Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Black Lizard by Edogawa Rampo

(pb; 1934, 2006. Translated from Japanese by Ian Hughes. "Introduction" by Mark Schreiber.)

From the back cover:

"A master criminal -- as deadly as she is beautiful -- wagers all in an epic battle with a master detective."


Black Lizard  is a difficult-to-put-down, plot-pretzel crime thriller, infused with Rampo's hinted-at supernatural touches and psychologically twisted sexuality. It pits Akechi, the equivalent of Conan Arthur Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, against the Black Lizard (a.k.a. Midorikawa), Doyle's equivalent of Moriarty. (Akechi also appeared in other works by Rampo.)

The twists are not unexpected -- a fact Rampo acknowledges by directly addressing readers in jocular, knowing fashion. This does not detract from the dark joy of reading this sly, intense and perfect novel. Lizard is a landmark work, one worth owning.


Two film versions of this novel exist.

The first, translated into Japanese as Kurotokage, was released in Japan on March 14, 1962. Umetsugu Inoue directed the film, from Yukio Mishima and Kaneto Shindô's musical stage play.

Machiko Kyô played Mrs. Midorikawa. Minori Ôku played Kogoro Akechi. Junko Kanô played Sanae Iwase. Hiroshi Kawaguchi played Jun Amemiya. Masao Mishima played Shobei Iwase. Sachiko Meguro played Mrs. Iwase.


The second version, titled Kuroto Kage, was directed by Kinji Fukasaku and released in Japan in 1968. Its screenplay was based on Yukio Mishima's stage adaptation and co-authored by Masashiga Narusawa.

Akihiro Miwa, billed Akihiro Maruyama, played Black Lizard. Isao Kimura played Detective Akechi. Kikko Matusoka played Sanaye. Jun Usami, billed as Junya Usami, played Shobei Iwase. Yûsuke Kawazu playec Junichi Amemiya.

Kô Nishimura played Private Detective Keiji Matoba. Toshiko Kabayashi played Hina. Sônsuke Oda played Harada. Kinji Hattori played Toyama.

Kurotokage playwright Yukio Mishima played a "Human Statue".

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