Or, so I thought... *DUN DUN DUN-N-N-N-N!*
So yeah, Bethmaan's uncut composite version of EROTIKILL: FEMALE VAMPIRE is a wreck that was pasted together with tooth paste and a jigsaw. I was expecting that. What I wasn't expecting was that the blowjob footage would actually be taken from 2 different sources and faded in to the better looking softcore master. It's not a big deal... if you like your transfers interlaced. I don't. I like a nice progressive film-like transfer that looks twice as sexy on PCs and HDTVs. It also gives me a longer NTSC-friendly runtime when converting PAL, where an interlaced transfer doesn't so much 'change' the framerate from PAL's 25 fps back to NTSC's 23.97 (basically FILM24 fps) as it does mangle the framerate to a point where it plays at the same speed by either dropping frames, creating frames, combining frames together or a mix of all 3. This gives you a soft, jerky, "ghosting" transfer and should be avoided at all costs.
The video equipment that Bethmaan used makes the inserted hardcore clips change their telecine order. In simple terms, the usual "good frame, bad frame" pattern didn't work, and I had to fix the inserts manually. A pain in the ass, sure. But now I have a version that not only runs 10 minutes longer than the US, but it looks as good as is humanly possible. (Which is not particularly.) I also learned that the X-CESS DVD isn't the same as the X-RATED DVD. Not at all. See, the older release had a booklet, a 10 minute special on Jesus Franco, and only included the hardcore version in fairly good quality due to the lack of other extras. The new version includes a more compressed (ie: not as nice looking) version of the hardcore cut, a better looking transfer of the Director's Cut, alternate openings, alternate footage, and a bunch of trailers. So, Bethmaan didn't screw over his X-rated customers totally. Just me.
Still, the X-CESS print is only so-so to begin with having lots of VHS sourced crap footage, and I've owned plenty of Bethmaan's disks: none of them look all that amazing. So the bootleg version I'll release will go according to plan. It'll also be strictly in German with 1 scene in French, because... well, I cut together a "perfect" version, in French with the German hardcore scenes. It looked like shit. It still had German dialogue in the inserts. And most importantly, the hardcore version uses totally different takes of certain scenes, so I ended up showing some scenes twice, even when the patchwork nature of the hard version wasn't supposed to. So the best I can do is crop out the German subtitles on the print, get the frame rate right, and shake my head as I see where Bethmaan totally screwed the pooch on where shots go. Not that I blame the guy: I've made composites. It's like 8 bitches on a bitch boat bitching you up your bitch hole. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't have double checked.
Anyway, my end of this production is done aside from the relatively more simple audio pitching so that it doesn't lose synch at random. Now I just have to wait for my German translator to do his thing and give me a translation of what the hell the German dub is saying in English. Assuming he doesn't instantaneously hate the film as much as I do and refuse to ever be my friend again. But after taping that 25 pound box of Japanese porno tapes for him... well, maybe it'll all ballance out.
So, with Erotikill out of the way I can talk about good movies for a while. I watched another Miike flick last night. That'll be... lessee... the 21st Miike film I've seen so far. Yeah. Scary isn't it? He keeps making them, I keep watching them, and so far I haven't disliked a one. I've been underwhelmed with ONE MISSED CALL, and I've been avoiding stuff I know sucks ass like SILVER and ANDROMEDIA somewhat intentionally. But even these films couldn't make me dislike the man and what he does. Miike Takashi is less a man and more a director, one who has produced up to 9 separate films in 1 year, most likely at the expense of health, and friends and general human nature. He's also a complete and utter psychopath, taking scripts where characters shoot at each other and deciding on the last day of production "that sucks. Pull a fire ball out of your chest and we'll destroy the whole planet instead." I'm not kidding. But more important is the fact that he's a GOOD film maker. Guys like Jesus Franco, Joe D'amato (RIP) and Roger Corman can churn out dozens of bad films in a month with the right funding. Miike usually works with a limited budget, but every single one of his films rises above their often broke-ass V-Cinema origins. He injects life in to his crazy characters, has an insane sense of style in to his camerawork, and more often than not does gross, funny things just to fuck with people ranging from bestiality to disembodied nipples to talking hand puppets coming out of people's heads. He's a master showman, and even when he's directing family musicals and serious hard-boiled yakuza movies, he manages to slip in dancing zombies or random acts of urination. It's just the kinda' guy Miike is, and I couldn't be happpier for that insanity.
So that having been said, I'll admit that my experience with the yakuza genre is pretty limited. I've seen one or two Beat Kitano films and a hand full of Takashi Ishii extravaganza's including his amazingly cool film Gonin. But Miike's yakuza films - and by which I mean movies focusing on yakuza that don't include costumed serial killers or cow headed demons - are tremendously cool. Often quiet and sedated, they're filled to the brim with a sweaty gritty sense of the apocalypse, in which no matter how hard you try to do what's right, no matter how good you are... in the end, a yakuza lives and dies by his trade, as do all those that their lives touch. With films ranging from the sedate and depressing a remake of Fukusaku "Battle Royale" Kinji's own Graveyard of Honor ro the massive and later broken in to a mini-series Agitator to the quiet and almost cute Rainy Dog entry in the Black Society Trilogy (the other 2 of which I'll admit to not having seen yet), Miike's world of Yakuza isn't the brightly colored take no prisoners acition thrill rides you may have seen from other directors. That isn't to say there aren't exceptions; the D.O.A trilogy is probably Miike's most insanely over the top set of films in his long list of over the top films, and were in and of themselves meant to be satire's of yakuza, John Woo gunplay and post-Matrix high flying wirefu films. There are also his unrestrained manga adaptations like Ichi the Killer and Fudoh: The New Generation. And I don't know WHAT to call "Yakuza Horror Theater GOZU" other than exactly what it is. So it's with this range of possibilities in mind that I popped in BLUES HARP the other night.
Good news is that's 21/21 of Miike films I've enjoyed. The lead is Chuji, a half black-half Japanese son of an American GI and a whore born in Yokohama. Growing up in an orphenage he ended up being the bartender at a sleazy place called the Cheep Side, and one night after saving a girl named Tokiko from being molested by a pair of drunken whiteys he meets a yakuza small fry in an alley on his break, and tells the local faction he deals drugs for he hasn't seen him. This small fry, Koiji, owes Chuji his life and swears to repay him for it.
What Chuji doesn't know is that he and Tokiko are going to fall in love, and that Kouji doesn't know is that his boss' wife is willing to sell her husband out, and so while Chuji and Tokiko move in - Chuji's natural loner rock 'n' blues lifestyle suddenly usurped by the grinning plush toy loving of the sort of cute little woman only Japan could have spawned, Kouji starts doing the boss' wife and comes up with a plan to kill his boss, inherit the gang, and then convince the second in command of his rival to do the same. United, they could rule everything in their path... but only if they can find a fall guy. Meanwhile, the band leader - an awesome rockabilly dude no less - feels it's time to move on and take care of his ailing parents' business. That leaves the band empty, alone... and so, Chuji's mad harmonica skillz save the day. He rocks so hard that a record company scout wants to give him a deal... but if the yakuza comes forward and says he's a dealer, his career would be over before he hummed his first note.
With Koji setting in to motion a plan to take down the head of both gangs, and Chuji trapped in the middle of both of them, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this movie isn't going to end particularly well for anybody. With the apocalyptic, heart broken endings of the yakuza movie a genre convention it's only amatter of how hard everyone involved will fall, and more importantly, how stylish the ride to get to that point is. While nowhere near as out there as his later films like Ichi the Killer or D.O.A, Blues Harp has a definate style that's best expressed in the film's soundtrack. Using 'live' performances from the Cheep Side stage, these range from great rockabilly tunes to horrendously bad J-Rap performed by the saddest Jigger this side of Orgasmo. All the same, thesongs and performers are as varried as the people in the film and the situations they find themselves in, and it makes a good contrast. The film's opening, a dramatic and slowly building succession of cuts between the excited activitiy at the bar and the violence in the streets is not only reminiscent of D.O.A (though this film was released in 1997, a few years before that masterpiece of excess), but the film rarely tries to top this opening number which is meant more to draw you in than it is to set you up to be thrilled for an hour and 45 minutes. That's not what Miike does. He shocks and amazes, but he does it by doing bad things to good people, and when the film does heat up - a perfect example is when Chuji has a gun in his hand and is waiting for the moment to do what he has to in order to save what he already has - is as gorgeous as it is heart breaking. While perhaps not the "ultimate" Miike yakuza eiga (that'd probably be AGITATOR, or maybe even DEADLY OUTLAW REKKA), but it's a pleasing one, and one I'm glad I got to see.
Want to see it for yourself? Hit me up. It's only available on DVD (legitly) with subtitles in Germany, so the disk has the usual NTSC-PAL issues: jerkiness, softness, edge enhancement. If NTSC is your thing Cannibal King also did a DVD release using the original Japanese R2 transfer (none of this non-anamorphic recompressed crap like his ZEBRAMAN and IZO releases), not sure if the subs are original or just a rip of the German release. The subtitles on the AFN disk wasn't half bad anyhow, so it's worth grabbing if you like Miike and his schtick.
Remember. MIIKE is the Japanese word for GOD. Not Kami, though that is a common enough mistake.
And I'm off to find a new program to make audio files for Erotikill. Good god I'd forgotten what a horrendous pain in the ass proper PAL-NTSCp24 was, particularly with nothing better than BeSweet to make them with.