Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Director Toshiharu Ikeda Is Dead

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.


  1. Very sad news. I have you to thank for turning me on to the excellent Mermaid Legend and Sex Hunter. Seems like a lot of talent has been dropping off this past year.

  2. What a bummer! :( I thoroughly enjoyed both Evil Dead Trap and Angel Guts, I know I need to see more! Thank you for posting this, I honestly don't think I would've heard about it anywhere else.

  3. This is awful news. EVIL DEAD TRAP has been a long standing fave of mine. I was 14 when I first saw it. I think its Cronenburgian second half isn't quite as strong as its Argento-esque first half but it is still an impressive achievement. It's almost like a really macabre black as night humored Japanese parody of Western horror films. I wouldn't have been led to MAN BEHIND THE SUN if not for that one.

    Ikeda-san was definitely a very underrated Japanese cult film director. I've only seen about a half hour of MERMAID LEGEND, I'm gonna watch the whole thing, probably tonight now. He will be missed and I was kind of hoping for that last masterpiece.

  4. d -- I'm happy to know that I turned you on to some of Ikeda's other work. It's the next best thing to working with the guy. I always wanted to meet him.


    Toxaemia -- This news has not been widely broadcast. No sign of it on any American genre sites (that I know of) prior to my post. I figure someone had to mark his passing. Suicide is such a sad but often understandable act.


    JL Carrozza -- Yes, EVIL DEAD trap is certainly an impressive achievement. I wouldn't call it a parody, though. I never thought that his intention -- but I know nothing for sure.

    Do give MERMAID a thorough look.

    A shame he didn't get to make something more considerable than what his last movie was. Oh, well, at least he kept filming 'til close to the end.

  5. Maybe 'parody' is too strong a word. To me, there is a very slight tongue-in-cheek element to EVIL DEAD TRAP in my eyes and it follows the patented cliches of Western horror almost to a tee, as well, from the promiscuous kids die first slasher flick setpiece to the Sigourney Weaver tough girl archetype which Miyuki Ono plays into. It seems like Ikeda is making fun of them as well as playing homage to them in a tiny way. Directors and their personalities can often can have mixed intentions it seems.

  6. jervaise brooke hamsterJanuary 27, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    Phantom, next Tuesday (February 1st) will be the 23rd anniversary of Heathers death, will you be doing anything to commemorate?.

  7. I'm very sorry to hear this sad news. I had a large respect for Ikeda, and his suicide only strenghtens it. Not many people are that brave.
    Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone could provide English subs for his MERMAID LEGEND, as my Japanese is not good enough to watch it without those. Thank you in advance.

  8. Dejan -- English subs for MERMAID are tough to find.

    Very sad about his passing.


    JL Carrozza -- some good points. Mixed intentions is right.