Here’s another murder rap to keep you dancing.
According to my Eiga Hi-Ho homies Yoshiki and Yanashita, Sengoku Jietai 1549, the recent hit remake of Sonny Chiba’s old Time Slip (AKA G.I. Samurai) - an adaptation of a 1971 novel by Ryo Hanmura - was originally to have been directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Kairo). His original vision for the film, about a company of modern day soldiers sent back in time to the era of the Warring States, was to have been modeled after Robert Aldrich’s harrowing World War II film Attack! (1956) rife with crisis of command and solders behaving badly. But when his scenario was shown to the Japanese Self Defense Forces, who were to provide logistic and technical support for the film, they said that the JSDF must not be shown in a negative light and all the orders given out by superior officers in the film must be carried out perfectly to the letter. Exit Kurosawa. Enter less distinguished Godzilla film director Masaaki Tezuka to fill his place.
Something like this kinda happened before. As I wrote in the US DVD notes for the original 1979 Sengoku Jietai film, “The Japanese Self Defense Forces were asked to lend their support to the production, but upon reading the script - full of mutiny and soldiers going AWOL - they declined to assist. So the filmmakers had to find surplus military hardware, or, in the case of the featured tank, actually build it themselves.”
The military telling the Japanese film industry how to make movies? As Yoshiki points out, this is not a phenomenon particluar to this strange planet called Nippon. “It’s just like Top Gun,” he says.
For a conspiratorial encore, he mentions to me the next day that the Hachiko, the famed and beloved loyal dog who waited for his dead master everyday at Shibuya station, only went there because the owner of some yakitori house was feeding him scraps.
Even more Yoshiki: he is currently designing the new DVD Teruo Ishii box set, to be released by Toei Video in October. Here’s the sublime poster he's whipped up for the project, which is being produced in collaboration with Eiga Hi-Ho.