Interview with Kurando Mitsutake, director of Samurai Avenger, Gun Woman, and Karate Kill

One of the best things about reviewing movies is finding directors and films that you haven’t heard of that become new favorites. Such was the case with Kurando Mitsutake. I was asked to review his latest film, Karate Kill, (see my review here) awhile back and thoroughly enjoyed it. This lead to me seeking out his previous films, Gun Woman (read my review here) and Samurai Avenger (Read my review here). Kurando has quickly become one of my favorite genre directors and thankfully, he agree to take the time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about his films and what’s next for him.

PopHorror: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Kurando Mitsutake: When I was in 3rd grade, Steven Spielberg’s Duel was on TV in Japan. I was totally blown away by this movie, and ever since then, I wanted to become a filmmaker.

PopHorror: What films and filmmakers inspired and influenced you the most?

Kurando Mitsutake: Akira Kurosawa, Kihachi Okamoto, Sam Peckinpah and Walter Hill are my favorite directors.
Dirty Harry, Cobra and Robocop are some of my all-time favorite movies.

PopHorror:  Your first feature was Monsters Don’t Get to Cry. What was it like shooting your first feature? Also, is there anywhere I can watch it? I’ve yet to find a copy and it’s the only film of yours that I haven’t seen.

Kurando Mitsutake: After I graduated from grad school at 25, I was saying to myself, “If I don’t get to do a feature by age 30, I will quit dreaming about becoming a filmmaker.” But I got to do Monsters Don’t Get To Cry when I was 29. Short films and feature films are totally different animals. They are in the same species but a different animal – like cats and tigers. So I made a fair amount of mistakes on Monsters and it taught me a lot. It didn’t get proper distribution in the States. It was distributed in Japan and Germany.

PopHorror: Your next film was Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf, a sushi western. The film is absolutely insane with its melding of western, samurai and horror elements. Where did the idea for the project originate?

Kurando Mitsutake: When I was trying to get US distribution for Monsters, many distribution executives told me that a Japanese filmmaker should tackle a Japanese themed movie. It was like the advice you sometimes hear about script writing – write what you know.  So I took that advice and did Samurai Avenger: The Blond Wolf. Sure enough, that movie put me on the map of genre films, so to speak.

PopHorror: You directed, wrote, produced and starred in Samurai Avenger. What was the shoot like? Sounds daunting.

Kurando Mitsutake: When you are making independent features, you encounter many obstacles. One of the biggest worries you have is the cast. Say you are fully cast and ready to go, but your lead actor gets a bit player role in a major motion picture. I hate so say it. but chances are really high that your lead will bail from your indie feature and go do the bigger project. That’s just how it is in this business. In fact, for Samurai Avenger, the main candidate to play the lead bailed out on me. So I decided to play the lead. I won’t bail on myself, right? Yes, it was a lot of work, but since I was younger and stupider, I had a blast.

PopHorror: Samurai Avenger took 6 years to finally be released in the US. Why such a long wait?

Kurando Mitsutake: It actually came out on DVD in the US back in 2010 from this very small distributor. Then, when this company tanked, I had to get the rights back so I could look for another US distributor. Then the wonderful guys from Synapse Films picked it up and re-released it on Blu-ray and VOD.

PopHorror:  Your next film was Gun Woman, which teamed you with the amazing Asami. Where did this wild idea come from and what was it like working with Asami?

Kurando Mitsutake: I had an idea for Gun Woman for a long time. It was one of my dream projects. When I became friends with Asami, I thought she’d be perfect for the movie and I pitched it to her and she told me she wanted to do it right away. That’s how our collaboration started. Asami is a true professional. She is a force of nature.

PopHorror: In Karate Kill, you fused a karate film and a cult film, which sounds like something that shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does. How did you come up with this insane idea? How was it being reunited with Asami?

Kurando Mitsutake: For Karate Kill, I wanted to make an evil internet user as a bad guy. So I built this fictional internet cult called Capital Messiah to be the villain. Some really disturbing stuff is out there in cyberspace so it wasn’t that hard to let my imagination go wild and create a bad guy like Vandenski. Since Karate Kill has a male lead, I wanted to add a female sidekick. Who’d be better to play a kickass, shotgun blasting, one-armed female avenger than Asami? No one! So the casting for the role of Keiko was easy for me.

PopHorror: So I personally love all of your films. The credits for each hints at sequels. Are you currently planning any?

Kurando Mitsutake: Thank you so much. I’m happy to hear that. I would love to do sequels to Samurai Avenger, Gun Woman and Karate Kill. My Gun Woman 2 pitch actually won the grand prize in a project competition at Network of Asian Fantastic Films back in 2015 and the producers want to do Karate Kill 2, so I already have a script for it. So the ground work is done for the squeals. All we need is a green light and financing from somewhere!

PopHorror: Your films share a common theme of vengeance. What is it about the subject that interests you?

Kurando Mitsutake: I believe the theme of vengeance is very universal. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what language you speak. If your loved one is harmed, you’d want to take justice in your own hands. It’s instinctual. Needs no explanation. That’s my attraction to the revenge theme.

PopHorror:  If you could work with anyone on a film, who would it be?

Kurando Mitsutake: There are so many great actors and actresses from all over the world that I would love to work with. But if I could bring someone back to life and make some movies, I would love to work with George C. Scott and Toshiro Mifune. I’m a huge fan of theirs.

PopHorror: Any upcoming projects?

Kurando Mitsutake: Many projects are waiting for green lights. That includes all the sequel possibilities I mentioned earlier.  Also, I’ve yet to do a full on horror movie, so I would love to do a horror picture soon.

About Charlie Cargile

Indianapolis based Horror journalist. Lover of most things Horror (especially Indie), Pop Punk and the strange and unusual.

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