Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf dvd review
Posted on August 20, 2006 by Chris Nelson
With this weekend of New Line’s manufactured “cult” release, some of you may be hankering for the real thing. A film which plays by its own rules, flaunts its questionable tastes, is made by the skin of its teeth, and throws convention to the wind; a genuinely singular experience a la Liquid Sky or The Wicker Man. If so, Teruo Ishii’s Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf is exactly the thing.
An adaptation of Edogawa Rampo’s classic story of the same name, Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf is a tale of competing killers and daring detectives, tackling two cases at the same time years before CSI. In early 20th century Japan, a blind masseuse stalks, seduces, sequesters, sexes, and segments attractive women for his macabre plaster arts. On the other side of town a dastardly dwarf (played by the late midget wrestler, Little Franky) is spotted sporting a severed arm, amidst the disappearance of a bourgeois beauty’s (Reika Hashimoto, Survive Style 5+) step-daughter and the appearance of similar tasteless sculptures. If modern art is about the process more so than the finished product, these two killers were years before their time. It’s up to Detective fiction writer Monzô Kobayashi (newcomer Lily Franky) and real detective Kogorô Akechi (cult director Shinya Tsukamoto) to find the two devils and put an end to the madness.
Teruo Ishii’s (Female Yakuza Tale, the Abashiri Prison films) last effort paints a canvas of Conan-Doyle style mystery (Rampo was a fan of Sherlock) and John Waters style absurdity, replete with bare breasts, buckets of blood, and severed limbs. His first digital effort, following a run of made for TV productions, the film’s full screen cheap-clear look has a decidedly do-rama feel to it, if Do-rama’s featured bouts of murder and cannibalism. Digital cameras tend to snatch at motion, and the Sony used is not different, as the camera evidences a bit of confusion and pixilation in scenes of lots of movement (ie: leaves moving in the background while Kobayashi and Akechi discuss the case), but this is a technical problem rather than one of cinematographic incompetence, and Ishii was out to experiment. While cheap the film maintains an undeniably professional look. Furthermore, there are some very interesting sequences, aided by the on-the-cheap, yet wonderfully offbeat production design, and some truly innovative special effects work (see the final sequence’s use of black and white, shadow and light).
The term “Erotic” is thrown around these days to describe anything with the slightest hint of nudity, whether intended to arouse or not, but Blind Beast vs Killer Dwarf is one film where such a proclamation is deserved. Being a work of erotic/grotesque fiction, there’s also the element of the unsettling. Consequentially, the film is alternately disturbing and sexy, and at times both at the same time (The shower, “Wine tasting” and “wrench” sequences come to mind). While such subjects could easily degenerate into (boring) pornography, Ishii’s direction always remains within the outermost margins of taste.
Like Russ Meyer, Ishii opted for a cast made largely of unknowns to keep the budget small and the focus on the story (and the women a little more liberal with their clothes). Newcomer Lily Franky does an admirable job as lead Kobayashi, and Little Franky is quite intriguing as the oddly conflicted killer dwarf. Mutsumi Fujita, appearing in her third Ishii film, steals the show as the theatre star turned beast’s victim, Ranko Mizuki, and again Shinya Tsukamoto does his “acting thing” quite well. Ishii’s decision works, as aside from Tsukamoto and Hashimoto, no actors have immediate face recognition, so your attention is fully set on the strange goings on. Quite a few Rampo enthusiasts also have cameos in the film, including directors Sono Sion (Suicide Circle), Takao Nakano (Kei Mizutani’s Sumo Vixens), Kayoshi Kumakiri (Hole in the Sky), and Makoto Tezuka (Black Jack).
Edogawa Rampo’s stories have been adapted by a range of directors from the widely respected, to the cult elite, to the failry unknown. For example, Fukasaku tacked Black Lizard, and Okuyama and Mayuzumi handled The Mystery of Rampo. It could be argued his work has a bigger following than either Abe or Murakami (Surely they’ve been adapted far more frequently). When it comes to Rampo adaptations, this one is undeniably fun. A masterpiece of low budget sensibilities and gonzo filmmaking, Ishii’s swan song will definitely find a home in the hearts of genre enthusiasts.
We’ve reviewed quite a few Panik House DVDs so far, so you probably have a rough idea of the structure of the this disc. The film is subtitled in both English and Spanish (with some nifty blue subtitles this time), and features corresponding menu display options. While the film was shot on digital it was with high-end consumer grade digital of a few years back. Therefore some of the technological limitations have an impact on the visuals, but they are not due to any problem with the transfer itself.
For the extras, first and foremost you have your trailer gallery, featuring bits for Blind Beast, Screwed, and Tokyo Psycho. Secondly you have your poster and production stills galleries, the latter featuring quite a number of pictures from the film. The poster galleries have some interesting artwork, of various visual sensibilities (I was drawn to the cutesy cartoon one). The Filmmaker and Star Bios are everything you have come to expect from PanikHouse, this time featuring a in depth history of both Ishii’s and Rampo’s work, and a piece about the farewell ceremony to honor Little Franky.
The two main items on the DVD are the Geaphiles Gallery, featuring concept illustrations for the film created by New York underground artist, GEA, and The Making of Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf. The GEA sketches are pretty darn cool. I’d be interested in checking out more of her work. The making of feature is nicely low key, focusing on all aspects of the production, with particular emphasis on the interaction between production newcomers and the salted filmmaking elders. One particular tale I found interesting was a script girl’s stand in role with heartthrob Mitsuhiro Oikawa prompted angry mailings of razor filled envelopes from his fans.
In addition to the usual Panik House sticker, the disc also comes with some numbered insert cards featuring a concept drawing of the Dwarf by Gea, stamped with the bloody pawprint of Little Franky. Sadly the production notes are pretty much the blurb on the back of the box, and there is no essay or commentary track to accompany the film. A fun little disc from Panik House.
About the Author