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March 07, 2006

Two later films by Yoshitaro Nomura

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Village of Eight Gravestones/Yatsu Haka-mura
Yoshitaro Nomura - 1977
Panorama Entertainment Region 0 DVD

Writhing Tongue/Furueru Shita
Yoshitaro Nomura - 1980
Panorama Entertainment Region 3 DVD

I wrote glowingly about Yoshitaro Nomura's The Castle of Sand last July. I would still hope to see Nomura's earlier films based on what I have read on his career. If the two films I saw are any indication, Nomura was in serious decline following The Castle of Sand.

Village of Eight Gravestones is the better of the two films. It's something of a genre mash-up of romantic melodrama, murder mystery, ghost story and gore film. The long lost son of a wealthy family is found. This rather large family has their eyes on inheriting the family fortune. Unfortunately various family members are dispatched with various violent deaths. The young man learns that the family fortune was established by an ancestor who helped kill several former samurai in exchange for land and wealth. The young man finds that he has two creepy old aunts who may be poisoning family members. Imagine Arsenic and Old Lace with flashback scenes involving samurais and severed body parts. At two and a half hours, the film is longer than it should be. Even though the narrative descended into nonsense at the end, it offers some perverse satisfaction.

Writhing Tongue made me think of the possibly apocryphal story about Val Lewton. An executive at had misunderstood when he heard that Lewton was a "horror writer", when Lewton was described as a "horrible writer". Trust me when I say Writhing Tongue is a horrible film and not a horror film. The story is about a young girl who gets tetanus poisoning from sticking her hands in mud. Most of the film takes place in the hospital where the girl, about five years old, is treated while her parents keep vigil. Because of the effects of the toxins, one is treated to an extreme close-up of a cut finger, and more sadistically, a scene with a doctor pulling out some of the little girl's teeth during a seizure. At one point the father has a vision of the toxin in his daughter manifesting as some kind of butterfly ghost. Of course a full-screen, faded transfer of a wide-screen film works against whatever Nomura may have achieved.

Posted by peter at March 7, 2006 12:01 AM