Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Toei Trailer Theatre # 1:

We jump here from Nikkatsu’s trailer department to that of their ‘60s rivals/’70s successors for the title of “Japan’s coolest movie studio”, Toei – basically just in order to give me an excuse to write a few words about ‘Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope’ (Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, 1975).

I was contemplating a full length review of this remarkable motion picture, but, having revisited it this weekend, I honestly don’t think there is much I can say about the film that will not be made immediately apparent by the act of watching it. (If ever a work of art spoke for itself, etc.)

Essentially I think, ‘Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope’ represents a kind of platonic ideal of everything a “cult movie” can and should be – all the more-so given that, as with most of Toei’s admirably unpretentious output, it was more than likely knocked out in a couple of weeks for a hypothetical audience of adolescent manga fans and boozed up salarymen, without the slightest notion that it would still be attracting attention over four decades later.

When I first encountered ‘Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope’ last year, via a slightly iffy fan-subbed download of a Japanese TV broadcast, it blew me away to such an extent that I could barely even take it all in. Returning to it for a second time, I decided to take a slightly more methodical approach and test my initial hypothesis that this is a film in which every single moment of screen time has something awesome happening in it.

Did it pass the test? Well, let's put it like this - there’s a brief scene early in the film, shortly after Sonny Chiba’s character Inugami-san witnesses a member of defunct rock band The Mobs being torn to pieces by an invisible tiger on the streets of Tokyo, when he is taken in for questioning by the police. This scene, which lasts about two minutes, is not especially awesome, although it does attain the level of ‘mildly awesome’ in the fan-subbed version, whose translation has one of the police officers declaring, “A spectral slasher? Seems to be the only explanation!”.

Aside from that, everything else that happens in ‘Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope’ is categorically, unreservedly awesome. It puts the pedal to the floor right from the outset, and barely lets up for a second.

By the grace of the international film copyright gods, it is also now available in the US and UK as a blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Arrow, so you have NO EXCUSE for failing to verify these findings for yourself.

‘Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope’ – watch it, live it, love it.

(Ok, perhaps don’t “live it”.)

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