Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu

Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu

Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu

Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

Skip to schedule and film credits
From granite-jawed hitmen and vengeful ex-cons to scheming yakuza and sex-hunting girl gangs, come enter the Nikkatsuverse as we celebrate the centenary of the legendary studio with this sizzling series of gangster films, crime thrillers and sexploitation flicks.

Films in Tokyo Drifters: 100 Years of Nikkatsu

    • The Woman from the Sea
    • Kaitei kara kita onna
    • Koreyoshi Kurahara
    • A yacht-loving youth becomes infatuated by a mysterious young woman he finds adrift on the ocean, in this gorgeously dreamlike fusion of fantasy, romance and horror from Koreyoshi Kurahara.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Tokyo Drifter
    • Tokyo nagaremono
    • Seijun Suzuki
    • Seijun Suzuki's gloriously artificial mash-up of Godard, Fuller, Fellini, James Bond and MGM musicals is an explosive, candy-coloured Pop Art freak-out.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Branded to Kill
    • Koroshi no rakuin
    • Seijun Suzuki
    • Bizarre, perverse and delightfully nonsensical, Seijun Suzuki's delirious deconstruction of the gangster genre is the undisputed high point of the Nikkatsu studio's '60s output.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • A Colt Is My Passport
    • Koruto wa ore no pasupooto
    • Takashi Nomura
    • A super-cool hitman and his guitar-strumming sidekick have to shoot their way out of town when they become trapped between rival mobs in this riotous fusion of the French New Wave, spaghetti westerns and Hollywood film noir.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District
    • Suzaki paradaisu: Aka shingo
    • Yuzo Kawashima
    • An impoverished couple succumb to the easy money and loose morals of Tokyo's notorious pleasure centre in this gritty, hard-hitting drama from overlooked master Yuzo Kawashima.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter
    • Nora-neko rokku: Sekkusu hanta
    • Yasuharu Hasebe
    • Nikkatsu superstar Meiko Kaji plays the leader of an all-girl gang who declare war on their male rivals in this deliciously disreputable exploitation opus.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • The Warped Ones
    • Kyonetsu no kisetsu
    • Koreyoshi Kurahara
    • Three hyper-violent teenage hoodlums go on a brutal, bebop-fuelled death trip in Koreyoshi Kurahara's nihilistic delinquent epic.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Intimidation
    • Aru kyohaku
    • Koreyoshi Kurahara
    • An ambitious bank executive is blackmailed into participating in a robbery scheme in director Koreyoshi Kurahara's scintillating pocket-size noir.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Retaliation
    • Shima wa moratta
    • Yasuharu Hasebe
    • Nikkatsu superstars Joe Shishido, Akira Kobayashi and Meiko Kaji star in this tough and cynical yakuza thriller about an ambitious ex-con who tries to clamber his way to the top of the gangland heap.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Massacre Gun
    • Minagoroshi no kenju
    • Yasuharu Hasebe
    • A mob hitman recruits his two brothers to help take on his former employers in this super-tough gangster classic.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • Rusty Knife
    • Sabita naifu
    • Toshio Masuda
    • Freshly released from prison, an embittered ex-con goes after the crime syndicate responsible for the rape and suicide of his girlfriend in this gritty, no-nonsense crime thriller.

    • No events playing at this time.
    • The Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate
    • Bakumatsu taiyoden
    • Yuzo Kawashima
    • Voted one of the best Japanese films of all time in a poll of Japanese critics, this raucous and cynical comedy follows an amiable trickster as he becomes embroiled in sleazy schemes, revolutionary intrigue and star-crossed love affairs at the dawn of the Meiji Restoration.

    • No events playing at this time.

During its "Golden Age" from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, Nikkatsu was one of the most exciting and energetic studios in the world. Founded in 1912, the company had been forced to close down its production arm during World War II due to the government's forced "rationalization" of the film industry. During the postwar production boom, however, Nikkatsu re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with. In 1954, Nikkatsu completed construction of a massive soundstage facility and lured young, promising talent away from such stodgily hierarchical rivals as Shochiku by guaranteeing these up-and-comers quick advancement from assistant to full director status. It was thus that such vibrant talents as Yuzo Kawashima, Seijun Suzuki, Koreyoshi Kurahara, and future Japanese New Wave icon Shohei Imamura were given an early chance to strut their stuff.

Aggressively countering the staid, business-as-usual philosophy of its rivals, Nikkatsu aimed squarely for the burgeoning youth market with bebop-fuelled tales of teenage revolt, action movies and tough, noir-ish crime thrillers (not to mention, during the film industry's economic downturn in the seventies, a host of pinku eiga and "Roman Porno" softcore sex films). Brazenly fusing elements from Hollywood genre pictures (especially films noirs), French New Wave aesthetics and international youth culture, Nikkatsu's edgy, energetic exploitation films — no less than the contemporaneous New Wave art cinema represented by such directors as Imamura, Nagisa Oshima and Hiroshi Teshigahara — challenged and overturned the traditions of Japanese filmmaking and helped change the face of Japanese cinema in the fifties and sixties. As Nikkatsu celebrates its centenary this year, we are proud to present some of the many glories from its legendary Golden Age.

—Todd Brown

Thanks to the National Film Center, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Hiromi Aihara, Bewiz, Inc.