When it comes to a name for a collection of movies, you have to admit that Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 sounds pretty cool. Featuring three films with three iconic action film actors this is a release that just oozes style… The connection between the three movies is not surprisingly the gangster lifestyle. The first film for me is the superior of the three. The Voice Without a Shadow stars Hideaki Nitani and follows the story of Asako a former telephone operator. After she hears the voice of a murder suspect, it continues to haunt her. When she hears the voice once more years later she decides to investigate the man, but when he is killed and her husband is the chief suspect all seems doomed.
The second film sees Yujiro Ishihara star in Red Pier as Jiro the Lefty. A killer who witnesses the death of a man in a crane accident it soon becomes clear that it was a cover up for a murder and Lefty finds himself tailed by a very determined cop. The third film, The Rambling Guitarist stars Akira Koabyashi as street musician Shinji, a man hiding from his past. When he falls for a mob bosses’ daughter it’s not long before things once forgotten come back to haunt him.
The three films are directed by Seijun Suziki, Tashio Masuda, and Buichi Saito and are part of the Diamond Line series from Nikkatsu, one of the oldest film studios in Japan. These are films made to make stars out of the action heroes and while they may be simple in style their Noir undertones and effortlessly cool style make them easy to watch.
With each film fitting the 90 minute structure they all feature men who have connections to the gangster lifestyle and pay the price. There are moralistic values set in stone here, and certain old values that at times do age the feel of what we are seeing. This doesn’t affect the enjoyment much though and shows that Japanese cinema could do pulp fiction style dramas just as well as Hollywood, if not better.
While there aren’t many special features in the release, there are interesting introductions to each movie by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp. He manages to put the context of the making of the films well and provides a lot of information about their making. While it would have been nice to see more documentaries about Japanese cinema included, we have to remember that there are three films on the Blu-ray, which tends to take up most of the space on the disc.
Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 is one of those Arrow Video releases which is a must for fans of Japanese cinema, and for people like me who want a good start in some of the greats. While these three films do feel very pulpish in style they are still well worth a watch and give the viewer with a healthy dose of Japanese gangster drama.
Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 is available on dual format Blu-ray and DVD now.