Movie Review

KAGE NO KURUMA 1970

aka: THE SHADOW WITHIN

This is an interesting subversive psychological film from the MATSUMOTO SEICHO SERIES of VHS releases in Japan. MATSUMOTO SEICHO is a very famous and gifted writer from Japan, and this series of VHS tapes utilize the best films based on his novels and screenplays. This particular movie starts out like an adultery-themed melodrama, but as the story unfolds, it becomes a strange and twisted tale of deception. In the beginning we meet middle-aged Japanese salaryman Hamajima (GO KATO) who is not very satisfied with his life and marriage at the moment.

He is a good husband, kind of shy, and has a steady yet tedious job as a travel agent. One day, a beautiful lady named Taiko (SHIMA IWASHITA) recognizes him on the bus home and they start chatting. It turns out that this woman is actually his childhood friend from his hometown. Soon, they start developing a relationship that is closer than just friends. Taiko is a widow and lives with her 6-year-old son Ken-chan (HISATO OKAMOTO) in a small house, and Hamajima starts spending more and more time with his new-found adopted family, coming over evenings for dinner after work and even on weekends. Of course, during all of this, he is continually lying to his wife who is busy at home with her own business and hobbies, so she barely notices that he is gone.

In time however, Hamajima begins to suspect and believe that the 6-year-old Ken-chan wants to harm and perhaps kill him. Strange occurences like... the gas is left on for the oven while he is napping... and all the windows are locked shut, poisons in his drink, and more. At one point this little terror is even wielding an axe!

Is it just his imagination? Or is it real? The kid actor in this film is fascinating as the menacing and creepy little boy. And as you watch the film, you never really are clear as to whether you are watching imagined (and paranoid) scenarios inside Hamajima's head, or actual situations and events that are taking place. And then the twist in the story begins to take shape. The music score for this gem sounds like something from a European film of the era, with a groovy lounge-style atmosphere. And for you sleazehounds, this film does contain some nudity as well. You naughty people out there! This is a very artistic film with beautiful cinematography... it has that grainy soft & faded 70s look to the film stock. A highly recommended Z-Grade film that works quite well, even if it is lacking English subtitles.