Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight

The Japanese title of this film is Porno jidaigeki: Bohachi bushido. Jidaigeki means "period drama," bushido is the Way of the Warrior, the bohachi were sex slavers who had renounced the eight principles of Confucian ethics (sometimes called bohachimono, as in Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart to Hades), and we all know what porno is (although in this case it's decidedly softcore).

My friend Lonny was raving about this film the other day. I told him I didn't think that highly of it (I had a bootleg long before the recent release from Discotek). He urged me to take another look, and, indeed, it played better this time (although I think I'd prefer to read the original manga by Kazuo Koike upon which it's based).

The best thing about the movie, in my opinion, is the sword action. Tetsuro Tamba knew how to use a sword, and his stoic, world-weary ronin has a certain vintage Clint Eastwood vibe as he rips and dismembers scores of attackers, later uttering his catchy catch-phrase, "To die is hell, but to live is also hell."

Of course what most guys like about the film is the wall-to-wall naked female flesh, a dimension to which I'm certainly not opposed, but feel could have been handled better. Director Teruo Ishii phoned it in on this one I think, throwing tits 'n ass around haphazardly with little effort at eroticism. Now maybe I'm just see-through faded, super-jaded and out of my mind, but for me Tamba's protracted opium and sex orgy scene was downright soporific, and that ain't right! A scene like that should have me at full attention so to speak, and I blame Ishii for not making that happen. (Check out Norifumi Suzuki's Convent of the Sacred Beast for an example of what I consider the right way to do lubricious love.)

So I put it to you, dear reader: If you've seen this film, leave a comment (you have to have a blogger account, unfortunately). Let me know if you feel Bohachi Bushido is hotter than hot or merely luke warm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Karaoke Terror

What is wrong with this picture? Well for one thing, the guy's got a makeshift spear sticking out of his neck and, in addition, appears to be having a hell of a piss as he expires from his wound (seems he was doing his business up against a fence when a woman on a scooter came by and harpooned him). This is one of several violent set pieces that serve more as MacGuffins than truly defining moments in what is essentially an offbeat indie film, rather than anything deeply dark or transgressive.

I'll admit I was a bit disappointed by Karaoke Terror (2003), a film that seems to want to stand alongside cinematic works like Dead or Alive and Battle Royale, but in the end just doesn't have the goods. Don't get me wrong, it has its own special charm, but charm isn't what I was looking for in a tale of two groups of karaoke pals (young guys in one, middle-aged women in the other) who wage an ever-escalating war against one another after one of the guys casually slashes one of the women to death in a rainy garden. It's based on the novel Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami (who also gave us Audition), and I wonder if the source material wasn't a bit more intense than this playful rendering.

Great cast, though. There's Masanobu Asano, memorable for his red-headed psycho in Battle Royale and plucky boxer in Kid's Return; Ryuhei Matsuda, the androgynous Shinsengumi member in Taboo and the boa constrictor-wearing God/Satan character in Izo; Kayoko Kishimoto, Beat Takeshi's dying wife in Fireworks; Yoshio Harada, who's been in more great films than I could begin to list here (try Hunter in the Dark and Roningai for starters); and the manga-cute Miwako Ichikawa, who co-starred with Harada in Another Heaven.

Karaoke Terror isn't a bad movie, just a little too precious for this dark cinema aficionado.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Seeding of a Ghost

Is it really necrophilia if both sex partners are dead? What if the woman's corpse gets it on with the disembodied spirit of a man who'd previously raped her? And if, afterwards, the corpse's belly, fed with the blood of her grieving widower, distends into a glowing, pregnant orb and somehow discharges a monstrous hell spawn from the womb of the wife of the man who'd been the corpse woman's lover that in turn mutilates and dismembers the guests at a mah jong get-together, that's a good thing, right? It's questions like these that you'll have to face while looking on in horror at the Category III movie madness that is Seeding of a Ghost (1983), one of the most shockingly grotesque films ever to emerge from Hong Kong's own Shaw Brothers Studios. Most folks think of kung fu fighting when they hear the Shaw Brothers' name, but the studio cranked out a fair amount of jaw-dropping horror as well, as here in this film I only wish I'd covered in Asia Shock. I should mention that along the way we get scenes of people vomiting worms; a witchdoctor casting evil spells, his facial features growing more disfigured with every hex; a guy eating brains out of a coconut, washing it down with blood; a lot of nudity; some kung fu action; oh and that demonic thing, all fangs and tentacles, with a retractable human head to boot. Sure it gets a bit cheesy at times, like when an enterprising doctor jams a barbell into the jaws of the beast to comedic effect, but overall this is one outrageous splatterfest you won't want to miss.