Category Archives: Imaginary Japanese Cinema

#77 – Gynaecologist

(2008, Jap, 72 min) Dir Hiroya Hino. Cast Mitsuo Ibaraki, Yukie Inoue.

In the horror genre examples of sexism and of female empowerment rub shoulder so frequently and so vigorously it surprises me that the whole genre isn’t constantly engulfed in the resultant wildfire. There are plenty of examples of both but there are some of the former that go so far as to have no parallel among the more progressive end. This is one such film. I’m not going to go into detail as to the plot and so on as it’s beside the point – the film exists for no reason other than the examination scenes. Despite the fact that Japan’s censorship prevents any depiction of the area relevant to the film they still try their best – there is pixelling, there are POV shots from the anatomical perspective and there are shots that are so close to the matter at hand that they are abstracted into uncomfortable fields of pink. The fact that there is nothing actually graphic works in the maker’s favour though, with bloodied instruments and removed matter in conjunction with the patient’s pained face suggesting unfathomable grotesquery in the viewer’s mind. My recommendation: avoid unless you like brain damage. Postscript: the horror genre, like any other, relies on people to vote with their money and their interest and though two sequels followed this the series has now thankfully met its end.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#53 – Dark Tentacles

(1999, Jap, 63 min) Dir Hiroya Hino. Cast Yukie Inoue.

I don’t know about you but if – all those years ago, back in more innocent times – if then someone had suggested to me the erotic potential of tentacles I would probably have smiled and nodded whilst backing away from them slowly. Of course now that the internet has opened our eyes to these things actually being things it’s harder to think of anything uncomfortable or unpalatable that hasn’t been exploited by some deranged pioneer or another, all of which is a long-winded way of saying that here is Dark Tentacles, should you want it. It’s the age-old story – an anonymous woman (let’s call her AW) is chosen by some sort of grotesque and many tentacled pan-dimensional fiend to bear its terrible spawn. Apart from a brief prologue showing AW looking in shop windows while the dread beast monologues its plan, the whole thing takes place in her apartment where said hell creature does its gross tentacle thing. It doesn’t go straight to it though – there’s 63 minutes to fill here people! No, there’s a slow and agonising preamble involving AW held down and tortured by the slippy limbs with lots of close-ups of her agonised features and vulnerable regions. It all goes downhill from there when the pixels come out… The whole thing ends with poor AW swollen with the pan-dimensional fiends offspring. It looks like it was shot on a camcorder in someone’s actual apartment which makes it worse in a couple of different ways and though the creature itself is well realised I’d probably have preferred that it hadn’t been. Easily avoidable.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#37 – Kitten Dream

(1995, Jap, 72 min) Dir Takashi Ōmori.

In Japan in the eighties there was a TV show called Happy Puppy Kitten which consisted mostly of the fifteen minute adventures of puppies and kittens as they, for example, discovered a new box or frolicked in a garden, all while being narrated by an excessively excited young woman. Happy Puppy Kitten didn’t make it out of the country but Kitten Dream, a feature-length cat only version, did. Basic story: kitten in house, kitten escape from house. Kitten climb in van of milk man, milk man drive away. Kitten get out at sea-side, kitten lost. Kitten must find kitten’s way home. It’s all very cute though the little ones in the screening I attended were mildly traumatised by some of the scenes of lost kittens. I will assure you, to save any distress on your own part, that a happy ending is most definitely had with kitten finding her way home and being thrown a kitten party by her owner. Blessedly the big screen version released over here is without the breathless narration of the excited young Japanese woman but, oddly, she has been replaced with Christopher Plummer who I can’t help but think is being a touch too ironic for the proceedings. Puppy Dream was released the following year.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#27 – Burakku kokoro sanzoku (Black Heart Bandits)

(1976, Jap, 76 min) Dir Taku. Cast Mitsuo Ibaraki, Gen Otori, Anna Shimura.

Japanese biker gang movie cashing in on the rise of bōsōzoku subculture in Japan in the seventies. Hideo is a gawky, nerdish young man with a small motorbike that’s more like a scooter. He has a big dream though – to cast off his studies and become a member of the legendary criminal biker gang the Black Heart Bandits. One night, by sheer coincidence, he meets their leader – the cool, black clad and perpetually sunglasses wearing Ichi – and of course he uses the opportunity to beg for a place among the crew. Ichi – who isn’t one for charity I’m guessing – says yes, but only when he has passed his initiation. His first task is running the gauntlet of the local girl gang, the Pink Heart Bandits, which ends with him at the wrong end of a chain whipping coupled with a zealous helping of sexual humiliation. His trials escalate to drug smuggling and murder, the film ending with his gruesome demise at the wrong end of a stick of dynamite. The first in the six entry series revolving around the gang and as psychedelic, flimsy and comically sadistic as the rest. A great theme tune too.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#10 – Dorakyura no gyakushū (Dracula vs. the World)

(1960, Jap, 100 min) Dir Kon Ito. Cast Kon Ito, Fumiko Miyata, Yuki Maebara, Kanjūrō Arashi.

An unauthorised Japanese sequel to Hammer’s first Dracula film and an uncannily exact one at that – if you compare the last image of the first film and the first of this one the sets and the photography are perfect recreations, made all the stranger by every actor being Japanese. A labour of love for Kon Ito who wasn’t a director by trade – the owner of a steel company, he sunk his own money into the film’s production and plays the Count himself. But anyway, this expensive bit of fan fiction begins with the resurrection of Count Dracula via black magic from a handful of his dust from the end of the last film. Immediately he drains one of his saviours and with them as his army he sets out on nothing less than world domination! Not a bad film and certainly a gorier one than the original though it recreates the original’s turgid pacing along with the sets etc. A game cast of unknowns around a not embarrassing Ito also helps. It was released in drive-ins in the US for about six months under the title Dracula vs. the World before it was tied in the legal knots that have kept it within Japanese borders ever since. With the world being how it is these days there is a fanslated version floating about on the web (though you didn’t hear that from me).

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#9 – Yubi o tobasu! (Finger Flying!)

(1967, Japan, 98 min, b/w) Dir Shōgorō Nishimura. Cast Hiroshi Minami, Haruo Tanaka, Anna Shimura.

A Yakuza comedy – if that’s a genre – about an accident prone underling named Shiri (Minami) who starts the film drunk and showing off to the viewer the stumped, fingerless hands he holds his sake cup with. The rest of the film is made up of flashbacks showing how he shamed himself and lost his fingers, by being beaten up by a Shinjuku prostitute when shaking her down for payment, being so inept at bribing a police officer that he gets himself arrested, allowing himself to get drugged and then smashing up a pachinko parlour and, last but not least, getting his group embroiled in a turf war. Each vignette ends with Shiri sitting dolefully with the knife and chopping board before him, before cutting to the outside of the building where only his cries can be heard. A strange mix of slapstick and sleaze, the film was rumoured to have been among Seijun Suzuki’s proposed follow-ups to Branded to Kill before he was dismissed from Nikkatsu although this speculation has been denied by Suzuki himself. Though Nishimura is outside of his Roman porno comfort zone (where he directed the likes of the wonderfully named Confessions of an Adolescent Wife: Climax!) he handles the action competently.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms