Go to Hell, Hoodlums! | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Go to Hell, Hoodlums!

by

comment

Its poorly translated title makes it sound like a sensational B- movie, but Seijun Suzuki's Go to Hell, Hoodlums! (1960)--his first color feature--is really a Sirkian family melodrama enlivened by an audacious, irony-filled mise-en-scene. Intended as an action vehicle for teen idol Koji Wada, whose boy-next-door charms earned him comparisons to Troy Donahue, the film has a rather predictable and mindless script. Wada plays a Tokyo painter's assistant who discovers that he's the sole heir of a noble family that lives on a picturesque remote island. Upon his return to his ancestral home--where his grandmother welcomes him with open arms in spite of his illegitimate birth--he's pitted against a cabal of greedy developers and bureaucrats bent on turning the island into the "Monaco of the Orient." Suzuki, who was given this directorial assignment by his longtime studio (Nikkatsu, the Warners of Japan), seems less interested in the convoluted gangster plot than in the grandmother's libidinous intentions toward Wada and in the guilt-ridden predicament of Wada's estranged lower-class mother, who happens to be the mistress of the cabal leader. He also finds plenty of amusement in the encroachment of Western values--in the form of rock 'n' roll and gaudy nightclubs--on the famed scenic beauty and centuries-old customs of Awaji Island, where the film was shot. Here at the outset of his career Suzuki shows the promise of a gifted visual iconoclast: experimenting with color filters, 'Scope composition, and camera movement, he dazzles by placing form above content. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday and Sunday, July 28 and 30, 6:00; 443-3737.

Add a comment