Friday, January 3, 2014

K-20: The Legend of the Mask (2008) dir: Shimako Sato Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro

Inspired by the works of Edogawa Ranpo.
Set in an alternate 1948 where Japan didn’t enter into World War II and class system is strictly enforced, the kaijin or mystery man known as K-20 The Fiend with 20 Faces has been stealing from the wealthy elite. 
When K-20 discovers that Nikola Tesla’s wireless electricity device has been built in Japan he tries to steal it.  The device is rumoured have been responsible for the Tunguska explosion in 1908.  As part of his plot K-20 frames a circus acrobat Heikichi Endo for his crimes.
Endo is a poor and idealistic circus acrobat/illusionist who is hired by K-20 to be at the scene of a crime to take photos of the engagement party of Yoko Hashiba a wealthy heiress and Kogoro Akechi an upper class police detective for the pulp magazine The True Story.
Endo is arrested but is rescued by the honourable thieves of Thieves Alley when they steal the bridge that the prison transport is traveling on.  Endo trains in the ways of the thief so that he can fight K-20 and clear his name.
This is a fun and pulpy romp through a Japan where the police patrol in blimps and fly autogyros – in many ways this film would make an ideal companion piece to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  I was also reminded of The Cape – the idealist is framed for crimes he didn’t commit, trained by thieves who helped him escape death to become a hero.
There were several twists throughout the film and I have to admit that one of them caught me by surprize.   There were several parts that had me giggling with glee like when the thieves stole the bridge as well as the final confrontation between Endo and K-20. 

This an enjoyable film and well worth tracking down.  Whilst it appears that there was no sequel made to this, it has whetted my appetite to try the works of Edogawa Rampo and see how he uses K-20. 

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