Diamonds of the Andes (Sekido o kakeru otoko) (1968)
Buichi Saito directed one of the best Lone Wolf and Cub films: Babycart in Peril (1972). His 1960’s films can be quite different, as showcased by this Nikkatsu movie filmed entirely in Brazil.
Akira Kobayashi stars as a former criminal now living new life in South America, but haunted by old enemies. He’s still being chased down by a Japanese detective (Tetsuro Tamba) and a former partner in crime (Eiji Go) whom he betrayed several years ago.
It’s a stylishly filmed movie with beautiful landscapes and Kobayashi playing guitar at sunset in Rio de Janeiro, but not nearly as great as a story. Most of the film consists of routine love drama after Kobayashi’s former girlfriend returns to his life and competes with the new lady. The cast in almost entirely Japanese and there’s also the compulsory carnival footage which feels especially tourist-like.
Landscapes aside, small bits of solid action at the beginning and end are the most exciting thing about the film, but clearly not its focus. It’s a nice curiosity, but not a very good film.
The Elder Sister (Anego) (1969)
Nikkatsu director Toshio Masuda once said in an interview that audiences went to Toei’s yakuza films for the action, and came to Nikkatsu’s crime films for the stories. The statement wasn’t entirely true, but it nevertheless springs to mind when watching Buichi Saito’s Anego (Elder Sister), a feminine yakuza drama with very little action in it.
The film follows the struggles of a yakuza wife after his husband gets hurt in a knife fight. Unfortunately it’s not a very memorable story, nor is there anything special about the execution. It’s merely a slow moving yakuza drama. Ironically it closes with a Toei style showdown, which is probably the most exciting part of the film. Akira Kobayashi pops up a number of times to save the day, always just on time.
IMDb lists English aka The Woman Gambler for this film, but that’s likely to be a mistake. The film has no connection to gambler movies, which were a popular genre at both Toei and Nikkatsu in the 1960’s.