Edogawa Rampo in Japanese Films

by August Ragone

(Kaiju Productions)

[Rampo was a Japanese mystery writer whose works have been the source of numerous films, the best known outside Japan probably being The Mystery of Rampo and Black Lizard.  Here August Ragone fills us in on some of the rest. - Ed.]

Watcher in the Attic is the newest edition of Edogawa Rampo's story, directed by Akio Jissoji (Utamaro's Women and Tokyo: The Last Megapolis) -- the original 1976 Nikkatsu film was titled Stroller in the Attic (Yaneura-no Sanposha), directed by Noburo Tanaka.

The name "Edogawa Rampo" is an play on the Japanese spelling of American gothic author Edgar Allen Poe -- "Edoga Waran Pou."

There are many, many Edogawa Rampo-based films (and TV series) -- many of which are based on his famous detective, Kogoro Akechi (the same character from Black Lizard). One of the first post-war films based on the works of Edogawa Rampo, was Daiei's 1946 production of The Pirate-Knife Murderer (from the story of the same name). Then we have Daiei's 1950 film, Maiden in the Ice Chamber, which was based on Edogawa's story "Kyuketsuki" (The Vampire) -- another "Kogoro Akechi" vehicle. (This story was later made into a tv-movie by Shochiku).

Another was Daiei's 1958 film The Spider Man (Kumo Otoko), directed by Hiroyuki Yamamoto, which starred former Toho leading man Susumu Fujita (Kurosawa's Sugata Sanshiro I & II), as Dectective Akechi -- a part he played several times.

Between 1954 and 1959, Toei produced a series of thirteen theatrical featurettes (in which two or more parts made one complete tale) based on Edogawa's juvenile detective series "Shonen Tantei-dan" (Boys Detective Gang), in which an older Detective Kogoro heads up an agency of amatuer child detectives. The books and films were extremely popular, and were also remade into several tv series over the years (the first show from the 1960s ran for over 152 episodes) -- and there was also a teleseries based on the most popular villain from the books and film adaptations, "The 20-Faced Monster" (Niju-menki).  (In the 1970s, there was a famous incident, when a terrorist group extorted the Fujiya Confection Company, by posioning its products (which resulted in several deaths), and called itself "The 20-Faced Monster.")

In 1962, Daiei prodcued the first film adaptation of "The Black Lizard" (Kuro Tokage), under the familar title, and starring Machiko Kyo (Rashomon) as the international female jewel thief -- reportedly, it is a musical (!).

In 1969, the incredible director Teruo Ishii and Toei, brought the infamous Horror of the Malformed Men (Kyofu-no Kikai-Ningen) to the screen. The film is based on several of Edogawa's short-stories, primarily "Panoramajima Kidan." Due to the controversial nature of the film, its video release has been delayed several times -- and continues to only pop-up on theatrical revivals -- due to its use of distrubing and eccentric images, which jumps from shocking horror to morose humor. These elements have made Horror of the Malformed Men one of the premiere Japanese cult movies.

There was a Edogawa Boom in the 1970s, in which Shochiku made several telemovies (as mentioned earlier) between 1977 and 1979, starring Shigeru Amachi (Jigoku) as Detective Akechi -- these include: Beauty in the Bath Chamber, Beauty on the Morgue Slab, The Beautiful Man-Eating Mermaid, Beauty of Kuromizo-Sen, Beautiful Fairie: Akechi Kogoro Vs. The Mysterious Lupin, The Jeweled Beauty and The Red Scorpion Beauty. (These are titled differently from that of Edogawa's original stories, on which these telemovies are based.)

These are just a handful of the lesser-known film adaptations based on the literary works of Rampo Edogawa.


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