Friday, November 6, 2009
Day #27 All hail the Malformed MEN!!!
HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN (1969)
D. Teruo Ishii
This surreal, sometimes hard to penetrate, dramatic horror tale was banned for many years in Japan. One of the only films to ever get that nod on the big island. so for this movie to have finally gotten it's DVD release was a very special treat to cult film enthusiasts all over the world. I snapped up my copy from Gerry and Don at the Synapse table at Cinema Wasteland as soon as it was available and sat down that very week to watch it. But then within five minutes fell asleep and never got back to it until now. No fault of the movie mind you, I just get easily distracted sometimes and that week was one such time. But I am glad I finally got back around to it, because as I had long suspected MALFORMED MEN is a little gem.
The very complicated story revolves around Hirosuke Hitomi (played by Teruo Yoshida) who awakens to find himself in the loony bin one morning inexplicably. But this is one strange Mental ward where all the women seem to be on drugs and naked. The guards use whips and cat o nine tails to get the all female inmates back into cells, and one angry bald man sits in a corner scowling at him as if he wants to kill him. As night falls Hirosuke is drugged and awakens to the bald man on top of him trying to do just that. But he overpowers that chump and kills him, managing to escape the mysteriously unguarded facility. Once outside he recognizes a lullaby being sang by a teenage girl as one from his dreams and talks to her. After she smacks him(!) they make friends and realize they are both orphans and remember the tune from their childhood. But before much more info beside a memory from the seashore can be revealed someone plants a knife into her and Hirosuke is blamed and on the run.
Along the way he discovers a wealthy business man named (also played by Genzaburô Komoda KomodaTeruo Yoshida) has died. Weird thing is that they are identical, right down to the weird engraved scar on the bottom of their foot. So Hirosuke pretends he is the resurrected corpse of Genzaburô Komoda and ingrains himself into his household in an attempt to solve the mystery of his blank past, as it seems it is deeply intertwined. What he discovers is that Genzaburô Komoda was a sex machine, fucking both his wife and one of the maids, so Hirosuke has his hands full. But there is also someone stalking the household and a group of mutant weirdos playing home invasion that look a lot like Japanese versions of the kid from DELIVERANCE. This is only the first half of the movie!!!
In the second half Hirosuke manages to get to the island where Genzaburô Komoda's Father has isolated himself for the entirety of his son's life. Here he discovers that this man has created a disturbing utopia filled with naked women being used as slaves, furniture and pretty much anything else. Also populating the island are hundreds of mutant and deformed people, many that seemed to be surgically grafted and created. For example women that are surgically grafted to the ass end of a horse. It turns out that Father was spurned by his beautiful wife because of his own natural deformities and went more than a little crazy. So he spirited her away to this island and held her captive for her sins. While he punished her, he got busy creating his own "master race" of "malformed men" that would eventually go devour and mate with the normal society thus seeking revenge for anyone who was ever different. He wants Hirosuke to do more adventurous surgeries since he is a surgeon and the secret of his past is of course tightly woven with this island.
This is really just scratching the surface of this deeply twisted movie. Based on the works of famed Japanese author Edogawa Rampo who is considered the greatest horror writer of Japan. Apparently this is an amalgamation of many of his stories, which explains the car crash style of the narrative which throws in everything including the kitchen sink. By the time the movie gets to the incest driven fuck it all climax, your jaw will be on the floor. But oddly enough, it is all rather tragic and surprisingly touching. For all the deformity, blood, skin and bad taste, the final couple of images and lines of dialogue illicit a lot of humanity and heart through all the chaos. There is a message about the human condition hiding in this madness, something about forgiveness, accepting people for who they are and their ability to love, not their outward appearance.
But as a cult/exploitation movie viewer it is the crazy imagery that will stun you, and this movie is chocked full of it. Lazy and jaded viewers on the IMDB called this boring. While there are slow parts of the movie, there is more than enough involving madness to pull you through the quieter scenes. The early scenes in the mental institution are quite the opening grabber (if you look ever so closely one of the woman has a close up of her breasts and a bead of milk can be seen dripping from her nipple). The flashback (and later shown as part of the narrative) of the Father crawling out of the sea side rocks towards the camera in all his madness is simply incredible. The Mother eating the crabs that have in turn ate her lover. The kidnapping psycho warden in full drag torturing a busty young lady just for fun. The lazy boat ride up river where we first see the inhabitants of the island, consisting of nude women painted silver and gold, wrapped in bandages, bolted and belted to poles, boats and sewn to animals. All of them dancing, swimming and crawling in an inhuman manner. These are all stunning moments in a film full of them. All the denizens of the island were played by Butoh dancers which enabled them to move like no other humans on the planet could. A technique that direct Teruo Ishii would use throughout his career.
Then there are the malformed men themselves, some achieved with just crusty make up, others with more explicit prosthetics, some just contortionists. Some of them just look like blobs of human flesh lying in cages, while others are elderly people with mesh covering their faces being fed by tubes. One guy in the background has elephantitis of the scrotum, but it is seen to fast that I doubt most people notice it.
It is these scenes that in fact relegated the film to the status of being banned. For many years after World War Two deformities were a touchy subject in Japanese culture thanks to the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The damage caused by those left many people, for several generations, damaged physically. It was considered extremely poor taste to show those kinds of deformities in entertainment or art after that for a long time. Even if Teruo Ishii was perhaps trying to make some commentary on that very thing with the film. The movie was banned for several decades only showing up in late night revival screenings and film festivals until this DVD.
Which is gorgeous by the way. The widescreen photography is breathtaking and looks fabulous. It always amazes me to look at genre films from other countries around the same time frame to see that many of them look lower budgeted and sometimes cheap (the Italians were doing well at this point though). But Japanese films, always look incredible. There is photography and imagery in this film that is simply impossible to dismiss. This DVD allows Asian cult cinema fans and exploitation fans in general to finally fill that gap in their education. An essential purchase.
Reviews © Andy Copp