T. int.: Romantic and Crazy. Sog., Scen.: P.C.L. Bungeibu, Pierre Brillant Theatre F.: Hiromitsu Karasawa. Scgf.: Takeo Kita. Mus.: Kyosuke Kami Su.: Koji Hayakawa. Int.: Kenichi Enomoto (se stesso), Teiichi Futamura, Masako Tsutsumi, Sachiko Chiba, Heihachiro Okawa. Prod.: P.C.L. 35mm. D.: 85′ Bn.
P.C.L.’s early musicals, Joseph Anderson and Donald Richie complained, were “not actual movies so much as photographed vaudeville turns, many actually sponsored by record companies anxious to publicize their songs and artists”. But while Anderson and Richie are right to point to the close ties between different commercial media during the early sound period, their slighting dismissal of the films is unwarranted. Enoken’s first sound film, whose title puns on the title of a classic of Chinese litterature, The Water Margin (Shuihu Zhuan or Suikoden in Japanese), is self-consciously a multimedia work, which balances the aesthetics of the sound film with those of the stage revue. The revue artist Kenichi Enomoto (Enoken) had already appeared in a number of silent films, but was best known as a stage performer, having made his name as a comedian in Tokyo’s theatrical district of Asakusa. The film employed not only the star, but his entire theatrical troupe, and the narrative was structured around scenes which Enoken had played successfully on stage. Gags where the star ‘breaks the fourth wall’ to ask the advice of the audience glance back to the film’s origins in live theatre. Billed as offering “Japan’s number one comedy actor and Japan’s number one musical comedy”, the film self-consciously borrows from Hollywood musical comedy, with the opening scene paying homage to the Eddie Cantor vehicle The Kid from Spain (1932). Indeed, on its original release, the posters carried spoof endorsements by Eddie Cantor and the Marx Brothers! Director Kajiro Yamamoto, who had been working previously at Nikkatsu, made his P.C.L. debut with this film. He was to become a stalwart of the company and its successor, Toho, with his collaboration with Enoken extending into the postwar era. In addition, he worked on literary adaptations such as two films based on the work of Meiji-era novelist Soseki Natsume, Botchan (1935) and I Am a Cat (1936), and was to have a profound influence on the history of the Japanese cinema as mentor to Akira Kurosawa, who served as his assistant on a number of films including Uma (Horse, 1941).