Japanese sixties comedy featuring a cunning female jewel thief named Black Lizard who tries to kidnap Sanae, a wealthy jeweler's beautiful daughter as part of a plot to steal the jeweler's expensive "Star of Egypt" diamond. To thwart the planned kidnapping, the jeweler hires Japan's number one detective, the brilliant Akechi. This sets off a dual between Black Lizard and Akechi as each tries to outwit the other. In the process, the two adversaries develop a mutual respect and affection for each other. Despite Akechi's efforts, Black Lizard and her crew are able to kidnap Sanaye and gain possession of the "Star of Egypt". Black Lizard takes Sanaye to her secret lair on a remote island which is populated by an eerie collection of naked human dolls. There Black Lizard plans to preserve Sanaye's beauty forever by turning her into one of her dolls. As Sanaye's doom quickly approaches, it is up to Akechi to save the day.
Director: Fukasaku Kinji
Writers: Rampo Edogawa (novel), Yukio Mishima (adaptation)
Stars: Miwa Akihiro, Kimura Isao, Matsuoka Kikko, Mishima Yukio
Surreal, Sophisticated, Savvy and Slick! This is NOT Godzilla!
Kenji Fukasaku's BLACK LIZARD (1958) was released in the US by CINEVISTA in the early 90's. The movie received a focused and limited release in the US, but its existence in video has developed a cult following that has gained momentum as the years has passed. With the totally bizarre appearances of then-Japan's most famous Kabuki theater transvestite Akihiro Murayama as the title role Black Lizard, Yukio Mishima's cameo as a "statue" or maybe even as an eerie stuffed human figure; a screen play by Mishima based on a story of one of Japan's most famous horror writers, Rampo Edogawa, and even music by electronic "planet music" guru Isao Tomita, this movie reads as a who's who in the arts and literature in Japan in the 60's. But many movies in the past created by geniuses have failed in delivering an intellectual as well as a cinematic punch. This is NOT the case with "Black Lizard". From the psychedelic settings, the poetic dialogue and tragicomic developments, the movie succeeds both as high-art "manga" as well as a well-thought piece of "agit-prop". Few movies deliver so much substance hidden under so much flash; it is one experience that has to be felt viscerally as well as intellectually. Unfortunately, the VHS version is out of print, and I do not know of any plans for a DVD release as of this writing. We wait anxiously until someone revives this totally bizarre and wonderful piece of art and it is released in DVD format for a new generation of anime-educated viewers.