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Film Review: Wolf Guy (Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko) (1975)

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SYNOPSIS:

Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba is WOLFGUY, the only survivor of a clan of werewolves who relies on his feral, full-moon-activated superpowers to solve mysterious crimes. One night, a bizarre and bloody death in the Tokyo streets plunges him into a far-reaching conspiracy populated by crooked politicians, naked white women, bit-players like Hideo Murota, a phantom tiger, and — best of all — a shadowy organization.

REVIEW:

Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba is Wolf Guy in Kazuhiko Yamaguchi’s exploitation romp by the same name. It is a tale of action, corruption and sexy werewolf encounters, all accompanied by the amazingly funky sounds of Hiroshi Babauchi’s fantastic musical score. An absolute must see for any fans of 1970’s exploitation cinema.

Chiba plays Akira Inugami, a crime reporter and the last remaining member of the Inugami werewolf clan, investigating a series of violent deaths taking place in the seedy realm of Tokyo underworld. An invisible force is ripping gang members and criminals into pieces, resembling the work of a fully grown tiger. After some intense investigation and interrogation, Inugami sets his sights on a local nightclub singer Miki Ogata (Etsuko Nami) who holds a grudge against a group of men who brutally attacked her some years earlier. Could Miki be behind these savage attacks and if so, what is the secret behind her powers? Is there more to Miki’s story than simply meets the eye? These are the questions Inugami must find an answer to.

The film is essentially divided in two parts: first one taking place in Tokyo and the second at Inugami’s birthplace. These two story arcs are only loosely related and could almost be two completely separate films. This obviously does not make for the best kind of storytelling, but it does, however, make an hour and a half of incredible exploitation, filled with fast paced action, gratuitous nudity and plenty of bloodshed. There is no time to get bored as Inugami jumps into action and goes after the people he is investigating in an extremely aggressive manner. And when he is not fighting street gangs or sinister scientist types, he mostly spends his time loving the ladies, and oh boy! Do the ladies love him back! Pretty much any woman he encounters demands his animalistic services in the bedroom. It is enough to make you hope he is indeed a self-employed freelancer, rather than working for a specific newspaper, as that kind of behaviour is likely to get you sacked from just about any job.

 

The first half of the film is tonally somewhat darker than the second. It includes the subplot of Miki and her desperately sad background story and the scenes depicting the attack she endured are quite unpleasant to watch. Life has not treated her kindly after the attack either and her story is one of sorrow and despair. It is quite amazing how Wolf Guy manages to simultaneously be a fun, and funny exploitation piece, but still deal with the more sombre subject matters in a certain amount of seriousness, never dealing with them in a blasé manner. Miki’s story is dark, and it remains that even when the rest of the film goes on fantastical overdrive.

The special effects look great with gallons of bright, red blood spewing here, there and everywhere. Miki’s tiger attacks on the goons that hurt her (and those who did not) are satisfyingly gory and genuinely well executed, even if the blood is several shades off from the real thing. Equally the fight scenes are well choreographed, filled with kinetic energy and wonderfully cheesy sound effects. If I say that the same foley is used for almost every bunch and kick, I am probably not too far off the mark. It is truly fantastic.

I find it hard to find anything to criticise about Wolf Guy, as it is pretty much 100% my kind of exploitation. If I had to pick on something it would be the fact that despite the title Wolf Guy, Sonny Chiba never actually turns into a werewolf. On the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar, he is simply invincible, able to withstand being hit, kicked, stabbed, shot at or even disembowelled, but he never goes through any actual metamorphosis. This will undoubtedly be disappointing to those waiting to see Chiba transform into a full-on man-beast, but personally I did not even notice this little detail until I finished the film. Wolf Guy has so much other great stuff going for it that a little thing like a missing werewolf was never going to stop me from enjoying it. I whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone and anyone who enjoys good, action packed exploitation. It has got everything you could ever want from a great genre film and more. I urge you to watch it, watch it now!

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