Friday, 2 January 2015

J-Horror January: Horrors of Malformed Men (aka Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû) (1969)

Horrors of Malformed Men (aka Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû) (1969)
Director: Teruo Ishii
Starring: Teruo Yoshida, Yukie Kagawa, and Teruko Yumi
Running Time: 99 min

  I've been looking forward to seeing this for a long time for a couple of reasons. When searching for disturbing films, this title is usually pops up every list that I find and it is also one of the first films that was adapted from the work of author Edogawa Rampo.  I have recently seen "Rampo Noir" and was pretty messed up, so now I'm look forward to seeing any of his adapted work to see how it compares.

  Hirosuke's dreams are haunted by a childhood lullaby that was sung to him as a child, images of a jagged coastal line and creepy long haired man with webbed fingers.  His real life ain't so hot right now either because instead of training to become a surgeon, he is trapped in a mental institution.  However, one night he hears someone singing the lullaby and is able to leave his padded cell to find the person singing.  He finds a girl, who tells him that she has heard the song as well but doesn't know from where and to meet at the circus tomorrow and she'll find out where it comes from.  Excited, Hirosuke goes back to his cell.  Unfortunately, he is attacked by another inmate and kills has to him to survive.  Hirosuke now with blood on his hands escapes the mental institution to the circus.
  Sadly things don't go well at the circus either, after the girl tells him that the lullaby comes from a coastal town, she is murdered and Hirosuke is seen holding a knife.  He escapes the angry mob and disguises himself with an eye patch, then jumps on a train where he discovers the he looks exactly like Genzaburo Komoda, a wealthy aristocrat who has just past away under mysterious circumstances.  Hirosuke cannot believe that it is a coincidence that they look the same, even down to the birthmark on their foot and decides to pretend to be Genzaburo, risen from the grave.  Spooky!
  He opens up the coffin of Genzaburo Komoda and throws the body into the sea and then he is found in the grave yard, by the grave by some slow witted monks.  He is brought back to the Komoda resident to the surprise of everyone there and has to learn the secrets of this family for him to survive. He learns that the mysterious father lives on an island that he is turning into a fantasy land for tourists and hasn't been seen for a number of years.  He also learns that he has to be careful because the family is beginning to get suspicious of his actions and just looking like someone doesn't mean you can imitate them.
  Eventually, he is brought to his Genzaburo's father's island and it is an insane "willy wonkaesque trip through an acid world of madness.  Genzaburo's father has been busy malforming and experimenting on people and now he wants to reveal his secrets and his evil plans to take over the world to his son.  Is Hirosuke ready for these stunning and hideous revelations and will he join this madman just to find out about his past or will he fight to get off this nightmarish island and just forget the whole thing?

  This film is so incredibly crazy, I don't even know where to begin.  Not in a bad way, director Teruo Ishii (Female Yakuza Tale, Jigoku (1999)) masterfully lays out the elements to this fascinating and at times repulsive mystery film.  It is such a great mixture of genre elements, for instance, when Hirosuke is in the mental institution and needs to escape, it has a very film noir feel to it.  Also, when he is found by the monks as Genzaburo, there are some very funny and incredible surprising good slapstick moments there.  And of course the third act is an amalgamation of WTF imagery and nightmarish people that would probably make even Tod Browning wince.
  Additionally, this is not a cheap looking production either.  The cinematography is gorgeous and reminds me at times in the third act of a Alejandro Jodorowsky (Santa Sarge, El Topo) film, which who could have been influenced by this film, who knows.  It's a shame that the imagery is so crazy and the topics touched on in this are so taboo that is was pretty much banned everywhere, even in Japan.
  The special effects are great as well, the make-up team did a fantastic job creating these monstrous creatures/people.  I don't know if terrifying is the way to look at it, as more just plain disturbing. 

  I don't think that this movie is for everybody and again with they way the first too acts play out it may seem like a murder mystery whodunnit but when that third act hits, there are some seriously bizarre shit going on, a la director Takashi Miike (Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer) or Hisayasu Sato (Splatter: Naked Blood, Rampo Noir), so if these films aren't your come of tea, this may not be for you.
  Also, this isn't a horror movie in the modern sense of the term.  It isn't a hack and slash type of film or supernatural outing.  It's more of a psychological horror and reminds me of "Island of the Damned" but everyone is in the house of pain.  I'm just saying this there isn't an excessive body count, although a few and the film isn't soaked with blood, so be prepared.

  This movie is a real trip and definitely worth a watch if you love Japanese Horror films or just messed up movies.  It has a fantastic story, with some incredible twisted twists, demented characters with a excellent make-up work and an ending that is kind of tacked on but is just as batty the rest of the film.  So, if you're looking for a weird and disconcerting tale for the night, look no further, this has crazy in spades.

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