Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
Screenplay: Ryuzo Nakanishi and Michio Tsuzuki
Starring: Akira Kobayashi, Chieko Matsubara, Akemi Kita, Mieko Nishio, Bokuzen Kidari, Kozue Kamo
Country: Japan
Running time: 87 min
Year: 1966
BBFC certificate: 18

Japanese actress Chieko Matsubara is perhaps best known for her role in Tokyo Drifter, Seijun Suzuki’s phenomenal 1966 yakuza film. Her appearance in Black Tight Killers is just one of the elements, whilst watching the movie, that reminded me of Suzuki’s films, in particular Tokyo Drifter. The striking visuals, likeable leads, focus on entertainment first and logic second, the dreamlike quality; they’re all here in Yasuharu Hasebe’s Black Tight Killers – a pop colour action adventure, that borders on spoof.

It kicks off in explosive style, as we’re thrown straight into the action – a Second World War battle with lots of explosions and pyrotechnics, setting the tone for what will come from the colour palette, before a dance number over the opening credits, which features beautiful backdrops and costumes. The tone and visual style is set in these opening moments.

The plot follows military photographer Daisuke Hondo (played by a familiar face, in actor and singer Akira Kobayashi), who meets air stewardess Yoriko Sawanouchi (Matsubara) and invites her out for dinner. A group of women (the killers of the title) kill a man, witnessed by Daisuke (referred to as Mr Hondo, or Hondo throughout the film) and Yoriko whilst at their dinner, and the latter is kidnapped. Hondo sets out to track down Yoriko and along the way repeatedly encounters the gang of women, as well as a rival gang, finding himself caught up in a hunt for hidden Second World War gold.

Black Tight Killers is a frequently entertaining adventure with some twists and turns along the way, all brought to life with wonderful visuals and some striking cinematic compositions. Two of the scenes are particularly eye-catching. Firstly, a dream sequence for our hero Hondo, where the kidnapped Yoriko is stalked by a trio of knife-wielding women in barren sets that each feature a single colour covering the whole of the floor and walls. Yoriko breaks through walls into a different coloured room as she continues to be pursued. It’s a visual treat.

The second particularly visual scene sees a dance performed by a man and a women who are both covered in gold paint. The characters reference how dangerous this is due to the risk of suffocation from bodies being covered in paint. It’s another striking sequence and must surely be a nod to the James Bond feature Goldfinger, which features a character dying after being covered from head to toe in gold paint.

A lot of the film was shot in a studio, allowing control over all of the fabulous colour schemes, but when there are sequences shot on location, there’s a chance to see more wonderful compositions; particularly in the finale, which is set on an island. The visuals are a highlight of the film, but there’s plenty more to savour, including a funky 60s score by Naozumi Yamamoto, which is a treat.

Kobayashi and Matsubara lead a great cast, and they are both very likeable characters who are easy to root for. Kobayashi had a lengthy career at both the Nikkatsu studio, who released Black Tight Killers, and Toei films, where he starred in a string of yakuza films, including the revered Battles Without Honor and Humanity series.

In closing, I thoroughly enjoyed Black Tight Killers. It’s a super stylish and frequently entertaining action adventure filled with some excellent set pieces – a rooftop attack, a fight in a mechanics garage featuring a flame thrower, and more – bright cinematography, a funky score, some very likeable characters, and an intriguing mystery, which plays the backdrop to the inventive visuals.


Black Tight Killers is released on 26 February 2024 by Radiance Films. The transfer is great, and with a visually sumptuous film such as this, that’s a major plus. Colours really pop, detail is rich, and the print is clean. The audio and subtitles are also fine, no issues here.  


High-Definition digital transfer

Uncompressed mono PCM audio

Audio commentary by Jasper Sharp

Archival interview with director Yasuharu Hasebe


Optional English subtitles

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow

Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Japanese cinema expert Chris D.

Limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Jasper Sharp’s name is always a welcome inclusion on Blu-ray releases, and this commentary by the Japanese cinema expert shows why. It’s a rich commentary filled with insight and masses of detail on the film, its director, the actors, the novel the movie was based on, the soundtrack and much, much more. It’s a fascinating commentary with very little gaps and already sets the bar high for commentaries in 2024.

The interview with Yasuharu Hasebe dates from 2000, runs for nine minutes and sees the director looking back on his career and the making of the film. It’s a brief but fun interview which he also looks at his favourite Nikkatsu yakuza movies. It’s a welcome inclusion, though only really scratches the surface of the director (who made lots of genre films) and the movie.

The three-minute trailer is also included.

I wasn’t provide with the booklet to review, but I’m sure it’ll be first rate, as Radiance’s booklets usually are.

Radiance Films have brought another Japanese gem to UK Blu-ray with Black Tight Killers. It’s an excellent and colourful action adventure, filled with plenty to enjoy. It’s super stylish but there is substance, the two central performances stand out – as do the relationships between Hondo and some of the Black Tight Killers – and that aforementioned style, means it’s a feast for the eyes. The disc isn’t as rich with extras as some of the others released by Radiance, but the commentary from Jasper Sharp is worth the price of admission alone.


Black Tight Killers - Radiance Films
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About The Author

Passionate about film, from the silents to the present day and everything in between, particularly 80s blockbusters, cult movies and Asian cinema.

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