BD Release Date:
27th October 2014(UK)
Jô Shishido, Misako Watanabe, Tamio Kawaji,
Buy:Youth Of The Beast [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) (1963)
Seijun Suzuki started out making generic Japanese gangster B-movies in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Suzuki showed some creative spark in these films but it wasn’t really till he made Youth of the Beast that the style he would later be known for in films like Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter came into full flourish.
The film takes the usual plot of the former detective turned thug, Joji 'Jo' Mizuno (Jô Shishido), who plays two opposing Yakuza gangs off against each other. This plot device originally comes out of American crime writer Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, which Kurosawa used as the basis for his film Yojimbo, which would in turn be the blueprint for almost all spaghetti westerns. As usual with this plot device the thug plays the opposing gangs off each other for his own personal advantage. The gangs are interestingly portrayed as corporate entities, with one of the gangs having meetings in a cinema.
The gangs deal in drugs, and there is even a drug-addicted prostitute. These plot devices come out of American crime cinema, not Japanese culture. The interview included on the disc explains that drugs, unlike in the western world, were not very commonplace in Japan and even the hippest Japanese people frown upon drug use.
Suzuki’s mise-en-scène really comes into full force in this film. The colours are heightened to almost hallucinatory levels. Within the first 10 minutes Jo is pistol-whipping a Yakuza in the fancy back room of a nightclub where there is a two way mirror, giving the viewer a look at a floor show with a burlesque dancer going on at the same time. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition of the different sides of the Yakuza lifestyle. Suzuki’s style would become increasingly more surreal with his later films, Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drfiter. That eventually led to his dismissal from Nikkatsu studio.