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From granite-jawed hitmen and vengeful ex-cons to scheming yakuza and sex-hunting girl gangs, come enter the Nikkatsuverse as we celebrate the centenary of the legendary studio with this sizzling series of gangster films, crime thrillers and sexploitation flicks.
During its "Golden Age" from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, Nikkatsu was one of the most exciting and energetic studios in the world. Founded in 1912, the company had been forced to close down its production arm during World War II due to the government's forced "rationalization" of the film industry. During the postwar production boom, however, Nikkatsu re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with. In 1954, Nikkatsu completed construction of a massive soundstage facility and lured young, promising talent away from such stodgily hierarchical rivals as Shochiku by guaranteeing these up-and-comers quick advancement from assistant to full director status. It was thus that such vibrant talents as Yuzo Kawashima, Seijun Suzuki, Koreyoshi Kurahara, and future Japanese New Wave icon Shohei Imamura were given an early chance to strut their stuff.
Aggressively countering the staid, business-as-usual philosophy of its rivals, Nikkatsu aimed squarely for the burgeoning youth market with bebop-fuelled tales of teenage revolt, action movies and tough, noir-ish crime thrillers (not to mention, during the film industry's economic downturn in the seventies, a host of pinku eiga and "Roman Porno" softcore sex films). Brazenly fusing elements from Hollywood genre pictures (especially films noirs), French New Wave aesthetics and international youth culture, Nikkatsu's edgy, energetic exploitation films — no less than the contemporaneous New Wave art cinema represented by such directors as Imamura, Nagisa Oshima and Hiroshi Teshigahara — challenged and overturned the traditions of Japanese filmmaking and helped change the face of Japanese cinema in the fifties and sixties. As Nikkatsu celebrates its centenary this year, we are proud to present some of the many glories from its legendary Golden Age.
Thanks to the National Film Center, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Hiromi Aihara, Bewiz, Inc.