Liz and Helen, a mod-Gothic mystery from Riccardo Freda, has some points in common with one of the director's earlier films, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. Each concerns a man who believes his wife to be deceased, only to be confronted by creepy evidence to contrary. Then, too, there's the extravagant, romantic atmosphere, thunderstorms, and lurid melodramatic scenes.
Set in Osaka in the 18th century, the film centers on the doomed romance between Jihei (Kichiemon Nakamura), a down and out married paper merchant passionately in love with doe-eyed courtesan Koharu (Shima Iwashita), whom he cannot afford to buy out of servitude. Koharu herself has also fallen in love with Jihei; she even starts turning away other patrons to be with him. Their love is further imperiled by Tahei (Hosei Komatsu), a rich, obnoxious merchant who flaunts his ability to buy Koharu's indenture. Suicide is the only way for the two to be together.
While Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, the 1968 album that made Cash a household word, spent only two weeks at No. 1, this 1969 follow-up topped the charts for 20 weeks. As with Folsom, the San Quentin LP had to be edited due to space limitations. Now, 31 years after the fact, the show can at last be heard in true perspective. All the original performances hold up, including the album's hit single: Shel Silverstein's "A Boy Named Sue," presented unbleeped for the first time. Equally impressive are the eight restored tracks and unexpurgated between-song patter. Cash's opening renditions of "Big River" and "I Still Miss Someone" are bracing. So are four closing songs teaming Cash with his complete performing troupe (the Carter Family, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers). Their gospel performances ("He Turned the Water into Wine," "The Old Account," and an early version of "Daddy Sang Bass") are electrifying, as is a concluding medley featuring everyone. Cash is presented here at his roaring, primal best.