Law in Ghost Island
After watching Bulls Eye of Love, I was in need of a little more of the
charms of Hibari Misora and picked this one at random thinking it would be
a supernatural tale of sorts. Well, not quite as it turned out. There are
no ghosts on Ghost Island nor does anyone call it Ghost Island but instead
Ryujin Island, aka Dragon Island, which is a real island down in the southern
islands. And the kick in the pants is that Hibari isn't in it all that much.
Still it is a somewhat peculiarly chaotic and convoluted film with more characters
than a year of soaps. You need a scorecard to keep track of them all.
Ghost Island could be a great getaway if it weren't that pretty much everyone
is a crook, a ruffian, a Yakuza, a smuggler, a slave trader, a pimp or a
revolutionary all ready to take your money or your life. And lots of hostesses
to keep you company and filling your glass. The town is like an Asian casbah
of winding alleyways, rundown shops, hidden homes behind hidden homes, an
entertainment area and a polyglot population of Japanese, Chinese, Malays,
Indians and the local ethnic folks. All dressed in their native garb which
must have given the costume designer fits. There is even a character who
fancies himself a cowboy in hat and boots. It is a Rick's café in
which no one is quite who they pretend to be, but they all have agendas.
Into this dangerous and seedy tourist destination two people get off the
arriving boat. Yagi Hanzo (Hashizô Ôkawa), a lowly samurai on
the skids and Miss Sung (Hibari) in a cheongsam showing some bare shoulder
that indicates why she must be there.
There is a lot afoot on Ghost Island - and none of it good - two gangs run
the place but are at peace as they are putting together a deal to smuggle
(during this period it was illegal by death to trade with Gaijin) and sell
guns to a Kyushu Daimyo who may want the weapons for a civil insurrection.
The film plays out in an oddly leisurely way as Hanzo just wanders around
the town running into people who offer him drinks and want his services -
he accepts the drinks but demurs working for them. And he constantly runs
into Miss Sung who seems to be doing nothing but sees everything. But she
does manage to sing two songs! It finally leads to a huge fight in which
everyone's identity is revealed much to the surprise of everyone else. Even
Hibari gets to shoot a bunch of people. When the bullets run out our samurai
and another disguised samurai (Koji Tsuruta) get to cut down hordes of bad
guys. All in good fun.
It is all rather nonsensical and idiotic admittedly though I enjoyed just
how haphazard the plot jumps around and how unusual it was - and it is really
only saved by the 20 minute fight in the end (which is also idiotic as bad
goes go down like bowling pins). It seems to be set around 1850 as there
are references to the Black Ships (korofune) which was the name given to
Perry's ships which forced Japan to open itself to trade.