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Mondo Macabro presents
The Watcher in The Attic (1976)

“Enough talk.”
- Lady Minako (Junko Miyashita)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: January 16, 2009

Stars: Junko Miyashita, Renji Ishibashi
Other Stars: Hiroshi Cho, Aoi Nakajima, Toshihiko Oda
Director: Tanaka Noboru

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong sexual content)
Run Time: 01h:16m:18s
Release Date: October 28, 2008
UPC: 843276013691
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-B B-

DVD Review

The late Edogawa Rampo was the foremost Japanese author of horror and mystery fiction, with his writings normally having at least a tinge of gothic nature to them. Born Hirai Taro, Rampo changed his name to a derivative of Edgar Allen Poe, whose writings he drew many influences from. Director Tanaka Noboru (A Woman Called Sada Abe) is best known for his penchant for Japanese pornographic films, and in 1976, he took a few of Rampo’s tales and adapted them into the feature film, The Watcher In the Attic. Controversial, to say the least, Noboru’s film is finally granted a wide audience thanks to Mondo Macabro’s new DVD release.

Goda (Renji Ishibashi) owns a boarding house in 1923 Tokyo, and, in his spare time, he crawls along the attic and peeps in on the proceedings in the rooms below. His curious eyes frequent the room of Lady Minako (Junko Muyashita), who sleeps with everyone from a priest to a man dressed as a clown. One day, Goda is watching Minako and the clown having sex, when things take a horrific turn. When Goda realizes that Minako knows she’s being watched and committed such a shocking act to arouse him, their relationship grows into one where the pair relies on each other to fuel their manic and perverse obsessions and desires.

If you’re simply looking for a bit of exotic eroticism, then you are definitely in the right place, but this film offers much more than a bit of titillation. Noboru doesn’t give us smutty, XXX-rated porn here, although there is plenty of nudity and sexual acts depicted. What he does give us is a thoroughly creepy, erotic tale of perversion that makes the audience question their own desires and demands them to put themselves in these characters’ shoes. We’re asked, albeit indirectly, to decide what course of action we would take if we were ever in such intimate, dire, yet surely fulfilling (at least on some strange level) situations. It’s in plumbing these depths of the human psyche that really sets this picture apart from similar, racy efforts. Noboru could have easily settled for depicting nothing but gratuitous sex, but, instead, he’s made a film that will be relevant for years to come.

Noboru wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without his two leads, Muyashita and Ishibashi. They apparently realized exactly what he was trying to accomplish and power this intense, detailed character study as well, if not better than any of today’s top actors could have. A few supporting actors easy the story along, but this is clearly Muyashita and Ishibashi’s show from beginning to end. Ishibashi’s is arguably the more challenging role, as he is asked to embody Goda as both an introvert and, at his core, a pervert. His awkwardness around people is instantly overshadowed when he’s “with” Lady Minako, and Ishibashi manages to make his character believable at both extremes throughout the film. This masterpiece is simply a complete, thought-provoking effort from all involved that needs to be seen by anyone who considers themselves a film buff.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is quite good, with some cleaning up of the source material resulting in sharp, detailed images during the entire film. There’s still some grain present, but very little, while dirt, and other blemishes have been eliminated. The colors are surprisingly vibrant as well, while shadow and contrast levels are also very good.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio preserves the original Japanese-language dialogue exceptionally well, with speech being crisp and clear throughout. Everything blends together well, with no extraneous noise or anything to serve as a distraction to the proceedings.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Naked Rashomon, The Sins of Sister Lucia, Assault! Jack The Ripper, Female Prisoner: Caged
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview: Jasper Sharp
  2. More from Mondo Macabro – Short clips from the studio’s other releases.
Extras Review: The extras collection is highlighted by the 23-minute documentary, The Erotic Empire. This piece is an amazing look at the Nikkatsu Roman Porno genre, powered by interviews with some experts on the subject, as well as those directly involved with the making of these films.

There’s also some text-based information about the movie, a 10-minute interview with film historian Jasper Sharp, some sexy Nikkatsu trailers (including the one for The Watcher In the Attic), and clips from other DVD releases from Mondo Macabro.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

The 1976 Japanese film The Watcher In the Attic is a wonderful exercise in voyeurism, sex, and all-around perversion. It’s also a nearly-forgotten masterpiece that’s been given a second chance at discovery on this wonderful new disc that features great audio and video, along with a great documentary on Japanese cinema.

 


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