Udine Far East Film Festival 2010: ‘Nudes! Guns! Ghosts!’ – The films of Shintoho

This year, the 12th instalment of the Udine Far East Film Festival is to screen a retrospective set of films produced by Japanese film studio Shintoho from the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s, including Shimura Toshio’s Revenge of the Pearl Queen (1956) and The Horizon Glitters (1961) by Doi Michiyoshi.

Shintoho was started in 1947 by employees of the Tokyo-based Toho Company during strike action; its name means “New Toho”. Shintoho quickly established itself as one of the major studios of the second ‘golden age’ of Japanese cinema and produced over 500 features during a 14 year period, including a variety of low budget efforts from musicals to the youth film.

However, Shintoho became best-known for its exploitation films, categorized as ‘ero-guro’ (erotic grotesque). Sadly, Shintoho was announced bankrupt back in 1961, its last film being Nobouo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (1960). Udine is to screen two further examples of Nakagawa’s work made in the same year as Jigoku; Death Row Woman (1960) and Ghost of Yotsuya (1959).

One director who made their debut at Shintoho and quickly became one of the studio’s most influential and most productive directors is Ishii Teruo. Teruo has been described as the ‘king of cult’ by a number of critics and is credited with influencing the future direction of the crime genre in Japanese cinema. Teruo’s work on the ‘Line’ film series brought together film noir with ‘ero guro’, an approach that is considered ‘uniquely Ishii’. Udine will be screening Teruo’s second and third films in the crime-thriller series, Black Line (1960) and Yellow Line (1960).

Teruo also went on to remake the aforementioned Jigoku in 1999, which he developed to reflect the socio-cultural problems within Japan at the time. After Shintoho’s closure in 1961, Teruo freelanced at the Toei studio until 1979. During his time at Toei, the king of ‘ero guro’ shaped Toei’s own take on the ‘Pink film’ (a style of Japanese soft-core pornographic theatrical film) known as ‘Pinky Violence’; this previously new genre is now well established thanks to Teruo’s pioneering portrayal of powerful, sexual, female characters.

Michelle Bailey (CUEAFS)