What It’s About: In 1926, an artist saves his elder brother “White Fox” Tetsu from his double-crossing Yakuza associates, killing a man in the process. The pair go on the lam, hoping to go to escape to Manchuria. A grifter scams them out of their money, and they begin working on a construction crew, trying to make enough money to get over to Manchuria. It isn’t long before each brother gets himself into trouble, or their past comes looking for them…
Why Watch it Today?: John Ford was born on this date in 1894. What’s that have to do with Tattooed Life, a Japanese Yakuza movie from the 1960s? Ford’s influence on cinema is enormous, and even reaches one of my favorite Japanese B-movie directors, Seijun Suzuki. Tattooed Life is about loyalty, honor, redemption, and brotherhood, both between the brothers themselves and within the construction crew recall the themes of much of Ford’s best films, with an uncharacteristically direct and simple style that matches the material. The foreman of the construction crew and Tetsu engage in a long fist fight that will make you think of the famous fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in The Quiet Man. Seijun Suzuki fans will be relieved to know that the film ends in a characteristically colorful fashion that matches Suzkuki’s better known films.
Other Choices: John Ford is one of my favorite directors, and I’ve featured his films many times on this blog. You can watch any of Ford’s Westerns The Searchers, Fort Apache, Stagecoach, 3 Godfathers, My Darling Clementine or Rio Grande; or one of his populist dramas such as The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley.
No trailer, but here’s the ending fight scene: