Synapse Films presents
Madame O (1967)
"They're pathetically easy to lure. They're so...hungry."- Seiko (Michiko Aoyama)
Stars: Michiko Aoyama, Akihiko Kaminara
Other Stars: Yuichi Minato, Naomi Tani
Director: Seiichi Fukuda
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, rape, sexuality, violence, surgical gore)
Run Time: 01h:20m:35s
Release Date: 2008-07-29
DVD ReviewAlthough the minigenre of rape and revenge movies is popularly believed to have been kicked off by I Spit on Your Grave, this movie proves that there were such pictures a good deal earlier, with nearly as much impact and sleaze. Although common in their time, especially for export outside of Japan, such pictures don't seem to have survived, making Madame O something of a rarity and a treat for exploitation fans.
Seiko (Michiko Aoyama) is a successful obstetrician by day, but by night she acts out her revenge for being raped, impregnated and contaminated with syphilis as a teen on a rocky beach. Posing as a hooker, she seduces men, and then infects them with disease or worse. But her new intern, Dr. Watanabe (Akihiko Kaminara) is understanding and seems able to bring Seiko out of her hatred and turns her into a woman who can both love and be loved. That is, until Seiko falls into the clutches of a blackmailer, and Watanabe is revealed to have some secrets of his own.
Madame O is an odd patchwork quilt of color film in some (but not all) important scenes, with the rest being presented in black & white. The effect is a little disorienting, especially when some vital sequences remain in monochrome, working against viewer expectations. The film, for all its potential for sleaze, is fairly understated, which is an odd thing to be able to say about a picture that prominently features a person being hacked apart with a handsaw (though offscreen). At the same time, that sequence involves Seiko stripping down to her colorful print undies, making the whole sequence seem absurd rather than horrific. Seiko's character is full of interesting quirks, such as the throwaway line she offers near the beginning about occasionally tying the tubes of one of her patients just to make her husband doubt his manhood.
Aoyama is quite fine in the lead role, with a suitable intensity to nearly every scene, whether filled with hatred or love. She is determined but at the same time is demonstrably having a hard time with what she's doing, sweating and grunting and often fainting in mid-operation. Kaminara plays Watanabe as too good to be true (which of course he really is), with an odd willingness to accept the things Seiko has done, almost with a voyeuristic appreciation. Minato has a nasty brutality that makes him thoroughly unsympathetic, and he comes the closest to moving off the edge of being ridiculous.
Unlike I Spit on Your Grave, there's an attempt to being artsy on display here, with a good deal of dark comedy to go along with it. There is a fair amount of subtlety and a surprising amount of romance for such an opus, while the 80m running time keeps things moving along at a nice clip. Apparently Madame O no longer exists in its original Japanese form, and survives only in the Audubon Films version with an English language dub, released by Radley Metzger.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen presentation helps make this seem more like a serious film than the loopy revenge saga it is. Grain is prominent but attractively rendered and not sparkly; it's a good representation of how it should look. There are occasional nicks and minor scratches but on the whole this looks far better than it has any right to look.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The English language dub is clean enough, though it's an odd rendition with absolute silence for a long stretch at the beginning that may make some wondering if there's a problem with the disc. The sound effects in particular are very poorly dubbed in the first place. The music sounds reasonably good for 1960s mono, and dialogue is clear if rather unnatural sounding. The shortcomings are obviously due to the original track, however, and not to Synapse, so the grade is higher than one might expect.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Extras are fairly minimal; Jasper Sharp contributes a brief set of liner notes on an insert in the case, and the disc itself offers only a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen trailer for American audiences that really oversells the violence and sex content of the feature. Chaptering is adequate for the rather brief running time.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsA sleaze rarity from Japan is brought to DVD in fine form by Synapse, though extras are nominal.
Mark Zimmer 2008-07-29