Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ayako Wakao, Shinsuke Ashida, Yusuke Kawazu, Ranko Akagi, Jotaro Senba, Daihachi Kita, Ayako Ikegami
Written by: Ryozo Kasahara, based on a novel by Yoriyoshi Arima
Directed by: Yasuzo Masumura
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 95
Date: 10/01/1966

Red Angel (1966)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Our Daily Meds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Japanese director Yasuzo Masumura is perhaps less known than his contemporaries Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa because of the extreme nature of his lurid, pulpy potboilers. Fantoma Films has added a fifth title to their original four DVD releases, from 2002. Set during the Japanese war against China in the late 1930s, Red Angel tells the story of Nurse Nishi (Ayako Wakao), stationed at varying degrees of frontline hellholes. In the first ten minutes, a scheming soldier rapes her; when the soldier is sent back to the front, she blames herself for his impending death. Indeed, Nishi can't help getting personally involved, whether with an amputee patient who can no longer sexually satisfy himself, or a doctor who shoots morphine after his 48-hour shifts. Between Nishi's adventures, attachments and separations, however, Masumura gives one of the most brutal portraits of war ever filmed, leveling his finger not at the war itself, but at the mentality of the people who wage it. Especially when compared to Kurosawa's noble hospital dramas The Quiet Duel (1949) and Red Beard (1965), Red Angel has a savage energy unique in films.

DVD Details: Fantoma's 2006 DVD features a beautiful, black-and-white "Daieiscope" widescreen transfer and excellent subtitles. It comes with liner notes by author and professor Earl Jackson Jr., a stills gallery, a trailer, and a bio/filmography for Masumura.

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