Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope

                                            Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
                                        Starring: Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami

For years, I had heard rumors about this film. It was so rare that I only ever had a vague discription about it and it sounded almost too cool to be true; that Sonny Chiba portrayed a karate fighting policeman who's also a werewolf!

Fast forward to about a year ago and I finally got a copy of this rarity; from an uncut (!) T.V. print. So after all those years of buildup, was it as good as advertised? Well, mostly yes...

The story concerns concerns Chiba as a descendant of a tribe of Lycanthropes who have heightened abilities whenever there is a full moon. Our hero works as a detective, trying to solve a multiple murder case and runs afoul of a major conspiracy involving some crooked politicians (an oxymoron if ever there was one) as well as a mysterious cult-like group who call themselves J-CIA. Their objective is to rob Chiba of his special wolfian (?) powers... by stripping the blood right out of his veins! Gotta admit, this sequence made me flinch.

Director  Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (who also lensed Sister Streetfighter and Karate Bullfighter aka Champion of Death) keeps things moving at a good (though typically haphazzard) clip with a fair amount of action and nudity (Chiba's wolf powers make him a hit with the ladies, of course) as well as LOTS of gore (again, this played uncut on Japanese T.V.!). However as good as it is, there are two problems I had with it that keep me from enjoying it as much as I may have. One is a surprisingly low count of karate duels. This isn't a prerequisite for me enjoying the film, but when I watch a Sonny Chiba film from 1975, I tend to have expectations, y'know? The other problem I have with the movie is that Chiba never physically becomes a werewolf! His powers come from within you see and never manifest on the outside. That was a letdown though thinking about it, I'm not 100% sure that Chiba wouldn't have induced giggles if seen with fangs and covered in facial and body hair. Who knows, maybe the filmmakers felt that way themselves at the last minute? As it is, he does get to fight another Lycanthrope (one created artificially by the J-Cia via Chiba's transfused blood)) that's also decidedly light in the makeup department

All in all, Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope may not be quite on the level of The Executioner or The Streetfighter (my two favorite Chiba films), but it does make for good gory, sleezy (and occasionaly downright strange) fun. Just don't expect any werewolves.

                                                      *** / ****

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