The Rambling Guitarist (1959) – Japan

Type: Action
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Buichi Saito
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara

“The 1st film of the famous “Wataridori” (The Rambler) series from Nikkatsu. Enter Shinji Taki, the young rambler with his light-colored guitar. He arrives in Hakodate. Of course he solves the problems in the town while encountering the sinister rival, gunman George.
Historical Background: In late 50s, two studios are the most successful in Japan: Toei & Nikkatsu. Interestingly, they adopted the exactly opposite policies. While Toei celebrated Japanese traditional values and pursued traditional aesthetics, Nikkatsu embraced modernity & individualism. While heros in Toei Jidaigeki are honor-bound samurai or yakuza, Nikkatsu’s heros are more interested in personal freedom and are popular for their westernized cool. Their films are also often modeled from Classic Hollywood Cinema or European ones (Duvivier, Fellini, Godard, etc), to the extent that these films were labeled as “Borderless Action” (mukokuseiki akushon) (Mark Shilling’s book on this genre is called “No Borders, No Limits”. This style – in Japan but not of it, was carried to an extreme by the eastern westerns Nikkatsu made, particularly the Wataridori (Wanderer, Rumbler) Series by Akira Kobayashi, a young Nikkatsu star. In fact, they are not only the signature works of Kobayashi, but also the finest series Nikkastu has offered.

In the nine part Wataridori series (1959-1962), Kobayashi played a wanderer on Japan’s back roads with most of the accoutrements of a Western hero, from a horse to fringes, guitar and even a trusty bullwhip. He moseys into a town or ranch, sides with the good local folk against gangsters and other evildoers, and wins the affection of a local maid, played in all but one installment by Asaoka. He also finds a rival in Joe Shishido, playing his usual role as a scapegrace with a good heart.

Theme Song by Kobayashi – Kobayashi’s singing in this series made him a pop sensation, while his romance with co-star Asaoka made him hot copy for the weekly magazines – Japan’s tabloids. When he married pop diva Hibari Misori[/url] (who stars in several Toei Jidaigeki I have upped), upsetting all expectations, the weeklies had another field day. (Asaoka exited the Wataridori series soon after)”

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