The brief but prodigious career of Japanese director Sadao Yamanaka resulted in a catalogue of work characterised by an elegant and unforced visual style, fluid editing, and a beautiful attention to naturalistic performances. Although he made 27 films over a six-year period (before dying on the frontline of WWII aged 29), only three of them survive, collected here for the first time in the West.
Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935) is a gloriously comic adventure yarn as the titular one-eyed, one-armed swordsman becomes embroiled in the hunt for a missing pot that points the way to hidden treasure.
In Priest of Darkness (1936), a subversively humanistic adaptation of a classic kabuki play, a small but invaluable knife stolen from a samurai leads to a chain of increasingly complex and troublesome circumstances.
Yamanaka's last film, Humanity and Payer Balloons (1937), is an unsparing ensemble drama set among the lowest rungs of Japanese society in the 18th century.