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Black Rose Mansion

Black Rose Mansion

The owner of a private gentlemen's club is intrigued by the arrival of a mysterious, weirdly beautiful young woman. Three different men show up in the course of several evenings, each claiming to be either her husband or her current love; two of them soon end up dead, and her supposed husband wises up and leaves town. Soon however the owner of the club convinces the exotic beauty to become his kept woman (his own wife having been crippled in a car accident), and he puts her up in her own place nearby. But the man's wayward, ne'er-do-well younger son shows up, falls for the woman, and convinces her to run away with him. But how are they going to live, since neither of them has money? Well, a friend of his has been trying to talk him into being the driver during some sort of heist. It all goes badly, of course, and the young man is shot by the police. Confronted by their betrayal, the young man and the mysterious woman attempt to leave Japan in a boat with the stolen loot - but the boat crashes and they die. The millionaire club owner is left with his invalid wife, his remaining (cynical but loyal) son, and the memory of the mysterious woman who entered his life for so short a period of time.

This movie was a weird, unique sort of melodrama (the Japanese even use this word, though they convert it to something like merodurama) in that it dealt mainly with the emotions of the main characters and the impact of the actions on their fortunes - in other words, a 'mainstream' pic and not a genre movie. Every irony-dripping moment, every facial tic was lovingly shown by director Fuakasaku; dream and memory sequences usually took place in monochrome to the accompaniment of haunting music. The gentlemen's club and its members seemed fairly gothic, or even Victorian; this contrasted mightily with the dance-club sequences featuring the wayward son.

The movie was fairly interesting; I kept thinking, though, that something supernatural was going to happen - I thought the 'black rose mansion' of the title would turn out to be haunted or something. But, no. It was a (more or less) straightforward melodrama with no otherworldly goings-on. So, why is this weird little import available on Region 1 DVD when so many other, presumably more deserving, titles are not? Why is this film remembered when so many others from its era are forgotten?

Well, one reason might be that it's a dude, dude! Yup, the actor behind the enticingly weird main character of Black Rose Mansion, Akihiro Maruyama, was a cross-dresser.

Black Rose Mansion

Director Kinji Fukasaku had, to everyone's surprise, had a recent hit with the film Black Lizard, also starring Maruyama. The script was written by Yukio Mishima, a homosexual political activist who wrote novels and scripts, and occasionally did some acting. Mishima would commit ritual suicide in 1970 after he and his small private army took over the headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Lizard had been a moody piece about a female gang boss that matches wits with a clever detective.

The director, script writer, and transvestite star attempted once again to find box office gold with this not-quite sequel to the first film. It didn't work - the box office for this second film was pretty weak - and no other collaborations were attempted.

Black Rose Mansion - 1969
Direction: Kinji Fukasaku
Featuring: Akihiro Maruyama - Eitaro Ozawa - Masakazu Tamura - Kikko Matsuoka

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