If James Bond dreams about a life more exciting than his own, it probably looks a lot like Black Tight Killers. How bizarre, then, that it was one of Japan's smaller "renegade" studios that produced this amazing piece of spy cinema, and not the Hollywood movie machine. But then, b-movie aficionados know that Hollywood has rarely been good at breaking the mold.
Black Tight Killers isn't remarkable for its special effects or stunts (although both are terrific); the special treat here is the loopy perspective. The titular Black Tight Killers are go-go dancers by night, trained assassins by, uh... night. Their nights are so full they must sleep the entire day away. Too bad for the photojournalist-turned-adventurer whose love for a stewardess draws him into a world of danger and intrigue.
It's difficult to talk too much about the plot without giving things away -- for the most part, there are a lot of rescues, gun battles, kung fu fights, and feats of derring-do. The bad guys (girls?) and good guys may not be who they seem, but once the movie kicks into gear, there's always something exciting going on.
The film itself looks great in that sort of spot-colored way that spy movies from the Sixties and Seventies have. There are some occasional ragged edges on the print and the usual speckles and scratches, but if you're bored enough to notice those, you're the wrong kind of person for this movie.
The only disappointment comes with the subtitles, which are burned on to the film in white with no outlines -- a bit of a problem since our hero spends the first fifteen minutes of the film in a white dinner jacket, rendering all of the translation unreadable! After the initial frustration, though, darker tones take over the film and it's easier to make out the words.
The main attraction in BTK's extra-land is the video interview with director Yasaharu Hasebe. It takes place in a store full of Japanese videos; fans of Asian cinema will be able to amuse themselves during some long silent stretches by spotting their favorite titles and reading the movie posters on the walls. The interview itself is a peek into the history of Japanese film during the 60's; Yasaharu's memory is pretty sharp and his stories are fairly interesting, even if he is no longer a prominent director.
A trailer for the film is also included on the disc, which is a must if you are to convince anyone to watch this all the way through. The first 20 minutes or so can be particularly frustrating since not much goes on and the subtitles are lost against a linen tablecloth and a white dinner jacket.
Chris Holland, 1/17/2001