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Akai Tenshi

Red Angel

Japan 1966
produced by
Ikuo Kubodera for Daiei
directed by Yasuzo Masumura
starring Ayako Wakao, Shinsuke Ashida, Yusuke Kawazu, Ranko Akagi, Jotaro Senba, Daihachi Kita, Jun Osanai, Daigo Inoue, Takashi Nakamura, Kenichi Tani, Kisao Tobita, Naomasa Kawashima, Ayako Ikegami, Kyosuke Shiho, Shin Minatsu, Ken Nakahara, Shinji Sayama, Kenji Ohba, Takehiko Goto, Yasuo Araki, Keiichiro Yamane, Masaki Nando, Ikuji Oka, Isamu Saeki, Saburo Shinoda, Mitsuko Takesato, Wakayo Matsumura, Keiko Arijima, Michiko Masugi, Junko Ichijo, Chikako Fujino, Yoshimi Oki, Hiroko Nishi, Chiduru Ko, Takako Onishi, Yaeko Nakagawa, Reiko Kasahara, Yukiko Tsuyama, Michiko Sudo, Masako Mizuki, Yoko Okada, Keiichi Noda
screenplay by Ryozo Kasahara, based on the novel by Yoriyoshi Arima, music by Sei Ikeno

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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1939: Japanese nurse Nishi (Ayako Wakao) is sent to a field hospital in China, where she has to treat the wounded - but for some of them, the usual treatment is not enough, and before long, she is raped by a patient, private Sakamoto (Jotaro Senba). The next day, Nishi complains about him and as a result, he is sent back to the frontline, to his death as he puts it. A few weeks later, Nishi is relocated to a frontline hospital, where her main function is to keep patients still while head surgeon Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida) amputates their arms and legs. Eventually, Nishi bumps into her rapist, Sakamoto, who's hardly alive anymore, and Okabe has already given up on him. Now Nishi is overcome by guilt as in her mind it's because of her he's been sent to the front, and thus she persuades Okabe to try and save his life, even if she has to promise to come to Okabe's room that night. Sakamoto tries anyhow, but Nishi keeps her promise to Okabe - but to her surprise he doesn't demand sex but merely wants someone to drink with and talk to, and someone who gives him a morphine injection ... and somehow, Nishi falls in love with Okabe.

Eventually, Nishi is ordered back to the field hospital, where she meets private Orihara (Yusuke Kawazu), a soldier who has lost his arms but is not sent back to Japan because seeing armless veterans might turn the populace against the war. Nishi feels sorry enough for Orihara that she agrees to have sex with him ... but the very next day, he commits suicide - and Nishi feels responsible for his death as well.

Ordered back to the frontline hospital, Nishi finds the situation has worsened drastically ... but still she has Okabe, who soon also falls in love with her - but unfortunately he's impotent and addicted to morphine.

When Okabe is transferred to a frontline village, Nishi decides to go with him out of love - but the village though is worse than anything else since cholera has broken out among the relief women (the prostitutes reserved for Japanese soldiers), so the soldiers also try to rape the nurses. Plus the Chinese are closing in by the minute. But what's worse Okabe can't get his regular morphine-shot and seems to gradually go crazy ...

 

Now this is not an uplifting movie in any sense of the word - and it hasn't set out to be, it's a strong anti-war film that shows little interest in heroisms and even winners and losers but puts its focus on the real terrors of war, which cripples or kills people, turns men into animals, and women into prey, where lives are intentionally thrown away for strategic importance. But this isn't a mere message movie, it tells an engaging story about people who should never be thrown into the situations they are in, with a focus on storytelling that than messaging, and thanks to a very impressive directorial effort and a strong cast, the thing comes to life rather beautifully.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD