Psychotronic Film Society: "The Most Terrible Time in My Life" (Japan, 1994)

  • The Sentient Bean 13 East Park Avenue Savannah, GA, 31401 United States

Showtime is 8 p.m., with $7 admission.

 

Dec. 28 at The Sentient Bean, the Psychotronic Film Society offers up another in its ongoing weekly treasure trove of little-known, overlooked or simply underappreciated feature films from around the world. This selection can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a good mystery yarn, but will be especially enticing to those who consider themselves fans of classic Hollywood suspense and crime flicks.

“The Most Terrible Time in My Life” is an unlikely title for such a terrifically entertaining “popcorn movie,” yet that’s how the original Japanese title “Waga jinsei saiaku no toki” translates into English. Originally released in Japan in 1994, and not shown publicly in the U.S. until the year 2000 (and then, only for a special screening in New York City), it’s a knowing homage to the entire, old-school genre of hard-boiled detective movies — but especially those featuring crime fiction writer Mickey Spillane’s famous gumshoe Mike Hammer.

It’s the first in a trilogy of Japanese theatrical films centered around young and brash private detective “Maiku Hama” (a phonetic play on the name Mike Hammer that’s made an even more clever pun by the fact that Maiku’s private investigation business is based out of the city of Yokohama), whose office is located above an old movie theater that screens classic Hollywood films, and who drives a vintage automobile and comports himself with the sartorial style and snarky panache of Spillane’s iconic crime solver. “The Most Terrible Time in My Life” is shot in glorious B&W, with all the stylistic hallmarks of golden era film noir.

Everything from the convoluted plot to the characters’ sinister motivations to the stark lighting and off-kilter camera angles screams “vintage moviemaking.” Plus, there are a couple of fistfuls of inside jokes and references peppered throughout the script that only devoted movie lovers will likely notice. However, even if you are not a devotee of Mike Hammer films (or the beloved TV series that starred Savannah native Stacy Keach in the title role), or old movies in general, this picture, which is set in the then-present day of the early ’90s, is still extremely enjoyable.

Plus, it stars none other a charismatic screen presence than Masatoshi Nagase in the title role of Maiku Hama.

Don’t recognize the name? You may remember his face, as he played the Japanese hotel guest who is fixated on rockabilly singer Carl Perkins in director Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 dramedy “Mystery Train.” In fact, Nagase also makes a touching cameo appearance as a Japanese poet in Jarmusch’s latest feature “Paterson,” which screened at the most recent Savannah Film Festival. This film has been commercially unavailable in the U.S. for years now, and will be shown in the original spoken Japanese, with English subtitles.