There's little that's more frustrating than a great idea badly executed.The great idea in this case is to take two tales of horror and mystery by Japan's venerable author Edogawa Rampo and fuse them into one film: Blind Beast andKiller Dwarf. The former was actually made into a film of its own, a staple bit of excess from one of the masters of same, director Yasuzo Masumura. His film was gloriously perverse and over-the-top, and reveled in its bizarre set designs and lurid camera angles. Now we have another Japanese director that is synonymous with excess and luridness, Teruo Ishii, taking a crack at some of the same material, and adding in another of Rampo's stories apparently just for jolly since there's little other visible reason to do so.
Ishii is mostly famous for his gore and torture epics from the Sixties and Seventies, which pushed the onscreen boundaries for what was either permissible or desirable. Unfortunately, a lot of the rest of his work falls way short of the mark. Japanese Hell was a wretched, "socially relevant" reworking of the original proto-J-horror masterpiece Jigoku; Screwed was an ambitious but flawed filming of an adult manga that needed more than just being translated so literally to the screen. Now, sadly, add Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf to the "flawed" list as well — and it'll be the last item on that list, since it was Ishii's last feature film before he died. Read more
Now here’s something I would never have expected: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, the animated movie version of one of the lesser novels in the Vampire Hunter D series, is not only better than the original book but in some ways better than many of the novels in the series as a whole. The novel in question, Demon Deathchase, was a flashy but fairly thin vehicle for its main character — a half-human, half-vampire hunter of the undead in a vaguely Mad Max-ian far-flung post-collapse future. It was no great shakes as a story, but it wasn’t hard to see how it could lend itself easily to a terrific action film.
That it did. Bloodlust does as expected and for most of its running time uses the book as a springboard for one inspired and eye-popping action sequence after another. Then, at about the three-quarter mark, it surpasses the source material and delivers a surprisingly emotional conclusion — exactly what was missing from the book in the first place. The fact that I didn’t expect them to even try to add such things only made all the more pleasant a surprise; I went in expecting something fairly mindless and got one-upped bigtime. Read more
I’m not sure whether to review a movie like this or explain it. Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims, an outré genre-busting comedy from Japan, gets most of its yuks by turning samurai movie conventions upside-down and inside-out, and then painting them in garish colors. Take Samurai Hip, Sailor-Fuku Chic and Yakuza Cool, dump them into a blender, throw it at a movie screen, and you’d end up with something (vaguely) like this. It ought to have been a work of goony genius, but instead it’s a tiresome hodgepodge that goes on far too long after it’s worn out its welcome.
Even if it was a better movie, it wouldn’t be the sort of thing I could recommend without many caveats. For one, if you’re don’t already have some experience with samurai flicks — to say nothing of the dozen or so other Japanese movie / pop-culture tropes that get strip-mined in this film — most of the jokes are going to sail right over your head at thirty thousand feet. The movie spends at least as much time channel-surfing and gleefully smashing clichés together as it does telling a story, and eventually it runs out of real story and just starts throwing things on the screen and chasing its tail. It falls down about as badly as Samurai Fiction did, another movie which was funnier in theory than it was in practice.Read more