'Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol.' (3-Disc Edition)
(Hideaki Nitani, Yujiro Ishihara, Akira Kobayashi, et al / 3-Disc Blu ray+DVD / NR / 2016 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these Diamond Guys with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill), Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife) and Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril).
Blu ray Verdict: An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (Tokyo Drifter, Massacre Gun) stars in Suzuki's 'Voice Without a Shadow'. Asako, a former telephone operator once heard the voice of a murder suspect which has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realizes his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect.
With Hamazaki having been found dead in a rain-soaked coalfield her husband is kept in police custody as the prime suspect. Ishikawa tries to help Asako and launches his own investigation, but the investigation soon runs into difficulty as both Kawai and Muraoka a revealed to have rock solid alibis. Weirdly, at the time, to make matters worse, her husband implausibly confesses, but soon a bigger plan is brought forth - one that ends badly for a lot of people!
Next, 50's subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) stars in Masuda's 'Red Pier' as Jiro the Lefty, a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop, amongst others!
Finally, in Saito's brilliantly-titled 'The Rambling Guitarist', mega star Akira Koabyashi (Battles Without Honour and Humanity) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute!
I mean, aside from the fact you fully expect Willie Nelson to be in the lead role here (!), things take an unexpected twist for Shinji when he discovers the owner's wife is Akitsu's actual sister! I know, right! Anyway, as Shinji protects the Akitsu family, Akitsu's daughter takes a romantic interest in him, of course. Then, well, Shinji's mob life becomes more complicated when a member of the Taguchi family questions if Shinji is an undercover cop!
Presented on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature Nikkatsu's leading talent at their best. These are all Standard Presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
High Definition digital transfers of all three films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles
Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara
Original trailers for all three films and trailer preview for Diamond Guys Vol. 2
Extensive promotional image galleries for all three films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling