Wolf Guy, 1975.
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi.
Starring Sonny Chiba, Kyôsuke Machida, Saburô Date, Tooru Hanada, and Haruki Jo.
The surviving member of a clan of werewolves uncovers a plot involving murder, rape and a mysterious spirit tiger.
42 years after it original theatrical release, Wolf Guy can now finally be seen outside of Japan without having to import it thanks to Arrow Video and, quite frankly, if you consider yourself a connoisseur of grindhouse/exploitation movies then you owe it to yourself to catch up with this one if you haven’t done so already as this is one truly weird and wonderful slice of Japanese genre cinema that in a just world would now be considered a classic.
Based on a popular Manga, Wolf Guy (or Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope to give it its full, and better, title) begins with Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba – The Street Fighter), the last surviving member of a clan of werewolves, witnessing a man in distress as he runs through the streets before finally succumbing to whatever invisible force is attacking him, which turns out to be the spirit of a tiger that slashes him to pieces before showing itself to Inugami. Using his investigative skills and supernatural powers of strength, Inugami discovers that the man was a member of a rock band whose other members have also perished in a similar fashion, except for one whom Inugami manages to track down and discovers that the band gang raped a young woman and gave her syphilis, incurring her wrath which manifests itself in the guise of the spirit tiger that is now seeking revenge. Oh, and there’s a subplot about gangsters, corrupt politicians and a bit of soul-searching for Inugami as it transpires his heritage holds the key for a new breed of warrior.
And if it sounds like those sub-plot bits were tacked on to that plot summary then that is deliberate as it echoes the way in which the plot details are given throughout the film. You see, Wolf Guy is about a werewolf but this is a werewolf that never transforms from a man into a beast; instead, Inugami just looks a bit mad like he’s about to Hulk out and then flips around a bit. But don’t let that put you off as there is a lot of fun to be had in this horror/action/fantasy/grindhouse mash-up that may be completely strange and off-the-wall but is never less than entertaining. Most of that entertainment comes from Sonny Chiba as he moves from scene to scene like a low-rent James Bond trying to decipher the bizarre plot that is unfolding, getting into fights with criminal gangs and sexual liaisons with leather-clad biker women who just want a bit of an animal in the sack. Apparently Inugami is a reporter as well as being a werewolf but neither of these things are said until over halfway through the film, meaning that for the most part he is just a guy who everyone seems to know and some villains want a piece of who goes around solving crimes using some sort of animal instinct. To add further confusion, the superimposed images of the tiger that keep flashing up don’t really get explained until Inugami reaches the point in his investigation where he learns about the curse so he could be some sort of tiger warrior who has a feline sense of wrongdoing… or not, it doesn’t really matter as Chiba is great fun as he gets into scrapes that just keep escalating. The rest of the entertainment comes from the hugely enjoyable ‘70s funk/psychedelic score that keeps popping up (vinyl release anybody?), the relatively well-done gore effects and the usual Japanese cinematography that uses zooms and quick edits to maximum effect, although decades of this style being spoofed adds a little unintentional humour but it’s all good fun.
Oh yes, Wolf Guy is as mad as a box of frogs and makes very little sense whatsoever but is done with such flair and style that you cannot help but be seduced by its otherworldly oddness. The mix of genres thrown into the mix keeps it energetic throughout, with plenty of blood and violence to keep the hardcore exploitation buffs happy and some rather gratuitous, and very welcome, nudity to make sure that all the grindhouse boxes are ticked. With special features including interviews with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, actor Sonny Chiba and producer Tatsu Yoshida, Wolf Guy may not be the best film you’ll see this year and certainly not the biggest bumper package you’ll get from Arrow Video but it could be the most gratifying 90 minutes you’ll spend in front of your TV screen if sheer enjoyment is what matters most to you when watching a film. Definitely worth seeking out for fans of Japanese cinema and for anyone interested in obscure bonkers curios.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★