JapaneseTsunehiko Watase
The Horrible Obsessions
Also known as: Mayaku baishun G-men: Kyoufu no niku jigoku
Medium: film
Year: 1972
Director: Shin Takakuwa
Writer: Takeo Kaneko, Shin Takakuwa
Keywords: yakuza, gangster
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Shin'ichi Chiba, Tsunehiko Watase, Mitsuko Aoi, Mitsue Horikoshi, Rie Yokoyama, Akiko Mori, Michitaro Mizushima, Eiji Go, Hajime Kubo, Rokko Toura, Minoru Hodaka, Keiichi Kitagawa, Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama, Ken Sanders, Genji Kawai, Osman Yusuf, Michizumi Sugawara
Format: 88 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2301412/
Website category: Japanese old
Review date: 5 December 2022
Horrible Obsessions
It's quite a good piece of 1970s badass cinema with gangsters, drugs, prostitutes and Sonny Chiba. I enjoyed it. Sonny plays an undercover cop called Kikuchi who wants to clean up the underworld in Okinawa. There will be heroin, nudity and evil drug-smuggling Americans. The film's original Japanese title translates as "NARCOTICS PROSTITUTION G-MEN: TERRIFYING FLESH HELL", which overstates its trash value but is still a decent indication of the kind of good time it has to offer.
It also, though, contains a significant amount of weird or eccentric bits. It more or less gets away with this through sheer wholehearted 1970s-ness, but MST3K-ing this film might make you and your friends die laughing.
1. The film begins with some bloke in his seventies giving a speech. "What we call the three evils... prostitution, sexual diseases and drugs... not only are a plague for human kind, but they will lead to the destruction of this country and the world. In my new book, 'Young Generation', I offer solutions to deal with these evils."
World destruction, eh? What's more, this chap is one of the good guys and an ally of Kikuchi's.
2. A girl who'd been having a bath in green liquid (eh?) injects herself with drugs. We immediately see amazing psychedelic colours and hear unearthly music as the girl dives off a fifth floor balcony. What she took was heroin. Not a hallucinogen like LSD, psilocybin, etc. then? In fairness, hallucinations are a lesser-known possible side effect of heroin, but it's also possible that Japan's sheltered attitude to drugs has led this film into imitating Reefer Madness.
3. Okinawan characters are liable to speak broad Okinawan. This is so hard to understand that it's subtitled in Japanese, for the original Japanese audiences.
4. A chap called Kimio denies that he's a drug dealer. Instead, he explains that he gets drugs that came in from Vietnam and sells them to the girls.
5. Kikuchi tells a girl not to cry... when her brother's just been murdered and they're sitting next to the corpse.
6. Extreme gun incompetence. If you're being held at gunpoint in a 1970s Japanese action movie, you can safely draw your own gun and shoot back. It's also possible to get out alive if you've been lured into an ambush in a wide open space and five gangsters with rifles spend several minutes shooting at you. (You have no allies or back-up during this.)
7. A bar for black Americans is called the Black Club and a rapist's name is Cummings.
8. Inadvisable treatment of injuries. Kikuchi finds a nice girl who's been stabbed. Does he examine the wound, or apply pressure around it to try to stop the bleeding? Does he put on gloves? No, he pulls her into a sitting position and gently shakes her to try to make her talk. Unsurprisingly, she dies within a minute. D'oh. I suppose she's lucky there wasn't a knife in the wound for him to try to pull out.
But, despite all that, the film's still quite good.
The gangsters can be scary. They're extremely bad people, as is demonstrated when one girl tries to escape to Tokyo. They have her whipped and are planning to keep her imprisoned and drugged-up for a week until she has no will left, as a warning to the other girls. When Kikuchi walks alone into their den, he'd have been dead if they thought he was a cop. No ifs, no buts, no chance of survival.
The American army base is a reminder of the era. There are newspaper stories like "American soldier kills" (which unfortunately did happen sometimes in Okinawa), but also half-Japanese children of fathers who went to Vietnam and never came back. Drug abuse, sure. It happened. Japanese girls with American husbands think they're going to live in America. Ouch.
Sonny Chiba's a strong lead too. As it happens, he was a karate black belt who'd been a sportsman in high school and competed at national level, being a candidate for the Japanese Olympic team. This isn't a kung fu film, though. He's here for his screen presence, not his fisticuffs. He's a perfectly good actor and he carries the film well. He even gets away with that cravat.
This is a lurid and sometimes stupid film that doesn't bother telling us who committed two murders or even if that might have been the same killer working to a secret plan, but it's also all too plausible. It makes Okinawa look the opposite of glamorous. Its idea of a good guy might be a criminal whose conscience isn't completely dead. It's addressing identity, ethnicity and nationality, with some people who want to leave Okinawa and others who refuse to. Some gangsters disapprove of doing anything too bad to their fellow Okinawans, but their colleagues from Tokyo have ice in their veins.
You could do a lot worse. If you think its stupid bits sound funny, this one's worth a whirl.