Two More Fragments

Denjiro Okochi as Tange Sazen

The previous post discussed the art of Jidaigeki in 1920s. Here are two more rare film clips of Denjiro Okochi.

Zoku Ooka Seidan, Mazo, Kaiketsu-Hen (続大岡政談 魔像 解決篇, 1931)
Directed by Daisuke Ito, cinematography by Hiromitsu Karasawa, this film is another variation of popular “Shin-Ban Ooka Seidan” trilogy. Pretty graphic.
(大菩薩峠 鈴鹿山の巻 壬生島原の巻, 1936)
Based on the popular novel of the same title by Kaizan Nakazato, the film revolves around the character of Ryunosuke Tsukue (Daijiro Okochi), a psychopathic serial murderer in the last decades of Edo era. Made into film many times, the most popular today is the version with Raizo Ichikawa. Here, Okochi plays the character of the bottomless darkness, haunted by the ghost of souls he had killed (I guess). The original was with soundtrack, but this 70- seconds fragment, the only surviving material is silent. Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki (Samurai Trilogy).
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Going Berserk

1920’s was the era of Jidaigeki in Japanese cinema. In spite of its popularity (or rather, because of it), only handful of the masterpieces of the era survived. Matsunosuke Onoe was the first Japanese cinema star and the most popular among kids during 1910’s and 20’s, but it was the late 20’s that saw the pinnacle of Jidaigeki. So I heard. In 1925, Daisuke Ito created “Chuji Tabi Nikki (忠治旅日記)” Trilogy with Denjiro Ohkochi, one of the most influential Jidaigeki in the Japanese cinema history. “Shin-ban Ooka Seidan (新版大岡政談, 1928, Dir. Daisuke Ito)”, “Zanzin Zanba Ken (斬人斬馬剣, 1929, Dir. Daisuke Ito)”, “Ronin Gai Trilogy (浪人街三部作, 1928-29, Dir. Masahiro Makino)” were considered the masterpieces of the day by whom ever saw them. Very few of these materials are available to us, many of which are in incomplete form.

During this decade, the jidaigeki cinema underwent radical metamorphosis from heroic tale of fantasy to anti-heroic tragedy of doom. Accordingly, the faces of audience also changed. Boys under 10 years old packed theaters to catch new Matsunosuke Onoe, but later Daisuke Ito’s films won much broader audience base. 
Transformation was also apparent in the treatment of violent actions. It has become more ‘realistic’, gruesome and fast. Most of all, it is all about speed. Here is the example of earlier stylized sword plays of Matsunosuke Onoe film, ‘Gouketsu Jiraiya (豪傑児雷也, 1921, Dir. Shouzou Makino)’
As you can see, the action is stiffly choreographed, with an emphasis on “trick cinematography”. Jiraiya, the hero, can transforms himself into a giant toad, which just stun the enemies around. No wonder small kids loved them.
Less than a decade later, it was a completely different game. Here is the fragment of the lost film, “Nazo no Ningyoushi (謎の人形師, 1929 Dir. Seika Shiwa)”, with Denjiro Ohkochi going berserk.

As I mentioned before, the shooting/projection speed was not consistent during this era, so look at this at a lower, more realistic speed.
Still, he is going berserk. Not only the speed is incredible, but the camera movement is absolutely fabulous. And this is from one of the lesser films of the era.

Bluebird Photoplays

A Society Sensation (1918)
Early Japanese cinema were, of course, under the influence of D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and other early Hollywood cinema. Serial photoplays from Unites States and France, in addition to fast-paced westerns and Max Linder comedies were also textbook materials. Intolerance sent shockwave through young cinema lovers, while Zigomar was so sensational that it had to be banned in fear of copycat crimes. The films of Mourice Tourner, Thomas Ince and other Hollywood notables, plus early Italian epic films, and German Expressionisms were all flooding the Japanese cinema theaters. These films were universally acclaimed as influential and popular, so no surprise here.

One unique influence on Japanese cinema was of Bluebird Photoplays. Bluebird Photoplays was the subsidiary of Universal Pictures, providing run-of-the-mill melodrama between 1916 and 1919. Though some familiar names, Lois Weber, Rupert Julian, Rex Ingram, Tod Browning and even John Ford can be found among the list of directors, the studio itself failed to deliver materials attractive enough for the U.S. market. Some of the Lon Chaney films are also products of Bluebird Photoplays. The titles like “Shoes (1916, Dir. Lois Weber)”, “Southern Justice (1917, Dir. Lynn Reynolds)”, “The Ruggedy Queen (1917, Dir. Theodore Marston)” probably sunk in box office in U.S., but they were among the most highly appreciated in Japan, especially by young artists in the business such as Norimasa Kaeriyama, Teinosuke Kinugasa and Minoru Murata. Keriyama, heavily influenced by Bluebird films, directed “Miyama no Otome (1919)”, a remake of “The Ruggedy Queen”, while Kinugasa studied Rupert Julian’s films thoroughly down to the minutest details. Young Yasujiro Ozu left a list of his favorite Bluebird actresses in his high-school notebook.
Because only handful of the Bluebird films have survived, and even fewer are available for casual viewing, I am not in the position to give a full analysis on those films. Some contemporaries noted its “naturalness” (of acting and directing) was in stark contrast not only with Japanese cinema at the time, but also with Italian, German and, to some extent, Hollywood cinema at the time. Many of the cinematic language of the era were still somewhat theatrical and less dynamic. Some frame grabs of the film “A Society Sensation (1918, Dir. Paul Powell, noted for Rudolph Valentino appearance) (YouTube)” and “The Scarlet Car (1917, Dir. Joseph De Grasse) (Internet Archive)”are presented here. 
The Scarlet Car (1917)
Here is the list of Bluebird Photoplays productions (* denotes the titles with prints known to have survived even if they are fragments. Maybe some others exist…). The list is from Japanese Wikipedia page.
Secret Love (Robert Z. Leonard)
Undine (Henry Otto)
Hop – The Devil’s Brew (Phillips Smally)
The Wrong Door (Carter DeHaven)
The Grip of Jealousy (Joseph De Grasse)
The Strength of the Weak (Lucius Henderson)
The Yaqui (Lloyd B. Carleton)
The Flirt (Phillips Smally)
Tangled Hearts (Joseph De Grasse)*
John Needham’s Double (Phillips Smally)
The Great Problem (Rex Ingram)
The Gay Lord Waring (Otis Turner)
The Crippled Hand (David Kirkland)
The Gilded Spider (Joseph De Grasse)
Naked Hearts (Rupert Julian)
Elusive Isabel (Stuart Payton)
A Son of the Immortals (Otis Turner)
The Eye of God (Phillips Smally)
Bobbie of the Ballet (Joseph De Grasse)
The Grasp of Greed (Joseph De Grasse)
The Three Godfathers (Edward LeSaint)
Shoes (Lois Weber)
Broken Fetters (Rex Ingram)*
The Love Girl (Robert Z. Leonard)*
The Silent Battle (Jack Conway)
The Secret of the Swamp (Lynn F. Raynolds)
Love’s Lariat (Harry Kelly/George Marshall)
Bettina Loved a Soldier (Rupert Julian)
Little Eve Edgarton (Robert Z. Leonard)
The Girl of Lost Lake (Lynn F. Raynolds)
The Unattainable (Loyd B. Carlton)*
A Miracle of Love (Loyd B. Carlton)
Saving the Family Name (Phillip Smally/ Lois Weber)*
Behind the Lines (Henry MacRae)*
The Evil Women Do (Rupert Julian)
Wanted: A Home (Phillips Smally)
The Chalice of Sorrow (Rex Ingram)
The Social Buccaneer (Jack Conway)*
Love Never Dies (William Worthington)
The End of the Rainbow (Lynn F. Raynolds)*
Gloriana (E. Mason Hopper)*
A Stranger from Somewhere (William Worthington)
The Measure of a Man (Jack Conway)
The Bugler of Algiers (Rupert Julian)
The Sign of the Poppy (Charles Swickard)
The Eagle’s Wing (Robert Z. Leonard)
The Price of Silence (Joseph De Grasse)
The Honor of Mary Blake (Edwin Stevens)
The Right to Be Happy (Rupert Julian)
Black Orchids (Rex Ingram)
The Piper’s Price (Joseph De Grasse)
Her Soul’s Inspiration (Jack Conway)*
God’s Crucible (Lynn F. Raynolds)
The Devil’s Pay Day (William Worthington)
The Mysterious Mrs. Musslewhite (Lois Weber)*
The Reward of the Faithless (Rex Ingram)
The Man Who Took a Chance (William Worthington)
The Saintly Sinner (Raymond Welles)
The Boy Girl (Edwin Stevens)*
Hell Morgan’s Girl (Joseph De Grasse)
Mutiny (Lynn F. Raynolds)
Polly Redhead (Jack Conway)
The Gift Girl (Rupert Julian)
Susan’s Gentleman (Edwin Stevens)
The Pulse of Life (Rex Ingram)
A Jewel in Pawn (Jack Conway)
The Girl in the Checkered Coat (Joseph De Grasse)
The Clock (William Worthington)
Little Miss Nobody (Harry F. Millarde)
Treason (Allen Holubar)
The Flashlight (Ida May Park)
Southern Justice (Lynn F. Raynolds)
Bringing Home Father (William Worthington)
A Doll’s House (Joseph De Grasse)
The Little Orphan (Jack Conway)*
A Kentucky Cinderella (Rupert Julian)
Fires of Rebellion (Ida May Park)
The Car of Chance (William Worthington)
The Greater Law (Lynn F. Raynolds)
The Little Terror (Rex Ingram)
The Rescue (Ida May Park)
The Clean-Up (William Worthington)
The Show Down (Lynn F. Raynolds)
Mr. Opp (Lynn F. Raynolds)
The Charmer (Jack Conway)
Mother o’ Mine (Rupert Julian)
Triumph (Joseph De Grasse)*
A Stormy Knight (Elmer Crifton)
The Mysterious Mr. Tiller (Rupert Julian)
Flirting with Death (Elmer Crifton)
The Spotted Lily (Harry Solter)
Anything Once (Joseph De Grasse)
Bondage (Ida May Park)
The Desire of the Moth (Rupert Julian)
Princess Virtue (Robert Z. Leonard)
The Man Trap (Elmer Crifton)
The Lash of Power (Harry Solter)
The Winged Mystery (Joseph De Grasse)
The Door Between (Rupert Julian)
The Savage (Rupert Julian)
The Raggedy Queen (Theodore Marston)
The Girl by the Roadside (Theodore Marston)
My Little Boy (Elsie Jane Wilson)
The Scarlet Car (Joseph De Grasse)*
Face Value (Robert Z. Leonard)
My Unmarried Wife (George Siegmann)
Broadway Love (Ida May Park)*
The Fighting Grin (Joseph De Grasse)
The Wife He Bought (Harry Solter)
Hands Down (Rupert Julian)
Morgan’s Raiders (Wilfred Lucas, Bess Meredyth)
The Girl in the Dark (Stuart Payton)
Hungry Eyes (Rupert Julian)
Brace Up (Elmer Crifton)
The Wine Girl (Stuart Payton)
Fast Company (Lynn F. Raynolds)
The Red, Red Heart (Wilfred Lucas)
A Rich Man’s Darling (Edgar Jones)
The Marriage Lie (Stuart Payton)*
The Two-Soul Woman (Elmer Crifton)
A Mother’s Secret (Douglas Gerrard)
The Bride’s Awakening (Robert Z. Leonard)
Danger Within (Rae Berger)
The Guilt of Silence (Elmer Crifton)
A Soul for Sale (Allen Holubar)
$5,000 Reward (Douglas Gerrard)
A Broadway Scandal (Joseph De Grasse)
Midnight Madness (Rupert Julian)
Which Woman? (Tod Browning)
The Eagle (Elmer Crifton)
The City of Tears (Elsie Jane Wilson)
After the War (Joseph De Grasse)
The Empty Cab (Douglas Gerrard)
Winner Takes All (Elmer Crifton)
The Deciding Kiss (Tod Browning)
The Dream Lady (Elsie Jane Wilson)
The Love Swindle (John Francis Dillon)
Playthings (Douglas Gerrard)
The Rough Lover (Joseph De Grasse)
Fires of Youth (Rupert Julian)
That Devil, Bateese (William Wolbert)
The Brazen Beauty (Tod Browning)
Beans (John Francis Dillon)
The Craving (Frances Ford/John Ford)
A Society Sensation (Paul Powell)*
The Velvet Hand (Douglas Gerrard)
The Lure of Luxury (Elsie Jane Wilson)
Together (O.A.C. Lund)
Hugon, the Mighty (Rollin S. Sturgeon)
All Night (Paul Powell)*
Tongues of Flame (Colin Campbell)
Set Free (Tod Browning)
She Hired a Husband (John Francis Dillon)
The Sea Flower (Colin Campbell)
The Cabaret Girl (Douglas Gerrard)
The Nature Girl (O.A.C. Lund)
The Game’s Up (Elsie Jane Wilson)
Who Will Marry Me? (Paul Powell)
Sue of the South (Eugene Moore)
The Millionaire Pirate (Rupert Julian)
The Sealed Envelope (Douglas Gerrard)
The Little White Savage (Paul Powell)
A Taste of Life (John Francis Dillon)
The Light of Victory (William Wolbert)
Have you seen any of these films? Is there anything different, or exceptional about them?