Japanese 1960s Horror Classics?

Marc Walkow marcwalkow at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 13 18:37:39 EDT 2006

I would definitely nominate Nakagawa Nobuo's JIGOKU, from 1960.

An argument could even be made that this was the first original  
"horror" film made in Japan, as opposed to a kaidan film or something  
based on material from another source. It's certainly unlike anything  
else made at the time, even in Nakagawa's own body of work. While not  
necessarily scary per se, it's certainly disturbing and upsetting,  
and absolutely not for children.

A legit US release of the film is due out on DVD this fall from  
Criterion, and I produced a 40m featurette on the disc interviewing  
the screenwriter and others. It should be a nice package

Marc Walkow

On Jun 13, 2006, at 5:58 PM, Michael McCaskey wrote:

> I'm by no means an authority on Japanese horror films, though I  
> generally do enjoy them. They tend to make my own problems seem  
> trivial by comparison, and a Japanese friend once told me that one  
> reason they tend to show them more in the summer in Japan is  
> because they chill you down in the heat.
> The distinction between films made primarily for kids where the  
> monsters
> are often cute and friendly is a valuable and an important one.  
> Some of the clips from horror films I use in class, from Ju-on 1,  
> the Korean Ring Virus, Dark Water, and the Well Scene in Ring 1,  
> really seem to scare some students--while they laugh at the spooky  
> parts of Miike's Katakuri ke no kofuku.
> Aside from "monster movies," what Japanese horror classics back in  
> the 1960s would you nominate? I was a student in Japan back then,  
> and more often than I would like to admit, I and Japanese student  
> friends would go off to the movies--but I must confess that when  
> they were horror films, they all seemed to be US and UK horror  
> films--not shown for foreigners, but in really local theaters-- 
> where just about everyone in the audience would be Japanese.
> I didn't find Ugetsu, or the Kwaidan movie, etc., particularly  
> scary back in the day. A lot of the monster films, Mothra,  
> especially, seemed to be obvious spoofs, really.
> On the other hand, in Juon, what seems striking is the way people  
> seem to get haunted 24/7. In many Western horror films, the scary  
> stuff is at one certain place only. In the Ring films, bad stuff  
> follows you if you watch the tape or whatever. In Juon the evil is  
> focused in that house, but after people go there, if they get away  
> alive, the ghosts tend to follow them home. The scene where one  
> troubled woman meets a friend in a cafe to talk about being  
> haunted, and then we find that the ghost Toshio is under the table  
> they're sitting at, seems specially troubling. The scene where the  
> building guard, a complete third party, who never went to the  
> haunted house, is attacked, as seen on CCTV, also seems disturbing,  
> to me anyway.
> I'm very grateful for the information on the Miike Yokai movie. It  
> reminded me that I ordered a copy of it months ago, but it turns  
> out that the US DVD Miike Yokai film won't be available now until  
> at least until mid-Sept. Today I found a copy that's only $8.99,  
> and available right now, but it seems too good to be true, perhaps.
> Michael McCaskey
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Aaron Gerow <gerowaaron at sbcglobal.net>
> Date: Saturday, June 10, 2006 8:25 pm
> Subject: Re: Assistance in identifying a film--There Are Three of  
> Them!
>> On 2006.6.10, at 10:02  AM, Michael McCaskey wrote:
>>> I plan to use at least a few clips from one or more of these in
>> class,
>>> as examples of late 1960s horror, to compare with Juon 2, etc.
>> Having seen the first two of the three films, I should stress that
>> they
>> are quite different from "horror" films (which in some ways
>> reinforces
>> my qualms about overusing the term). While there are a few scary
>> moments, Daiei made them primarily for kids and thus the monsters
>> are
>> often cute and friendly. Miike remade one of them recently with
>> Yokai
>> daisenso and the appearance of Mizuki Shigeru in that film
>> reinforces
>> how the original films were aiming for the kids who liked his
>> manga.
>> Since I would hesitate to call Mizuki Shigeru's Gegege no Kitaro
>> manga
>> "horror manga" (unlike, say, Umezu Kazuo's work), comparing these
>> films
>> with Juon can be like comparing apples and oranges. The presence
>> of
>> Yasuda, Kuroda and Yoshida is telling since they were all involved
>> in
>> the Daimajin films, something that brings these yokai films closer
>> to
>> "monster" series at Daiei like Daimajin and Gamera than to more
>> "horror" like films such as Kyuketsuki Gekemidoro, which was made
>> about
>> the same time. (A big question for those studying "horror" in
>> Japanese
>> cinema is where to fit kaiju eiga.)
>> While I do understand the flexibility of genre terms, that can
>> also be
>> their danger and we must be careful of their use. There is a need
>> to
>> also think of kaidanmono or yokaimono within different perspectives.
>> Aaron Gerow
>> Director of Undergraduate Studies, Film Studies Program
>> Assistant Professor
>> Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
>> Yale University
>> 53 Wall Street, Room 316
>> PO Box 208363
>> New Haven, CT 06520-8363
>> USA
>> Phone: 1-203-432-7082
>> Fax: 1-203-432-6764
>> e-mail: aaron.gerow at yale.edu

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