Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Tokyo Joe’ (1949)

If you thought ‘The Barbarian And The Geisha‘ (1958) was old then this film is absolutely ancient and apart from the movies opening glimpse of Mount Fuji this is a very different Japan compared to its modern day incarnation. In black and white, this is a Humphrey Bogart film you don’t often hear about and though it desperately tries to recapture the winning formula of ‘Casablanca‘ (1942) it really is weary in comparison.

The story finds ex-soldier Joe Barrett (Bogart) returning to Ginza san-chome just after WWII to the nightclub which he once owned alongside his old Japanese partner Ito (Teru Shimada) who 007 fans may remember for his later role as Mr. Osato in ‘You Only Live Twice‘ (1967). Ito informs Joe that Trina (Florence Marly), the wife he left behind, who he believed to be dead, is alive and living nearby. On top of that, she has remarried an American diplomat and has a seven year old daughter of whom Joe is the father. Furthermore, Trina did propaganda broadcasts during the war for the Imperial Japanese government making her a traitor to America leaving her libel to prosecution from the US Military Government in Japan who were in charge of Japan at that time. This all makes Joe want to stay for longer than the 60 days he’s given by the authorities.

What happens next amid the ensuing complications is a tale of blackmail, threats, smuggling, kidnapping with the inevitable rescue attempt in a gloomy albeit brief exciting finale littered with a few randomly placed Japanese words. It sounds better than it actually was and ultimately I was fairly disappointed with this film.

Of course I am watching these ‘films set in Japan’ for the locations and that is about the only thing which kept me interested in this slow moving movie as its far more interesting than the plot. Japan is being rebuilt following WWII and the place is far off the Japan we see featured in flicks today. If you think the economy is bad at present then thats nothing compared to one particular point where Joe flicks his cigarette butt onto the street and several people go after it. I’m not sure if Bogart actually even came to Japan as whenever we see his face it appears that rear projection is being used but when you see a guy in a trench coat wearing a hat (and thereby don’t see his face) its obviously someone else who did visit Japan where the production crew must have come to get the location shots needed. It is pretty noticeable and does make the film seem a bit cheap but hey this was shot over 60 years ago! There is even one moment where Joe is practicing his Judo but its so clearly a stunt double as it looks nothing like him!

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Tokyo Fox Rating 3/10

Tokyo Filming Locations XII: The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989)

This ridiculously silly low budget sequel finds a fairly lame reason to come to Japan and so from 34 minutes onwards we begin to see Tokyo locations including Tokyo Tower (36 mins) Kabuki-za (37 mins), Shinjuku Yamanote line platform (38 mins), Asakusa Senso-ji (38 mins), the area around Harajuku station (41mins), Tokyo station (51:00) and Tsukiji fish market (58 mins). The majority of those places are fairly famous and in a sense not that interesting to detail as they have all been used in films before. However, Tsukuda is a different matter entirely! I visited this place on a very windy day back in February of this year to scout out the filming locations used in this sleepy area in the south of Tokyo.

Tsukuda first appears on the hour mark as the Toxic Avenger is re-united with his long lost Japanese father on the striking red Tsukuda Bashi Bridge but its discovered that he has been smuggling cocaine. They follow him around the block to his headquarters at “Fisherman’s Shrine” on 62 mins which in reality is Sumiyoshi Jinja shrine (below). The address is 1-1-14 Tsukuda and it is only a minutes walk from the aforementioned bridge.

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The Toxic Avenger and his lady friend Masumi confront him about his crimes and in true comical fashion he inadvertently hits her and as she’s left slightly dazed and confused she comes to rest on the stone statue thing seen below.

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A very silly fight ensues between the Toxic Avenger with his fathers team of henchmen  and it continues on back to Tsukuda bashi bridge (below) on 65 mins.

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As more and more random people join in the this silly bout of fisticuff action different parts of the town are seen. There is a fight on 67 mins with a man dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl and some kabuki men from earlier in the film who suddenly turn up in this sleepy part of Tokyo for no apparent reason but given that Troma Entertainment are famed for serving up campy movies this is not so unusual! The area looks quite different these days but the tiny Mori-inari jinja shrine (below) at 1-4-4 Tsukuda is still there but blink and you might miss it! I had actually given up on finding it after navigating the area for a while on bicycle looking for it but as I was about to make my way home I came across it by chance.

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Tenyasu tsukudani (small seafood, meat or seaweed simmered in soy sauce and mirin) boutique (below) appears on screen on 70 minutes where Japanese food critic Go Nagai makes a cameo appearance as he’s giving a TV interview where he says the food has magical powers and can attract beautiful women and before you know it the Toxic Avenger’s latest opponent is hit over the head by a fish moments after her clothes all fell off and she stumbles into the interviewers lap and he thinks god has answered his call to meet a pretty lady. You probably think I’m making this all up but believe me it really all does happen. Tenyasu’s much-photographed wooden building is the oldest of the three tsukudani shops in the area and it had a steady stream of customers visiting it. It’s been open since 170 years ago and you can buy the stuff by measure but as it was expensive and I didn’t think it could be used so easily I declined the invitation.

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You can see my ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Tsukuda’ post here & my review of ‘The Toxic Avenger Part II‘ (1989) here.

Star Wars Fan Museum In Tokyo

I recently came across this little-known Star Wars fan museum in Tokyo which is a small, but sizeable exhibition belonging to a collector. Among the exhibits on display are a wide range of figures, a lightsaber, toys, masks, trainers, t-shirts, pens, magnets, collectibles, framed pictures, DVD’s, books, magazines and so on.

There were also some much sought-after Japan exclusives like the traditional Japanese hand print tenegui (thin hand towel made of cotton), Japanese chirashi movie posters/flyers, an R2D2 Mount Fuji poster, lightsaber chopsticks and ‘Star Wars Celebration Japan‘ items, some of which can be seen in the photo below left.

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The photo above right shows the section focusing on some other Japanese memorabilia such as the local releases of the 1980′s cartoon shows ‘Ewoks‘, ‘Droids‘ as well as the original ‘Clone Wars‘ series. One other notable exhibit is a programme for the ‘George Lucas’ Super Live Adventure’ which was some rare 1993 show blending the likes of Indiana Jones, Willow, Tucker, American Graffiti and of course Star Wars into one performance of something or another.

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Amongst the other stuff is the Vader collection (above left), Star Wars shooting locations books (above right) and magnets (below left) and a replica of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber (or is technically Anakin Skywalker’s as Obi-Wan gave it to Luke in ‘A New Hope‘ (1977) which you can have a quick play with.

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