Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Wolfguy (1975)

One of the most enjoyable things about seeking out obscure movies is the pleasure of finding a film so totally crazy that it couldn't possibly exist, yet does. Such is the case with WOLFGUY, a berserk mix of action, horror and martial arts, and without a doubt one of the strangest (and rarest) films of Japanese cinema superstar Sonny Chiba's long career.

Chiba play "Wolf" Inugami, one of those only in the movies reporters where the stories come to him and very little reporting actually goes on. One night Inugami  is minding his own business when he stumbles across a man being hacked to death on a Tokyo street by what the police implausibly yet correctly call a "spectral slasher." ("It seems to be the only explanation."). It turns out that the man is a member of a rock group hired by his management to gang rape Miki, another of the management's acts, in order to derail her engagement to to the son of a conservative politician. Understandably, this leaves Miki angry, to say nothing of drug-addicted, infected with syphilis and working as a singer in a geisha-themed strip club (her songs about how she is destined to die insane don't exactly go over well with the clientele). It seems that Miki, in her rage, has learned to channel her inner animal (a tiger) and have it astrally attack those who have wronged her.Can Inugami help bring her peace and stop the killing?

It turns out he can because (wait for it) Inugami is the last of a pack of wolf people, the rest of whom were wiped out by a gang of villagers years before. While Chiba never turns into a werewolf per se (something that would have instantly elevated this movie to classic status), he is gifted with heightened senses and the ability to jump really high. However, before he can deal with Miki, Inugami will have to deal with a  clandestine government agency (the JCIA, of course) who want to use his blood to create super soldiers. Oh, and there are yakuzas too.

As far as I can tell, WOLFGUY has never been officially released on any home video format anywhere in the world. Information about it on the Internet is extremely scarce and I have no idea what the public's reaction to it was upon its release but Chiba looks noticeably uncomfortable throughout the film, like he's a bit embarrassed to to be there. That may say a bit about why the film is so rare and why there was never a WOLFGUY 2. That's a shame, since the movie is a lot of fun and I would have like to have seen the further adventures of Inugami. I would even have been happy to see an American remake of the material, starring, say, Jo Don Baker as Wolfguy. As it is, the film is only available on the gray market as a VHS recording taken from a 1993 Japanese TV broadcast. Still, any fan of Japanese exploitation cinema would be wise to seek it out. It's fast paced, bloody and has enough craziness it it for four movies. See it, if you can, and be amazed.

For more forgotten films visit Todd Mason's blog.