Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cult Cinema Treasure

In 1972 Toho studios began to release a trilogy of wonderfully bizarre films concerning a character called Hanzo The Razor. I’d heard about the films on the Mondo Movie podcast and was extremely curious to check them out. The movies are based on the manga series Goyakiba which was the product of Kazuo Koike, the man behind Lone Wolf and Cub.

Hanzo is a police officer in feudal Japan who has a very strict personal code of honor and ethics. Often times these go against the actions of his superiors and Hanzo occupies a character space that is vaguely similar to the American film hero Dirty Harry. The Razor does things his way, unafraid of the consequences.

Torture is an accepted method of interrogation in the period and Hanzo is compelled to be familiar with and truly comprehend these procedures. To that end he employs fellows to assist him in torturing himself. Hanzo needs to understand the limits of such procedures to correctly use them in coercing testimony from others. In the initial movie, “The Sword Of Justice”, he has himself bound and kneeling upon a series of sharp edges. He
commands his men to begin stacking huge weights on his thighs, the edges cut into his flesh and his cohorts are worried that the stones may actually break his legs. He finds his limit and as the heavy objects are removed we see that his body is decorated with numerous scars from previous tortures.

Another unusual characteristic is in the fact that he also processes a remarkably huge penis. This other “sword of justice” is also the subject of torture and training. Standing before a table, we see the outline of his phallus that has been worn into the wooden top. Hazo provides a whole new meaning to the phrase “beating off” as he attacks his enormous member with a club. He also “toughens” his Johnson by having coitus with a sack of uncooked rice.

Hanzo’s ethical code can put him into the occasional, philosophical bind. While eating at a noodle joint he witnesses a teenaged girl and younger brother approach the vendor. She orders two shots of the man’s most potent liquor, which she quickly downs. Sensing something is amiss, he follows the pair back to their home. Their father is dying of cancer and is in agonizing pain. He has begged his children to end his suffering and the alcohol
was needed to steel the girl's nerves enough for her to commit the act of patricide. Hanzo bursts in and demands that the children stop their actions. He explains that if either of them goes through with the act, that he will be forced to arrest them and that the crime will lead directly to their execution. All the while the sick man begs for final release. Hanzo sends the boy to fetch a physician that the policeman knows. The doctor gives the old man pain
medication and confirms that the cancer will end the fellows life in a month or less. After the doctor leaves, Hanzo instructs the children to leave the room. He uses linen to construct a noose and then hangs poor wretch. He calls the kids back in and tells them that their father did this himself and that they should summon the landlord. With the landlord as witness, the death is officially reported as a suicide and not a murder.

The film series is most often criticized for it’s elements of misogyny. The Razor has a unique interrogation method that he uses when dealing with women and it’s one which I feel certain he does not self-test. When questioning the ladies he essentially rapes them. Shortly after the assaults begin, Hanzo’s virility and pleasuring skills will change the gals attitude and they get close to orgasm. That’s when the real torture starts as he stops before getting them to
climax and invariably they provide the information he seeks, in return for a “happy ending”. In each of the three movies he uses his favorite method, where the girls are stripped, bound and hoisted in the air in a cargo net. The net exposed their genitals and Hanzo lays beneath them as his minions lower the captives upon his giant tool. When he is inserted he winds the net and
sends the girls spinning.

The star of the films is Shintaro Katsu who was a popular actor in his native land as the star of the successful Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman film series. Although popular, he was a bit of a diva. His substance abuse problems lead to arrests and the loss of his part in Ridley Scott’s film “Black Rain”. He was also cast as the lead in Kurosawa’s “Kagemusha” but came to odds with the legendary director on the first day of shooting and quit.

While all three movies (“The Sword of Justice”. “The Snare” , Who’s Got The Gold?”) riff on the same themes, I found the second entry to be the most satisfying. For the exploitation film fan, it ups the “strange” ante by including a quasi-lesbo scene and sex with a bald woman. Of special note to electronica music, the film score consists of vintage Synth-Rock performed by Tomita, before he became Asia’s answer to Walter (Wendy) Carlos. 

Pat Hilger

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