Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan (1959)

Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan (1959) movie poster

director Mitsugu Okura
viewed: 10/28/2015

Kaidan, or Kwaidan, essentially a Japanese ghost story, whether you’re talking Lafcaido Hearn’s book of translated tales or the more famous 1964 film, Kwaidan, or other tales of ghost and the supernatural.  This film, Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan, is adapted from a 19th century Kabuki play and an interesting and surprisingly gory (for 1959) flick, available through Criterion editions in the States.

It’s the story of two callow and ruthless men in Edo-era Japan, one a ronin, the other more of a servant or lesser class.  Through murder, trickery, and other cruel deceptions, they land themselves wives from a good family.  But then even that isn’t enough.  The samurai wants to trade up again and is willing to kill his wife and child to attain an even higher status and station.  Since this is a ghost story, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t work out so well for him.

The 1964 Kwaidan is a much bigger production, most stylized and classy.  But this movie is cleverly filmed, with some nice set tracking shots and creative set designs.  There are some gruesome effects, some elegant effects, and the overall film is quite good.

The film opens with a warning that reads something akin to “hell hath no fury like a wife scorned” and I guess that turns out to be good advice.

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