Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Faint at the Sight of Real Blood...However

When I get jaundiced-eyed reading the humorous polemics of C. Wright Mills, the ruminations of Dwight MacDonald from Partisan Review or even the salacious events surrounding the lives of Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Madame de Staël, I kick back with a case of Smirnov, pack my brain stem in the freezer, and watch an example of one of my favorite film genres: the Japanese splatter film.

Examples like Ichi the Killer, Battle Royale, Guinea Pig, Shogun Sadism, Machine Girl and Tetsuo, the Iron Man are so over the top in their blood-spurting excess, hot gore juggling, severed limbs bouncing, and agonizing diamond-splitting screams that I need a drop cloth and ear plugs as part of my viewing pleasure. I'd invite others over, but I can't afford an in-house metal detector.

Grindhouse, Tarantino's homage to the American gut-wrenchers of the 1970s, is an afternoon field trip to Peck's Petting Zoo. Saw, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween franchises are like subtle allegorical works of art penned by Herman Mankiewicz in comparison to these buckets of blood.

Japanese splatter-gore is simply raw, unadulterated tens on the gag-o-meter. Many are adaptations of successful manga comics, which means the readership is mostly male and in the millions. Knives, chainsaws, razors, swords, pipes, and shivs come in contact with eyes, ears, noses, heads, genitalia -- the end result a technicolor spray of red dye and Karo syrup with prosthetic limbs thrown around like fists at a drunken wedding party. This is gonzo with ginzu.

Basic story lines feature revenge gone beyond the pale, followed by mass mutilations, geysers of blood, abattoir hoedowns and nifty wire work (when affordable). And what's not to love about those weird foot-tapping ABBA-esque pop culture bubble-gum ditties that come out of nowhere and are sprinkled over the most graphic scenes like carobs on Sundaes? Makes me want to jump up and cut open cantaloupes (even in off-season) with battle axes and samurai swords. Watching them without subtitles is recommended; half the entertainment is creating your own dialogue.

Tokyo Gore Police comes from the visual effects master Yoshihiro Nishimura, make up wizard behind Suicide Club, Machine Girl and other films emphasizing hemoglobin hi-jinks. Eye-balling Eihi Shiina, one of Japan's top models, dancing around in her school girl outfits, flowing kimonos and various other manga inspired accoutrement is difficult at best.

Perhaps Lupo the Butcher was one of the progenitors of rivers of red corpuscles as comic relief. I first saw this diamond about 20 years ago at an animation festival. I laughed so hard I still cough up blood. Danny Antonucci, the Canadian animator behind this classic went on to create Ed, Edd, and Eddy for the Cartoon Network. Had Lupo lived to have sons, they would have been these three boys, minus, of course, selected limbs.

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