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Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan

Ghost Story of Yotsuya
The Ghost of Yotsuya / Yotsuya Ghost Story in Tokaido

Japan 1959
produced by
Mitsugu Okura for Shintoho
directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
starring Shigeru Amachi, Noriko Kitazawa, Katsuko Wakasugi, Shuntaro Emi, Ryuzaburo Nakamura, Junko Ikeuchi, Jun Otomo, Hiroshi Hayashi, Shinjiro Asano, Arata Shibata, Kikuko Hanaoka, Hiroshi Sugi, Yozo Takamura, Nagamasa Yamada, Hiroshi Izumida, Koji Hirose, Midori Chikuma
screenplay by Masayoshi Onuki, Yoshihiro Ishikawa, based on the play by Nanboku Tsuruya, music by Chumei Watanabe

Ghost Story of Yotsuya

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Samurai Iemon (Shigeru Amachi) loves Iwa (Katsuko Wakasugi) and wants to marry her - but her father (Shinjiro Asano) won't permit it, instead only mocks Iemon - to such an extent that Iemon slays him in a fit of rage. Now that wasn't a good idea, especially when it comes to his plans of marrying Iwa, and what's worse still, there was a witness to the scene, Naosuke (Shuntaro Emi). But unexpectedly, Naosuke turns out to be a blessing for Iemon, as he helps him against his better knowledge to put the blame on someone else, a certain Usaburo.

Why? Because Naosuke is in love with Iwa's sister Sode (Noriko Kitazawa), and just like with Iemon and Iwa, Iwa and Sode's father was the stumbling block here. However, Naosuke is from a lower caste, and Sode's brother (Ryuzaburo Nakamura), too, would never allow her to marry him - so Naosuke persuades Iemon to help him kill the brother. Which they do while they're on an expedition to track down Usaburo, the murderer of Iwa's father. And because it's just so convenient, the two of them put the blame for this murder on Usaburo as well.

Years have passed, Iemon and Naosuke have long parted ways, each with the woman he longed for, and Iemon and Iwa had a son, while Sode still refuses to have sex with Naosuke, not before her brother and father are avenged - and eventually, Iemon even kills the totally innocent Usaburo, just to get into his wife's panties.

In the meantime, Iemon has gotten tired of his impoverished life, and when he meets with Naosuke once more, he helps him get romantically involved with Ume Ito (Junko Ikeuchi), daughter of a gouvernment official who could grant Iemon a good position should he marry his daughter. Iemon would love to, but there's still Iwa, but how to get rid of her, unless ...

Naosuke, always the schemer, makes up a perfect scheme to poison her, then put the blame on a masseur (Jun Otomo) who had the hots for her, and slay him as well, to make it look like a crime of jealousy. The plan, put into effect on the day of Iemon's wedding to Ume no less, works like a charm, and when they nail Iwa and the masseur to a shutter and sink them in a nearby lake, which should be the end of them ... but it isn't: In his wedding night, the ghosts of Iwa and the masseur return to Iemon to haunt him, and they trick him into killing Ume and her parents. Once Iemon realizes what he has done, he goes into hiding.

Then Iwa appears to Naosuke and Sode, and he is so shocked that he confesses everything. Iwa then leads Sode, who doesn't yet know she is a ghost, to their brother, who has survived Iemon and Naosuke's attempt on his life after all and unbeknowest to everyone. Sode and her brother decide to have their revenge on Iemon.

Naosuke pays a visit to Iemon to warn him and tries to persuade him to leave this part of the country to start somewhere else anew - but Iemon kills him in a fit of rage. Then Sode and her brother show up to have a showdown, and it looks as if Iemon would have the upper hand - until the spirits of all those he has killed appear to him, make him lose his cool and ultimately make him run into his adversaries' swords ...

 

Roughly the frist half of this film looks like nothing other than your typical samurai tale of honor and betrayal. The whole thing is told and directed in a rather old-fashioned way , which doesn't hurt its rather traditional story one bit, but doesn't exactly suggest too much promise either. It's about halfway through the film when the tone changes with Naosuke and Iemon starting to plot Iwa that the film starts getting a life of its own, and when the poison horribly distorts Iwa's face (depicted in quite a gruesome manner), the film reaches a level of the macabre from which it never again descends and which is supported by many an imaginative (and sometimes quite gory) shock scene. Especially the last third of the movie, in which Iemon is hanted by the spirits of his wife and her masseur, is pretty impressive and quite creepy.

Recommended, actually!

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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