The Age of Assassins

1967 film by Kihachi Okamoto

The Age of Assassins is a 1967 Japanese crime action comedy film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and produced by Toho. It was based on Michio Tsuzuki's novel Hungry Heritage (飢えた遺産, Ueta isan).The film was shot in black and white.

The Age of Assassins
Tetsuya Nakadai and Reiko Dan. Appearing in Kinema Junpo, November 1966
Directed byKihachi Okamoto
Written byEi Ogawa
Tadaaki Yamazaki
Kihachi Okamoto
Based onHungry Heritage (飢えた遺産, Ueta isan) Michio Tsuzuki
Produced byTomoyuki Tanaka
Kenichiro Tsunoda
StarringTatsuya Nakadai
Reiko Dan
CinematographyRokuro Nishigaki
Edited byYoshitami Kuroiwa
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 4 February 1967 (1967-02-04)
Running time
99 minutes



The story was first made into a film by Nikkatsu, but due to various reasons, it was scrapped. The rights were purchased by filmmaker Kihachi Okamoto. He was given a new script with the Nikkatsu logo written by two screenwriters, Ei Ogawa and Tadaaki Yamazaki. It was produced and completed in 1966 with adding comedic and action scenarios. Due to a decision by Toho's upper management, the film was shelved just before its release. It was quietly released the following year without much publicity.

The film was screened alongside a documentary that was not expected to attract many viewers ( Explosion Course'', directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara). It was released in February, the month of the year when movie theaters receive the least amount of foot traffic. As a result, box office sales were the lowest since Toho's inception. Director Okamoto was extremely depressed. It finally gained acclaim in the 1980s when it was revived and is still popular as a cult film.

During the story, the word "kichigai" (which means lunatic or madness in Japanese), which is currently prohibited from being broadcast, is thrown around, so it is rarely broadcast on television. The term was muted when it was broadcast on WOWOW radio. The setting of Kikyo and the development of the second half have been changed from the original. The treatment of Mizorogi has expanded considerably. The film shows a fast-paced comedic confrontation between Kikyo, who is short-sighted and defeats her enemies by accident, and the assassins, who self-destruct while showing off their bizarre gimmicks. They are also bright in the dark scenes of murder. It has the feel of a romantic thriller, with canzones played.

The film was made into a radio drama on NHK Nagoya in the 1980s. The cast at that time was Akira Nakao (Kikyo), Miyuki Kojima (Keiko), and Mitsuo Senda (Bill). It's much more faithful to the original story than the movie. The killers speak the Nagoya dialect, and Kikyo is quite dashing. According to film critic Tomohiro Machiyama, this film, along with Danger Pays, Branded to Kill, The Pistol That Sprouted Hair, Sun Above, Death Below, and Ninja, a Band of Assassins are the inspiration for the 1971 anime series, Lupin the 3rd Part I.

Dr. Shogo Mizorogi, who runs a mental hospital, is visited by Rudolf von Bruckenmayer, an ex-Gestapo officer of former Nazi Germany. The "secret Nazi organization" to which Bruckenmayer belongs is reportedly considering requesting work from the ``Greater Japan Population Council" which is organized by Mizorogi. The purpose of the Council is to secretly kill people deemed useless for population control purposes, and Mizorogi was training the hospitalized patients to become homicidal killers.

As a test for his job offer, Bruckenmayer asked Mizorogi to kill three people randomly selected from a telephone book. The person designated as one of the murder targets was Shinji Kikyo, a university lecturer in criminal psychology. He is a dull middle-aged man who suffers from athlete's foot. Kikyo is attacked by a man named Mabuchi, an assassin from the council who can throw razor-sharp cards, in his apartment, but by chance, he kills Mabuchi after a statue of his mother lands on his head. He reports the incident to the police. When he returns to his room, Mabuchi's body has disappeared, and the police think Kikyo is talking nonsense, thus ending the investigation.

Kikyo, along with Keiko Tsurumaki, a mystery reporter he happens to meet, and Bill Otomo, a car thief, confront several assassins of the Council who are targeting Kikyo. Meanwhile, Mizorogi, who is suspicious of Bruckenmayer's behavior, tortures him. He discovers that his target is Kikyo and that the diamond called the Cleopatra's Tears, which was lost during World War II is behind it. Kikyo, whose life is being targeted, gets lucky. He defeats the assassins one after another. Mizorogi captures Keiko. Kikyo and Bill are determined to rescue Keiko and fight for their lives to stop the Council from killing people. Mizorogi finally appears in front of Kikyo and tells her a surprising truth. When Kikyo was eight years old, he went to Germany as a boy envoy. During his stay there, he had a diamond sewn into his injured shoulder from the explosive by Jewish partisans. Kikyo accompanies Keiko to the hospital where she is held captive and challenges Mizorogi to a one-on-one duel.

※ Uncredited performers