Sunday, July 20, 2008

REVIEW: Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf - Teruo Ishii (2001)

Reviewed by Chris MaGee

Why, oh why did I rent “Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf” (2001)? Well, I’ll tell you why. It was the last film by Japanese bad boy “ero-guro” director Teruo Ishii and it stars not only director Shinya Tsukamoto, but Lily Franky, Tetsuro Tamba and performance artist Hisayoshi Hirayama in an adaptation of the works of Edogawa Rampo. Sounds perfect, right? A no brainer, you just put the players together and BOOM! Out pops brilliance, right? Wrong! Oh, so very, very wrong…

I’m not sure about how Ishii felt about the Japanese studio system or Japanese cinema in general. He certainly had a long career, making an astonishing 88 films in his over 40 year career, but I do know that he spent his last few years making lower budget V-Cinema fare of which “Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf” is the lowest budget Japanese film I think I’ve ever seen, so much so that it feels like Ishii wanted to end his career with a big “F**k you!” to the world of cinema. At least I dearly hope so because that’s how it comes across.

Ishii takes two stories by Rampo and mashes them together, using Rampo’s most famous character, Detective Kogorô Akechi (played by Tsukamoto), as the binding force: “The Blind Beast” (which was previously adapted by Yasuzo Masumura in 1969, an adaptation that if you read my review for you know I harbor no love for) about a blind sculptor who kidnaps and kills a female cabaret star, and “The Killer Dwarf” about a circus dwarf (of course, thus the title) who takes revenge on an uncaring world for the perceived teasing and misery it’s caused him.

Now, Ishii chose to shoot this on video, which… okay, I can hear you now, “What’s wrong with video? There’ve been some great films shot on HD video, both Japanese and international.” I know, I know! I’m a big fan of HD video myself, but Ishii didn’t shoot it in HD. He shot it on video… like cable access TV video… like porn movie video. “Fine,” you say, “It’s a creative choice to capture this well conceived world on video.” Well, maybe, if the world, meaning the sets and costumes didn’t look like they were put together for a high school production of an Edogawa Rampo story.

In the end this film... no… this video looks like something that would be shot as a visual story board to be referenced once the cameras really got rolling. Hell, maybe that’s what it was, but I doubt it. The acting, except for the wonderful (my hero!) Tetsuro Tamba, is on par with a high school production, or worse a porn film. The whole thing would have made so much more sense if people had dropped their drawers and started doing the nasty, but they didn’t. Stay away, far, far away from “Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf” unless you are an A-number one world class masochist.

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