The Black Hood (1981)

the_black_hoodThe Black Hood is another one of those foreign action films that’s painfully obscure. Seriously, IMDb knows absolutely nothing about this film, and in the discography of its lead actor, it doesn’t seem to be listed (at least not on IMDb or Wikipedia). For me, this is literally a film I had to dive into without any knowledge whatsoever, and to be honest, it was quite a fun ride.

The film is set in Japan during the closing years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which effectively makes this a work of historical fiction. In the background you have a conflict between the ruling shogunate and the Satsuma-Choshu alliance. From what I can tell, the story is about the endeavours of a masked man who works to fight injustice and protect the people of Edo. He works with supporters of the shogunate in order to retrieve a map from the Satsuma-Choshu alliance, hoping to avoid a bloodbath.

The main character is basically a ninja acting as a vigilante, sort of like a jidaigeki Batman, and that’s honestly an awesome concept. The story itself is very straightforward, and at 90 minutes, the film moves at quite a fast pace. There isn’t a lot of depth, but that isn’t wholly necessary for this kind of film. Also, if you’re looking for subtitles, my advice is to either find the film on YouTube with subtitles enabled, or hope and pray that you find a DVD that works in your region and has English subtitles available.

The acting is alright, though in my case it’s kind of hard to tell. The main character is by far the most interesting character in the whole film, which perhaps should be obvious. He’s the only character you expect to care about in the whole movie, which is understandable because he’s the one meting out vigilante justice, and that’s pretty much all that matters here. Little did I know that the main character, Kaiketsu Kurozukin, was actually an enduringly popular character in Japan, originating in the silent era and being rebooted throughout the 20th century, though this appears to be the last film I’ve found where he appears, and it’s apparently a made-for-TV production.

For a made-for-TV film, the production values aren’t totally bad. One thing I like about this film is that it opens with the main character striking down a group of bad guys, followed by a short guitar riff. The way the film looks almost reminds me of NBC’s Shogun, just that it’s somewhat cheaper. The fight choreography is definitely better, with some scenes resembling Western gunplay. But of course, swordplay is the main course here, and this film has it in spades.

If you can get a hold of this film, watch it as soon as you can. You might not get another chance to watch this rare and obscure film. It’s not the best film of its kind, but I certainly thought it was fun. It was a refreshingly straightforward action film that didn’t disappoint, and it’s comforting to know that there are plenty of films like it, if you’re interested that is.

  • Score: 70%
  • Grade: C

UPDATE (4/9/2017): It has come to my attention that there is now a page for this film on IMDb.

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