Sunday Matinee: Yojimbo

YojimboChanbara (also spelled chambara) or sword fighting films have been around since the silent days of cinema. The one of the earliest was Orochi from 1925 about a samurai who has fallen on bad times.

The genre really took off after WWII when the films became more action orientated and less drama orientated. I have written before about some of the classics, The Samurai Trilogy and more recently Zatoichi but I have missed some of the more popular and brilliant movies.

Akira Kurosawa was a master filmmaker. Over the years he made many types of films from dramas to adapting Shakespeare to dabbling in the samurai genre. Toshirô Mifune starred in many of Kurosawa’s movies but one of their best collaborations was this 1961 samurai film Yojimbo.
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Sunday Matinee: The Tale of Zatôichi

Zatôichi_monogatariAs I had previously discussed in an older Sunday Matinee, the Criterion Collection has just released (on November 26) a box set containing all 25 Zatôichi movies. Today I take a look at the first film.

In 1962 The Tale of Zatôichi (Zatôichi monogatari) hit movie theatre screens and kicked started one of the longer running franchises in film history. The first film sets up the basic setting and background for the series.

Set during the late Edo period, Zatôichi (Shintarô Katsu) is a blind masseur who travels from town to town looking for work. Zatôichi is also a master swordsman and his reputation is well known. Zatôichi hits a small town looking for work. There are two rival yakuza gangs in the town. The one crime boss has heard of Zatôichi and decides to hire him. When the other crime boss hears of this he hires a similarly skilled swordsman to take out Zatôichi. Unbeknownst to both crime bosses both swordsman become friends and Zatôichi is reluctant to fight him.
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Sunday Matinee: Purple Noon

Purple NoonIn 1960 while Alfred Hitchcock was terrorizing audiences with his masterpiece of a thriller, Psycho, director René Clément was thrilling audiences with his own brilliant thriller, Plein Soleil aka Purple Noon.

Patricia Highsmith’s first novel, Strangers on a Train was turned into an excellent thriller from Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. Purple Noon was based on her 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. It was adapted for American TV in 1956 but this was the first theatrical version of the story. It was later remade in 1999 as The Talented Mr. Ripley with Matt Damon as Tom Ripley and Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law co-starring.
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Sunday Matinee: Cop Hater

Cop HaterI was introduced to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel series as a kid and I was hooked. Ed McBain had been writing the series since 1956 with his first book Cop Hater and when he died at the age of 78 in he had written 55 of them. After decades of tracking them all down, I’m only two away from owning them all.

Ed McBain was born Salvatore Lombino but he changed his name to Evan Hunter. As Hunter he had already written several novels most notably The Blackboard Jungle which was made into a film in 1955. He started writing the 87th Precinct novels under the alias Ed McBain. He admitted the alias in 1958 but he kept using it until his death. Hunter also wrote several screenplays, his most famous being The Birds for Alfred Hitchcock.
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Sunday Matinee: More Outlaw Biker Films

Motor PsychoFollowing up on last week’s theme, here’s a better look at few more classic outlaw biker films.

In the ’60s it seemed like everyone was getting in on the act. Most of the films were low-budget quickies. But even filmmakers like Russ Meyer touched on the genre. Meyer made Motorpsycho! in 1965. It was made just before Meyer’s classic Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill! and followed Alex Rocco (Moe Green from The Godfather) and Haji as they teamed up to chase down an evil motorcycle gang who raped Rocco’s wife and murdered Haji’s husband.
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Sunday Matinee: Outlaw Biker Films

WildoneposterWhile I was researching my Around the World in 31 Days of Horror I stumbled across an interesting phenomena. Several countries around the world have participated in the outlaw biker movie genre.

The genre started in 1953 when Marlon Brando lead an outlaw motorcycle gang and terrorized a small town in The Wild One. In the U.S. the onslaught of biker movies filled theatre screens in the 1950’s, 60s and 70s. The genre died down in the 1980’s and is pretty much extinct nowadays. But at the height of the craze at the end of the 1960’s and through the ’70s other countries started pumping out their own versions of the outlaw biker film.
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