Japan Society celebrates the Guns, Girls & Ghosts of Shintoho
Each year, the Globus Film Series at the Japan Society in New York provides an opportunity for aficionados and newcomers alike to immerse themselves in a particular area of Japanese cinema, with the season curated based on genre, theme or production history. For the 2013 series, which runs from February 27 to March 10, the Globus Series spotlights the output of the Japanese studio Shintoho. This company was formed in 1947 by employees of dominant major Toho, resulting in the release of over 500 features before the studio was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1961. Shintoho (which means “New Toho”) was a ‘B’-movie factory that targeted various audiences with a mixture of action, erotica, horror, war, yakuza thrillers and youth dramas, although it did invest in some auteur projects in its early years, with the aim of matching the five majors in terms of quality as well as quantity. As with the most notable exploitation specialists of any territory, the films produced by Shintoho became as infamous for their marketing materials as for their actual content, with suggestive titles and lurid posters enabling their releases to survive, if not quite thrive, in the competitive marketplace of Japan’s second Golden Age of cinema. However, the studio did employ some directors of note, such as Teruo Ishii and Nobuo Nakagawa, making it the forerunner of many modern companies that have allocated a certain level of creative control to directors who are happy to work in such lucrative genres as erotica and horror.
This retrospective was initially curated for the 2010 Udine Far East Film Festival by Mark Schilling, film critic for The Japan Times and author of Contemporary Japanese Film (2000) and Yakuza Movie Book: A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films (2003) amongst other excellent texts on Japanese cinema and popular culture. Japan Society will be screening eight Shintoho features with an emphasis on studio’s later years: Revenge of the Pearl Queen (1956), Flesh Pier (1958), Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959), Death Row Woman (1960), Ghost Cat of Otama Pond (1960), The Horizon Glitters (1960), Vampire Bride (1960) and Yellow Line (1960). While the aforementioned directorial talents of Ishii and Nakagawa are showcased in the line-up, attention is also paid to the star performers of Shintoho. The voluptuous Michiko Maeda became the first actress to appear nude in a Japanese film in Toshio Shimura’s pulp thriller Revenge of the Pearl Queen due to a scene in which she is seen unclothed from behind, but was later fired from the studio due to an act of insubordination. Junko Ikeuchi, who had a much less salacious image than Maeda, stars in Kyotaro Namiki’s supernatural horror Vampire Bride as a dance student with an unfortunate facial scar who seeks assistance from a sorceress in the mountains, only to be transformed into a monster. If these low-budget star vehicles are fairly representative of the Shintoho production line, the retrospective also includes some of the studio’s more experimental offerings, such as Ishii’s semi-documentary sex industry expose Flesh Pier.
The retrospective begins on February 27 with Nakagawa’s horrific jidai-geki Ghost Story of Yotsuya. This opening screening will be followed by the Enka Ecstasy party, which will feature a live performance by New York-based Japanese soul music band Neo Blues Maki.
Into the Shintoho Mind Warp: Girls, Guns & Ghosts from the Second Golden Age of Japanese Film @ Japan Society