Humans are Tougher than Fish

It’s hard for me to pin down one specific genre for 1965's Murder Unincorporated (大日本殺し屋伝, “Super Japanese Killers”). A story about a yakuza outfit who hire a series of ridiculous hitmen with ridiculous gadgets and gimmicks—all to kill a character played by Joe Shishido who seems to be starring in a serious gangster film grafted onto this one. Sometimes it’s a funny movie, mostly it’s just impressively bizarre.

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At one point, the head of the yakuza outfit is asked by one of his sons why he doesn’t just dispatch one of his own vastly more competent men to kill Joe. The gang boss replies simply with a mysterious, “Wait and see.” And picks his nose.

First he hires four hitmen. When they don’t succeed, he hires eight more. One hitman is obsessed with baseball, particularly the Giants. One is an aspiring chef whose backstory we see in flashback—unable to bring himself to kill a fish lying helplessly on his cutting board, he decides to become a killer of men to toughen himself up. If he can learn to kill a man, he can learn to kill a fish.

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One hitman is a poet whose gun is hidden in the book he carries around, another is a little kid who dresses like Oddjob. This is followed by the appearance of a man who calls himself 006, or “007's boss”. His only tactic is a briefcase he carries around that occasionally releases toxic gas.

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The most prominent killer is Konmatsu (Kon Omura), who behaves a lot like Jerry Lewis. His gimmick is that he takes out an abacus before he kills—and throws it in the air while drawing his gun, killing his target before the abacus can hit the ground. He also, for some reason, demands to be paid or expects to pay 10 yen for just about everything. Even when he’s unconscious and tied up, he demands to be paid 10 yen for his own murder.

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All of these buffoons are supposed to kill “Joe of Spades” (Joe Shishido) but it’s only Konmatsu who’s so incompetent he actually befriends Joe without realising it. He even moves in with him.

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Shishido plays his character straight—he seems to be caught up in a doomed romance with the yakuza boss’ daughter, Emi (Yoko Yamamoto) (she’s also an assassin—she likes to poison people). But we only get glimpses of this story between the elaborately goofy hijinks of the Super Killers. Murder Unincorporated is available on Amazon Prime.

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