This release from Arrow Video will be available to purchase (www.arrowvideo.com – www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo/) on May 23rd.
I was first introduced to the films of Sonny Chiba (Shin’ichi Chiba) back in the 90s with the laserdisc release of The Street Fighter (1974). Endorsed by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, this action B-movie stood out for various reasons; the hard-hearted, cold-blooded yet charismatic lead performance, as well as the exaggerated posturing and fighting depicted. At the time, the picture seemed like it couldn’t possibly be more over-the-top. Well, I now stand corrected. In actuality, Wolf Guy aka Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope is the most outrageously over-the-top feature in Chiba’s history.
Amazingly, Arrow Video are releasing a Blu-ray/DVD combo of the feature. This movie was all but lost, never really getting a release of any kind in this part of the world. So it’s great to see a bizarre curio finally being made available. Make no mistake, Wolf Guy is completely deranged, juggling multiple genres with complete abandon and veering into some very strange territory. Yet, as with his other features, star Chiba is committed to the completely bonkers material, which makes the film all the more enthralling.
If you’re a fan of the actor’s other film work, it’s probably better going in to this one cold. I’d almost advise skipping the next couple of plot synopsis paragraphs altogether. I went in knowing next to nothing about the film and found that the story verged on the surreal from the opening credits. A village is massacred in flashback, and then a panicked musician is mauled on the street by an unseen claw after witnessing a vision of a tiger. A medical coroner investigating the occurrence chalks the death up to the work of a “demon” (yep, that’s his professional opinion).
We’re introduced to our hero, Akira Inugram (Sonny Chiba), a man who happens to possess the powers of a lycanthrope. He doesn’t physically turn into a wolf man, but becomes immortal during the full moon. Inugram is also a man of action who attracts random women with his musky, animal-like smell. And this is just the first fifteen minutes, folks. Over the course of the feature, we’re introduced to a stripper who is more interested in singing about her awful, tragic back story and seeking revenge for her rape than performing a tease (must be frustrating for the club owners). And there’s a mysterious government organization who get involved, experimenting on leads and attempting to harness their remarkable powers.
There are some truly crazed scenes. And as with his other performances, Chiba makes a whole lot more out of what would be fairly basic action film set-ups. He’s a compelling anti-hero, angry at humanity for doing his kind in and having no issues chopping down and taking out gang members by force, one by one. His growls, long stares and the general physicality of his performance is consistently entertaining.
Of course, the movie makes little sense, leading to numerous head-scratching moments. After Wolf Guy stops an assassin by rolling across the floor and plugging his gun with a small piece of metal, the hired killer then pulls out a mouse as well as some rope to try and finish the hero off. As a viewer, I have no idea what would possess a hit man to think that he needed to bring those items or that animal along on the job. However, it is humorous to watch. It’s also funny to see that despite his grouchy demeanor, the protagonist finds just about every woman he encounters throwing herself at him (the hero’s final romantic partner engages him in a bizarre, breast-fixated sex scene).
And that’s the kind of nuttiness that more or less sums up the entire experience. A grimy and at times nasty little action picture peppered with amusing and eccentric moments of mind-boggling weirdness. At certain moments, you won’t believe what you’re seeing and you certainly won’t know what’s coming next. It’s the type of B-movie that a group of friends can have a great time marveling at. I know I did.
Despite the low-budget, there are some trippy visuals featured as well. Thankfully, the new transfer is solid and the widescreen photography looks impressive. In fact, the pictures here don’t do it justice. There are some grainy and soft individual shots, but that’s a result of the source material. The picture here maintains its distinctly 70s appearance and is about as good as it will ever look. Some of the Dutch tilts and camera angles used, as well as the neon-tinged lighting, really pop off of the screen.
The release also comes with some fun bonuses that include interviews with the director, producer, and star Chiba. Amusingly, the director and producer contradict each other on many matters. However, one thing becomes very apparent. They were all working on multiple projects at the time, the movie was rushed into production and nobody seemed to understand or comprehend the source material they were working from (in this case, a popular Manga series). This is probably what lends the film its completely peculiar and surreal feel – the filmmakers were going on pure instinct and no one was taking the movie all that seriously. The Sonny Chiba interview goes over how he expresses himself on screen using body language. It’s interesting and enjoyable, although he doesn’t really talk about this particular movie at any point in the spot.
Wolf Guy is every bit as wild and way out as people have claimed. It’s a fast-paced, odd, almost dreamlike effort that should easily find a cult following for those who enjoy the outrageous. I for one, am thrilled to finally be given the opportunity to see this truly off the wall feature that benefits from an appealing and magnetic onscreen personality. For fans of Chiba, Japanese cinema or obscure cult films, this release comes recommended.