The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Wolf Guy

Sonny Chiba made a lot of amazing martial arts films, the Street Fighter series chief among them. He also appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. None of them, however, have been quite as unique as 1975's Wolf Guy. This sci-fi/horror/action hybrid has never been released outside of Japan, which makes Arrow Video's May 23 Blu-ray release a cause for celebration among fans of Chiba or oddball cult movies in general.

Chiba plays Akira Inugami, a reporter who, as a child, was the sole survivor of his werewolf clan's slaughter. He now uses his special wolf powers to investigate mysteries. Akira finds a big one after a popular nightclub singer is murdered. His investigation uncovers a massive conspiracy that reaches to high levels of the political system. Unbeknownst to him, part of that conspiracy involves an attempt to steal his blood so that the government can figure out how to use his powers for their own gain.

Wolf Guy has all the intense, limb-snapping martial arts fighting you'd expect in a Sonny Chiba picture. The action sequences are intricately choreographed, with our hero taking on multiple goons simultaneously. There has always been a raw, gritty quality to Chiba's fight scenes, which is certainly true here. They look fierce, a fact that gives them undeniable impact.

But there's so much more than that going on. Wolf Guy is filled with sex and gore, as any good exploitation flick will be. Akira engages in animal-like bedroom hijinks with several women. He also repeatedly comes across a tiger spirit that gruesomely slashes its victims into pieces. The old-school visual effects used to show the slicing and dicing of human flesh are surprisingly effective. (The cheesy opticals used to insert the tiger, much less so.) All of this mayhem is set to an amusingly funky '70s porn film-esque musical score.

Wolf Guy is nothing like American werewolf films, and thank goodness for that. This is a product of both another country and another era. Its take on the werewolf story consequently feels fresh, despite the film itself being more than forty years old. Why it never got released on our shores isn't clear, but it's here now, and certain to delight anyone looking for a wonderfully insane grindhouse picture.

Blu-ray Features:

Arrow Video's Blu-ray release has a high-definition digital transfer that looks quite good, given the film's age. The disc packaging contains a reversible sleeve with new original artwork from Wes Benscoter. The first pressing will include a collector's booklet with an essay by Patrick Macias and a history of Japanese monster movie mashups by Jasper Sharp.

In addition to the original theatrical trailer, the supplementary material contains three interviews. The first is with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who talks about how he got hired to make the film and how his complete unfamiliarity with American werewolf movies allowed him to chart his own course. He also expounds on budgetary issues that shaped Wolf Guy.

Producer Toru Yoshida has a nearly twenty-minute interview in which he discusses his long production history, including this film. Finally, Sonny Chiba is represented with a 14-minute interview. He explains his approach to acting and movement, while also acknowledging some disappointment that he was typecast in action movies. Chiba additionally offers some general thoughts on the state of Japanese filmmaking. All these segments are full of fascinating perspective from their subjects, helping to round out an all-around solid Blu-ray release.

For more information on this and other great titles, please visit the Arrow Video website.

Wolf Guy is unrated, but contains language, sexuality/nudity, and graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.

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