director Teruo Ishii
Sort of a surrealist Island of Lost Souls (1932)/”Island of Dr. Moreau” prismed through the Japanese exploitation lens, and if Dr. Moreau was a transvestite Charles Manson-type. With a little more ambition, you could throw in some David Cronenbergian body horror too. And then there is the whole Butoh style of performance splattered throughout.
Adapted from works by Edogawa Ranpo, the film is considered an example of Ero Guro, a melding of the erotic and the grotesque, a style hearkening back to 1930’s Japan, and coming as it does at the end of the 1960’s, ends up being a precursor of the more contemporary Pink film. All in all, it’s very Japanese, and could well lead to some generalizations about how the Japanese indeed have the propensity of being one of the outre cultures of the world.
The film begins in a dream fugue, with a young doctor imprisoned in an insane asylum (with a lot of kooky semi-naked women (calling to mind vaguely Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963) to an extent)). He’s haunted by a childhood lullaby and can’t recall who he is. He escapes to a seaside village where a doppelgänger of his has just passed away from a prominent family. He assumes the resurrected identity of the man and investigates the strange world therein, especially the island theme park that the patriarch has been developing, a freakshow of his own making, his surgically malformed men.
The film ends with an incestual romance, explosions, body parts flying through the air, disembodied hands still holding hands. Superbly bizarre.
The only downside is the film’s typical detective-style explanation that comes toward the end. The detective shows up to explain everything. And he does. So, there is a semi-logic that structures all this weirdness. Only downside.
It’s a wacky film.