Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 23rd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, May 21st, 1974
Director: Yukio Noda
Writers: Fumio Konami, Hirô Matsuda
Cast: Miki Sugimoto, Eiji Go, Tetsuro Tamba, Hideo Murota
DVD Released: October 25th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Rei (Miki Sugimoto) an undercover police officer is sent to prison when she kills an embassy official who is suspected of murder. Nagumo has just been released out of prison and he quickly rejoins his former gang. It doesn’t take them long before they find their next target a politician’s daughter who they all take turns raping before they finally take her back to their hideout and demand a large ransom from her father for her safe return. Wanting to avoid a scandal former police officer Rei is offered a full pardon for the murder she committed if she safely returns the politicians daughter and she is also ordered to murder every one of the suspects leaving no witnesses alive.
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs was directed by Yukio Noda who also directed several Sonny Chiba films like Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: The Assassin, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment and Soul of Chiba. Noda’s directs Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs with the bombastic style that is evident in every composition which has been meticulously designed to their fullest effect like when nudity is about to appear somehow something always gets in the way to block the naughty parts.
This film is filled with many symbolic shots like when Nagumo and his gang of thugs rape the politicians’ daughter. There is an inter-cutting of shots during this scene as a play passes over head as each new guy penetrates the girl. There is a vigilante style justice in Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs that is remsinicnet of the Dirty Harry and Death Wish. Miki Sugimoto plays Rei a sasori like loner assassin who is hell bent on justice and ridding the street of scum. There is a cool ness to her character as she is rarely animated in her emotions and she speaks very little. One thing that I enjoyed most about her character was the way she played each of the kidnappers against each other. She also has a pair of red handcuffs that she uses as a weapon as she throws them like a boomerang at the bad guys. These handcuffs are just as deadly as throwing stars as they cut right threw the flesh. Tetsuro Tamba is the other main lead and he portrays the psychopathic Nagumo perfectly. Nagumo and his gang of thugs are extremely unsympathetic characters who rape and beat their victims with a sadistic glee that is more disturbing then anything else in the film. The kidnappers are not the ones in the film that take torture to far. The police and men working for the girl’s who has been kidnapped father get a hold of one of the kidnappers and torture him. This scene is by far and away the most sadistic in the whole film as the pain becomes so unbearable at one point he pisses himself. One part of the film that I didn’t like was how Rei and the other men who pursued the kidnappers took their sweet time and in the process more were raped and murdered. I guess in order to save the politician any scandal some lives had to be sacrificed. Most of the main characters in the film are given just the right amount of time to get to know them and their past. The plot is well defined and the there is never a dull moment.
Discotek presents Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 Toei scope aspect ratio. This progressive scan transfer is virtually flawless as there are only a few minor instances of specs of dirt. The colors look vibrant and are nicely saturated through out. The black levels are solid and details remain sharp through out. There are no problems with compression, artifacts or edge enhancement. Overall Discotek’s transfer corrects all the flaws that were present on the Japan Shock DVD making this the best this film has looked on DVD to date.
This release comes with one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The audio is clean and the dialog is easy to understand, still there are few minor instances in which background hiss is noticeable. Overall this stereo mix more then gets the job done despite the limitations of the source material. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include the films original theatrical trailer in Japanese with English subtitles and a trailer for Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy which is in Japanese unfortunately no subs have been included for this trailer. Other extras include a insert that has a replica of the Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs original poster art and inside the insert is brief piece about Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs written by Thomas Weisser. The DVD comes in a cardboard slip case which houses the DVD keep case. These days it seems like there are new Asian oriented DVD companies arriving on DVD scene every month and while most of them are carbon copies of each other it is refreshing when a company like Discotek comes along. While most of these other company’s focus mainly on current Asian Discotek has gone a route rarely traveled and is releasing cinematic gems from Japans golden age of cinema. Discotek with their first release Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs prove right off the bat that they obviously care about the product that they are releasing as they give this film a first rate audio/video presentation that comes in a slickly designed packaged. Overall Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is one of those rare instances in which an exploitation film rises above its B film aspirations by elevating the source material into something truly unique and disturbing beautiful, highly recommended.