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“You promised that night you’d never tell anybody. You finally broke the promise. It was a pledge for life for both of us. I told you if you broke it, I would kill you. You betrayed me!” Isn’t that always the way it goes? Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Daphne Monary-Ernsdorff, and Jeff Mohr – as they are mesmerized by the legendary Kwaidan (1968)!
Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 118 – Kwaidan (1964)
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This film contains four distinct, separate stories: 1) “Black Hair”: A poor samurai who divorces his true love to marry for money, but finds the marriage disastrous and returns to his old wife, only to discover something eerie about her; 2) “The Woman in the Snow”: Stranded in a snowstorm, a woodcutter meets an icy spirit in the form of a woman who spares his life on the condition that he never tells anyone about her. A decade later he forgets his promise; 3) “Hoichi the Earless”: Hoichi is a blind musician, living in a monastery who sings so well that a ghostly imperial court commands him to perform the epic ballad of their death battle for them. But the ghosts are draining away his life, and the monks set out to protect him by writing a holy mantra over his body to make him invisible to the ghosts. But they’ve forgotten something; 4) “In a Cup of Tea”: a writer tells the story of a man who keeps seeing a mysterious face reflected in his cup of tea.IMDb
- Director: Masaki Kobayashi
- Writer: Yôko Mizuki (screenplay); Lafcadio Hearn (stories, as Yakumo Koizumi)
- Music: Tôru Takemitsu
- Cinematography: Yoshio Miyajima
- Film Editing: Hisashi Sagara
- Art Direction: Shigemasa Toda
- Set Decoration: Dai Arakawa
- Costume Design: Masahiro Katô
- Musician: Kinji Tsuruta (biwa)
- “Kurokami” (“Black Hair”)
- Michiyo Aratama as First wife
- Misako Watanabe as Second Wife
- Rentarō Mikuni as Husband
- Kenjiro Ishiyama as Father
- Ranko Akagi as Mother
- “Yuki-Onna” (“The Woman of the Snow,” “Snow-Woman”)
- Tatsuya Nakadai as Minokichi
- Keiko Kishi as the Yuki-Onna
- Yūko Mochizuki as Minokichi’s mother
- Kin Sugai as Village woman
- Noriko Sengoku as Village woman
- “Miminashi Hōichi no Hanashi,” (“Hoichi the Earless”)
- Katsuo Nakamura as Hoichi
- Tetsurō Tanba as Warrior
- Takashi Shimura as Head priest
- Yoichi Hayashi as Minamoto no Yoshitsune
- Kazuo Kitamura as Taira no Tomomori
- Yōsuke Kondō as Benkei
- “Chawan no naka” (“In a Cup of Tea”)
- Haruko Sugimura as Madame
- Osamu Takizawa as Author / Narrator
- Ganjirō Nakamura as Publisher
- Noboru Nakaya as Shikibu Heinai
- Seiji Miyaguchi as Old man
- Kei Satō as Ghost samurai
- “Kurokami” (“Black Hair”)
Kwaidan is Daphne’s pick and she loves every single second of the 183-minute runtime. In fact, she watched it three times! The beauty of the film, the amazing storytelling, and both the sound and set design blew her away. Chad agrees that it is a beautiful film with wonderful sets and music and appreciates how the four segments are based on supernatural folk tales. For the record, his favorite of the four is “The Woman of the Snow.” As a big lover of world folklore and ghost stories, Whitney is also on the Kwaidan bandwagon, granting it everything anyone could want in finely detailed sets, makeup, and folklore. The middle two stories, “The Woman of the Snow” and “Hoichi the Earless,” grabbed her the most. Jeff is gobsmacked by Kwaiden, calling it a stunningly beautiful film. He loved all the stories but “Hoichi the Earless” is his favorite with its historical prologue.
If you haven’t seen Kwaidan, the Classic Era Grue-Crew strongly recommends it. Yes, three hours is a long slog, but the individual stories are completely separate, so you can digest it a piece at a time. So if you haven’t seen it, do it know. If you have seen it, watch it again! Don’t make them break their feet off in your ass! At the time of this writing, Kwaidan is available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBOmax, and on physical media as a Blu-ray disc from Criterion.
Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era records a new episode every two weeks. Up next on their very flexible schedule is one chosen by Whitney: Dos Monjes (1934, Two Monks) directed by Juan Bustillo Oro. Dos Monjes is available to stream on YouTube and on physical media in “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 3” (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]. And the world folklore just keeps on coming!!
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