BLIND BEAST (Môju) (director/writer: Yasuzo Masumura; screenwriter: from a story by Edogawa Rampo; cinematographer: Setsuo Kobayashi; editor: Tatsuji Nakashizu; music: Hikaru Hayashi; cast: Eiji Funakoshi (Michio), Mako Midori (Aki), Noriko Sengoku (Mother); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Masaichi Nagata/Kazumasa Nakano; Fantoma; 1969-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Masumura is just the right director for this lurid tale about a psychopathic blind amateur sculptor … .”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cult Japanese New Wave writer-director Yasuzo Masumura (“Play It Cool”) challenges the trend of the crowds moving away from the movie houses to watch instead free TV in the 1960s by offering this “pink movie,” a low-budget sexploitation flick–something you can’t get on TV but is something a large segment of the public craved. Though when released the film bombed at the box office and was dissed by most critics, but later its rep started to grow. Masumura bases it on a story by Edogawa Rampo (1894-1965), who was thought of as the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who outshines Poe when it comes to perversions. Rampo was the father of the Japanese detective novel and was known for his erotic-grotesque tales of obsessive compulsion. Blind Beast is all that and more; and Masumura is just the right director for this lurid tale about a psychopathic blind amateur sculptor named Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), who lives in a remote Tokyo warehouse made into an art studio with his doting elderly single mother (Noriko Sengoku) whom he adores and is completely dependent on. The dark studio is sculpted with walls of giant female eyes, lips, breasts, looking like it could be an exhibit at NYC’s MOMA.
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
Attractive model Aki Shima (Mako Midori) is famous for posing for photographer Yamana in kinky photos that involve S/M. At an art gallery she witnesses a blind man lovingly foundling a clay sculpture of her. Back in her pad, the pampered model calls her favorite massage parlor for a masseuse and instead of her regular masseuse the blind man at the gallery shows up. His name is Michio, and when he gives her a gentle massage she adamantly states “I only like it if it hurts.” When Aki’s ready to dismiss him, Michio chloroforms and kidnaps her and takes her by cab to his warehouse studio as he’s abetted by good ole mom. Michio loves her body, and wants to sculpt her and create a great work of art through the process of the “art of touch.” Aki resists and fails in an escape attempt, and then realizes he’s a virginal momma’s boy and pretends she loves him. That he falls for it, upset the jealous mom who calls him a country bumpkin. When mom figures it’s best to let this devious sexpot escape, Michio foils it. Mom and Aki tussle, and mom accidentally hits her head on the pillar and dies. This leads Michio to rape her repeatedly, which Aki enjoys. The relationship moves into S/M territory with both remaining attired only in their underpants, as Aki goes blind (probably for some moral lesson). By the end things become so perverted that Aki demands that Michio chop off her arms and legs and kill her so she can die in ecstasy. He agrees and promises to follow suit.
The dialogue is clunky; the story is dark, bizarre and almost pointless. But that’s not to say it doesn’t fascinate in some perverse way and isn’t a treat to voyeurs and the adult movie raincoat crowd (though a little too arty and disturbing for many in that crowd). It’s a minor psychological drama, but it’s memorable and always looks like the sleaze it thrives on is something more than what it is. As a cult film, it’s primed to be a male fantasy flick. It has staying power because it’s dazzling in style and subversive for any time period, that is despite being a turnoff for being so repulsive–there are not many out there who get off on a romance involving dismemberment (nor should there be!).
REVIEWED ON 8/14/2006 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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