Black Tight Killers Blu-ray Review: Branded to Thrill

Yasuharu Hasebe’s delirious caper oozes with style, and is better than ever in this new hi-def transfer restored by Radiance Films. Hasabe cribs from Bond films and the works of his former boss, director Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill), wearing his influences proudly on his sleeve while crafting this visually arresting confection. 

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Akira Kobayashi stars as a debonair young man named Hondo who attempts to solve the kidnapping of his stewardess girlfriend by a group of go-go assassins, the Black Tight Killers. With matching black leather outfits and lethal fighting skills with fists, blades, guns, and even vinyl records as ninja stars, the Killers are only interested in their victim for information she has about a lost cache of gold. As Hondo gets deeper into the intrigue, he learns that the Killers aren’t evil, teaming up with them as they’re assaulted by other baddies on the trail of the gold.

While the simple plot is fun, it’s secondary to the incredible style of the film. Fight scenes are more gracefully choreographed dances than violent skirmishes, soundstage car chases are intentionally phony-looking with backgrounds that change colors at random, and even a dream sequence gives Hasebe a playground to experiment. That imaginative sequence shows Hondo’s girlfriend running away from the camera through a series of paper walls, with the background color changing to a different primary shade with each tear. Go-go dancers gyrate in different primary color bikinis, a couple of performers are painted entirely in gold in a nod to Goldfinger, and persistent surf guitar music furthers the swinging sixties vibe that anything can happen.

The restoration enhances the colorful appeal of the film, presenting its vivid charms in nearly pristine quality, with just a few specks sneaking through. The film is presented in its original 2.28:1 aspect ratio, with uncompressed mono PCM sound. Images and sound are crisp and clear, another winner from the team at the still relatively new but always impressive Radiance Films.

Aside from a trailer, the only bonus feature is an archival interview with Hasebe. He proves to be humble to the point of embarrassment about the enduring appeal of his films, just happy that anyone remembers them and him. The interview was seemingly filmed on a whim in a Japanese video rental store, as if a fan just bumped into him and started taping, so part of the enjoyment is scanning the old videocassette titles on the shelves behind him. The disc also includes a commentary track. As added bonuses, the 3000-copy limited edition also includes a booklet with a lengthy new essay about Hasebe and the film, as well as a removable obi strip, leaving the cover artwork free of text if so desired.

Black Tight Killers is available on limited edition Blu-ray on February 27th.

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Steve Geise

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