Wolf Guy (1975)
Studio: Arrow Video
Release date: May 23rd, 2017
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
One doesnít have to look too intently to recognize the appeal of Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope. Between that incredible title and a logline that boasts Sonny Chiba starring as the last in the line of extinct wolf-people, thereís enough to leave any genre fanatic chomping at the bit. But whatís great is that even this is merely scratching the surface of the pleasures to be gleaned from this riotously entertaining mash-up: part horror film, part detective procedural, part revenge fantasy, all completely fucking bonkers, Wolf Guy feels like it was conjured up from the depths of a delirium one might experience after taking in a 24-hour movie marathon.
In truth, a popular manga served as the inspiration for the film, which opens with a baffling mystery. Detective Akira (Chiba) prowls the streets, where a frightened, manic man jostles his way through a crowd, seemingly on the run from a mysterious attacker he calls ďThe Tiger.Ē When the man is suddenly slashed to death by the unseen force, Akira is sent digging through the criminal underworld in search of the truth. During the quest, he uncovers the strange story of a Miki (Estuko Nami), a prostitute whose gang-rape was orchestrated by her would-be father-in-law, whose political ambitions would have been thwarted by his son marrying a low-class girl. Now abandoned by her fiancť and infected with syphilis, she hatches her unusual revenge from a brothel.
And even this is just the beginning: when I say Mikiís revenge is ďunusual,Ē just know that it involves possible astral projection and a spirit animal of sorts. Thereís enough weirdness in Wolf Guy to go around for multiple movies, yet itís all somehow stuffed into 86 minutes here. As such, it takes on a pretty jumbled, episodic structure, perhaps reflecting the manga format itself. By doing so at such a breakneck pace, Wolf Guy consistently surprises and entertains: one minute, Akira is fighting off a band of thugs before being rescued by a mysterious woman on a motorcycle. The next minute, heís bedding said lady, the first of a few conquests, as heís not just a wolf man: heís basically James Bond, as no woman can resist his charmsóincluding one that he quickly weds because she was named after his mother, which apparently would only be strange to you or me. For Akira, suckling at her breasts reminds him of his dearly-departed mom (did I mention Wolf Guy gets very, very weird?).
Despite its strange, whiplashing narrative. Wolf Guy remains compelling, thanks in large part to Chiba and Namiís lead performances. The two are something like kindred spirits, particularly during a middle stretch when they both become captives of a government cabal looking to harness their supernatural abilities for its own nefarious purposes. Needless to say, it does not end well for this bunch, as Wolf Guy does not suffer these trifling fools lightly. Generally speaking, any foe that crosses his path is subjected to Street Fighter-style ass-whoopings, which is to be expected. What might be less expected, however, is Chibaís soulful ruminations on humanity, particularly how fucking terrible it is.
If thereís one thread that consistently weaves through the madness of Wolf Guy, itís the pure nihilism guiding both Akira and Mikiís separate journeys. His sends him on an inward quest to embrace his lycanthrope heritage; hers involves reclaiming whatever dignity she has left. Both spend an enormous amount of time ripping assholes to shreds, in some cases quite literally. Wolf Guy boasts the sort of free-flowing arterial spray usually associated with Shaw Brothers martial arts movies, just in case you need another reason to hunt this one down immediately.
A film quite unlike any other, Wolf Guy embraces the lunacy for just about all its worth. Sadly, Chiba never transforms into a full-on wolfman, though he does manage to stuff his disemboweled guts back into place, which feels like a fair compensation. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi is more than capable of keeping up with Fumio Konamiís busy screenplay, too. His camera whirs and whips through the lush, widescreen compositions, especially the frenetic action sequences that often find Chiba somersaulting through bullets and flames before rearranging his opponentsí faces with his feet and fists. A reflection of the film itself, Hiroshi Babaís score is a pastiche, with jangly piano bars and fuzzy, wah-wah guitar riffs blending to accentuate the raucous vibe that propels Wolf Guy from its opening frame.
Wolf Guy is a film thatís relentless as hell in its commitment to entertain you. Thatís among the highest praise a film of this sort can earn: whether itís engaging in conspiratorial Yakuza subplots, indulging in pinku eiga titillation, or stunt-laden kung-fu carnage, it serves as something of an exploitation smorgasbord. For 86 minutes, youíre invited to stuff your face with candy-colored, crimson-soaked, body-melting junk, as Wolf Guy moves through your system like a sugar rushócomplete with the sobering comedown once you realize it retains that essential, tragic component to the wolf man existence. At least Akira can take comfort in the fact that heís probably the coolest motherfucker thatís ever had to carry that tortured, lonely torch.
It goes without saying that there are thousands of genre movies Iíve yet to see; however, I generally pride myself on at least being aware that these films exist. Theyíre at least on the radar, so to speak. Youíd think this would be especially true of a movie where Sonny Chiba plays a misanthropic werewolf detective, but I didnít have a clue until Arrow announced it as part of its release slate earlier this year. Apparently, its obscurity owes to the fact thatís itís never been exported outside of Japan until now, so an entire legion of genre fanatics are primed to have their brains radiated by the sheer bliss that is Wolf Guy. Not only does it boast a restored presentation, but Arrow has also provided interviews with Chiba, Yamaguchi, and producer Toru Yoshida to provide solid overview of this era.
Hopefully, itís a sign of things to come: Wolf Guy is already one of the wildest discoveries of the year, and thereís apparently more where it came from (in fact, itís technically a sequel to Horror of the Wolf, though the connection seems to be negligible, especially since Chiba wasnít involved). But even if Arrow only graces us with Wolf Guy, what a wonderful, unexpected treat this one is. Discoveries like this donít cross your path very often, nor do they always live up to their surface appeal. Wolf Guy clears that bar with ease and even goes a step further since it just might be your new favorite movie. comments powered by Disqus Ratings:
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