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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Black Test Car' + 'Black Report' [Blu-ray]
(Jirô Tamiya, Junko Kanô, Eiji Funakoshi, Eitarô Ozawa, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Japanese maverick director Yasuzo Masumura (Blind Beast) helms a bitingly satirical espionage thriller set in the heart of the Japanese auto industry in his 1962 landmark 'Black Test Car', which launched a series of similarly themed Black films.

In a bitter, take-no-prisoners corporate war between the Tiger Motorcar Company and their competitors, the Yamato Company, undercover spies have infiltrated both sides.

As Tiger prepares to launch its newest Pioneer car and a prototype bursts into flames, Toru (Hideo Takamatsu, The Last Emperor) heads a secretive task force to root out Yamato s spy, and find out what they can about the competitor's familiar-looking new model.

Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut, 'Black Test Car' is paired here with the English-language video premiere of its follow-up, 'The Black Report', also directed by Masumura.

Blu-ray Verdict: First up is 'Black Test Car' (1962), where two car manufacturers spy on each other to try to find out details and prices of a new sports car each is about to launch.

The movie opens with the Tiger corporation suffering through a disastrous test run for its latest sports-car model, the Pioneer. Hiding in the brush, photographers from the Yamato corporation document the whole flaming mess, and leak the photos to the press.

Reeling with shame, Tiger rushes to get an improved Pioneer to market, while simultaneously feeding misinformation to Yamato, and trying to figure out what the other car company is doing with its new sports model, so that its price can be undercut.

'Black Test Car' is largely effective because Masumura plays the story relatively straight. Shooting in stark black and white, in crowded rooms framed at cramped angles, Masumura keeps the mood tense and coaxes performances that are earnest without becoming campy.

The boardroom chatter — along the lines of, "People want speed and luxury!" — coupled with the fast-paced editing make 'Black Test Car' play like a darkly sophisticated live-action episode of Speed Racer!

In the follow-up, 'The Black Report' (1963), we see that even an average Masumura film is still a gripping drama.

It’s a police procedure/court room drama with the preoccupation of the unfulfilled justice from the prosecution side.

Masumura spends the first-third of running time to lay down all the evidence and reveal the associated parties before inserting the vicious lawyer.

While in 'Black Test Car' there are some digressions away from the main storyline, 'The Black Report' concentrates more single-mindedly on the murder investigation and subsequent trial.

As a result, the need for a twist every few minutes makes them so convoluted they’re sometimes difficult to follow.

Unfortunately the characters are mostly stereotypes and perfunctory, but I’m surprised by the somewhat downbeat, but not hopeless ending.

However, it’s definitely worthwhile for a watch if you’re a Japanese film buff, and a lover of all-thing international cinema, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Black Test Car and The Black Report
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio on both films
Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
Newly recorded critical appreciation by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Theatrical trailers for both films
Image galleries for both films
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet with new writing on the films by Mark Downing Roberts

Amazon Purchase Link