DESPERADO OUTPOST (dokuritsu gurentai) (1959 JAPAN) D/W: KIHACHI OKAMOTO P: TOMOYUKI TANAKA
Makoto Sato stars as a deserter posing as a journalist towards the end of the (second) Sino-Japanese war (that`s WWII, kids) in Manchuria (i guess). He travels to the notorious titular military camp, made-up of all the scum from other postings (it`s built-up a bit much, doesn`t seem that bad, apart from the guy who shoots Chinese for target pratice). Once there he playfully investigates a supicious apparent double suicide and (spoiler ahead) uncovers a supply embezzling scam. Considered the first feature with which Okamoto truly found his voice (the first he scripted himself), the farcical stupidity-of-war elements would later be expanded on in classics like THE HUMAN BULLET. But it`s also a commercial action movie, and manages to balance it all out pretty well (although someone more knowledgable than myself may have issues with it`s politics). The self-serving, reluctantly heroic leads put me in mind of a nicer WILD BUNCH. Two major cameos come from Kiji Tsurata as the leader of Chinese bandits caught between warring factions, and Toshiro Mifune (barely in it) as a comic-relief Commander with a screw loose. With Izumi Yukimura, Tadao Nakamura, Ichiro Nakatani, Yosuke Natsuki, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Chieko Nakakita, Toki Shiozawa, Ikio Sawamura, Ren Yamamoto, Akira Tani, Sachio Sakai, Yutaka Nakayama, Nadao Kirino, Michiro Yokoyama and home-grown rockabilly legend Mickey Curtis. Sato (memorable in THE H-MAN) makes for a pretty cool rubber-faced anti-hero (a little like Bunta Sugawara`s gleeful younger brother), and as this was a hit, he returned in five sequels (two of which were by Okamoto).

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