Michio Yamamoto was the assistant director on Throne of Blood and second unit on the Mifune film Shogun Assassin before creating a trilogy of bloodsucker thrills for Toho*, the same studio that gifted us with Godzilla. It comes in the wake of Hammer’s Technicolor remakes of classic horror films like Horror of Dracula, a movie which was a big deal in Japan. In fact, the original ending — complete with a much grislier ending for Christopher Lee — was found in the Land of the Rising Son.
According to this article by Michael Crandol, “Although there appears to be no truth to the rumour that Hammer routinely prepared a “Japanese cut” of each film that included extra bits of gore, the filmmakers were likely aware that scenes which would not make it past the United Kingdom censors would be able to be retained in the Japanese release.”
He goes on to explain how the gothic Hammer mood is incredibly similar to the kaiki eiga, which some take to mean horror films but which truly means strange films. Yamamoto takes the feel of these movies and translates them to a Japanese sensibility, but fans of British horror need not fret: there is much to love here beyond simple pastiche.
After a six month business trip, Kazuhiko goes to visit his girlfriend Yuko (Yukiko Kobayashi, Destroy All Monsters) at her lonely country home. However, her mother later tells everyone that her daughter has already died in a car accident. That makes sense, because the last time we saw Kazuhiko, he was following Yuko to a grave with her name on it.
Why did Kazuhiko go there? That’s what his sister Keiko (Kayo Matsuo, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx) and her fiancee Hiroshi (Akira Nakao, Commander Takaki Aso in the 1990’s Godzilla films and Premier Hayato Igarashi in Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S.) want to know.
The truth? Spoilers, but Yuko’s family history is beyond insane, with her father murdering numerous people, impregnating her mother against her will and refusing to just let his daughter die.
This is a brightly hued masterpiece that would be the perfect side dish between a serving of some Lee and Cushing films.
*Postscript: Toho and Hammer almost worked together to make a movie called Nessie in 1976 before Hammer pulled out to make To the Devil a Daughter.