An Actor’s Revenge 雪之丞変化 Dir: Kon Ichikawa (1963)

An Actor’s Revenge  An Actor's Revenge 1963 Poster

雪之丞変化 「Yukinojo Henge」

Release Date: January 13rg, 1963

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Writer: Otokichi Mikami (Newspaper Serial), Daisuke Ito, Teinosuke Kinugassa (Adaptation), Natto Wada (Screenplay),

Starring: Kazuo Hasegawa, Fujiko Yamamoto, Ayako Wakao, Eiji Funakoshi, Saburo Date, Kikue Mori,


Kon Ichikawa’s 1963 version of An Actor’s Revenge is a remake of the 1935 film starring Kazuo Hasegawa who came back to reprise a role that helped make him a star. Hasegawa, already a major kabuki and movie actor, must have thought this story special as this is his 300th film appearance. Far from being a staid jidaigeki adaptation, Ichikawa fuses period verisimilitude with colourful art direction and abstract framing to create a vision where the borders between the theatrical and real no longer exist.

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Ten Dark Women 黒い十人の女 Dir: Kon Ichikawa (1961)

Ten Dark Women    Ten Dark Women Film Poster

黒い十人の女  Kuroi Junin no Onna

Release Date: May 03rd, 1961

Duration: 103 mins.

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Writer: Natto Wada (Script) 

Starring: Fujiko Yamamoto, Mariko Miyagi, Tamao Nakamura, Kyoko Kishida, Eiji Funakoshi, Mayumi Kurata,


The 1950s and 60s were boom years for Japan when its economic miracle began and new consumer goods and lifestyles emerged. With this age came a new breed of media people who used television to construct dreams designed to charm the masses. Kon Ichikawa takes a satirical glance at the sort of dream-merchant that emerged and layers it on the timeless psychology of men and women and the lack of commitment fellas have to the fairer sex as a TV producer finds himself the target of a murder from his wife and nine girlfriends, all of whom are aware of each other, and all of whom are so fed up with his flippant attitude to love they want to kill him.

In the opening ten minutes we are introduced to their scheme in media res and, in a fourth wall breaking moment, one of the plotters reveals how it has already gone badly awry before we get treated to an extended flashback to show us how it all began.

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Fires on the Plain 野火 Dir: Kon Ichikawa (1959)     

Fires on the Plain (1959)      Fires on the Plain 1959 Film Poster

野火  Nobi

Release Date: November 03rd, 1959

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Writer: Natto Wada (Script) Shohei Ooka (Original Novel)

Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Osamu Takizawa, Mickey Curtis, Mantaro Ushio, Hikaru Hoshi,


Kon Ichikawa is one of the big name Golden Age directors. A contemporary of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, Ichikawa tried his hand at a wide variety of films (including a documentary for the Olympic Games!). He is perhaps most famous for three films in the West, two highly realistic anti-war films, The Burmese Harp (1956) and Fires on the Plain(1959), and the period drama An Actor’s Revenge (1963), all three made with the scriptwriter Natto Wada, his wife and frequent collaborator, all of which have received subtitled releases and widespread festival play.

Fires on the Plain is a stunner of a film. It is bleak and harrowing and it is the sort of film that the Japanese movie industry probably won’t ever make again because it would be considered box-office suicide to have something as largescale by as grim and realistic as well as being something unafraid to show war as something calamitous, shambolic, and inhuman.

The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel written in 1951 by Shohei Ooka who, to write the story, channelled his traumatic experiences and emotions as a soldier who survived the Philippines theatre during the closing stages of the war. The Americans are invading Leyte Island in the Philippines and are hot on the heels of the demoralised soldiers of the Japanese army, all of whom are looking to evacuate from the island. We see their increasingly desperate struggle from the perspective of an army conscript, Private First Class Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), who is sick with tuberculosis.

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