I hadn't been looking forward to this. The first two Guinea Pig films had made me ill, especially the second one
. It's famously among the most disgusting movie series ever made, not just in Japan. However I braced myself and put this on.
It's a comedy. What's more, it's a good one.
It's still a Guinea Pig film, obviously, so it's getting laughs from gore. A man will dismember himself. However the scenario it's come up with is genuinely funny and not at all hard to watch, since all these injuries are self-inflicted by a man who can't feel pain and ends up finding the situation as funny as we do.
We begin with an American scientist discussing the mysteries of philosophy. This guy is talking to camera and dubbed into Japanese. Don't ask me why he's there. He explains what we're about to watch, then the real film starts playing. Our hero, Masahiro Sato, starts by trying to commit suicide, but then abandons the idea on discovering that (a) cutting your wrists is painful, and (b) he's a wuss. This is significant in the light of later events, since it proves that he hasn't always been indestructible and so presumably something must have transformed him. Is this secretly a superhero film?
Sato is thus still alive, so has to go to work. He clearly doesn't enjoy it much, mind you. His boss screams at him, saying things like "please quit", and the work itself is pointless and tedious. The weird thing though is that throughout all this, the jolly incidental music is singing "Kill Bill" at us. Had this film had been released twenty years later, I'd have assumed it was a Quentin Tarantino reference.
So Sato comes home again. In fact he then doesn't go out again, taking an unscheduled holiday from work and not bothering to ask permission or even tell anyone. He watches TV all day, including what looks like an episode of Maison Ikkoku
. He draws faces on his feet and gets them to have conversations. Will anyone phone to ask after him? Four days later, no, they haven't. Sato thus gets bored and frustrated enough to get out the cutter again, whereupon thirty seconds later he's carved his wrist open.
This is where the film gets funny.
You see, Sato's about to discover that he's unkillable. His injuries stop bleeding. He'll suffer no ill effects if his wrist's flapping open, or even if the hand's been severed entirely. What's great about this is Sato's reactions. He's unhappy about this! He thinks it's wrong that he's not dying! He thinks it's messy to be coughing up blood, then shortly afterwards he's whining about being indestructible and wondering what his father would think. Surely a real man would be dead by now! This obviously links into the reverence for suicide in Japanese culture, e.g. samurai seppuku, but more importantly it also links into the basic comedy principle of people having inappropriate reactions to things. He even phones up the emergency services to complain that the blood's stopped flowing. They congratulate him and ring off.
We haven't lost touch with Sato's workplace, by the way. When he phones a colleague (Shinsuke Araki), the lecture he gets is full of phrases like "the boss says he'll kill you" and "I'm dying here". There's also a little vignette from three ugly girls who explain why all the men at the company are worthless, then they grin in unison to the camera and suggest dropping dead.
Shinsuke Araki is in bed with a fourth female colleague (Ivu), by the way. Ivu is attractive and we see her tits.
It's probably time I stopped summarising the plot, but you can see what I'm talking about. Sato's about to start having fun, incidentally, which is the point where I realised he's Craig Charles. No, really. He's a Japanese Craig Charles. If you've ever watched Red Dwarf
, you'll recognise that chipmunk grin anyway. I could even imagine this film being turned into a Red Dwarf
episode from the days when it used to be good, if you toned down the gore effects a bit. After all, it's only 39 minutes long. I was laughing my head off and it wasn't even from the "farcical excess of splatter" that'll be making you laugh in something like Suicide Club
. No, it was proper character-based comedy. I love Sato's whining delivery of "Nakamura" down the phone, for instance.
There's even wordplay. The version I watched had terrible subtitles that don't always seem to have realised that this is a comedy, but even the best translators will struggle with puns. Look out for Sato's play on "naizo", which in that context can mean both "intestines" and "hey, they aren't there!"
Not everyone in this film is a nobody. Sato's only screen credits in the 1980s are for Guinea Pig, but then in 1991 he sprouted a real acting career and he's still keeping it up today. Ivu has also appeared in a good few films, but mostly things like "Eve Is Getting Wet" and "Sex Battle Bikini Face-Off". She's also in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Orgazmo (1997), incidentally. Finally there's a cameo for Rie Shibata, who's a proper actress and comedienne. All three of those people will return in Guinea Pig 4, according to imdb, although for all I know that's only a pre-credits flashback sequence.
This is a silly film. Even if you couldn't tell from the straight-faced American philosophy lectures, you might guess by the time Sato's having a conversation despite the fact that he no longer has vocal cords or lungs. The end credits play some of the film's (modest) gore effects in reverse, then after that go to what's basically a giant outtake as the cast goof around with Sato's dismembered body parts. Staggeringly, despite the expectations I'd had of anything Japanese with "Guinea Pig" in the title, this turned out to be good. It's funny. Go watch it.