Friday, April 13, 2012

The Purple Hooded Ninja...
Because "The Purple Hooded Man" doesn't sound as fierce.

This week we have chosen to go waaAAAaaay back in the annals of Martial Arts Movie history to review a little known early Japanese film, The Purple Hood Man/Purple Hooded Ninja. Which is the correct name? I have no idea, and so most of the signs, credits, and part of the dialogue are out of my grasp. However, because the "History of the Ninja: 10 pack" box set calls it "The Purple Hooded Ninja"...this is what we're going to go with.

Now, this is a significantly older film and there isn't much information on it with regard to its exact date of production, who stars in it, who directed it, etc. HOWEVER, after significant searching we were able to ascertain that this is the 1958 production of "The Purple Hooded Man", starring Katakoka Chiezo, Satomi Kotaro, and Tsukigata Ryunosuke... none of whom we are familiar with, and was directed by Onishi Hideaki.

MJ and the dueling Ninja's of sweetness
Now, before we get too far in this week's installment of Punch In the Neck, we need to warn you that generalized goofiness unfolded, and we started watching the film on a mega sugar high as a result of the Ninjalicious Ninja cupcakes we put together.

After about two or three of those bad guys, we had to crack out the Ninja-stashery unit (aka, Gladware), and house our army of sweet, sweet Ninja until another day.

OK... so onto this classic Ninja-esque movie of 1950's Japanese finery.

Our film opens in the year 1787. I believe this whole thing is in reference to the end of a famine that ran from 1782-1787. The famine was cause by a volcanic eruption, and ended up causing both wide spread famine, foraging, and cannibalism. True story. The Shogun at the time were pretty much useless, and that's depicted fairly well in this film.

We walk in on a scene where the "Shogun Mantle", if there is one, is being passed on from the recently deceased leader (Lord Owari) to the newly appointed Shogun (Lord Tanuma), aka "Senior Bad-Guy", via the Elder Counsel. Because this is a highly technical Japanese film FILLED with characters with really long names and very fast subtitles. So, we're going to stick with names like "Senior Bad-Guy" and "Banditos".. because that's the cupcakes talkin'.

SO, the new guy gets appointed. Shifty eyed guy to his left states that the death of the "Man Formerly Known As Shogun" was suspicions. Talking/Shouting erupts... we thought FOR SURE there was going to be a "Yo' MAMA" moment just four minutes in. But, the scene closes with the guys wearing enormous shoulder pads. 

Senior Bad-Guy retires to his quarters only to be "bombarded" by the requests of  "the people". (Pesky Greedy Merchants and Commoners that pay your wages...) He is obviously inconvenienced with his job. It really cuts into his laying around time. HOWEVER, he chooses to get up and greet his minions, whereupon they talk generalized business regarding non-specified "stuff and things". Just then, a new character enters named Kaku. Who is this man? Why has he arrived and interrupted this generalized BS session? 

We have no idea at this time. However, he thinks it's a good idea to hold a super, highly secretive conversation with Senior Bad-Guy behind that sliding paper wall. Yes men... the walls are LITERALLY made of paper in this house. And guess what? I'm pretty sure the three merchants heard what you said! You guys are OBVIOUSLY not Ninja.

Insert the next scene with darkly dressed, hooded guys creeping around. They are obviously Ninja. They sneak up on their unsuspecting prey, who is one of the merchants from the previous scene... I think. If this is the case, then Kaku is the gunman...errr... I mean swordsman who does the deed. As they begin to make their slow-motion escape from the victim's home, they meet... (Insert dramatic DUN, DUN, DUUUUUUN...)

(No, not Ninja. Just a man according to him)

Naturally, a fight ensues and the Ninja Banditos are beaten. Of course, rather than saying "RUN" or "RETREAT", they say "WITHDRAW!" What... are you going to the bank next? Purple Hooded Man is left in the courtyard.

The next scene involves and angry mob of Japanese peons begging for their daily rice. Remember, this is at the end of a famine. These folks are hungry. The two merchants who lettered the "No Rice Today" sign sit back and chuckle at their power and the insane profits they've been earning. 

YOU LAUGH NOW DUDES, But just you wait...

Best... Prank... E-V-E-R!!!
 Yes. The Purple Hooded Man totally messes with them and makes it so that they will be awakened at 5AM by the angry, hungry, potentially cannibalistic mob. Well played Purple Hooded Man. Well Played. This naturally pisses the merchants off, and they call for the police to catch the joker and punish him. However, no sooner than the clerk runs off than... (DUN, DUN, DUUUUUUNN)

 Yup. You got it. He lays down the "YOU OUGHTTA BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF YOUR GREEDY PIG" speech, followed by the command to open the storehouse as the gong in the background strikes 5AM. The merchant gets tied up and the storehouse is emptied by the Peons... I mean Peasants as the Purple Hooded Man holds the house hostage.

Ok. So let's just recap what's going on:
  • Senior Bad-Guy takes over
  • His Banditos are Ninja
  • The People are starving due to famine and corrupt government
  • The Purple Hooded Man is like Robin Hood... except he wears purple.

OK. Let's move forward. The remaining merchants, after nearly peeing themselves over their colleagues losses, have sought out Kaku and his henchmen at a Japanese restaurant, willing to pay them to provide protection at their mansions so that they are not susceptible to the attacks of The Purple Hooded Man. The Banditos collective get up and leave in order to go and protect the mansions, leaving the rice merchant alone with his Geisha, when all of a sudden... (DUH, DUH, DUUUUUUH)

Now, it is by this time that, 10 minutes into the film, that we are beginning to:
1) Wonder why his hero identity isn't obvious by now. He's a man. He's wearing a purple hood. All of the other merchants have been roughed up by the Purple Hooded Man. A little deductive reasoning should clear up any confusion.

2) Realize why he is NOT in fact a Ninja, despite the title on the American release. Whenever he enters a room, he makes a loud "DUH, DUH, DUUUUUH" orchestral sound. I'm just sayin'.

OK. SO, he steals the bribe money offered by the merchants, encites a pretty righteous 1950's sword fight, and flees the scene.

 In the next scene, the elder counsel has re-assembled to discuss the problem of...

The Purple Hooded Man!

It was by this time that we actually started taking count of the sheer number of times the title "Purple Hooded Man" was used. By 11:00, his name has been muttered over 9 times. We of course surmised that this automatically qualifies this film to be entered into the "drinking game roster". Why? Because at the 15 minute mark you would be utterly destroyed from the shots. All in all, the title of "Purple Hooded Man" is used 25+ times. 

We're just sayin'...

Now... here is where the whole story takes a dramatic swerve to the left and nearly does a barrel roll off course. The police catch up to one of the Elders, asking what the meeting was all about. There's a reference made to them being made into En-Giri (sliced and dried radishes) if they don't find and arrest the Purple Hooded Man. So,You are now launched high speed into the marketplace where men are gathered at a Kiosk, ogling some paintings of Japanese "beauties" (that's nice talk for nudies). It is here that you are introduced to the famously famous, yet entirely unknown artist Hidemaro. 

Blast forward inexplicably to the home of "Senior Bad-Guy" who is closely observing a Hidemaro painting. He formally requests that the artist be found and brought to him AT ONCE... because he wants the artist and Osen.

WAIT... OSEN??? Who's Osen? 

OH... yeah. To make a long story short, and to move this ridiculously OVERKILL blog along, Osen is the daughter of one of the oil merchants that is being knuckled down on and manipulated by "Senior Bad-Guy". See, if the father won't force Osen into marriage, then "Senior Bad-Guy" will cut a swath of death and burning through his business. Insert a Hot 18th century Japanese tune here and we've got a scene!


 As Osen walks home from her lessons, she meets the amazingly hideous Hidemaro, the artist, who wants to paint her and provide her with her 15 minutes of fame. Being a teenager in the 18th century, OF COURSE she follows him back inside his ramshackled artist lair.

Ultimately Senior Bad-Guy is very pleased with the painting and puts the pressure on Osen's dad to make the marriage happen.

And we now veer back into the marketplace. The Elders have decided to point out that any Ronin not actively working will be banished from the city. You are then introduce to a scheister in the marketplace talking smack and to a young man named Ebizawa Hachiya who has been studying fencing (Do the Japanese fence? Is that what they really call it?) at Kamiya Isshinasai's Hall. As it so happens, "Senior Bad-Guy" and his Banditos plan some sort of ambush at the hall. Could this be an epic swordfight of amazing proportions??? Afterall, in the opening moments of the fight we find out that the marketplace scheister is in fact a Samurai utilizing the Muso-ryu stance. (This fight is TOTALLY going to be sweet... right???)

WHAAAAAA???? (insert gaping mouths here)

What kind of Whuss Ronin shows up for a fight and then quits before things get good??? Not only that, but the Ronin invites the Samurai out for drinks and a good natter. What...the.. CRAP is going on???

OK, so... we're going to expedite the next 20 minutes of the film by saying that things continue to decline, the Purple Hooded Man shows up several times, an oil refinery is burned to the ground and Osen makes a scene in reference to the forced marriage, complete with a "ARE YOU SERIOUS!??!?", an throwing herself on the floor like a three-year-old.

Insert two murders, a marriage proposal, a reverse of choice by Osen as a result of her duty, several more appearances of The Purple Hooded Man, another SOLID Japanese ditty on the old banjo, the discovery of stolen gold bars in hay bales... just all around chaos, drama, and music numbers. 

So have you figured out who The Purple Hooded Man is yet? 

And so we find ourselves nearing the end of the film, fidgeting with want for another cupcake. Senior Bad-Guy has promised his boss (senior to Senior Bad-Guy, but not a bad guy himself) that The Artist will be coming to their super-awesome party to unveil his latest painting, but he hasn't shown up yet, and Senior Bad-Guy is getting nervous. They bring on the dancing girls to stall for a bit (who are actually quite culturally accurate and charming). 

The Artist shows up just in the nick of time wearing a Noh mask and being generally mysterious. He gives an epic speech about the evils of the world, most of which I imagine would have been quite unintelligible even if I spoke Japanese because of the muffly mask. The one point he does make clear though is that Senior Bad-Guy is one corrupt son of a gun, via a portrait of SBG as an Oni, which draws a gasp of shock from the oblivious party-goers. The Artist then whips off his totally excellent and entirely creepy mask, revealing himself as the Samurai, who is ALSO The Purple Hooded Man. WHOA!!!

He takes down SBG in a blaze of glory, and effectively gets himself promoted to a job that seems far less interesting than being the most admired artist in town.

Lessons we learned from this film?

1) It is better to be humble and not call yourself a ninja, even if you're pretty sure you are one.
2) It is possible to represent yourself as three entirely different people and have no one recognize you as long as they can't see your mouth.
3) If you try to stand up for justice and help your fellow man, you will be promoted into the most boring position your boss could possibly think of.
4) Ninjas are delicious. Ok, that didn't come from the film, but yum.

As for finding this film.... good luck. Actually, The History of Ninja 10 Pack is available for rental from Netflix (but not online viewing) and can probably be found around Amazon and Ebay. I personally got mine in the $3 bin at Best Buy, and feel that was money well spent given the laughs we got out of this film, and I haven't even seen the other 9 films yet! If you're the serious type, this film probably isn't for you (and nor is this blog for that matter...), but if you enjoy being goofy, or participating in outrageous drinking games, this might just be right up your alley.

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