I, and others I'm sure, have always likened Seijin Suzuki's work, especially in his 1960's prime, as being similar to Sam Fuller. Both were men who delivered genre fare with anarchic touches that made their films very signature and more than just factory-processed commercial vehicles. Which also isn't to say they were always doling out the flair. Sometimes they just did the work. So, along those lines, the wildly expressive Seijin Suzuki of Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter wasn't behind the lens of Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards! (1963), which isn't to say the film isn't still a whole lot of cops and gangsters fun.
It seems someone has been ripping off yakuza clans. There is an unknown faction that is heisting shipments, and after one scrap in the boonies, cops jail but cannot hold a member of the mystery gang named Manabe. Ready to spill Manabe's blood, the robbed clans wait outside the precinct with their "hunting rifles" and licenses. The police are at a loss, they need to stop the war, even if it means unorthodox methods, and that's where private detective Tajima (Jo Shishido) comes in.
Tajimi arranges a plan where he gets forged identity papers and background as a low level thug, will help Manabe get away from the murderous throng, and subsequently win graces and gain entry to the secret crime ring. Of course, the organization is highly suspicious and much of the films running time is spent with Tajima trying to convince them of his alias before the standard third act double-crosses, hero put in peril moment, and the gangs downfall.
Suzuki was really working within the box on this one. It is a pretty generic crime caper film with just enough winning little moments to make it lean away from being forgettable fun. There is a great bit where the gangsters drag him to the parish of his alias, and the nervous Tajima finds his cop buddies already there, masquerading as priests, so he gets to give his spying rundown in the confessional booth. There is an interesting deviation on the usual femme fatale/gun moll role, this time played as a virginal, dour concubine of the impotent gang leader. The films standout sequence, one that should give viewers an idea of the airy tone, has Tajima out clubbing, seeing an old flame is singing at the nightclub, so Tajima rushes onstage and does some singing and dancing with his unaware ex before she reveals his real identity to the gangsters. Its crowd pleasing stuff you could see playing well on a bargain action, double-bill afternoon.
I would say that Jo Shishido has the distinction of starring in flicks with some of the best macho titles in cinema history. I mean, Branded To Kill is great, Go To Hell Bastards! even better, and, my personal fave, A Colt Is My Passport (coming in Aug. from Criterion, by the way!). As much as I'm not overly keen on him, his popularity cannot be argued. The guy worked and was a key action hero in 60's Japanese cinema. To me, while he's been in great movies, I've never really considered him more than passable and never the elevating element of his best films.
The DVD: KINO.
Picture: The chubby cheeked heroics are presented in anamorphic widescreen. The print looks really good with little age wear and tear like specks and dirt and even the grain level is minimal. Colors are striking with clean, vivid hues. Contrast levels are nice and deep. Sharpness is in the acceptable range with a few scenes exhibiting some minor softness. Otherwise great, the only other missive is some slight aliasing.
Sound: Get ready for Harumi Ibe's swinging, bouncy jazz score in Japanese mono. Usual limitations of the source but thankfully free from the 'hiss and pop' ravages of time. The sole subtitle option is for some fairly well-translated and timed English subs.
Extras: The extras are unfortunately almost nonexistent. You get a basic still gallery and trailers for Cops Vs. Thugs and Yakuza Graveyard.
Conclusion: Breezy hepcat Japanese crime antics. It is a world where the rambunctious gangsters are all piled on top of one another, riding out in the open on the back of flatbed trucks, careening around the streets looking for a fight. Likewise, our hero wears his sunglasses at night, which never prevents him from expertly spinning around corners in his snazzy sports car. Kino gives Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards! a nice but basic DVD, a good appetizer for those new to the genre and a decent entry for established fans.