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Kuro Tokage

Black Lizard

Japan 1968
produced by
Akira Oda for Shochiku
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Akihiro Miwa (as Akihiro Maruyama), Isao Kimura, Kikko Matsuoka, Junya Usami, Yusuke Kawazu, Ko Nishimura, Toshiko Kobayashi, Sonosuke Oda, Kinji Hattori, Kyoichi Sato, Jun Kato, Ryuji Funakoshi, Mitsuko Takara, Tetsuro Tanba
screenplay by Masashige Narusawa, based on the novel by Edogawa Rampo and its stage adaptation by Yukio Mishima

Kogoro Akechi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Rich jeweller Iwase (Junya Usami) has received a letter that his daughter Sanae (Kikko Matsuoka) is to be kidnapped at midnight that day, so he hires detective Kogoro Takechi (Isao Kimura) to protect her. It seems though that Takechi bungles up royally, as he doesn't notice the girl in the bed he's protecting isn't a girl at all but a doll, and he lets himself be distracted by a woman (Akihiro Miwa), while the kidnapper Amamiya (Yusuke Kawazu) has long made his getaway by train, carrying Sanae in a trunk. But when it's cards-on-the-table time, it turns out that Takechi's men have long been trailing the man with the trunk and later freed Sanae, and that the woman who has seemingly distracted Takechi is actually the Black Lizard, the head of the kidnappers. She somehow manages to escape though, and vows to make another attempt to get her hands on the girl.

Despite Takechi's success in the first round, Iwase has beefed up security at his place, to such an extent that everybody is standing in everybody else's way, and Sanae can be smuggled out of the house inside a couch. As a ransom, the Black Lizard asks for the priceless Star of Egypt from Iwase, but for her, the whole thing was never so much about wealth and stuff but the beauty of the (kidnapping) game as such - plus she is sexually attracted to Sanae. There is a problem though, Takechi has somehow managed to get into her hideout, and all of the Black Lizard's attempts to kill him only result in the death of more and more of her man. On top of that, she begins to fall in love with Takechi. This leads to another problem: Thne Black Lizard's toyboy/slave Amamiya does not approve her falling in love with Takechi and starts to rebel, so much so that he is ultimately locked up together with Sanae - and the two of them fall in love. But do troubles not cease?, there is yet another hitch in the Black Lizard's plan, Sanae isn't even Sanae but a suicidal double in league with Takechi. In the finale, it turns out that Takechi has actually been at Black Lizard's side disguised as her hunchbacked sidekick all along, and he has seen to it that the defenses of the hideout are down when the police strikes.

Realizing she has lost the game, the Black Lizard kills herself, but not without confessing her love to Takechi ...


Nice crime drama that is based on a plot that is atrociously over-constructed - but for once that's not a bad thing but the very fabric that makes the story work. As is pointed out time and again in the movie, the Black Lizard likes crime (or rather: her crimes) for the complexity of the game, and when she kills herself in the end, it's not so much out of desperation but because she finally admits defeat and pays the price for it.

Add to the comples narrative a very stylish, self-assured and dynamic direction that doesn't shy away from also touching the more perverse aspects of the plot (though in a very cautious way, after all, these were the 19+60's and this is not an erotic flick), and an at least competent cast, and you get a pretty good film.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD