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Black Lizard (Kurotokage) is a 1962 film from Japan directed by Umetsugu Inoue.

It opens with Iwase, a loudmouthed jeweler, bragging about his detective, one Akechi. He brags to his daughter Sanae and her companion Mrs. Midorikawa (Machiko Kyo) that Akechi is the finest detective in Japan, and that he is paying Akechi one million yen per month. He is paying Akechi so much because the notorious jewel thief, Black Lizard, has threatened to kidnap Sanae.

A drunk Iwase toddles off to bed one night in the fancy hotel in Osaka where the party is staying. After Sanae remarks that she doesn't particularly like the Arranged Marriage candidate her father found for her, friendly Mrs. Midorikawa offers to introduce her to a man she knows who is staying in the hotel. They go into the man's room—and Sanae is chloroformed.

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It turns out that Mrs. Midorikawa is the criminal mastermind Black Lizard. She and her minion Amamiya (the man in the hotel room) stuff Sanae in the trunk. Akechi is on the ball, however, and his men manage to retrieve Sanae. The flamboyant Black Lizard, after having been exposed by Akechi, makes her mistake, but not before promising that she will come for Sanae again.

Black Lizard is a weird, campy drama filled with odd mood lighting, random musical numbers, and bizarre moments that come off like a drug trip. It would be made again in even weirder fashion in 1968 with a man in drag playing Black Lizard.


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Tropes:

  • Animal Theme Naming: The operatives in Black Lizard's gang get nicknames/code names that are reptile based. Not all of them, though, as it's basically an award for good service. For helping with the second kidnapping, Mrs. Hima is bestowed the code name "Blue Turtle". Amamiya, Black Lizard's right-hand-man, is hurt that he doesn't get one.
  • As You Know: A servant at the Iwase mansion helpfully notes that "It's been two weeks since that Osaka hotel incident", thus defining the length of the Time Skip.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: After making her escape, Black Lizard marvels at what a good detective Akechi is. Then she turns to the camera and says "You agree that Akechi is fabulous, don't you?"
  • Buxom Is Better: When she is still in her Mrs. Midorikawa disguise, Black Lizard oddly lets the mask slip for a moment, praising Sanae's breasts, noting how you can still see their outline through her dress.
  • Dead Man's Chest: A variation, as the kidnappers sneak Sanae out of the hotel by stuffing her alive into a steamer trunk.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Black Lizard dies in Akechi's arms after taking poison.
  • Dutch Angle: Used repeatedly, especially for halls and passageways, for the entire sequence where Black Lizard and her gang are kidnapping Sanae from the hotel.
  • The Dragon: Amamiya, Black Lizard's chief sidekick and assistant villain. He's in love with her and is hurt that she doesn't reciprocate.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Black Lizard's Supervillain Lair, inside a remote island.
  • Exact Words: When the first kidnapping plot is foiled, Black Lizard drops the mask and gets all weird. Earlier she praised Sanae's breasts; now she said "I like jewelry, but I also wanted your body." It comes off as Bi the Way, but Black Lizard meant exactly what she said: she wants Sanae's body. Stuffed and mounted.
  • Fanservice: Sanae gets stripped to her underwear when Black Lizard is kidnapping her, and then Black Lizard does the same when putting on Sanae's dress.
  • Identical Stranger: Luckily Akechi manages to find an exact body double for Sanae (played the same actress of course). The resemblance is so strong that Sanae's father can't tell them apart.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The guards and Mrs. Iwase break into Sanae's room and find her missing, but also find the inexplicable presence of a random stranger who is vomiting onto the couch. Do they hold the man for questioning? No, they throw him out. (It's Amamiya, Black Lizard's operative.)
    • Akechi has pulled a fast one in which he's switched out a lookalike with the real Sanae. The lookalike, who took the job because she was broke, is in fact kidnapped. So why does Akechi bring the real Sanae to Black Lizard's lair, instead of just leaving her in Tokyo?
  • Latex Perfection: Used twice by Akechi, once when impersonating an old man, once when impersonating Black Lizard's hunchbacked minion, and he gets away with it both times.
  • Little People Are Surreal: One of the odder touches in this weird film is giving Black Lizard a little person sidekick. What makes it truly surreal is that the little person doesn't even do anything, he just hangs around Black Lizard like a mascot.
  • Medium Awareness: The film opens with three different guys talking about how awesome Black Lizard is, and promising that the viewer will find out who they are "as the story moves along." They turn out to be three different versions of Akechi, as himself and in two disguises.
  • The Mole: Mrs. Hina, one of the maids at the Iwase mansion, is one of Black Lizard's operatives.
  • No Name Given: We never do find out Black Lizard's real name, assuming that "Mrs. Midorikawa" is an alias. We never find out the name of the body double for Sanae, either.
  • Poison Ring: Once Black Lizard realizes the jig is up and there's no escape, she flips open her ring, dumps some poison in her mouth, and dies.
  • Plot Hole: Black Lizard has smuggled Sanae out of her father's house in a sofa. She then removes Sanae from the sofa and puts her in the cargo hold of her ship. Why did she find it necessary to take the sofa along? She must have had Sanae taken out before boarding the ship, because that's how Akechi got on the ship, by hiding in the sofa.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Black Lizard delays the search for Sanae by doing the old pillows-and-plastic-head routine in Sanae's hotel room bed.
  • Spy Speak: Mrs. Hina, Black Lizard's spy in the Iwase house, reports back in a phone conversation where she and Black Lizard exchange lines like "A prawn walked out of a woman's ear."
  • Supervillain Lair: Black Lizard has an Elaborate Underground Base dug into a small island somewhere far out to sea.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Black Lizard has a habit of doing this when her minions piss her off.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Black Lizard graduates from stylish criminal to deranged nutcase after Sanae is brought to her Supervillain Lair. She tells Sanae that she has no intention of returning Sanae to her father, even after getting the diamond. Then she shows Sanae the exhibits all around the lair, all of attractive people in various fanservice-y poses. Black Lizard reveals that they are all real human bodies that she has preserved and mounted—and Sanae is next.
  • Tempting Fate: "Not even a microbe could get past us", say the guards outside of Sanae's room. Apparently no one thought about the window.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Akechi can't help but be impressed when Black Lizard makes her escape from the hotel, saying "well done" to himself afterwards.
    • And then Black Lizard uses this exact phrase (or the Japanese equivalent thereof) when realizing that Akechi smuggled himself onto her boat inside the sofa.
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