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An ex-convict, Jiro (Akira Kobayashi), emerges from prison after an eight-year stint to find his gang disbanded and his aging boss on his sick bed. When Jiro approaches the powerful Hasama family to ask for assistance, he is tasked with settling a gangland dispute in a manufacturing district. If he succeeds, he and his old family will gain control over the area. Meanwhile, a rival named Hino (Jô Shishido) haunts Jiro’s every move.

I was first introduced to the cinema of Yasuharu Hasebe just a month ago when I reviewed Arrow’s release of Massacre Gun (1967). My education continues with the direct follow-up to Massacre Gun, Retaliation (aka: Shima wa Moratta and I Own Your Turf, 1969), another violent, gangland melodrama fronted by Jô (sometimes Joe) Shishido. In this case, Shishido plays second fiddle to Akira Kobayashi, who is probably best known for his headline appearances in Seijun Suzuki’s Kanto Wanderer (1963) and Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles without Honor and Humanity series (1973-74). Hasebe also trades up evocative, smoky black & white photography for gloriously bloody Fujicolor. Yoshihiro Ishimatsu and Keiji Kubota’s screenplay is not particularly inspiring, but it is a fun enough revisitation of double-crossing tough-guy tropes to stand up against some of the better Yakuza movies of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. The violence, both implied and explicit, is sometimes unnecessarily offensive (most of the women are either beaten, sexually assaulted, murdered, or tied up in BDSM-style stress positions), but more often entertaining, especially the spontaneous fist and sword fights and brutal torture scenes.

However, Hasebe and cinematographer Muneo Ueda’s insistence on shooting much of the film through and around foreground objects (windows, plants, chairs, beaded curtains, et cetera) trumps any of the minor updates to the Yakuza story formula. These eccentric visual choices, which frame scenes like giant dioramas, stretch beyond the widescreen vérité of many Nikkatsu and Toei thrillers to imply that the entire film is being culled from law enforcement surveillance, or perhaps the cameras of rival Yakuza spies (on at least two occasions, surveillance cameras are identified). Similarly, the particularly aggressive brawl that sets off the events of the third act is lit almost exclusively by a single flashlight. The effect can be maddening, crowding the frame beyond its capacity, but it’s always interesting and even compels the viewer to crane his/her neck in an effort to glimpse of the obscured action.



Retaliation is a pretty obscure title and doesn’t appear to have been released on DVD or Blu-ray in any region (I can’t even find any evidence of grey market or bootleg versions), so I can’t compare Arrow’s remastered, limited edition (3000 copies), 2.35:1, 1080p release against anything. I assume that the most obvious shortcomings are inherent in the source material. Retaliation is a challenge, because, as mentioned above, Hasebe and Ueda make a lot of extreme choices with their photography, including soft focus and diffused lighting. They also fix the sharpest details around the middle-ground, which often leaves foregrounds and backgrounds vaguely defined. All of this leads to a very grainy image that is distorted by in-camera artefacts, like general blurriness and chromatic aberrations. Still, details and structure is sharp, without any major signs of compression. The grain structure can appear uneven at times, but there aren’t issues with clumping or blocking. Also, like many films from the period, the colours and black levels can be inconsistent, though the overall gamma is more regulated than Arrow’s older Lady Snowblood release.



Arrow has preserved the original mono sound and presents it in uncompressed PCM 2.0. It seems likely that a lot of the dialogue and incidental were added in post, which is pretty common for movies from the era, but this mix is relatively aggressive. The hum and buzz of the outdoor environments (cars, trains, pedestrians, and omnipresent cicadas) and use of radios during some interior scenes sets a more immersive aural stage than I’m used to from other ‘60s/’70s Yakuza movies. The dialogue track features minor aspirated hiss, but are otherwise clear and consistent. Hajime Kaburagi’s rock/surf inspire score is fantastic, if not underused. I assume that the live band playing in the club is playing his original tunes as well. The music is crisp, including warm bass and tight instrumentations.



  • Interview with critic and historian Tony Rayns (31:30, HD) – A continuation of a supplemental discussion that appeared on Arrow’s Massacre Gun Blu-ray. This picks up where that featurette left off and covers Nikkasu Films’ most prolific actors and directors. Fantastically informative.
  • Interview with star Jô Shishido (13:30, HD) – This interview is also a follow-up to an extra that appears on the Massacre Gun release and continues the extended discussion with the outspoken and sweet-natured actor.
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Gallery featuring rare promotional images



Retaliation suffers from a conventional Yakuza thriller script, but director Yasuharu Hasebe’s odd visual choices and the charismatic pull of actors Jô Shishido and Akira Kobayashi help to set it apart from a very crowded field. It’s also a good companion piece to Hasebe’s more romantic and Hollywood-inspired Massacre Gun, which Arrow released earlier this year. The Blu-ray image quality is limited by the strange photography, but is still plenty clear. The sound is well balanced for an older mono track and the extras include two very informative interview segments.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and 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.