If I weren’t already a diabetic, the hideously sweet music in this film’s romantic scenes might have turned me into one. But then again, I’m sure that was the point. Kon Ichikawa’s career was starting to bomb at this point after a string of box office failures, and his employers at Daiei were, perhaps understandably, getting fed up with this. He was accordingly forced into this project by the studio as penance of a sort, a tribute to its star whose 300th film it was, and who had first essayed the dual roles here in the original film version of the story back in 1935. Odd how no one seems to have thought that the nearly three decades by which Hasegawa had aged might render him a trifle, well, old to be playing a theoretically young romantic lead. Faced with this fact, and what he perceived as the ludicrous material (derived from a pulp serial) he was forced to work with, Ichikawa evidently decided “eh, bugger realism” and went for artifice and theatricality instead, making only the most token effort at realism and not otherwise bothering to update the film for 60s audiences, instead highlighting the sheer age of the material and its hoary old-fashionedness. It was instructive to see this after those Suzuki films—both he and Ichikawa were clearly trying to stop themselves being bored by their own work—and indeed the booklet accompanying the Madman disc makes that connection. I wonder, though, how would I feel about the film had I not come to it knowing Ichikawa meant it to be somewhat overripe. If I came to it cold and took it on face value, would I still enjoy it or would I just find it, well, kind of weird? Or would I do what I do now, i.e. find it weird but still enjoy it for its weirdness?
An Actor’s Revenge (1963)