Blu-ray Review: Black Test Car & The Black Report



The double feature of Black Test Car and The Black Report show that director Yasuzo Masumura made films that showed every character in had a dark side. In both the creation of a sports car or the investigation of a murder, there’s no pure character that makes you very easily root for them to pull it off. This isn’t a Spielberg movie. He gives us a post-World War II Japan where everyone is capable of forgetting about morality in order to succeed in life. Why? Because nobody sees the nobility in failing while upholding a righteous code. Black Test Car and Black Report is a double feature Blu-ray that lets people to experience an evening of Masumura revealing how low his characters can go.

Black Test Car (1962 – 95 minutes) is a pure masterpiece about how nasty things can get in the world of car manufacturing. Tiger corporation is eager to make a splash as it enters the sports car business, but this isn’t a film about plucky engineers pushing automotive technology. Instead we’re treated to a full out industrial espionage war between Tiger and their larger rival Yamato. Things heat up fast when a shrouded prototype car wrecks on a test drive and Yamoto’s spies are in the woods filming the accident. Things get worse when corporate secrets at Tiger find their way into Yamoto’s hands in record time. This includes elements of launching of Tiger’s revolutionary sports car. Tiger’s security hires an automotive industry journalist who offers up a lot of inside information. But he can’t tell them who is the rat in the company who is leaking out their information to their rival. There’s plenty of bribery and blackmail in the quest to have the better car on the market. One guy is willing to let his nightclub hostess girlfriend sleep with the old guy that runs one of the companies in order to get the edge. Black Test Car is more tawdry than any storyline in Dallas or Dynasty. Everybody on the screen keeps shows they’re willing to undercut everyone to succeed. Masumura, the cast and crew display no gag reflex in a corporate world where they don’t even pretend to have a code like the Yakuza.

The Black Report (1963 – 92 minutes) is a serious change up as we get what can only be an early version of Law & Order. The police and detectives are investigating the murder of a food company owner. The film gives a sense of what CSI: Tokyo looked like in a black and white world. The rich guy was killed with a flower pot. There’s quite a few suspects from the clues at the crime scene. But there’s also a shady lawyer who is willing to protect his clients from the prosecutor. Characters are willing to do so much to cover their tracks and obscure others as the investigation turns into a court trial. This is a bit of a change up from Black Test Car, but features plenty of the cast from the former film. Luckily the change in tone keeps you from confusing films. Like The Black Report, the characters they play are willing to morally compromise themselves so you don’t have the easy choice of rooting for the plucky hero.

Black Test Car and The Black Report digs deep into a world where people have no desire to be honest or play by the rules. Everyone has their price or their fear. Everyone is playing an angle. Even the characters in these films that you think will just be good can turn out to be rats. Director Yasuzo Masumura creates a bleakness to his cinematic world where the audience comes out feeling a bit uncomfortable about how things happen. Rules and laws don’t get bent, they become completely ignored. The truth can be hidden or exposed for a price. None of his characters can be accepted as innocent. Whether it be development of a car or investigating a murder, nobody can be fully trusted. Black Test Car and The Black Report form an uncompromising double feature. And you can trust me on that.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for both films. The 1080p resolution beings out the details of this black and white view of Tokyo boardrooms and courtrooms. The audio is Japanese LPCM Mono. The levels are fine if you understand Japanese. If not, the movies are subtitled in English.

What Masumura Does With Our Madness (17:07) has critic Jonathan Rosenbaum discuss the work of director Yasuzo Masumura. He goes into the darkness in Masumura’s outlook of his characters. They all have the ability to become villains even if they seem noble at first. His points are illustrated with clips from the films. He links Masumura to Michaelangelo Antonioni as a true student/mentor relationship.

Trailer for Black Test Car (2:42) sets up an epic tale of developing a sports car.

Trailer for The Black Report (3:01) shows off the courtroom drama.

Image Galleries for Black Test Car (2:40) and The Black Report (2:10) contain black and white stills and Japanese posters for the films.

Arrow Video presents Black Test Car and The Black Report. Directed by: Yasuzo Masumura. Starring: Jiro Tamiya, Junko Kano, Eiji Funakoshi, Hideo Takamatsu, IchirĂ´ Sugai, Kichijiro Ueda. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 1 Blu-ray disc. Released: August 25, 2020.

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