth of the Beast" is the second Suzuki film that I watch and although is not so strange and experimental as "Branded to Kill" is as great as that film. I really love the way that this film starts with Jo Mizuno, the character of the great Joe Shishido, being so bad ass that quickly gain the respect of one of the most important Yakuza bosses in Tokyo. He began to make activities for this Yakuza organization and after extort a man that has the protection of a rival organization he began to be the objective of the rivals. That scene is one of my favourites in all the film because is a resume of that bad ass personality of Jo, first with his unique methods of extortion, burning the hair of a man and later when he is in real danger because of the rival Yakuzas, his partner save him but instead of going out quickly of the scene he stay and beat those Yakuzas that a minute before almost kill him; An amazing sequence. So that rival organization soon contacts him and here is when we realize of the game that Jo is playing and the reasons of why he is looking out for revenge. The film turns in a game in which Jo is trying to put the two rival organizations against each other by being a spy in his organization and reveling details of their drug deals to their rivals. But everything has a reason and Jo reasons are to revenge a man who was very important and helpful when he went to prison but the final results are prove that they were part of a trap so he is like confused thinking in the real reasons of the dead of his friend and also because the revenge doesn't have the end that he was looking for.

    Well I loved this unique film and is, definitely, more accessible than "Koroshi No Rakuin". The cast is great with Joe Shishido who is just unique in this roles and the music is really terrific giving the film a unique style.

    Conclusion: watch this film, if you love any kind of crime films here's a unique tale of revenge set in the world of the Yakuzas. I love this film so there is nothing else but continue checking the films of Seijun Suzuki. 10 out of 10

    Criterion Collection DVD: The best extras in this DVD are the interviews with Suzuki and Shishido. I found really interesting the words of Shishido, who even show the original script of the film, explaining some of the techniques of Suzuki, how he was as an actor and also talking about his cheeks.

    Anyway is great to can watch this film and for me is confirmed the great quality of the Criterion Collection but Criterion needs to know that it's really difficult to can afford their DVDs editions and I think they should make single editions for all of their titles. I own about 5 Criterion editions and they are just beautiful, the one of "Dazed and Confused" includes even the original poster but I really prefer to spend the same money of one Criterion edition (about $50 in Mexico) in almost 7 titles of the collection but released in others editions like the films of Kurosawa. My point is that films like the ones of Suzuki doesn't exist in others editions so Criterion needs to reduce their prices for us to can watch this unique titles.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Viewed on DVD. Set design =eight (8) stars; score = seven (7) stars. Director Ichirou Ikeda offers up a tongue-in-cheek, surrealistic depiction of a gangster turf war complete with an embedded police spy. The huge cast makes it virtually impossible to keep tract of which character is a member of which gang. But not to worry. It doesn't matter, as the lines spoken by rival gang members/leaders are close to identical (which is a self-parodied complaint often made during the film!). Ikeda seems intent on creating scenes that exhibit all forms of criminal activity that contemporary censors would allow! The movie includes a surprise ending although the script does have a few clue fragments of what's to come early on. Actor Jou Shishido ("chubby checks") appears in virtually every scene and is able to defy some laws of physics by being at two places at virtually the same time (courtesy of the film's editing process)! (Shishido had surgery to blow out his checks apparently because the actor believed this would make him appear tougher on screen. Does one look meaner with the Mumps?) Set designs of gangster offices are especially original. One is behind a panel of one-way mirrors in a nightclub and is sound proofed (enabling gang leaders to hold business meeting while watching customers and the entertainment). Another office is behind a movie theater screen (also sound proofed). Cinematography (wide screen, color) and scene lighting are fine. So is restoration. Translations/subtitles are close enough. Signs are translated. Score is particularly interesting. It successfully (and uniquely) bends jazz with rock&roll. In addition to chubby cheeks' over coming at least one macro law of physics, there are other (intentional?) amusing events such as: the title of the film (it is totally unrelated to the movie and seems to be bait for attracting young audiences); four burly gangsters often prying themselves out of tiny cars; screeching tires as cars turn corners on unpaved roads; and gun shots that always sound the same despite where they occur and which weapon is fired (the sound tract is over saturated with gun fire from smokeless weapons!). Grab lots of popcorn and enjoy! WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
  • boblipton25 November 2020
    Jô Shishido gets a job with one Yakuza gang that's at war. He's tough, he's got a record, and they're impressed. He then goes to the rival Yakuza gang and gets a job with them, spying on the first gang.

    Seijun Suzuki's crime drama clearly is modeled on Yojimbo, but the two directors ran the story to different ends. Kurosawa's movie has a satirical edge, with his lone samurai caught in a war between silk merchants (capitalists), who co-opt gamblers (Yakuza); way down in the subtext is the implication that both groups are self-serving and will destroy Japan. They are also stupid and cowardly. A clever samurai can serve Japan by destroying them both.

    Suzuki's movie makes it all yakuza, and they are overtly tough, smart, and not in the least cowardly. Also, Shishido has a backstory and motive. Suzuki is more concerned with showing us the big cars, the beautiful suits and offices, and the mangled corpses. There's no angry humor in his movie. Just death and destruction. Which was very popular in the movies at this time.
  • Wonderful Blu-ray print of a fabulous turning point film for Seijun Suzuki. Gone suddenly is his slavish adherence to the studio's ritualistic and formulaic demands and here are the lovely colourful street scenes and crazy kaleidoscopic interiors. There are, of course, yakuza and the small matter of fingers going missing but from the start this has something of the humour and duplicity of Yojimbo and Jo Shishido is slipping effortlessly into the role he would make icon a few years later in Branded to Kill. There is no ponderous exposition here as we slip from scene to scene with European style wipes and fades and even semi jump cuts. The simplistic plot is a little hard to follow at times, not because it is complicated but that the tale is being told at such a pace and with such hypnotic visuals we are constantly distracted. Wonderful.
  • Youth of the Beast is pretty much acclaimed, but I just can't appreciate it very much, partly because it's quite a dated film - the 60s, and the execution reminded me of the old 60s Batman and the Green Hornet series, in its noir crime storyline as well as the use of the ol' fisticuffs to settle scores. Not that I didn't enjoy it though, but my smile stemmed more from the cheesiness.

    Of course when watching a film from the past, you got to approach it in the context when it was shown in. And it pretty much gave you a glimpse at old Japan, with its production sets, costumes, and acting style - which is exaggerated. Special effects and stunts were quite low key (probably groundbreaking for the era), with some shots suffering from sudden jump cuts, and looking raw. Certain stunts were found to be wanting, but again, for that era, it's adequately executed, though by today's standards, audiences would be more unforgiving.

    The violence too didn't let up, and for a Yakuza movie, violence is part and parcel to their lifestyle. There are a number of innovative techniques used, such as the flame from an aerosol can, and the insertion of a blade underneath the fingernail as a torture method to inflict pain. I was surprised too at the raw scratching off upholstery from a sofa set, which seemed quite realistically painful for the actress to perform.

    Director Seijun Suzuki actually helmed the movie Yumeji (1991), from which the theme song is used in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. Here, he crafts the movie from a novel by Haruhiko Oyabu, which could have served as inspiration for Lucky Number Slevin in its playing off mob bosses. Here, Jo Mizuno (Joe Shishido) infiltrates and joins a gang by forcing his way through to the top, beating up everyone and anyone who dare stands in his way.

    Impressed, he's given a stint with the gang, and slowly, a mystery begins to unravel as to his motivations and objectives to doing what he does. It plays out rather straightforward, and you would have guessed his intentions pretty earlier on in the movie, but what impressed is how simple it is to style a movie in this manner back in the 60s. Taking seemingly simple everyday locations like nightclubs and cinemas and having shady dealings taking place under a legitimate business front, does seem rather suggestive of how gangsters operate at the time.

    I'd pretty much recommend this to those who have high cheese tolerance, or fans of the swinging 60s era movies. Nothing much really to shout about.

    The Criterion DVD comes with an essay insert, the theatrical trailer (60s trailers all have those sensational big words covering 90% of the screen, very nostalgic), a 4"48' interview with director Seijun Suzuki, and a 7"56' interview with actor Joe Shishido. For a Criteriod DVD, it's pretty much barebones by standards.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A double-suicide scandal is sweeping the streets involving a call-girl and a police detective ......... The mystery to unsolving the case is on (Film Noir segment)

    A mysterious man is the point of interest for two rivaling gangs: he beats up random gangsters, has a way with the ladies, and ransoms insurance companies for money .. He works for the Nomoto clan as a hired gun , and he works for the Takechi clan as a double-spy .. Secretly , he is the former partner of the murdered police detective before he was framed by the mob ,, and his infiltration into these crime groups are to find the people responsible for his partner's death . (pulp-fiction segment)