Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards

(Japanese: Tantei Jimusho 23: Kutabare Akutōdomo; aka Detective Bureau 23: Down with the Wicked):
Detective Tajima (Jo Shishido) is tasked with tracking down a consignment of stolen firearms; as the investigation progresses, things take a turn, leading to a blood-drenched grudge match. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Seijun Suzuki may be the most well-known Japanese filmmaker of his era who didn’t earn his popularity and acclaim making period-set samurai/ chambara movies. A dyed-in-the-wool modernist, Suzuki preferred to update classic narrative traditions, while tending to stick to noir-themed yakuza (aka: jitsuroku) and juvenile delinquent movies throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. He developed a reputation with the rough ‘n tumble crime epic Youth of the Beast (Japanese: Yajū no seishun, aka: Wild Youth, 1963) and prostitute gang classic Gate of Flesh (Japanese: Nikutai no mon, 1964), before coming into worldwide attention with two of his more experimental and satirical films – Tokyo Drifter (Japanese: Tōkyō nagaremono, 1966) and Branded to Kill (Japanese: Koroshi no rakuin, 1967).

The same year that he broke through with Youth of the Beast and The Bastard (Japanese: Akutarō; aka The Young Rebel, The Incorrigible One, and Bad Boy) – two films Suzuki considers to be his real creative turning points – he made another career-redefining, anarchic cops & robbers flick called Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards. Detective Bureau 2-3 opens with a chaotic shoot-out, then runs its credits over the backdrop of a burning car as the boogie rock soundtrack preps us for a tongue-in-cheek ride through a world of post-WWII angst. Within the frame of pure pop entertainment, Suzuki acknowledges serious social issues, while Iwao Yamazaki’s screenplay (built on the narrative foundation of Haruhiko Oyabu’s original novel) tells a complete story without being waylaid by its message or overbearing style. Detective Bureau 2-3 sets itself apart from Suzuki’s earlier, more generic films with the broadened scale and eclectic nature of its action scenes (some are finely tuned, others are utterly discordant), but, as is usually the case, it is his offbeat sense of humour (culminating about halfway through the movie when tough guy lead Jo Shishido takes a break from infiltrating a violent gang to sing & dance in a musical floor show), his impeccable use of colour, dynamic framing, and use of period fashion make the film a must-see.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards was mastered for HD in-house at Nikkatsu and supplied directly to Arrow via digital file. We don’t have much more information on the process than that, but some of the other Arrow/Nikkatsu discs had additional restoration performed at R3store Studios in London, so it might be safe to assume that happened here. On the other hand, unlike many of those films, Detective Bureau 2-3 is reasonably popular and may have been better maintained over the years to facilitate multiple home video releases – including a stateside DVD from Kino. This Blu-ray debut is definitely a small step up from the already acceptable ‘bulk rate’ Arrow/Nikkatsu transfers, correcting some previous releases’ issues with splice damage, lumpy grain, and softened edges. Colour quality is another notable improvement, which is important, given Suzuki and cinematographer Shigeyoshi Mine’s use of primary gels and the pastel set-decoration. Hues are vivid, yet consistent, are well-supported by deep blacks, and exhibit few signs of bleeding. Textures and details appear accurate (note that the distortion along the edges of some moving camera frames are a natural anamorphic lens effect), and gradations are evenly spread without appear over-smoothed.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards is presented in its original mono Japanese and uncompressed LPCM 1.0 sound. There are some relatively obvious issues with the mix, such as inconsistent dialogue volume, overlapping sounds blocking each other out, and pops between reels, but none of this is really the fault of Nikkatsu’s restoration or Arrow’s authoring – this is just the way the movie sounds. These problems aside, there’s little distortion and Harumi Ibe’s soundtrack is rich, despite being tightly packed into a single channel. This is important, because music is an outstanding element; one that very nearly supersedes the importance of performance at times. The original score itself (rather than the big band/ragtime standards flecked throughout) is a near-parody of other popular rock scores from the era, like the Batman TV show, and I imagine that Quentin Tarantino’s use of the Japanese retro rock group The 5.6.7.8's was something of a nod to films like this one.

Extras include:
  • Tony Rayns on Detective Bureau 2-3 (29:01, HD) – The critic, Asian cinema expert, and co-author of Branded to Thrill: The Delirious Cinema of Suzuki Seijun (with Simon Field, pub: 1995) discusses Suzuki and actor Jo Shishido’s careers, Nikkatsu’s failed attempt at making Detective 2-3 into a series, before offering a critique of some of the film’s failed comedy (I tend to agree with him), running through the film’s plot, and comparing it to Suzuki’s later work.
  • Still gallery


 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature


Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

Street Mobster

(Japanese: Gendai Yakuza: Hitokiri Yota, 1972)
When Okita Isamu (Bunta Sugawara) re-emerges onto the mean streets of Kawazaki after five years in prison for a string of brutal crimes, he comes face to face with prostitute Kinuyo (Mayumi Nagisa), who immediately pinpoints him as one of the participants in her brutal sexual assault years earlier that left her shell-shocked and consigned to the life of a sex worker. While the two outcasts form an unlikely bond, Okita returns to his criminal ways. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Around the same time Seijun Suzuki was redefining himself at Nikkatsu, Kinji Fukasaku began working his way up the ladder at rival studio, Toei, creating his own version of post-war crime movies. As each filmmaker settled into their prospective grooves (Fukasaku almost a decade after Suzuki), both dabbled in cartoonish, over-the-top imagery that helped inform future generations of yakuza specialists, like Takashi Miike, Sion Sono, and Takeshi Kitano. The key difference between the two was that, while Suzuki fashioned himself as a bit of a political satirist and absurdist, Fukasaku preferred to explore brutal violence and fervent hyperrealism (even by today’s standards, his most famous work is relatively shocking). Made a year before his career-defining work in the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series (1973-74), 1972’s Street Mobster (which was the sixth in Toei's loosely connected Gendai Yakuza series) further established Fukasaku as the studio’s go-to guy for   jitsuroku eiga (literally “true account” crime movies – fictional, but based on gangland stories and legends) without reinventing the narrative standards of a “rise to fall” gangster epic.

Like Suzuki, Fukasaku (who co-wrote the film’s story with Yoshihiro Ishimatsu) sets the stage early. Street Mobster dives headlong into all of the director’s recently established trademarks, whetting our bloodlust early with a matter of fact, pre-credit montage of the main character’s early criminal exploits, hosted by Okita himself (who continues to narrate key sections of the story afterwards). There’s little time between chaotically edited battles for an audience to gather their bearings as the director indulges in increasingly experimental handheld camerawork (crash-zooms, tilted angles, spinning overhead shots, et cetera). Even expositional breaks feel like mere sips of air before Fukasaku shoves our heads back underwater. As such, Street Mobster can be exhausting in a way that makes the likes of Miike and Sono seem downright patient in comparison. Fukasaku’s unrelenting pace and artistic flourishes are often all that keeps the archetypal story from turning completely mundane (this was the sixth in a series, after all), but the narrative does spring to life wherever the romantic subplot between Okita and Kimiyo is concerned. Their relationship initially hinges on a graphic gang rape, which is a predictable vulgar plot device for the jitsuroku eiga (even Suzuki’s comparatively ‘tame’ crime movies are casually abusive towards women) that hampers enjoyment of the more complicated drama that follows. Still, Kimiyo is uncharacteristically well-written and actress Mayumi Nagisa’s strong performance brings out the best in the otherwise stoic Bunta Sugawara.

Arrow’s Toei releases tend to start the same way as their Nikkatsu counterparts with a mostly complete HD transfer being supplied directly by the parent company. There’s little else we know about the production of this 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer, but that’s okay, because it’s about as good as we can expect from this type of film. Fukasaku and cinematographer Hanjiro Nakazawa opt for a much more muted palette than Suzuki did, which, when coupled with the purposefully rough, naturally-lit imagery, leads to a comparatively flatter look. Fortunately, the limited colour range is mitigated by the consistency of the neutral hues. Black levels have similar issues with graying, also due to the raw photographic qualities, but the details are sharp enough to differentiate important shadows and keep the darker scenes from getting too muddy. While the grain rarely clumps, there are minor issues with slight edge enhancement that pops up when grain is heavy. These also appear to be inherent in the material, rather than a compression issue.

Again, the film is presented in its original Japanese mono and uncompressed LPCM sound and, again, most issues with the sound quality can be attributed to shortcomings in the source material. The sound design is pretty ambitious for type, as it attempts to cram a lot of environmental effects and other ambience into a single channel alongside shouting yakuza and punchy foley work. Sometimes, this leads to distortion at high volume levels and a bit of dialogue hiss, but nothing beyond the expectations of similar releases. Toshiaki Tsushima’s score features the same kinds of mixed rock/jazz motifs heard in many other Toei gangster pictures. The music drives roughshod through fistfights and footchases with pounding drums and bebop flutes, then establishes melodrama with blaring horns and Morricone-esque harmonica. Overall, the score has a rich tone, but would sound better with a touch of modern bass.

Extras include:
  • Commentary with Tom Mes – A typically strong track from the author of Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike (pub: 2003), co-author of The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (with Jasper Sharp, pub: 2004), and all-around Japanese cinema expert. Mes delivers a nearly complete historical account of the yakuza cinema of the ‘60s/’70s, sets Fukasaku’s films in their proper context, discusses the larger careers of the major cast members, and offers up a number of behind-the-scene anecdotes for this and other Japanese films of the era.
  • Trailer
  • Still gallery


 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

 Arrow Yakuza Double Feature

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


Links: