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Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review

6 min read

It’s hard being the last werewolf when psychic femme fatales, secret government agencies, and monster hunting country folk all want you dead.

What They Say:
Shinichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba is a martial arts ”manimal” in the ultra-70’s, 100% bizarre mixture of horror, action and sci-fi that is Wolf Guy, one of the rarest and most sought-after cult films produced by Japan’s Toei Studio. Based on a manga by Kazumasa Hirai (creator of 8 Man), and never before released outside of Japan, it’s a genre film classic waiting to be discovered and a completely unclassifiable trip into phantasmagoric funk.

Chiba stars as Akira Inugami, the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers! At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind.

Directed by B-movie genius Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Sister Streetfighter, Wandering Ginza Butterfly, Karate Bear Fighter), Wolf Guy truly is one-of-a-kind, with Chiba in full effect as the part-man, part-wolf, all-karate action hero and a collection of familiar 1970’s Toei actors in support. Violence, action, nudity, real surgical footage, and a psychedelic musical score all work together to create an unforgettable trip to the heights of Japanese cinematic weirdness.

The Review
Audio:
The audio’s presented in its original mono format. No obvious flaws were noticed, and the funk soundtrack really adds to the overall vibe of the movie.

Video:
The clarity of the image is occasionally a little off. Nothing egregious, especially considering that this is apparently the first time the movie has been released on home video, and the movie as a whole probably looks better than it has since its first release in theaters.

Menu:
The menus meet Arrow’s typically high standards. Everything is clearly defined and easy to navigate.

Packaging:
A screener disc was provided, and thus the packaging was not available for this viewing.

Extras:
New video interview with actor Sonny Chiba
New video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
New video interview with producer Tatsu Yoshida
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias and a history of Japanese monster movie mashups by Jasper Sharp

Content:
As far as movie adaptations go, Wolf Guy is about as loose and tangential as you can get. The original Wolf Guy manga is about a young man, who also happens to be a werewolf, who transfers to a new high school and makes enemies with the wrong crowd. It was adapted into a movie a few years before the version released by Arrow Video, as well as an anime OVA in the early 1990s, and to my knowledge, both were considerably more true to their source.

The only thing 1975’s version has in common with its namesake is the fact that it’s lead, played by Sonny Chiba, is presumably a werewolf. I say presumably because we never actually see him transform like your classical lycanthrope. He comes from a remote Japanese village populated by a Wolf Clan, and after an attack by another local village seeking to rid themselves of this werewolf “nuisance,” Chiba’s Inugami is the last of his kind. He’s an adult now and living among mankind as a detective of some sort.

Due to budget restraints, Inugami’s wolf-like abilities are only hinted at throughout the movie. Much is said of the lunar cycle and how he becomes nigh-invulnerable during the full moon. He fights in an animalistic style, with lots of leaping and clawing of enemies. Outside of these flourishes, and a few other odd speculative moments, this plays more like a hardboiled detective story or neo-film noir that it does a creature feature.

It’s that mashing of genre elements that leads to Wolf Guy strengths and weaknesses. The movie starts in detective mode, as Inugami and his partner are thrust into a series of murders. Men are being viciously murdered by an unseen force, and in their final moments as they’re ripped to shreds by an unseen force, they claim to be assaulted by a tiger. This turns into a femme fatale situation, as the link between all of these murders is a young woman wronged by all the men in her life.

As things progress, we shift from that noir genre to 70s-style paranoia, as a government conspiracy is unearthed. Following that, Inugami returns to his birthplace to face off against his past, those that robbed him of his birthright, and the remnants of his previous foes from the other two plot threads. It’s a breakneck plot that rarely slows down for anyone to breathe, and the sheer number of ideas thrown at the screen is kind of wondrous to behold. There’s an entire movie series worth of threads crammed into one 80+ minute movie, and each one is fascinating in its own right. The problem is that by never really resting upon any of these ideas, none of them get the sort of development they need to really blossom into something special. It all feels like a brainstorming session that never culls or sets aside anything.

That said, there’s a plethora of crazy, memorable moments, and if the whole isn’t quite the sum of its parts, those moments more than make up for that overall flaw. The scene after the government types experiment on Inugami, involving how his werewolf regenerative powers work, is a gore effects masterpiece. The various relationships Inugami has with women start to venture into some strange, gothic romance situations. Your mileage may vary there, but this isn’t a simple matter of the noir detective throwing away the woman. There’s consequences to that sort of behavior, in addition to some odd touches once he reaches his home village.

While the interviews included in the extras are brief, it’s interesting to note how this scattershot approach is explained. Neither the director nor the producer were particularly interested in the project, and they were working during a period where Toei pretty much allowed those working on these sorts of B pictures to do as they pleased so long as money was made. It makes a lot of sense that they paid little attention to the original manga and simply tossed whatever they felt like into the script, so long as it fit into budget restraints. Funny enough, more was said about how difficult it was to get a good shot of the moon than was said about adapting the actual original manga. Strange stuff.

In Summary:
It’s a bit of a scatter shot movie that doesn’t congeal into something cohesive, but those disparate parts make for some crazy, entertaining viewing.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C+

Released By: Arrow Video
Release Date: 29 August 2017
MSRP: $22.97
Running Time: 86 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 55L711U18 55” 4K UHD TV, Playstation 4


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