I, the Executioner: ”The cycle of divine punishment must be fulfilled.”

Year: 1968
Directed by Tai Katô
Produced by
Written by Tai Katô, Haruhiko Mimura and based on a novel by
Tadashi Hiromi
Cast: Makoto Satō, Chieko Baishô, Kin Sugai, Tatsuo Matsumura, Sanae Nakahara, Junko Toda, Yuki Kawamura, and Ranfan Ou

A brutal killer hunts down a group of women linked to the suicide of a young man.

A serial killer being guided by a sense of justice is a perverse idea. It is a perverse idea yet it speaks to our untapped primal side. Injustice is one of the few things that can cause us to become violent. Justice despite its claim to objectivity can be a very emotional ideal. I, the Executioner explores such concepts. Thrillers and film noir are natural fits to explore such topics because those two genres constantly deal with the seedy underbelly of mankind and mankind’s darker side. So, fortunately, I, the Executioner happens to be a fusion of the two genres.

The 50s and 60s was the high point of Japanese film noirs and thrillers and I, the Executioner lives up to this to reputation. The more depraved side of mankind has are a special fixation on sex and violence. Sex and violence make up are our more primal side that we try to avoid in polite society. I, the Executioner has no qualms about mixing the two. In a way, it is presented here, there is little difference between the two. Sex, the act is supposed to create new life, always ends with death here. It opens with that gruesome cycle established. Virtually all of the victims are shown to die in this fashion. Though, the way the victims end up in the clutches of Kawashima is a bit contrived but not if you realize Kawashima preys upon their sexual appetites to corner them.

Makoto Satō, Kawashima’s actor who has more of an inclination for playing more mischievous characters delivers a stunning performance of a serial killer. Kawashima is a grim-faced person that is entirely driven for a singular purpose to enact justice. Kawashima’s romance with a cheery young woman named, Haruko isn’t the sadomasochistic fantasy that one might expect at first but a serious connection with a kindred spirit. The police investigation that springs up is a rather cold and detached one. We don’t really get to know them as people. The officers sit between being semi-professional and borderline incompetent. It is the law enforcement for much of this tale that reacts to the unfolding massacre. The only active doer of ”justice” here is Kawashima himself. Heroism has many different forms and I, the Executioner’s heroism is the dramatic broodingly and morbid kind. Though the narrative rings with a pervading sadness, the cry for justice is no less apparent.

I, the Executioner is a tale of justice to undo a perverse and horrific act. A horrific act that is a total inverse of the sexual nature between of men and women yet, it is nonetheless, barbaric. It is a cycle of mad justice that relies upon the dangerous mixture of sex and violence.

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