Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 17th, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1969
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writers: Teruo Ishii, Masahiro Kakefuda
Cast: Teruo Yoshida, Yukie Kagawa, Teruko Yumi, Mitsuko Aoi, Michiko Kobata
DVD released: August 28th, 2007
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Hirosuke (Teruo Yoshida) is a medical student who is forced to flee from the law after he breaks out of jail. While on the run he sees an article in the newspaper about a man who has recently passed away who oddly looks just like him. Hirosuke wanting to solve the mystery of where he came from and why he looks like a dead man assumes the dead man’s identity. Will uncovering the secrets from his past bring closer to this part of Hirosuke’s life or will the discovering the truth unlock a Pandora’s box of problems?
Teruo Ishii was a renegade director whose films often defied their genres conventions and in some instances he created new genres cliches in the process. His rarely seen outside of Japan films from 1969 Horrors of Malformed Men is pure Ishii at the top of his game with its nightmarish images many of which will also haunt you with their striking beauty. Horror of Malformed Men is based on Rampo Edogawa’s 1932 novel “The Strange Tale of Panorama Island”. Two other possible influences for Horrors of Malformed Men are Tod Browning’s “Freaks” a story about deformed circus performers and H.G. Welles “The Island of Dr. Moreau” a story about a scientist who experiments with animals and humans trying to make one entity.
After a bizarre dream like opening the majority of the first half of Horrors of Malformed Men is your typical straight forward tale about mystery. Once Hirosuke assumes Genzaburou’s identity the film really starts to get good and for those who are patient the final act is as close as any one has come to capturing hell on Earth. One of the films strongest assets is who its ambiguity of what is real or what is fantasy?
One of the more memorable images is the scene with the man with the deformed hands popping in and out of frame with waves crashing in the background. Masao Yagi’s brilliant score is moody and menacing as it adds layers to the films dark and often bleak subject matter. The acting is solid all around with Teruo Yoshida is the lead duel roles of Hirosuke and Genzaburou elevating not only his performance but all those around him.
Ultimately Horrors of Malformed Men is not a film that you will easily digest or forget anytime soon after watching it. If you are a fan of surreal cinema which pushes the envelope with its shocking and often grotesque images/subject matter then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Horrors of Malformed Men ASAP.
Teruo Ishii’s Horror’s of a Malformed Men finally makes its first official release in North America via Synapse’s spectacular DVD release. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio. Colors vibrant as they radiate off the screen and flesh tones look accurate. The transfer is nearly flawless with only a few very minor instances of print damage. The films original Japanese language track has been included and English subtitles that are error free have been provided. The audio mix is in great shape and there are no audio defects.
This release is loaded to the gills with extra content like Original Japanese trailer with English subtitles, a Poster Gallery, Biographies (Teruo Ishii & Edogawa Rampo), Liner notes by Patrick Macias, Tomo Machiyama and Jasper Sharp and a Reversible cover with original Japanese poster artwork. There is also a feature length audio commentary with Japanese Film Critic Mark Schilling who spends most of the commentary talking about Teruo Ishii and very little time discussing Horror’s of a Malformed Men. The two main extras are “Malformed Memories” which is interviews with Shinya Tsukamoto and Minoru Kawasaki (23 minutes in Japanese with English subtitles) and Ishii in Italia (14 minutes Ishii at the 2003 “Far East Film Festival” in Undine, Italy) Ishii’s introduction for his film “Horrors of The Malformed Men” (4 minutes).
This DVD release is truly an amazing achievement and I would call it the definitive release of this film. The films is not only uncut, its looks and sounds good and the majority of the extras are insightful, highly recommended.