American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for 80 Years!

Click to Print Page 1 or Page 2 or Full Text of Oct./Nov. Schedule!
Series compiled by:  Chris D.








Tickets available 30 days in advance. Tickets are $9 general admission unless noted otherwise.
Sold out programs will be indicated here if sold out 24 hours in advance of screening date.
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The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling.

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<<< October 29 & 31, 2004 >>>

Black Cats and Haunted Castles - Classics of Japanese Horror and the Supernatural


With the recent, astounding proliferation of Japanese horror and ghost films (RING, JU-ON, DARK WATER, PULSE, etc.) and attendant obsession for remakes by American studios, what better time than Halloween weekend to take a look at some of the earlier spine-tingling classics of Japanese cinema?

Although numerous kaidans ("stories of strange things") had been lensed since the silent era in Japan, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that a veritable post-war boom in movie production boosted the number of scary, supernatural pictures. All the Japanese studios joined in, but fledgling, poverty-row Shintoho led the pack with a handful of classic horror opuses by macabre maestro Nobuo Nakagawa, including such classics as HELL (JIGOKU) and BLACK CAT MANSION (BOREI KAIBYO YASHIKI, 1958). When Shintoho went belly-up in 1961 from financial woes, other studios like Daiei, Toho and Toei expanded their horror film output to fill the gap.

While current Japanese horror movies are primarily set in the modern world, kaidans lensed in the golden age of the 1950s-1960s, often set in-period, utilized age-old legends, folk tales or erotic/grotesque kabuki plays as their source material – yarns of disfigured, black-haired female ghosts wronged by their samurai lovers, tales of cat-ghost vampires, disembodied phantasms, female snow spirits and specters of murdered masseurs. Japanese horror films of this period frequently matched the baroque frissons of UK’s Hammer Studios and the creepy ambience of such classics as THE INNOCENTS and THE HAUNTING.

We’re excited to present this Halloween weekend of Japanese horror and supernatural classics – what really amounts to a mere sampling – including such acknowledged bone-chilling masterpieces as Shiro Toyoda’s PORTRAIT OF HELL, Masaki Kobayashi’s KWAIDAN, Nobuo Nakagawa’s HELL and Yasuzo Masumura’s BLIND BEAST.


Friday, October 29 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

BLACK CAT IN THE FOREST (KURONEKO), 1968, Toho, 99 min. Director Kaneto Shindo’s demented follow-up to his surprise arthouse/horror hit, ONI BABA, is also shot in shimmering black-and-white and is even more overtly supernatural in tone. After being murdered by a roving band of bestial mercenaries, a mother (Nokuko Otowa) and daughter-in-law (Kiwako Taichi) return as avenging cat-ghost vampires, bent on destroying every samurai that crosses their path. They suffer more torment when long-lost son/husband Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura) returns, dispatched by the brutal local lord, (Kei Sato) to stop their killings.

PORTRAIT OF HELL (JIGOKU HEN), 1969, Toho, 95 min. Adapting a story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (RASHOMON), director Shiro Toyoda conjures a beautiful and eerie medieval parable of the consequences of oppression, conceit and decadence. Proud, indentured Korean artist Yoshihide (Tatsuya Nakadai) sees Hell materialize on earth when arrogant Lord Hosokawa (Kinnosuke Nakamura) not only commissions a painting of paradise, but also begins lusting after his only daughter, Yoshika (Yoko Naito). With breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography by Kazuo Yamada and phantasmagorical production design by Shinobu Muraki.


Saturday, October 30 – 5:00 PM

KWAIDAN, 1964, Janus Criterion, 164 min. Master director Masaki Kobayashi’s legendary quartet of ghost stories was adapted from the writings of Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-Irish immigrant to Japan and collector of the nation’s folk tales. First, "The Black Hair" with Rentaro Mikuni and Michiyo Aratama, followed by "Woman Of The Snow" with Tatsuya Nakadai and Keiko Kishi, "Hoichi The Earless" with Katsuo Nakamura and Tetsuro Tanba and "In A Cup Of Tea" with Kanemon Nakamura. KWAIDAN creates an eerily fantastic, dreamlike ambience, largely through superb direction, painted production design and Toru Takemitsu’s awe-inspiring score. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen, this is not to be missed!


Saturday, October 30 – 8:30 PM

Double Feature:

BLIND BEAST (MOJU), 1969, Kadokawa-Daiei, 84 min. A deranged, sightless sculptor (Eiji Funakoshi) kidnaps an artists’ model (Mako Midori) and introduces her to his rural warehouse of horrors: a forest of giant, sculpted female body parts. Before long, Midori finds herself succumbing to a deliriously tactile shadow world where sight is replaced by touch. Master director Yasuzo Masumura chisels a monument of erotic terror from Edogawa Rampo’s perverse short story.

HELL (JIGOKU), 1961, Kokusai Hoei, 100 min. Dir. Nobuo Nakagawa. This horrifically surreal vision of the underworld resembles Disneyland designed by the Marquis de Sade. Shigeru Amachi stars as a theology student led astray by nihilistic pal Yoichi Numata; their reckless pranks lead to the hit-and-run driving death of a drunken yakuza and the eventual poisoning of a group of party guests – after which everyone is sent straight to Hell! The last half-hour of the film, featuring grotesque ogres, burning wheels of fire and mist-filled rivers of the damned, must be seen to be believed. Highly recommended!


Sunday, October 31 – 5:00 PM

Double Feature:

THE MASSEUR’S CURSE (KAIDAN KASANE GA FUCHI), 1970, Kadokawa-Daiei, 82 min. This spooky fable of a money-lending, blind masseur - murdered by a duplicitous samurai only to rise from his swampy grave - had been filmed many times since the 1920s, including a version by Nobuo Nakagawa. Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda had himself helmed another (much tamer) black-and-white version in 1960. But here he lenses the yarn in color, amping up the blood and letting the violence rip. With a great cast, including Kenjiro Ishiyama as the ghostly masseur, Saburo Date as the craven swordsman and Ritysu Ishiyama as his cursed son. With Reiko Kasahara, Maya Kitajima.

THE HAUNTED CASTLE (HIROKU KAIBYODEN), 1969, Kadokawa-Daiei, 83 min. Ghost-cats – avenging spirits, usually of wronged handmaidens, incarnated after their cats lap up their spilt blood (!) – are a staple of Japanese ghost stories as well as the nation’s classic horror cinema. Scores of Japanese kaibyo (or ghost-cat) films have been made since the silent era. Director Tokuzo Tanaka, like his studio-mate Kimiyoshi Yasuda, was an accomplished genre specialist (and veteran of many Zatoichi blind swordsman films). Here he spins his rip-roaringly macabre take on the ghost-cat mythos, a tale of the suicided sister of a murdered nobleman returning to avenge herself on guilty Lord Nabeshima’s samurai. With Kojiro Hongo, Naomi Kobayashi, Rokko Toura. [Note: This, the only surviving print of the film, is slightly faded.]