Based on the prison memoirs of hitman Kozo Mino, as 'novelised' by Koichi Iiboshi, this nihilistic anthology of murders changed the direction of the entire yakuza-movie genre. (It also marked Fukasaku's belated 'arrival' as a director - twelve years after his debut.) Out went the traditional stuff about codes of honour and giri-ninjo conflicts; in came a pervasive 'dog eat dog' amorality, garnished with ultraviolence and absurd, hyperbolic gore effects. It chronicles the rise of organised crime and gang feuds in Hiroshima between 1945 and 1956, focusing on demobbed soldier turned mobster Shozo Hirono (Sugawara), who starts out a loyal footsoldier in the Yamamori gang and winds up eleven years later menacing his complacent and disloyal boss - a threat made good in four immediate sequels, all shot by Fukasaku within 1973/74. It just about bears reading as a sardonic critique of Japan's post-war 'development', but only because a history-minded narration is used to hold the whole thing together. Sensation-seeking visuals and Tsushima's surf-guitar score are the stylistic highpoints.
Cast and crew
Shinichi 'Sonny' Chiba