Our offerings for the week of March 23 were the 1974 Yakuza classic “Tattooed Hitman” with Bunta Sugawara and the 1978 Bruce Lee travesty “Game of Death.” My boyfriend had originally programed it because Uma Thurman wears the same tracksuit as Bruce in Kill Bill so he figured it must be great, however it wasn’t until reading the reviews on IMDB that he realized it wasn’t a real Bruce Lee movie much less a good movie. For those of you not already familiar with “Game of Death,” it was the film Bruce Lee was working on when he mysteriously died. Six years later, not wanting to let what little footage there was go to waste, the producers decided (rather ill-advisedly) to shoot the rest of the movie with not one, but two doubles who don’t look anything like Bruce Lee and then tack the original footage onto the end. Fearing the worst we decided to keep two back-up options on hand just in case (“Enter the Dragon” and “Fists of Fury” for those of you who were wondering).

Here’s how it went down: It was a smaller crowd than usual with only six people showing up to start. My sister had to leave halfway through “Tattooed Hitman” to go to the Kid Koala show downtown and I almost went with her not being in much of a mood for a mangled kung-fu movie especially since I’m not a big kung-fu fan to begin with, but I decided to stick around. And boy am I glad I did. We started late as usual and popped in the dubbed copy of “Tattooed Hitman” our buddy Sinister Sam had lent us about 6 months ago. I would try to rehash the plot for you, but like most Yakuza movies we’ve seen to this point it was needlessly convoluted and not exactly straight forward. Basically all you need to know is that Bunta Sugawara is the baddest badass in all of Japan.

We were first introduced to Bunta through Kinji Fukusaku’s “Yakuza Papers” (1973) which we watched near the beginning of Den of Sin with “Graveyard of Honor” (1975) as a memorial tribute to Fukusaku. I was a little disappointed that “Tattooed Hitman” was dubbed (badly) in English, but the constant references to “the clap” about halfway through the film pretty much made up for it. The bits of story we were able to follow went kinda like this: Bunta is a hitman for the Tokyo Yakuza, but being that they are experiencing a newfound period of peace due to the formation of the new Tokyo syndicate Bunta is punted off to Osaka to chill for awhile. In Osaka he comes to the aid of some young punk the local Yakuza catch cheating at pachinko (nonsensically translated as “pinball”) and brings him home to his Osaka girlfriend who claims to have gotten pregnant the last time he was up her way (wait, that didn’t quite come out right…). They team up and steal a bunch of money from the Osaka gang the “Black something or others.” They then spend a bunch of this money at the local whore house where Bunta proclaims that they aren’t leaving until they “screw every whore here.” As predicted by several members of the peanut gallery, Bunta and his young associate contract ghonerea and then have to physically restrain the girlfriend so they can give her a penicillin injection in the ass to make sure the baby doesn’t get it. After this the conversation in the room took over and the plot got even more difficult to follow. Bunta goes back to Tokyo and then back to Osaka a couple of times, ends up killing his little buddy since he pissed off the wrong people, his girlfriend has the baby and then commits suicide and Bunta continues to piss off everyone in Japan by doing whatever he wants. The end finally comes when the gangs all team up to kill Bunta and he is dispatched in one of the bloodiest execution scenes to ever close a film, which begged the question from our friend Graeme: “How come the protagonists in Yakuza movies always end up doing things you don’t want them to?”
This was followed by a short break during which one person left and four more people showed up. We put on “Game of Death” under the agreement that if it really stunk that badly after the first 15 minutes we would put on something else instead.
“The Game of Death” in part three of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: OF BUNTA AND BRUCE>>>

Posted on April 1, 2004 in Features by

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