Arrow Video: Wolf Guy (1975) - Reviewed

Live action cinematic adaptations of Japanese mangas have almost always produced curious results, whether they’re faithful to the source material ala Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer or veer off into their own auteur driven direction ala Park Chanwook’s Oldboy.  In the case of Kazumasa Hirai’s Wolf Guy, a kind of Sanjuro Tsubaki wolfman wandering the yakuza infested cityscape of Tokyo, Hirai’s crimefighting saga received not one but two films in the 1970s and an OVA lasting six episodes in the early 1990s.  The most memorable and arguably wackiest of the bunch came in 1975 with the Kazuhiko Yamaguchi directed Sonny Chiba vehicle, Wolf Guy

Functioning as a loose sequel of sorts to director Masashi Matsumoto’s 1973 film Horror of the Wolf (sans Chiba yet including a full-blown werewolf transformation), the 1975 film is part gritty yakuza noir ala Outlaw: Gangster VIP, part absurdist comic book fantasy that doesn’t quite reach the insane heights of Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky but comes relatively close in it’s own right.  Moreover, the film is mostly a playground for the stoic and cool Chiba to kick ass and take names while sporting a bevy of surreal asides including some genuinely bizarre juxtapositions and superimpositions involving the vengeful spirit of a tiger.  Yup, you heard me correctly, a spirit tiger who through innovative visual effects slices open bodies out of thin air.  One must wonder if seeing the ‘cuts happen’ lent itself to A Nightmare on Elm Street.  It’s also, like many Japanese manga adaptations of the time, packed to the gills with hard drug use, casual or violent sex, nudity and a lot of slow motion arterial spray. 

While admittedly the film’s visual style of fast zooms, whip pans and a near constant barrage of shaky handheld camerawork are a bit hard on the eyes at times, trumping even the grittiest of Kinji Fukusaku’s early 70s works, the funk-rock soundtrack and the presence of Sonny Chiba make up for the film’s shortcomings.  Sure a werewolf transformation ala the manga it was based upon would have been nice to see but we stop caring the moment Chiba does backflip after backflip, draw blood with his bare hands, spout off cool one-liners and getting into bed with nubile Japanese ladies eager to disrobe and smoosh Chiba facefirst into their naked breasts.  Yeah, it’s that kind of el-sleazo ride we’ve got here. 

Not all of it makes a lot of sense and not all of it lands smoothly but as manic and crazed yakuza sexploitation fantasy action films go, this one is so wildly over the top with no sign of slowing down during the eighty-five minute running time, we hardly care.  Chiba is fun to watch and those who like their yakuza sexploitation grindhouse shockers with just a bit more wackiness in it than usual will not be disappointed.  Far from a masterpiece, yes, but with a few beers and the right crowd Wolf Guy is an inspired little hoot loaded with carnality, seemingly nonstop ultraviolence and attitude to boot!  Bumpy ride with the potential to offend some but most rewarding to exploitation cinema fans who can’t seem to get enough of the old fashioned sex, drugs and rock & roll!

- Andrew Kotwicki