Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Screenplay: Fumio Kônami
Based on a Manga Series by: Kazumasa Hirai
Starring: Shin'ichi (Sonny) Chiba, Kyôsuke Machida, Saburô Date
Running Time: 86 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
Wolf Guy is a Japanese action movie based on a manga series of the same name. Starring Shin'ichi “Sonny” Chiba at the height of his fame, it's a low budget B-movie attempt to fuse western mythologies with Japanese genre sensibilities. Being a lover of trashy action and all things Japanese, this description sounded good to me, so I thought I'd check out Arrow Video's new release of the film, which has never previously been available outside of Japan.
Chiba plays Akira Inugami, the last survivor of a clan of werewolves, now living in the big city using his lycanthropic skills to solve crimes. One night he witnesses the brutal murder of a seemingly crazed man at the hands of what appears to be a tiger demon, only semi-visable to Akira. When he looks further into what happened, he finds that the man was one of a group of thugs who were ordered by gang boss Manabe to rape a young woman called Miki. He finds both of them and tries to help Miki and stir up trouble with Manabe. This unravels further into a wacky plot where the bad guys try to get Akira's blood to make their own werewolf and use Miki's anger to assassinate people using the tiger demon acting out her vengeful thoughts!
Now this isn't a film to analyse in great depth, so I'll keep this review short. I think reading the brief synopsis above will give you an idea whether or not this is a film for you. It was certainly a film for me and I can safely say it delivered the genre goods you'd expect in a film like this, but more than often don't get. There's plenty of action, gore and sex all wrapped up in a bonkers Japanese spin on the werewolf movie. Throw in a funky 70's soundtrack and you're in trash heaven!
Chiba does a decent job of acting the hard man as always and is hyper cool throughout. He may not be an amazing actor, but his physical skills and presence are enough to carry the role. He excels in the action scenes in particular, when his character gets to let loose his werewolf abilities, which largely involve leaping around and beating the crap out of people. He also gets a cool scene where he flicks small change at people like bullets.
Although it's more of an action movie than a horror film and isn't at all scary, it's fairly gory. The tiger demon attacks in particular produce some violent blood sprays. The practical effects which see giant slashes rip through people by an invisible force are pretty well done, particularly for the time. A prolonged operation scene where doctors cut open Akira is pretty disturbing too, even if the shots of his guts are largely shown with inverted colours to lessen the impact.
Speaking of colours, there are some stylish sequences involving coloured lighting and boldly decorated sets. It's shot fairly well in general, albeit in a rather scuzzy, low-budget, 70s sort of way. The tiger demon visions are laughably silly though.
The film is hardly a masterpiece. It's all rather silly and exploitative of course and the storytelling is quite messy. There are a fair few dated elements too, but that's all part of the charm for me. If you've got a taste for 70s trash, you're in for a treat. There's very little filler in terms of exploitation, with something fun regularly on hand to keep the trash hounds howling (sorry – pun very much intended).
Wolf Guy is out on 22nd May on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK, released by Arrow Video. I saw the DVD version and the picture and sound quality was decent.
There are a handful of special features too:
- New video interview with actor Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba
- New video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
- New video interview with producer Tatsu Yoshida
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
- First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias and a history of Japanese monster movie mashups by Jasper Sharp
The interviews are all well worth a listen for fans of Japanese genre cinema, with all subjects talking frankly and opening about their work.