Blu-Ray – Retaliation (1968)

Retaliation tells us the tale of Jiro a former yakuza mobster who has just been released from prison after an eight year sentence. Whilst imprisoned, his clan has collapsed; the only remaining member is his elderly boss, the godfather. His godfather was looked after by the powerful Hasama clan. In debt to the Hasama clan, Jiro takes a job with them to settle a favour owed to them.

For many years a rival clan have tried to occupy precious farmland owned by the villagers, Jiro is hired to settle the feud between the gangs, he assembles a group of part time mobsters from the Hasama clan and sets up a business and in hope that the farmers will sell the land to him and then turn it over to Hasama…debt settled, right?

Yasuharu Hasebe blows my mind with my first introduction to some vintage yakuza movies from the sixties. I’ve never seen the likes before; I spent years engrossing myself in the age-old kung fu movies coming out of Hong Kong. Seeing what the Japanese equivalent of movies from this time was actually quite appealing, especially about how violent it turned out to be!

The story is smart, the violent is bloody and the film does get a little naughty at times as well. The cast are great, all of these clean cut actors being shot through soft lenses – having to do the dirty and get knee deep in the yakuza.

Leading man, Akira Kobayashi was excellent in his role as Jiro – he had a great screen presence and this menacing stare that just lets you know could turn primal and scrap his way out of any situation. Even after the opening credits, he’s released from prison and waiting for him on the outside is a man he’s wronged and he’s waiting with a knife and a besotted wife begging Jiro not to hurt him.

Blu-Ray Special Features

The special features include two interviews, a trailer for the film and a selection of over a dozen excellent black and white lobby cards / stills taken during the films production. The first interview is a 30 minute discussion with British screenwriter and Eastern Cinema historian Tony Rayns. Rayns gives us a run down of the studios history behind Retaliation and Massacre Gun, he covers the work of the director and the leading men. It’s surprisingly informative for those uninitiated with yakuza movies (myself included).

 The second interview is with one of the sole surviving cast members – Jô Shishido! Now in his early eighties he still has a razor sharp memory of his expensive career in cinema. The interview runs for almost ten minutes.