21 February 2017 | XhcnoirX
Nice start to a 9-movie series
Akira Kobayashi is a drifter, 'carrying his guitar with no destination in mind' as the opening song proclaims. He ends up in Hakodate where his brawling skills get him the attention of local mob boss Ruriko Asaoka, who hires him as an enforcer. Asaoka wants to build an amusement park, but the house of his sister stands in the way, and she refuses to sell. Her no-good husband has a big debt with Asaoka however, and Kobayashi is tasked with getting them to sell the house to even the debt. But when Jô Shisido, henchman of a competitor, comes into town asking Asaoka for a favor that requires him to use the boat of Asaoka's sister, and recalls seeing Kobayashi somewhere, he has to tread carefully.
This was the first of 9 movies about the 'wandering guitarist', all starring Kobayashi, and it's a good start (I've yet to see any of the others tho). The opening scene, as well as several others, has a distinct western feel to them (including a couple of pistol drawing duels between Kobayashi and Jo 'chipmunk' Shisido) even if it's taking place in late 50s Japan, and Kobayashi looking like a 50s rocker among the otherwise sharp-dressed men. It's always fun to see the charismatic Shisido in a villain-like role and while Kobayashi starts out fairly non-descript, he matches him in every respect as the movie progresses, creating an interesting character. The theme song, which was also sung by Kobayashi, is played throughout the movie and ends up sticking in your mind, I wonder if they used it in subsequent movies.
This isn't a masterpiece in any way, but director Buichi Satô and DoP Kuratarô Takamura keep things quite interesting. There are a lot of colorful outdoor scenes with wide angles, which look pretty good, and there's rarely a dull moment (altho the romantic angle between Kobayashi and Asaoka's daughter is rather lifeless). Quite enjoyable, enough so that I will try and find the rest of the series.