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Fantoma Films presents
Blind Beast (1969)

There are many kinds of art in our world. Art for amusing the eye, the ear, and the mind. Why can't touching be an art form?
- Michio (Eiji Funakoshi)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: January 29, 2002

Stars: Eiji Funakoshi, Mako Midori
Other Stars: Noriko Sengoku
Director: Yasuzo Masumura

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, scenes of sadomasochism)
Run Time: 01h:23m:59s
Release Date: December 04, 2001
UPC: 014381132427
Genre: foreign


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

DVD Review

Japan has a huge film market, but the amount of Japanese films that make it to America are very small. In America, Japan is mostly known for monster movies and samurai films (is it any wonder that the two most well-known Japanese movies are Seven Samurai and Godzilla?), but it has plenty of excellent films that don't get much coverage in the US. Blind Beast is one of those films, but thankfully it has finally gotten a DVD release so it can be treasured for the gem it is.

By the late 1960s, the Japanese movie industry was losing a lot of money to television. In an attempt to get people back to the theaters, major movie companies started releasing more salacious material. Blind Beast was a result of this attempt. The film tells the story of Aki (Mako Midori), a model who poses nude for a photographer. She becomes infamous overnight. One day she walks into the gallery showing her pictures only to find a man caressing a statue of her naked body. She runs away in fear, and later calls a masseur to her house. The masseur is a blind man, Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), who, with the aid of his mother (Noriko Sengoku), abducts Aki. They take Aki to the blind man's studio, which is filled with grotesque recreations of female body parts. Michio wants Aki to be his model for his masterpiece, a sculpture for blind people. Aki refuses at first, but then agrees. We soon find out she is only trying to escape. After one foiled escape attempt, she realizes she has to be more cunning to get free, and soon starts leading all three participants down a dangerous path where it is unsure who will leave alive.

Blind Beast is a dense movie. For a film less than an hour-and-a-half, it manages to cover questions concerning art, mother and son relationships, the dominance of a particular sense, lover relationships, and more. The film reminds me of the director's cut of Until The End of The World, considering both films have three sections to them both take a sharp left turn in the final third. What at first appears to be a fairly light look at the nature of art becomes an intense and powerful trip into the darkest avenues of sexual abandon. Interestingly, the film is a strange mix of depravity and prudishness. The movie opens with still shots of Aki's naked body, and yet, for most of the movie, if Aki is naked, her arms are folded over her breasts and her legs are crossed; the content is graphic while the mode of presentation is not. It presents an interesting dichotomy that further enhances the conflicts presented in the film.

The three actors (it's only when pressed for a cast list that I realized that only three actors appear in the film at all) do a good job. Mako Midori is probably the weakest of the three, as it's a little too obvious to know what Aki is thinking. Eiji Funakoshi plays his part as a particularly adept blind man. He only uses a walking stick for one scene in the film. Perhaps because he knows his living space so well he doesn't need it. Still, at times it seems like the character isn't blind at all. But apparently Masumura understood this, for there's a scene where the audience is reminded of his blindness. The highlight of the cast is Noriko Sengoku as Michio's mother. Sengoku has appeared in such diverse films as the aforementioned Seven Samurai to Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and The Most Terrible Time In My Life. Her acting versatility is on display here, as she plays the loving and supporting yet stern mother who is suddenly threatened by Aki. Does she help Aki escape to maintain her role as a provider, but lose Michio's trust, or does she let Aki stay and have her erode away Michio's dependence on his mother? These kinds of questions are indicative of the kind of thing the film at large asks, and the answers suggested are profound and disturbing.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: For a Japanese film from 1969, Blind Beast looks surprisingly good. There is hardly any dirt on the print used at all, and no compression artifacts are evident. The colors betray a late 1960s' scheme and coloring process, but the bright colors of Aki's clothes contrast with the drab qualities of Michio's studio. The film uses a lot of dark and light contrasts, and both show up very well. Some shots look like they lack a certain amount of detail, but other shots look finely detailed. Overall the transfer is very pleasing.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoJapaneseno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack sounds dated, with both dialogue and effects generating a certain amount of hiss. In fact, there is generally a level of hiss noticeable throughout the entire film. However, the score comes across cleanly and clearly. The worst offender is the dialogue, where the sound of the letter "s" creates even more hiss and distortion. The sound could have used more remastering, even if it remained in mono.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Insert booklet with essay
Extras Review: Blind Beast comes with spartan extras that are nonetheless interesting. First is an essay contained in the insert booklet that gives context to the film, along with background information on the actors, and detailing components of the production. This goes hand in hand with the photo gallery, which has shots of Masumura directing on the set, pre-production shots, and stills from the film itself. Also provided is a Masumura filmography and the original theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

A hidden gem of a film, Blind Beast appears deceptively simple at first. By the end, the film has taken a horrifying turn that will leave the audience breathless. In between, we get a film of surprising depth despite its apparently salacious intentions. While Mako Midori could have gone for a bit more subtlety in her part, the end result is still quite satisfying.

 


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