Friday, September 10, 2010

Bathing in the Glow of Freak Sex

Lately, it has become achingly apparent lately that I have more in common with the late director Teruo Ishii than any other director I can name. Actually, I have no idea what his actual hobbies or outside interests outside of film were, but a filmmaker's chief interests and obsessions can be found in his films. I'm speaking from experience.

The central story in Ishii's ORGIES OF EDO, an anthology, concerns a hideously deformed man who kidnaps an unfortunate waif and subjects her to torture, rape, and sundry forms of abuse and imprisonment. Before the authorities catch up with this fiend, he has tasted every inch of her and salivated over her sweet flesh as only a card-carrying freak can salivate.
Essentially, he's a lonely soul, and his only course to ultimate pleasure is a non-consenting one. I pitied him.

Why was my smile so broad while watching this delightful outrage? Why was it so pleasurable to see such a beauty defiled by one so grotesque? Since I was but a single digit human staring at images through large, pre-teen spectacles, I've been fond of malformed men. Perhaps "fond" is the wrong word. The right word is "obsessed". Yes, I've been obsessed with these creatures and their intimate relations -- which are usually rather unconventional. Something happens within me -- something pleasant -- when I'm fortunate enough to witness freaks engaging in activities of the sexual variety. Are their acts the ultimate taboo? Does behavior of this nature please the anarchist inside me?

Clearly it does.

Director Ishii, who was also behind HORROR OF MALFORMED MEN, has a passion for material of this nature, and this passion is salaciously transferred to the screen. In the West, MALFORMED is undoubtedly the director's best known work of freak horror, and was recently released on DVD by Synapse. For my money, it's not as coherent as it could be, and it feels like two films squashed into one, but the Dr. Moreau-inspired freak compound is a wonderful creation and the on-screen roster of malformed exhibits is a pleasure to behold. It deserves to be seen. But it is only one example of Ishii's very specific cinematic obsessions.

Joining my viewing of Ishi's ORGIES OF EDO this week was another Ishii pic with more great freak content.

In the rather excellent LOVE AND CRIME, the director's penchant for the erotic-grotesque (the two go hand in hand!)
is pushed to a satisfying degree. The most striking tale involves a remorselessly lecherous victim of leprosy who won't take no for an answer when it comes to bedding down with his wife. Scenes of the hideous freak attempting to kiss and cuddle with his lady are glorious to behold, and once again broadened my smile to the point of cracked lips. When the leper learns that he's being cheated on, he confronts his wife's lover and initiates a brutal confrontation.

Again, I ask why? Why does the sight of a hideous leper attempting to make love to an unwilling partner fill me with such cinematic euphoria? Why does the sight of a grotesque man forcing himself on a pretty woman bathe me in a blinding ball of hot bliss?
Like it or not, Teruo Ishii speaks my language. He dares to tell the untold story.

Does he speak your language, too?


  1. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 12, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    Phantom, geezer, my old mate. In the newly published "DVD Delirium 4" they girl-tioned your name in their reveiw of the 1976 version of "Alice In Wonderland", something about you making a docu-girl-tory about the film. Those "DVD Delirium" books are amongst the greatest ever published on the subject of obscure cinema.

  2. jervaise -- yes, I did edit the docos on that disk. I like the DVD Delirium books, too. I don't have 4, though. Thanks for girl-tioning this.

  3. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 13, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    Dont girl-tion it my good buddy. The only "hic-cup" in those books is that they do insist on reveiwing a few British films here and there which i dont like obviously but in every other way they are absolutely superb. Its been 4 years since the last one but let me tell you this 4th edition is easily as good as the first 3, in fact they are so brilliant that i`d gladly fork out $25 every week for one (if they published them that frequently) thats how astonishingly read-able and un-putdownable they are. Hey, what do you know, i`ve got through 2 consecutive com-girl-ts with-out girl-tioning "You-Know-Who" and as you well know that is an incredible achieve-girl-t for me i can tell you.

  4. jervasise -- yes, quite an achievement.

  5. The thing about Ishii is that before he found his calling in grotesque exploitation he directed the Japanese kiddie Superman-knock off SUPERGIANT/STAR MAN tokusatsu flicks. Ala Fukasaku and THE GREEN SLIME, they were actually his best known films in the West and the first time I heard his name until his work, again like Kinji Fukasaku's, was rediscovered. He also has made a lot of yakuza films.

    As per his actual work, I am not the biggest Ishii fan. I like his films, but he's no master. He is like Lucio Fulci to me: great pulp material, not much else aside from that (the mark of a truly great director is for there to be more than just the advertising blitz). The work of his I've seen is very non-cohesive. For example in BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE he directed some scenes and shots that are as stunningly beautiful as a Nobuo Nakagawa films but other scenes are so ham-fisted he can be like the Japanese Ed Wood. BOHACHI BUSHIDO is my fave.

    Apparently he was a very mild mannered and polite individual according to those who knew and interviewed him, like T.F. Mou is. Cinema is a truly grand outlet for one's perversions and anger at the world, isn't it?

  6. JL -- Yes, you correctly note that Ishii dabbled in other things before finding his calling. I have not liked his yakuza films.

    I am not in total disagreement with you about the quality of his work. I think Fulci was a much lesser filmmaker. I get no sense of Fulci as a person in his movies. Only in CAT IN THE BRIAIN is Fulci's personality more obvious. BOHACHI BUSHIDO is certainly Ishii's most accomplished and aesthetically pristine work. But some of his torture films are pretty accomplished, too. Watching Isii's films, I often sense that he was sloppy in his approach and wasn't disciplined about scripting and basic structure. Still, he shined when focusing on the freak elements. The episode in ORGIES OF EDO that I liked most was strong because it was short and the structure didn't have to support a feature length narrative.

    As comparisons go, I prefer the erotic work of Noboru Tanaka, Masaru Konuma, and Yasuzo Masumura in terms of filmmaking solidity, but Ishii holds a special place in my heart.

    Cinema is a grand outlet for us all -- viewers and filmmakers.

  7. I agree that Ishii shines with the freakish and as you say fetishistic elements of his movies like deformed freaks, naked women's bodies and grotesque acts of torture. I love HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN even though it sags a bit from the 10-45 minute mark.

    I like the last segment in YAKUZA'S LAW: LYNCHING, have you seen that? It's like one of his yakuza films mixed with the trappings of one of his torture flicks and as such is a treat since you get the best of both eiga worlds. It's got Hideo Ko (the vampire in GOKE) as a yo-yo wielding yakuza torturer who puts a guy in a car compactor in the film's best scene.

  8. J.L.-- Yes, MALFORMED sags a bit, but it's stamped with the director's obsessive vision.

    I like YAKUZA'S LAW quite a bit. Hideo Ko is very good in it.

  9. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 18, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Lets not forget that cinema is a grand outlet for Heather O`Rourke obsessed lunatics as well.

  10. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 19, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Phantom, on pages 316, 317 and 318 of DVD Delerium 4 they reveiwed 3 of your movies: "MAURADERS" (87), "SENSITIVE NEW AGE KILLER" (00), and "DEFENCELESS" (06). I must admit i`m rather jealous my old mate because you`re an "ACTUAL FILM-MAKER" where-as i`m just "A MURDEROUSLY HOMO-PHOBIC HEATHER O`ROURKE OBSESSED LUNATIC".