Director: Sadao Nakajima
Starring: Tsunehiko Watase, Jun Hoshino, Takumi Kawatani
First, I have to send out thanks to Patrick Macias, who first reviewed this absolutely amazing (and elusive) little film in his "Tokyo Scope" book as well as August Ragone who was kind enough to alert me that it was finally making it's dvd debut, ending my nearly ten year search.
Now that I've finally seen this manic masterpiece, all I can say is WOW! Not only has it met my decade long expectations, but actually surpassed them. Shot in real time and clocking in at a lean and mean 78 minutes, this has got to be one of the greatest low budget chase flicks I have ever seen. The story concerns an ex race car driver turned jewel thief (played by Tsunehiko Watase) who while attempting a getaway, finds the bus he's riding hijacked by a pair of nasty but bumbling bank robbers. As the robbers bicker and argue with themselves and the passangers, Watase's character sits quietly in the back row, hoping to avoid being noticed. It doesn't last and soon everyone is at each other's throats and it isn't long before the bus driver dies from a heart attack (naturally), causing Watase to take the wheel. This despite the fact that his poor eyesight had previously caused him to wipe out on the race track. Meanwhile, Watase is being followed via motorcycle by his ever faithful woman, determined to help however she may. Throw in an incompetent police force trying everything to stop the runaway bus from road blocks to kamikaze style car launches and you have a film that is a step away from throwing a complete cinematic conniption.
This incredible movie (in reality as much a black comedy as it is a straight action fest) was directed by Sadao Nakajima, a relative unknown to me. The only other work I had seen of his was Watari the Ninja Boy, a children's superhero/ninja/monster show made in 1966. Digging deeper, I discovered he made some wild films in the 70s like Bakamasa Horamasa Toppamasa ( a Yakuza picture), Bodo Shimme Keimusho (prison flick) and something called Nippon Sex Ryoko which costarred Swedish actress Christina (They Call Her One Eye) Lindberg. If these films are even half as wild and entertaining as Kurutta Yaju, then Nakajima is a director I really need to investigate further.
***1/2 / ****