I received some very sad news this morning from my Japanese friend Tomoaki Hosoyama. He informed me that Toshiharu Ikeda, a director of more than 20 feature films, had committed suicide by drowning at the age of 59.
Ikeda is probably best known in the West for his horror film Evil Dead Trap (Shiro no wana; '88), a bizarre and inventive splatter flick released by Synapse Films. With its focus on complex killing techniques within a maze-like setting, it clearly provided inspiration for the Saw films and their ilk.
My favorite work of his is Mermaid Legend (Ningyo densetsu; '84), a surreal, bloody revenge fantasy that has been little seen outside its country of orgin. It's a poetic, often brutal study of a wronged woman fighting corporate oppressors in a seaside setting. Ikea's suicide by drowning (the mind boggles!) renders the subject matter of Mermaid Legend just a little bit spookier than it already was. A non-subtitled DVD of the film, a masterpiece in my humble opinion, was released by Geneon.
Ikeda began his career as a pink film director and helmed the startling Sex Hunter ('80), surely one of the most audacious and erotic pink flicks of the period. It focused on a kidnapped ballerina who is forced into sexual servitude and liberated by her captors. It is one of the most elegant and exotic pink films of the period and features a volcanically hot young actress.
Quite a controversial work, the trailer recently appeared in America on Synapse Films' Nikkatsu Roman Porn Trailer Collection. There no indication that the company will be releasing the feature itself. The feature is available, though, from Geneon.
Also of interest and worth catching is Ikeda's Angel Guts: Red Porno (Tenshi no harawata: Akai inga; '81), an entry in the series that is top heavy with female masturbation and rugged S&M scenes. Unfortunately, it's not up there with the best in the series, but it can boast a number of graphic rape scenes that are stunningly photographed.
In addition to directing Beautiful Prey and Beautiful Beast, Ikeda also contributed to the 'Female Prisoner Scorpion' series with 91's Female Prisoner Scorpion: Death Threat (Joshuu sasori: Satsujin yopkoku).
The late director's final work was Akifukaki ('08), a confused but ambitious film mixing breast cancer, love, and horse racing.
It is terribly sad when when another Apostle of Pulp leaves our midst.
RIP, Toshiharu Ikeda. You will be missed, and your work will endure.