Five days ago, October 17, 2012, after being hit by a taxi cab in Tokyo, Japanese film director Kōji Wakamatsu died. Called “the most important director to emerge in the pink film genre,” and one of “Japan’s leading directors of the 1960s.” He directed such pinku eiga films as Ecstasy of the Angels (天使の恍惚 Tenshi no Kōkotsu?, 1972) and Go, Go Second Time Virgin (ゆけゆけ二度目の処女 Yuke Yuke Nidome no Shojo?, 1969). He also produced Nagisa Ōshima’s controversial film In the Realm of the Senses (1976). He was 76.
Between 1963 and 1965, he directed 20 exploitation films for the studio, based on sensational topics of the day. He became interested in the Pink Film genre after the success of Tetsuji Takechi’s 1964 Daydream. (1965) to the 15th Berlin International Film Festival while the film was still under review by Eirin, the Japanese film-rating board. This submission before passing Eirin’s review was doubly embarrassing for the government since pink films, though already emerging as the dominant domestic cinematic genre, were not regarded as worthy of critical attention or international export. The film received an enthusiastic reception at the festival, but Nikkatsu, fearful of governmental retaliatory action, gave it a low-profile domestic release.
Wakamatsu’s independent films of the late 1960s were very low-budget, but often artistically done works, usually concerned with sex and extreme violence mixed with political messages. Some critics have suggested that these films were an intentional provocation to the government, in order to generate free publicity resulting from censorship controversies.
His films were usually produced for less than 1,000,000 yen (about $5,000), necessitating extreme cost-cutting measures including location shooting, single-takes, and natural lighting.
His 2010 film, Caterpillar, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.
1903 – Curly Howard (comedian: The Three Stooges: Three Little Pigskins, Pop Goes the Easel, Goofs and Saddles, Wee Wee Monsieur, Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise, Higher Than a Kite, The Yoke’s on Me, Stop! Look! and Laugh!; died Jan 18, 1952)
1904 – Constance Bennett (actress: Madame X, As Young as You Feel, Two-Faced Woman, Topper, Sin Takes a Holiday; died July 24, 1965)
1913 – Boots (Patricia) Mallory (actress: Sing Sing Nights, Wolf Dog, Powdersmoke Range, Carnival Lady; died Dec 1, 1958)
1917 – Joan Fontaine (de Havilland) (Academy Award-winning actress: Suspicion ; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, Island in the Sun, Gunga Din, Emperor Waltz, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt)
1920 – Mitzi Green (Elizabeth Keno) (actress: Lost in Alaska, Little Orphan Annie, Tom Sawyer, So This is Hollywood; died May 24, 1969)
1939 – Tony Roberts (actor: Play It Again Sam, Serpico, Radio Days, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Edge of Night, The Thorns, The Four Seasons)
1942 – Annette Funicello (actress: The Mickey Mouse Club, Beach Blanket Bingo, Back to the Beach, Beach Party, Bikini Beach; singer: Tall Paul, First Name Initial, O Dio Mio, Pineapple Princess)
1952 – Jeff Goldblum (actor: The Fly, The Big Chill, Independence Day, Death Wish, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Silverado, Hideaway, Jurassic Park, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe)
1966 – Valeria Golino (actress: Escape from L.A., Leaving Las Vegas, Hot Shots! series, Rain Man, Big Top Pee-wee)