EVIL Spirits and Japanese Internment Camps in “The Terror: Infamy” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Chester Nakayama floats through life living with his immigrant parents on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California during World War II. A photographer hobbyist who helps on his father’s fishing boat and studies at a university, Chester doesn’t have steady employment and has recently learned his girlfriend, Luz, is pregnant with his baby. But those are not the height of Chester problems, or his family’s, when the country of Japan declares war on the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor and mysterious deaths surrounding the Nakayama family point to ancient Japanese beliefs of a Yūrei, or a ghost, clinging to a grudge. As the years past, Japanese American citizens are move from one internment camp to the next with no end in sight being projected as potential spies for the country of the rising sun and for Chester, Luz, and his family and friends, the Yūrei’s scheme endangers Chester’s life and legacy.

Following the success of the Ridley Scott (“Alien”) produced AMC horror television series, “The Terror,” the second season aims to build a new path of dread with a storyline plucked from the late 1900’s of two stranded artic explorer British ships trying to navigate a Northwest passage and now placed in a whole new and different, massive turbulent story and setting laid out in the early-to-mid 20th century during World War II America with Japanese Internment camps.  The second season comes with a partially new title, “The Terror:  Infamy” along with a new cast and new crew as well.  The subtitle’s double entendre refers to the then era United States 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech given to the public after the assault on Pearl Harbor and also refers to another American infamous time of the mistreatment of the country’s own citizens, the Japanese Americans, placed into internment camps and constantly scrutinized as potential Japan spies.  “Infamy” showrunners Guymon Casady, David Kajganic, Scott Lambert, Alexandra Michan, Jonathan Sheehan, and David W. Zucker, along with Ridley Scott, return to the AMC, Entertainment 360, EMJAG Productions, and Scott Free Productions series.

At the tip of the ensemble cast spear, most consisting of Japanese heritage actors and actresses, is Derek Mio as the Yūrei plagued Chester Nakayama.  Perhaps the biggest role for the Mio, the role transcends Chester from a stagnant part-time fisherman on the dead-end Terminal Island settlement of San Pedro, California to a responsible man of action that sees Chester fight for his family, his wife, his children, and even fight for his country despite the maltreatment in order to course his loved ways safely through a plethora of evil.  While the character grows in an arc of accepting responsibility as a son, husband, and father, Mio never expresses the range of a story of his magnitude that takes him across various domestic terrains and on the other side of the conflict-engulfed world as he’s afflicted by a malevolent spirit.  Constantly confident and seemingly unafraid, Chester just simply endures the hardships along “The Terror’s” bombardment of grim reality.  Comparatively, the younger Japanese American generation are culturally more expressive next to the immigrated older generations in Chester’s father (Shingo Usami) and eldest family friend Nobuhiro Yamato (“Star Trek’s George Takei”) who we witness keep mostly in line with their stoic composures.  Takei, born in 1937, and his family were actually forced into living in converted horse stables and official internment camps across the country during the War and that gives the series a morsel of 100 times it’s weight in authenticity with firsthand experience. Along with the deep sympathies and an infinite amount of shame for the wrongfully imprisoned citizens of war, there’s also immense compassion for Chester’s wife, Luz, played by Chrstina Rodlo (“No One Gets Out Alive”). Rodlo runs the gambit of emotions that convey happiness with her time with Chester, to despondent loss, and to fear while on the run from the American government as well as an evil spirit who threatens her child. Just like the first season of “The Terror,” character staying power is often short lived as the horror and, well, the terror catches up to them in one way or another, but we see fine performances from Miki Ishikawa (“I Don’t Want To Drink Your Blood Anymore”), Naoko Mori (“Life”), Alex Shimizu, Lee Shorten, Hira Ambrosino, and Kiki Sukezane as the incessantly stubborn Yūrei and C. Thomas Howell (“The Hitcher”) with another flimsy performance as a hardnose major serving as head of an internment camp.

Subtly contrasting two very different kinds of horror between the yore of the fantastical Kaiden ghost stories coming to fruition with the Yūrei and the very non-fictional blight on American history that was falsely imprisoning American citizens with Japanese roots no matter what age. Both unsettling constructs are unequivocally provided equal weight in dread much like with season one that showcased the dog-eat-dog desperation of man isolated and trapped in extreme terrain with the supernatural forces of nature with a monstrous, polar bear like creature hunting them down one-by-one. Though the same dance, but a different song, season two has a very welcoming different take of blending of yore with lore that separates itself into a new entity, a new engagement, and a new facet of terror very befitting to the anthological series. Eventually, “Infamy” starts to lose steam when the Yūrei side of the story insidiously infringes fully into the fold when Chester and Luz have fled the internment camps and are living in nowheresville New Mexico. The camps fade away from the story and also from our consideration with only bits and pieces to chew on just to check in on principal characters and has a resolution that’s about as cheated as the Japanese Americans survivors given $25 by the American government to start a new life. Yet, “The Terror: Infamy” is poignant and informative, a better picture of what really happened on the American home front better any textbook could ever properly depict, and exposes the mainstream into the Kaiden-verse of Japanese culture.

The 2-disc, 10-episode Blu-ray set comes from UK distributor, Acorn Media International, with each episode with a runtime on an average of 40 to 45 minutes long and a total runtime of 419 minutes. The region 2, PAL encoded release is presented in a standardized for television widescreen format of 16X9 and the Acorn release doesn’t present a flawless picture with noticeable issues with severe cases of banding and compression artefacts around the darker portions of the scene and trust me, “Infamy” is plenty dim and leaden between John Conroy and Barry Donlevy’s cinematography unlike the previous season’s artic white landscape that brightens much of the frame. The Dolby Digital soundtrack produces a better product with satisfactory quality in all categories of score, ambient noise, and dialogue and is accompanied by well-synced and timed English subtitles. Bonus features include a look at the series part 1 (for disc 1) and part 2 (for disc 2) and the biographical and inside the head look at the characters through the eyes of their portrayers. “Infamy” is UK certified 15 as it contains the AMC edginess of bloody graphic content as well as some offensive language. “The Terror” series as a whole has remarkable historical insight commingled with soul-stirring, skin-crawling old wives’ tales. “Infamy” may not supersede its predecessor but is still one hell of an engaging and unique story that salivates us into wanting a third season.

EVIL Won’t Let You Just Kill Yourself Even If You Wanted To! “Violator” reviewed! (WildEye Releasing / DVD)

“Violator” on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing and MVD Visual!

Desperate to track down her sister Naomi who becomes involved in an online social media forum about mass suicide, a woman’s investigation leads her on a train ride to a small village on the outskirts of the city.  There she meets Red Sheep, an internet handle for the mass suicide form greeter for those individuals seeking to give up their life willingly.  Returning her to the abandoned house where congregated patrons of their own demise wait for forum members from all over to gather before stepping into the afterlife, but the beneath the surface of simply drinking the Kool-Aid together is a wretched plan of death and self-inflicted suicide is not in the ill-fated stars for the group now sequestered in an isolated town. 

When the film is titled “Violator” and the very first images on the screen are flashing title cards, warning of violence and depravity from what you’re about to see, then a graphic intensity bar has been firmly set with the expectation that disturbing content is afoot.  The Japanese 2018 released horror-comedy comes from the cyborg-splattering mind of “Meatball Machine” writer-director Jun’ichi Yamamoto and is a continued part of the tokusatsu horror genre peppered with familiar Japanese motifs of mass suicide, samurai sword, oral fixations, and all with a pinch of Kabuki!  Yamamoto is no stranger to the Kabuki culture as he works in a callback scene and line from his 2008 actioner “Kabuking Z:  The Movie” into “Violator’s” evil eviscerating and executing entrapment.      

I wouldn’t call “Violator” aces in acting, but I’m not speaking to the general known fact that Japanese portrayals are often over-the-top exaggerated, and I’m referencing more toward the lack of selling the bizarre by any means possible.  The cast more than often feels like a rehearsal and robotic to the point where picking out cues can be almost a game.  Most of the cast are once overs or have a select history in the indie-tokusatsu market.  The biggest name in the film also has the shortest screen time with Nikkatsu Roman Pink film actor Shinji Kubo as the leader of the pact who lures lost souls to the abandoned house of doom.  Kubo doesn’t make or break “Violator,” but his character is pivotal in turn of events that alters the course of a few particular principals. Mai Arai plays the worried sick and searching woman tracking down her sister Naomi (Sora Kurumi) before she makes a grave suicidal mistake. Along the way, Arai’s character bumps into a mixed company of varying personalities revolving around their own death – one early 20-something young’un treats her suicide like the next cool thing, another ostentatiously can’t commit, and while another couldn’t be bothered by anything else surrounding her and plays it cool. The small village inhabitants are just as diversified and as quirky as the emotionally haphazard suicidals but with special, supernatural abilities to absolutely mess with their minds until satisfying their morbid, high-on-death munchies. Shinichi Fukazawa (“Bloody Muscle Body Builder In Hell”), Shun Kitagawa (“Prisoners of Ghostland”), Kanae Suzuki, Anna Tachibana (“Corpse Prison”), Ichiban Ujigami, and Rei Yatsuka round out “Violator’s” cast.

With a provocative title and a stern, flashing warning for taboo content, “Violator” starts off slow and continues so until about 3/4s into the film. Yamamoto glides not the sliced underbelly with murderous rage and profane callous through sexually and wicked means. No, Yamamoto builds each individual character, giving the what’s usually throw-away victims the time of day with a prolonged preface before their death that sets in who they are, what mindset they’re in, and, instead of just being collateral damage, what catalytic action becomes their ultimate undoing. By providing singular personalities, Yamamoto instills a breadth of subconscious care amongst the audiences that unintentionally react with the pangs of sympathy for the less naive during their demise to a straight up I’m glad they’re dead death because of their horrible unprincipled being and them dead makes the world a better place. Eventually, Yamamoto turns the keys to rev up the havoc as the death pact suicide squad disband into distinct, slasher-esque junctures to make good on the promise of building the character to give them a proper cutthroat curtain call and it’s about this time “Violator’s” pre-film turpitude caution actually applies with strange ritualistic kabuki decapitation, a virginal last-gasp cunnilingus before a protruding vaginal spear pierces through the skull, and a toy doll becomes a literal eye-opener for a suicide documentarian. Idiosyncratic in their own right, the kills are a violent spectacle that make “Violator” memorable enough to not forget it, but there’s far worse inflammatory material out there in the world of cinema that “Violator’s” handful of okay kills doesn’t exactly set off our internal omigod alarms.

“Violator” is the kind of off market brand and violence-laden film that fits like a glove with indie distributor, Wild Eye Releasing, in association with Tomcat Films (“The Amazing Bulk,” “Mansion of Blood”) and is perhaps one of the best releases out from the shlock usually produced from the latter company. With a muted colored and basic arranged DVD cover mockup that evokes every suspicion of an unauthorized release, I couldn’t love this cover any more than I already do with the promising depiction of a hysterical bloodbath and the singular moments represented in the collage of carnage and madness don’t stray away from the truth. The not rated DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a runtime of 72 minutes. DVD image quality is not terrible with a rate of decompression hovering around 6-7 Mbps, but still a little fuzzy in particular scenes with more than one character present and a in low-lit show production, that can hinder the viewing. The Japanese language PCM stereo track has no real flaw to speak of with a good synchronous English subtitle track and no detectable compression issues other than the lack of surround sound audio strength. The metal soundtrack also didn’t align, or rather clashed, with the mise-en-scene, added for just the sake of adding to make the story edgier. Bonus features include only a scene selection and trailers on a variable menu. Coy and different, “Violator” thinks outside the box with a simple supernatural revenge narrative that penetrates slowly at first but then really rams in the sudden disarray without a precautionary moment to lube up first.

“Violator” on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing and MVD Visual!

Catalepsy EVIL Blended with Japanese Folklore! “Snow Woman” reviewed! (Darkside Releasing / Blu-ray)

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

Trekking up a mountain side are three male villagers hauling up a wooden casket.  Inside the casket is thought to be the malevolent Yuki Onna, the urban legendary beautiful snow woman spirit who roams the snowy landscape enticing men to their death.  Found seemingly dead and half naked amongst the village at the bottom of the mountain, this will mark the second trip up to the crag with her corpse that suddenly comes back to life.  Feared by the men, her casket is left abandoned and stranded atop of the icy, cold mountain yet the thing inside the casket isn’t a ghost, but rather a shunned woman, Yuki, with a thought supernatural evil power that’s actually a death-trance condition where her intense sexual climaxes render her unconscious and not breathing for long stretches of time.  Lodge owner Hyubei discovers her predicament firsthand after bedding the strange woman and the two use her condition to feign the killing of the “Snow Woman” when other persecuting-seeking male villagers coming calling for her head.

Many unusual, but still erotically stimulating, pink films have come across my desk for a professional review and for personal viewing.  Shintaro Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman” might be the goofiest, nonsensical one, and threadbare storied one yet.  Based off the Japanese folklore of Yuki-onna, various versions of Yuki-onna revolve around the freezing harm or death of children as well as succumbing those near the child to an icy grave.  For Sasazuka’s “Snow Woman,” the 2009 released adaptation follows more closely to the Ojiya region of Niigata Prefecture where a beautiful and mysterious woman sought out a man to marry for her own sensual desires only to dissipate into frozen droplets when forced into a bath.  While there’s no forced bathing in the film, the writer-director does pull inspiration of a woman immediately eager to please and marry the first man who doesn’t expel her permanently from companionship upon her climatic death-trance and is, in fact, more inexplicably inclined, aka an inkling of amorousness, to keep her around despite her unsettling disorder that locks their genitals together until she awakes from her stupor.  “Snow Woman” is produced by Takeyuki Morikakuo (writer of “Rika:  The Zombie Killer” and producer of “Legend of Siren XXX”) and is a production of the AMG vintage erotic catalogue.

“Tokyo Gore Police,” “Grotesque,” and JAV model actress Tsugumi Nagasawa stars in the folkloric titular role or Yuki. Nagasawa’s a bit all over the board, which is usually the case with all Japanese pink films, with her misjudged ghostly “Snow Woman” that loses all the pizazz when much of the mysticism is removed almost instantly when the immediate revelation of her sexual catatonic disorder renders her into a rigor mortis like state. Nagasawa doesn’t exactly sell the ethereal quality of the folklore of a presence able to float above sheets of snow without a trace left behind or burst into icicles surrounding heat. Yes, yes, I know pink films are strapped with very little cashflow, banking on the nudity and the bump-and-grind of exploiting popular and historical culture. Takishi (listed as Takashi on other platforms) Okabe opposites Nagasawa as the lonely lodger Nyubei who saves Yuki from an icy death by trying to charge her warmth and shelter. Okabe and Nagasawa fail to bring any kind of chemistry to the screen, romantically or sensually, that render themselves far short of saving this pink’s film vitality rebound on the home video market. The villagers who are seemingly more interested in destroying the Snow Woman as well as contemplating speculative conjecture on whether having intercourse with a monster is better than having intercourse with a woman who eats a lot is better. That whole section of the dialogue arc to the portrayed monster in the story, the Snow Woman, and when the virginal deft villager sees the Snow Woman for the first time, he immediately ravages her in a rape-eseque moment to prove no matter how monstrous she is he’s going to conquer by way of copulation. The other villagers round out with a cast in Takehisa Futagawa, Daisuke Tamaru, Horiken Fumio Yamamoto, Tetsu Teraoka, and Nami Uehara.

As mentioned, “Snow Woman” is considered a pinksploitation parody of a well-known folklore and as stated, the film’s financial support leaves much to be desired in the finish product to the point that there’s really not a story here to be told. Ostentatiously goofy without a morsel of A-for-effort lore or supernatural suspense to call a foundation, the struggle is inherently real to get through the entire film, a film that’s only approx. 1 hour long. The humor doesn’t stick and that would have flipped “Snow Woman” to a more advantageous experience coinciding with the one-on-one action that’s puts pink films on the erotica map. “Snow Woman” ultimately is a double flop on both fronts with the humor missing marks in its ultra-dry deliveries and miscued moments to the romping that’s not stimulating, titillating, or satisfying in the positioned choreography or character heterogeneity as a basic setup and cycle that inches toward only a chip of difference between the sexual scenes by adding the accompaniment of villagers with only the usual outcome results. The scenic views are actually pretty and breathtaking in see the snow-covered landscape with plenty of long and wide shots to capture Japan wilderness and while the location becomes only important in its aesthetic beauty, the b-roll footage never becomes important to the storyline as should with any Snow Woman themed media adaptation. I, personally, just wanted the characters to vamoose the lodge, or rather the overly large hut, that kept becoming the place of Yuki’s catalepsy trances because the location is the only interior location and gets old really quick.

For the first time, Shintara Sasazuka’s romantic-pink-comedy, “Snow Woman,” has a North American release from Darkside Releasing and distributed by MVD Visual. The region A coded Blu-ray release is an AVC encoded BD-R 25 presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are two versions of “Snow Woman” available for viewing: the vintage version retains the Japanese orb of censorship around the nether regions and a newly restored version that basically means the removal of the those said orbs. Both transfers are identical in a clean and free from blemishes and damage eyesores. However, banding is a real issue that creates visible clear lines across a shade washed picture. The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack renders over quite well with discernable and clean dialogue, but the English subtitles are slightly out of synch and have at least one error that I saw. Special features include the original “Snow Woman” trailer, an erotic trailer reel that contains erotica and horror from select Italian productions, and a pink trailer reel that includes classic and modern pink films from PinkEiga. I guess in a world where pink films are outrageously perverse and can be downright sleazy and horrific, a necessity for balance would come in the form of goofy-romanticism and that’s what “Snow Woman” offers humbly by exemplifying passion and compassion as a cure for the mobbing disorderly and the ones with misunderstood disorders.

Beware the “Snow Woman!”  She Just Might Just Leave You With the Cold Shoulder!  Amazon.com

This EVIL is Why I Don’t Have a Roommate! “2DLK” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

“2LDK” Now Leasing a New Life on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films!

Rana and Nozomi couldn’t be more different coming from different backgrounds with antagonizing behaviors.  The two aspiring actresses live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment hosted by the same production company that has them vying for the same lead role in an upcoming feature film.  The role could jumpstart either of their careers and, internally, Rana and Nozomi believe the other isn’t good enough despite their different approaches in as city girl Rana uses her famine ways and laxer attitude to slut her way up to the top while the country-born Nozomi diligently studies the dialogue and the role to impress beyond her days as a parent-encouraged elementary stage actor.  When tensions rise through apartment sharing irksome nuisances and a man’s affections put an even more divisive wedge in the already gaping hole between them, Rana and Nozomi reach a breaking point and a violent melee of at each other’s throats ensues.

From my personal experience, the only roommate I’ve ever had was my wife during our engagement period and I can tell you that living with someone else – someone’s quirks, someone’s habits, and someone’s tastes – can be utterly earthshattering and explosive in what seems like every little pampered or established, taken for granted role you had living without a roommate is acutely upended and tossed into apocalyptic chaos.  Or, at least, that’s how it feels, right?  The sentiment is exactly perfectly and with killer instinct in Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s written-and-directed fight!-fight!-fight! film “2LDK.”  The 2003 Japanese movie helmed by the “12 Suicidal Teens” Tsutsumi co-wrote the script with Yuiki Miura, who of the last six years penned episodes of the recent various “Ultraman” series.  The 8-day shoot left no time to spare, leaving much of the cast and crew to shoot longer, sleepless nights, on “2LDK,” which in Japan shorthand describes the type of apartment – a 2-bedroom apartment with a Living room, Dining room, and Kitchen.  “2DLK” is a production of Micott, Times in, and DUEL Film Partners and is produced by Kazuki Manabe and Susumu Nakazawa.

When the central plot revolves around two aspiring actresses cohabiting a single living space and, literally, fighting over every inch of space, also literal as well as figural, there’s no room for more cast or even extras.  We’re first introduced to Eiko Koike (“Terra Farmers”) as Nozomi, a small province girl, reserved in manner, and extremely methodical to the point of obsessive.  Koike perfectly pitches Nozomi’s quiet but strong behavior, yet still judgmental about a roommate from the total opposite spectrum in Rana.  Played by Maho Nonami (“Scarecrow”), Rana’s a big city Tokyo girl with a jaded history.  Blunt, sleazy, and inconsiderate of apartment-sharing etiquette, Rana knows how to push Nozomi’s buttons – hard and on purpose with a innocent smile.  The story dives into differentiating Nozomi and Rana with an immediate internalizing of trash talking voiced over for the audience to see how Rana thinks Nozomi wearing high school gym clothes is hanging on to her humble origins whereas Nozomi itemizes every piece of Rana’s expensive accessories with a dollar amount.  Tensions slowly build from there and the actresses do a phenomenal slow burn into madness where the pot lid rockets to the sky when irritations hit the boing point summit.  Before you know it, electric-corded chainsaws are being wielded, spray cleaner bottoms are being spritzed into eyeballs, and eggs and toilet lids are being cracked over heads.   

“2LDK” is compact carnage, relatable dark fantasies of every roommate with a grudge against something thought their roomie did incorrectly or inconsiderately over and over again.  Other factors play into the two women’s meltdowns that provided fuel to the flame the burns with them in.  Rana struggles with the indirect suicidal death of a mother and child during her affair with the woman’s husband.  Nozomi bears the burden of forcedly shepherd to be the best whether to her studies or acting.  Not to forget to mention that both are in the running to be handpicked for a feature film role by the production company and there’s a man in the mix as an exploited chip against the other adoring roommate just to stick that knife into the side and twist for a little extra gut-wrenching spite.  Tsutsumi builds the seething hate, the tension, and the momentum that all comes crashing down in a Tsutsumi tsunami of cat fighting violence, weaponizing every inch of that small apartment from their individual bedrooms to the kitchen as a battleground.  Tsutsumi smartly doesn’t make “2LDK” a story about good versus evil as there are hardly any instances where the audiences will feel Rana nor Nozomi are in the wrong and wish their demise by virtuous-righteous other.  The bout is equally matched at their core and in scrappy ability to pick up whatever is lying around as a deadly weapon. 

Unearthed Films brings this one-on-one battle royale to an all-new Blu-ray release in association with Duel Film Partners and distributed by MVD Visual.  The perfectly paced and timed 70-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 of AVC encoded 1080p high-definition transfer.  Image appearance is quite similar to another Unearthed Films Blu-ray release in “Tokyo Decadence” with a hefty grain product that be very discernible in blacker/darker areas of the image, suggesting maybe a celluloid film gauge that offer a pleasantly filmic presentation instead of a white-glove and sleekly fabricated digital video.  While colors don’t exactly pop, the texture is there surrounding skin pores and facial imperfections that shine in the details.  Unearthed Films presents two options with a Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a 2.0 PCM stereo.  The multi-channel has a tad trouble discerning the inner voice overs between the two woman and never quite isolating their individual dialogues.  Some food for thought in case you decide to not pay attention to the movie and look at your phone as the dialogue courses through.  Some of the action came off with a bit of an echo but the overall soundtrack is robust with a clean and clear dialogue that comes with option English subtitles.  Extras include a commentary with actresses Maho Nnami and Eiko Koike with subtitles, a making of “2DLK,” interviews from the Tokyo International fantastic Film Festival, interviews from the premiere screening, production briefs on the duel between the roomies, a video message for theater audiences, interviews from the screening at Kudan Kaikan, and a photo still gallery.  Duel epitomizes “2LDK” exactly and only the Japanese know how to formulate a 70-minute comedy-action-thriller of two going toe-to-toe to the death.

“2LDK” Now Leasing a New Life on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films!

Sexual Asphyxiation is Just One of the Offered Services in EVIL’s Lavish S&M Prostitution Biz! “Tokyo Decadence” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Own the new Unearthed Films Blu-ray of “Tokyo Decadeance” today!

Ai doesn’t believe she is not good at anything.  Her youth and beauty provide the early 20-year-old financial means of survival as a high class, Japanese prostitute with a fetish niche for clientele desiring sadism, masochism, or both.  Eccentrically demanding and various in age customers range their likes from total self-humiliation by pain and punishment to rape and necrophilia fantasies.  Unable to stop herself from accepting jobs because of her self-loathing cycle, Ai continues to endure most of the sexual whims no matter how outrageous or aggressive they may be during the sometimes hours long sessions.  What keeps her knocking on strangers’ doors is the pining for a former lover, a now famous celebrity she at one time dated pre-stardom, who has since married and left the memory of a fragile Ai in his life progressing wake.  After taking a gig alongside a fellow mistress in humiliating a real estate mogul like a dog, Ai’s invited back to the mistress’s elegant home where she’s exposed to a long night of unlabeled drugs that sends her into an uncontrollable high, looking for her former lover on the quiet streets of Japanese neighborhoods.

“Tokyo Decadence” makes “50 Shades of Gray” look like an inexperienced couple’s first time fumbling into cutesy foreplay.  Though both films are adapted literary works made into controversial features surrounding sultry nipple clips, whips, chains and other playthings, the 1992 Japanese psychosexual drama is the only one out of the two where the novel’s author, Ryu Murakami, has total creative control of his tale of one woman’s squirming through perversion land as the screenwriter and director.  Titled Topâzu in its originating country’s language, “Tokyo Decadence” opens up a carnalized world rarely seen amongst the daylighting fray and the price paying struggles of someone as meek as Ai in that position’s lustfully gripping vise that begs the question, is S&M obscurity an insatiable erotic hunger or is it a choking dangerous fantasy?  Shot mainly in the titular city of Tokyo, the film is a production of the JVD (Japan Video Distribution) with JVD’s Tadanobu Hirao (“High School Ghostbusters,” “Celluloid Nightmare”) as producer alongside Chosei Funahara, Yousuke Nagata, and Akiuh Suzuki.

“Tokyo Decadence” is a sure-fire way to start the beginnings of an actress’s career with a rousingly provocative and difficult role that garners attention.  For Miho Nikaido at the very start of her career, the lead role looked like a Tuesday.  The then 26-year-old Nikaido, playing a 22-year-old Ai, stuns as a sympathetically shy S&M prostitute with underlining conflicting issues surrounding her social position, personal interests, and mental status.  The opening scene with her legs lifted and spread strapped into stirrups and her bold colored red lipstick mouth buckled with a black open mouth gag complete with matching blindfold diverts eyes away from the usual nudity focal point.  Instead, we’re more attuned to the happenings of a mild manner, smiling man, who we assume bound her down under professional servicing, as he stands over her, gently stroking her, and telling her to trust him and that he won’t hurt her.  Then, out comes the drug pouch and needle.  The jab sends shock waves of pleasure down Ai’s submissively fastened naked body, ending with Ryu Murakami’s extreme close up on Nikaido’s face after being released from the facial constraints.  Her slightly crooked teeth shiver just past her stark red lips, agape by ecstasy, and the single tear drops from her soft eyes express the gargantuan amount of pleasure coursing through her helpless corporeal temple in a look that says, I am in pure, undiluted heaven.  The opening sets the tone.  Funny enough, Nikaido would go on to have a role in another underground S&M inspired drama “Going Under,” but instead of acting like the subservient dog or humiliating customers by having them suck on her stiletto heels, Nikaido steps aside as the girlfriend to Geno Lechner’s dominatrix role. Sayoko Amano, Tenmei Kano, and Masahiko Shimada co-star.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable or mainstream pink films from Japan because of its titillating and iconic cover art of Miho Nikaido arched forward and hands pressed high on the glass above her head, leaning against a tall and large window pane in a skimpy black lace and leather getup and overlooking the city lights and bustling residents,  The very image epitomizes erotica and taboo acts and the narrative itself is nothing short of that slight zing of sordid pleasure we all experience in our minds, bodies, and especially in our more private areas. Pulled straight from Ai’s first job encounter, post-opening credits, with a wealthy business type Mr. Satoh’s and his perversion in dominating and humiliating without much physically contact in the first few couple hours of their session. The long-standing stint pushes Ai’s sexual limits without breaking her spirit that solidifies a baseline for what’s to come and what came crushes Ai’s sexual stimulation beyond the means of pleasure with a petri dish of distinctive peculiarities outside her already fringed tastes. Ai’s self-dismissiveness keeps her plugging away at a profession that’s eating away her, coming close to death in many various forms involving clients’ perversions. When she’s hired by another mistress in a co-op of dominance on a client, an unveiling of empowerment and a lavish lifestyle promises potential happiness away from her fairytale dream of reconnecting with her former lover, but that ultimately becomes a hard pill to swallow after swallowing an unidentifiable pill popper provided by her newfound friend in the trade, a pill that inebriates her into wandering the streets in search for her ex-lover. “Toyko Decadence” is as somber as it is sexy with a paralleling dark trip down delusional happiness and demented fantasy for a young woman clinging onto a past that has completely forgotten her.

Landing in at number seven on the spine is the Unearthed Films release of Ryu Murakami’s “Tokyo Decadence,” receiving a Blu-ray release on the label’s Unearthed Classics line in a widescreen 1.66.1 aspect ratio. The region A release has a runtime of 112 minutes and is plainly evident in exhibiting no rating listed on neither the back of the Blu-ray case nor the cardboard slipcover. After doing some light digging, there is a longer cut of the film with more explicit scenes, especially with Mr. Satoh, that would have adorned the U.S. release with a X-rating. The Unearthed Films release is not that cut; nonetheless, the film before us is still just as decadently beautiful in content and in quality. Stable image and color under the 35mm stock, Tadashi Aoki flipflops between mood lighting and natural light, contrasting the duality of Ai’s worlds with a lightly softness reflecting off the focal subjects. Details extend the same softness as skin textures appear overly smooth most of the time albeit the design of natural color tones. One instance of continuation concern is a prominent scene miscut left in during post at the editing room table. Though the miscut, of a closeup on Miho Nikaido, doesn’t cause a continuity error in the narrative, it does break the integrity of the scene. The Japanese LPCM 2.0 mono sound has a phenomenal, 1920kps bitrate, sound design created around a lite soundtrack that doesn’t leave room for ambient and dialogue tracks to hide behind, as if this release needed to hide behind its brawny audio output. “Tokyo Decadence” is all about the experience and every breath and movement is as felt as it is heard with a discernible dialogue well synched with the English subtitles. An optional English dub track is also available. The Blu’s special features include a release-party featurette/promo trailer that has snippet interviews from the Ryu Murakami during the event, gallery stills, and trailers. An absolute ideal upgrade for one of the best pinksploitation films to ever walk that thin line between sadism and masochism; however, I do believe Unearthed Films insisted upon the safe word by not, whether by choice or other circumstances, retrieving, updating, and releasing the fully uncut and unedited “Toyko Decadence.”

Own the new Unearthed Films Blu-ray of “Tokyo Decadeance” today!