top of page


Taras Chernov
Taras Chernov

Vengeance Is Mine (1979)

Imamura made another great film about death named "Ballad of Narayama," which won the Cannes Film Festival in 1983 (another of his films, "The Eel," won in 1997). In "Nayarama," a village traditionally determines that the time has come for an old person to die, and ceremoniously abandons him or her in the wilderness, even in winter. It is, curiously, a life-affirming film, lacking the rage of "Vengeance Is Mine," but sharing its absorption in death. "The Eel" is about a barber who finds his wife with her lover and stabs them both to death. Released on parole, he begins a new life shadowed always by the awareness that he may kill again.

Vengeance Is Mine (1979)


Watching this right after Sword of Doom really helped a lot in highlighting the difference between the portrayal of traditional and contemporary villains in japan. The former announces himself, strides, lives and breathes purely as evil, and the other wears a mask, scarves and glasses to blend into society, a scourge in hiding, is it spineless or cunning? More efficient, maybe? The similarity: both didn't seem to understand the roots of their behavior, they acted according to instinct like confused animals -- still, I'm forgetting one very important fact here, unlike the samurai tale, vengeance is based on a true story, and it really chills me down to the bone.

Shohei Imamura worked his apprenticeship as an assistant to the great Yasujiro Ozu on Early Summer (1951), The Flavour Of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) and Tokyo Story (1953), but the younger director despised the stately middle-class classicism of his mentor, preferring his own films to be "messy". This aesthetic, characteristic of the so-called Japanese New Wave, is still clearly evident in a film as late as Vengeance Is Mine (1979), a fictionalised account of a real-life one-man crime spree across Japan in the early Sixties.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (August 14'): To keep it short - since the screen captures tell much of the story - the 1.66:1 Criterion shows more information in the frame (generally on top bottom and left edges) - like their 2007 DVD, the color scheme is richer than the other releases with fuller colors and strong contrast. I can't tell you which is more accurate to its theatrical roots. Hopefully you can determine for yourselves which visuals are more appealing. The Criterion is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. After all is said and done, yes, I prefer the Criterion image.

Audio is a lossless DTS Master 2.0 channel at 1569 Kbps and it improves in clarity and depth although this would be fairly subtle to most viewers. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has determined it to be Region 'B'-locked.

Vengeance is Mine 復讐するは我にあり (1979), directed by Shohei Imamura 今村 昌平. The film is based on the true story of Akira Nishiguchi 西口彰, a serial killer who was executed by hanging (see Quora: Who were famous Japanese murderers?)

This film tells the story of real-life serial killer Akira Nishiguchi (although he is called Enokizu in the film), who murdered five people in Japan in the 1960s. Police launched a massive manhunt for Enokizu which lasted several months before he was finally apprehended. Vengeance is Mine examines Enokizu's entire life, including his childhood in the 1930s and his years as a fraudster after World War II.

When I came home from the army, I got discharged in October, 1919, and there was no way to get any work here. The chair factory was running, and they only paid a dollar a day, and I didn't want that. I had been drawing $201 a month in Germany. (I went to Germany and stayed there for nearly a year.) I left here and went to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where I had some army friends, and I got made superintendent of a textile mill, and I worked at night. Up there it got down to zero and twenty-six below zero; we were right on the Narragansett Bay. I had an English engineer who was teaching me, and I was going to be a manufacturer's representative. My captain had come from Texas, and he lived in Boston. That was about forty miles away, and I got a letter from him. It shows you how your life changes. I went up to see him at his home in Boston. He said, "I've been thinking about you. You're twenty-three years old now. I want you to go to college." I said, "I don't know how I'd get in." "Well, you're not too old. You go to college, and I can get you a $250 scholarship through the YMCA. I've already got it arranged for you." Well, I only had two years in high school. I decided to try it. So I came back home and got a job surveying the road to Roan Mountain. They had contracted it out then, and they had a man that stayed up at Hampton. I had learned in the army as a sergeant to survey and make a map by scale. I'd just learned it on my own. So I went to get a job, and he wanted to know what I could do. I said, "Well, I made a map." [Interruption] I told him I was ordered to make a map to the German border, riding a horse. The major called me one night and said, "You're the only one that can make a map. Now you'll get on this horse, and you'll count the steps of the horse. This horse will step so many inches, and you give him his rein and he'll never vary." So we went to the German border and made the map. I got back. I told him, "Well, they told me that the general was going to take 27,000 men over it, and if he got lost, me and the major both'd go to jail. And he didn't get lost." So I got the job. He laughed. He said, "You mean you can make a map riding a horse?" I said, "Yes. In the army they train you how to make a rap riding a horse." The horse steps so many inches, and you just figure it out and draw it." So I got the job, and we surveyed the road to the top of Roan Mountain. We worked there, and the Tweetsie came in every day, and we had no place to go. We worked in the dining room, had our office there, and in the fall I was trying to get into school. So I went down on the train to Tuscom College, because my high school principal in the Harold McCormack Academy here was a professor at Tuscom College. Fortunately, the records had burned, and he didn't remember everything. They gave me an examination, and I had gone to every army school that there was. I had gone to dozens of schools, and I was a pretty good student. I answered their questions, and they entered me in college as a freshman with two sophomore subjects. That got me in. I stayed there that year. Being out of school for eight years was an awful pill for me. I passed everything, but I didn't make any too good grades. Then I went down to the University of Tennessee. I was determined to get a good education. I had waited so long. I went to the University of Tennessee, and the dean registered me. He said, "This is the first time I've ever been called upon to enter a man without a high school diploma. What do you mean?" I said, "I left and went in the army after two years in high school, but I educated myself. I took the examination." He finally admitted me, and about twenty years after that I went back to the University to hire a lot of them to come here to the plants to study that gas down there. He was President, and when I went in I said, "Dr. Hoskins, do you remember me?" "Oh, yes, you're the man that didn't graduate from high school." I said, "Well, I went here one year. Elizabethton was so small that I didn't think I wanted to be a lawyer in Elizabethton. So I decided to go to the University of Georgia, where I had a lot of friends, and I transferred to the University of Georgia in the fall of 1922. I went there three years, and I graduated with first honors. I had the highest grade that was ever made at the University of Georgia. I had 96.32%." But I was married, and I studied all the time. I had no money to spend at anything else. My older son is now fifty-six, and he was born when I was a freshman in the law school at the University of Georgia. He's a Georgia cracker. But the University now is one of the great law schools of the nation. The University of Tennessee is a good one, also. Then you want to know what I've been doing. I've been practicing law for fifty-five years.

I got down there, and I wasn't well either. I come back to Judge Bob Taylor of Knoxville, a great friend of mine. He was asking me about it. I said, "Well, Judge, there was six of us, and three of them was home in wheelchairs, and three of us got there. And we hobbled up to get our honors." And I said, "It was a pathetic sight to see men seventy-five years old crippled up. I've been paralyzed twice, so I couldn't walk very good." And he laughed, and I said, "Well, that's life for you. You never know how long you're going to live." But I've been paralyzed twice, and now my eyes have gone back on me, and I can't read. The retina in my eyes have deteriorated, and I'm hoping to get the thing straightened out here. I've got income tax and a lot of things, and I want to go to the eye doctor in Johnson City and let him study me and see if he can do anything for me. I can see the figures, but I can't decipher them.

They kept it about two years. And people went to work. Then a man that had lived out here in the hills and had hunted and fished, it'd take a long time for him to get acclimated to put him in a closed place. He was restless. I knew all those things, because I'd been in charge as a foreman for two years down here and then as a night superintendent, and I had a union to deal with up there. Now here's where the trouble comes in. Unions are all right if they're run all right. But the manufacturer does not want the politicians talking to the labor, because he stirs up trouble through politics and different things. We had a shop council down there. And because I knew everyone here, was born and raised here, what happened was that I was made attorney in 1929, and we settled everything. But then here'd come a man, and they'd fire some fellow. The general manager was a good man, and this fellow would come in with a family and he'd be worrying like everything. He said, "Now this is politics. I voted against that man's brother for sheriff, and they swore vengeance, and I'm not guilty of this." Well, Major Wolfe was the general manager. He'd call me in. He said, "Now, George, make a secret investigation and see what the truth is to it." Well, you couldn't ever find the truth. And so I went back to him, and I said, "Now, listen." He said, "I either have to fire that poor man and uphold the foreman, or I have to change the foreman, and I don't want to do an injustice." "Well," I said, "it's impossible for me to get the truth, and what you need is a union. Then they can have representatives." So we decided, and I installed a union, and we worked good, and we had 6,000 members at one time. And everything went off fine in this country; they built this country back. 041b061a72




bottom of page