An old man known as a mining king was found killed by a “golden bullet”. The first to be suspected was the phantom thief at large known as the Benevolent Picaroon, widely talked about around town. But Inomata, the private eye investigating the case, didn’t think the killing-averse outlaw was behind the murder. A few days later, a note from the Picaroon was found at the crime scene of another wealthy household. Rushing over, Inomata finds something dubious about the behavior of the tycoon’s daughter. He calls in his buddy detective Kawanami and launches a serious probe to find out the truth. Whatever happened to the “golden bullet” — the key to the case? And who in fact is the Benevolent Picaroon?
A Toa Kinema Koyo Studio production
First release: January 9, 1927 at Osaka Shinsekai Park Theater
Original film: 7 reels, 1,976 m (Reel 5 is missing in the remaining print copy)
Based on a novel：Golden Bullet by Hellman LANDON
Stage Designer：SHIMADA Munesuke
Subtitles：HONDA Haruo , GOTO Syozo
Benshi and Accompanies
Live narration version
There are English subtitles for the film’s intertitles but none for the benshi’s narration.
Performing benshi: OMORI Kumiko
Based in the Kansai region, Omori performs at silent film screenings and film festivals in and outside of Japan. She took part in the 2019 event in Los Angeles “The Art of the Benshi”. She is also active as a radio personality and narrator.
Musician: AMAMIYA Haruka (piano)
Originally from Kobe, Amamiya is a pianist, singer-songwriter, and radio personality. In recent years she has been widening her oeuvre by accompanying silent films.
Live music version
TORIKAI Ryo (piano)
Silent film accompanist using piano and percussion instruments. He improvises accompaniment to films of all genres and has performed for over 500 titles. He is frequently invited to film festivals in and outside of Japan and to screenings in venues such as movie theaters.
KOSHIKAWA Masayuki (percussion)
Percussionist with the Kyoto Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. With Torikai Ryo, he provided live music for the screening of “The Hands of Orlac” at Kobe Discovery Film Festival in 2018.
Notes on the Film
By Sazaki Noriaki (Japanese film studies)
Toa Kinema Production’s Koyo Film Studio was a movie studio for modern films, set up in the Koyo-en district of Nishinomiya City during a period after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake when Tokyo studios relocated westward to the Kansai area. Here, feature films set in the modern times were produced using locations like the upscale residential neighborhoods with western-style architecture and the district of Kobe’s former Foreign Concession.
The film was based on stories written by Herman Landon (1882-1960), an American author of detective novels whose work was published in the fashionable urbanite magazine “Shinseinen (The New Youth)” at the time. “The Benevolent Picaroon” was an episode from Landon’s phantom thief Picaroon series. In Japan, it was published in “Shinkuno Ude (The Crimson Arm)” (Arusu: May 1924), the first volume of the Arusu Popular Library series.
“The Golden Bullet” is Innami Hiroshi’s directorial debut. Born in 1900 (some sources say 1902), he was a youthful 26 years old at the time of the filming. In the July 1931 edition of the magazine “Eiga Hyoron (Film Critique)”, he is introduced along the likes of Inagaki Hiroshi and Shimizu Hiroshi, emerging filmmakers in the spotlight at the time. Film subtitle translator and critic Shimizu Shunji is quoted as saying, “My head bows low before the genius cinematic sensibility of Innami Hiroshi.” Innami continued making films at Tei Kine (Teikoku Kinema) and Shinko Kinema after Toa Kinema closed, and died in 1938 of illness.
The remarkable achievements of this film allow audiences to enjoy the richness of silent film. These include the editing that emphasizes eyeline, the expressionistic lighting which highlights a dark-light contrast, the unique choices for artistic intertitles and subtitles, and effects that only tinting techniques could convey. Audience expectations of the times can be recognized from the extensive and large-scale chase scenes — a must in modern action movies — using automobiles, motorcycles, and even mounted police.
Kobe Planet Film Archive director Yasui Yoshio purchased this film from a collector in the early 1980s. In 1995, the centennial of cinema history, it was hailed in the press (Sankei Newspaper: July 27, 1995 evening edition) as a “ultra-modern contemporary drama by Toa Kinema.”
In 2003, a copy was made by the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo National Film Center (the current National Film Archive of Japan) and presented at the event Cinema Lost and Found: 2003. It was also shown at Kobe Planet Film Archive on June 30, 2007 and July 1.
With the chase scenes clearly capturing images of the coastal Ijinkan (foreign settlement) neighborhood between Sannomiya and Motomachi in Kobe, the film provides valuable information on the city and landscape of the times, as well as being a priceless historical audiovisual asset.
Special online streaming project “Kobe Discovery Film Festival 2020 Plus”
Presented by: Kobe Film Archive Organizing Committee
Film provided by: Kobe Planet Film Archive
Supported by: Kobe Design University
Translated by: FUJIOKA Asako
全 180 分
Live narration version
Live music version
A modernistic action film made in Kobe almost a hundred years ago. Rediscovered and made public by a small Kobe film archive! With live-narration benshi and with musical accompaniment — Two presentations breathe new life into a silent film.