Written by: Ron Cotton on June 28th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: January 31, 2001 (International Film Festival Rotterdam)
Director: Ishii Sogo
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Masakatsu Funaki and Masatoshi Nagase
DVD released: June 27th, 2006
Approximate running time: 55 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 Japanese, DTS Japanese
DVD Release: Discotek Media
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Over the years, I’ve watched the trailer for the film Electric Dragon 80,000 V numerous times. Unfortunately, no release date was in sight. Electric Dragon featured stunning visual lightning effects with blaring audio of the punk-like power cords and indistinct vocals on a sharp black and white canvas. The two leads, Tadanobu Asano with wild untamed hair and Masatoshi Nagase with half of his face as an embossed gold Buddha battle out their differences. The short affair was completely breathtaking to watch even if it was but a trailer. Discotek Media at last fulfilled my appetite by releasing a limited edition of Electric Dragon 80,000 V filled with features including a complete soundtrack. Who could ask for anything more?
Dragon Eye Morrison (Tadanobu Asano) electrofed in his youth by an errant shock on a high metal power station tower forever changed his life. Morrison’s primordial reptilian part of his brain was amplified which in turn magnified his violent tendencies to unspeakable levels. To curb this vehement characteristic, at night Morrison discharges most of the energy he conducts by playing guitar. Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase) taking out criminals is incensed with his electric signals being distorted by Morrison’s chaotic and noisy existence. In an attempt to achieve tranquility, Thunderbolt Buddha disassembles Morrison’s guitar. In the end, both must battle before a resolution can be sought.
Tadanobu Asano known on his official website as the ‘Japanese Johnny Depp’ forged a larger creative presence in Electric Dragon than prior works released in the US. Similar to his memorable performances in Ichi the Killer and Survive Style 5+ as a stoic and relentless rival, this role as Dragon Eye Morrison as part guitarist / part reptile investigator is no different. His familiarity with the guitar doesn’t end on-screen. In addition, he lent his artistic skills for the opening credits, the closing credits and with his band Mach 1.67 contributed many of the tracks included on the soundtrack. Today, Tadanobu Asano is one of the most desired actors in Japan continually working on multiple projects.
Director Ishii Sogo has a great sense of composition and filming key sequences that’s focal to the film. Also, Ishii Sogo is in no way unfamiliar with infusing music with film as demonstrated with Burst City or creating influential thrillers like Angel Dust. Ishii Sogo works in the 70s and the 80s is highly regarded by such contemporary namesakes as Shinya Tsukamoto, Takashi Miike, and Takeshi Kitaro. The laundry list of facts above recognizes Ishii Sogo as cutting edge among Japanese film buffs and gives Electric Dragon 80,000 V the ammunition to be a film that simply cannot be ignored.
Director Ishii Sogo sometimes becomes transfixed with his subject, filming a scene much longer than needed, supplying very little to the film’s story or mood. Added with the fact that Electric Dragon 80,000 V only weighs in at only 55 minutes of film, this most certainly gives an incomplete feel. Being more of a audio-visual film that one immerses into, the film has an definite absence of dialog. Addition of dialog, deeper plot and cast might have elevated this film yet, this is a huge assumption I wouldn’t bet on.
The film as well as the encoded video has no defects whatsoever, looking clean and clear reminiscent to the visuals in Sin City. The audio in Electric Dragon 80,000 V was crisp and clear without defects using the full effects of surround sound. Unfortunately, because of my home theater setup, I was unable to compare differences between the Dolby Digital 5.1 track to the DTS track.
The cardboard and keep case cover lacks the faithful film look and edginess found on the liner notes art. In foresight, I would have chosen the liner note artwork instead of the current cover artwork. The liner notes were made by none other than Tom Mes, author of Midnight Eye and numerous books whose expertise is unmatched. Tom Mes free associates all aspects of Ishii Sogo, Tadanobu Asano, and Mach 1.67 to inform why Electric Dragon 80,000V exists. My only complaint is his form of turning four paragraphs formed into questions ending in question marks. This was annoying to say the least and a needless effect to make his final point come across. With this aside, the unearthing of these little known facts was curiously engaging.
The 48 minute soundtrack is filled with industrial layered upon noise creating its unique experimental punk sound. All songs maintain the same basic theme yet don’t sound the exactly the same to each other. The background music works well in the film yet sounds incomplete as a score to listen to alone. Concrete Music, Attack, and Mix were among my favorite tracks. Unable to find my favorite music track contained in the trailer, the final showdown and the main menu, this was huge disappointment and was the admittedly the best audio track of the entire film.
Electric Dragon 80,000 V interviews totaling 44 minutes in length encompass most of the Extra Features. The Staff / Cast list contained a lot of information, but the high contrast of the whitest-whites and the blackest-blacks made the text next to impossible to read. Besides the original theatrical trailer, Electric Dragon 80,000 V included trailers for Burst City, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, and Lupin III: Strange Psychokenetic Strategy. The ‘Making of’ section of the special features was primarily photo galleries of Title Designs, Filming Snapshots, and About the Tattoo Illustrations. The best extra was the Synthesized Images which explains in full detail the methods used to create the special effects in Electric Dragon 80,000 V. The extras also allow you to jump to the chase and just watch the Final Showdown, strangely enough, in a full-frame aspect ratio.
All and all, Discotek’s Limited Edition of Electric Dragon 80,000 V is packed with extras with enhanced detail. Lacking in some departments, most of the blame lies in the films short presentation and long-winded spirit. Without Tadanobu Asano presence, this film would have been a failure. With the negatives aside, the final showdown alongside key sequences presents the majesty of Ishii Sogo’s directing. Electric Dragon 80,000 V by Discotek is for the completest.