I'm starting to get back into the swing of things. I got a job, I feel like the madness of our life changing move is finally settling down. I'm finding myself back in a routine which is giving me the right state of mind for movie viewing. I mentioned in my last review that I came across a wonderful video store in South Pasadena called Videotheque. It's an all meat no filler kind of place. It ranges from an assortment of some of the greatest movies ever made to some of the weirdest movies ever made and in turn some of the most rare movies ever made. They carry a lot of films put out by 5 Minutes To Live (now known as Cinestrike). I've spent the last five years or so slowly building up a nice little 5mtl hoard but there's still so much more to be discovered and at $15 a pop (plus $6 for shipping) it can be a pricey hobby. And let's face it, collecting movies such as those sold on 5mtl and in my own online shop (I admittedly sell movies I dislike) can be hit or miss. The option to rent is a lifesaver! On that note, I was particularly enthralled to see that they carried what was going to be my next purchase from "Cinestrike" (still can't get used to calling them that). The 1968 Japanese film Big Commotion (Nippon oyafukô jidai)...
The major selling point on this one is that it stars my FAVORITE Japanese group, the Spiders, whose cd I bought on a whim a few years ago based on the incredible cover and have since played it out. They've been compared to a lot of bands, the Beatles, the Electric Prunes, the Ventures and the Monkees (the latter I think is most accurate). Really though, they're a superb rock n' roll group who has a distinct flavor of their own. It wasn't uncommon for them to open for the Beach Boys in Japan. I dare say their sound is in that vein as well, during the Pet Sound years. I could really gush over this group. They're wonderful and if you're unfamiliar I give them my utmost recommendation.
For some reason I thought this one had subtitles but unfortunately it didn't and as far as I know there isn't a copy floating around that does. I was a bit disappointed at first because there does seem to be a plot and I was having a hard time following it, but after a while you get the gist of what's going and I was able to engage myself in the comedic antics. The underlying storyline I seemed to notice revolved around the the lead singer, Masaaki Sakai who was lovesick over a girl and often slipped into fantasy sequences in which he makes a ridiculous cross-eyed face prior to. I found his role in the movie to be completely adorable! His animated features and movement made this movie a lot more watchable. I later realized that he's the main character on the show Monkey Magic! Which I believe was mostly directed by Jun Fukuda.
Aside from him, the rest of the band (there are seven total) seemed be the foils for his shenanigans. I read that this was Japan's answer to the Beatle's Help! but it struck me a lot more like an extended episode of the Monkees television show with Masaaki as the Peter Tork character. Aside from all of that, I still was a bit lost with the story but the other selling point were the awesome live performances and music videos. I'm surprised none of that footage has made it to youtube (unfortunately I don't know how to do any of that or I'd upload them myself). In fact, I'm disapointed that there aren't any decent clips of the Spiders at all other than a 1981 reunion where they cover Day Tripper, which I wouldn't say is one of their finest moments. I was thrilled to hear (and see) all of my favorite songs including Kaze Ga Naiteriru, which has made countless mixes.
All in all, worth a view for serious fans of the Spiders or the Japanese GS movement of the 60's. I was hoping for a bit more psychedelia to get me through the subtitle-less-ness but considering this movie is over two hours I would say it held my attention pretty well. At very least check out their music. You can get the cd used on Amazon for around $10. WELL WORTH IT.