RAMPO NOIR (2005) – The Dungeon Review!
Rampo Noir is a four story anthology based on the work of Edogawa Rampo. The handful of films I’ve seen based on Rampo’s stuff has been superb! In fact, three of my favourite discoveries since starting this blog have been Blind Beast, Horrors of Malformed Men and today’s subject review Rampo Noir (this is my third viewing of Rampo Noir). The tales of Edogawa Rampo must have been scandalous when they were originally published; and then again Rampo’s work is the kind of twisted that never goes out of style. Rampo Noir has a slow but steady pace and little dialog through most of its runtime; all the stories focus heavily on their visuals. Fantastic set pieces and imaginative camerawork compliment the deliciously gruesome images. The cherry on top is Tadanobu Asano who is featured in three of the four segments. I could watch a three hour documentary on how paper bags are made if Asano was in it. Rampo Noir is a strange, surreal, sick little collection of Rampo’s work. The filmmakers might take liberties with the stories, but the visuals give off a perfect Rampo glow.
Directed By: Suguru Takeuchi (Shiritsu tantei Hama Maiku -Japanese TV)
The first story in the quartet is Mars Canal. The film is only a couple minutes long and is silent for most of its runtime. Tadanobu Asano plays a man naked and alone in some barren landscape that may or may not be mars. He has flashbacks of his last violent moments with a lover. Mars Canal’s visuals are extraordinary and the second half left me tripping balls.
Directed By: Akio Jissoji (Mujo, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis)
The second story in the set is called Mirror Hell. Several women have been found with their faces melted off; a beautiful and unique hand mirror is found at the scene of each death. The mirrors are traced back to artisan Toru who is carrying on his long family tradition of mirror making. The visuals are simply amazing in Mirror Hell, with a generous array of mirrors used at every second in a variety of unique ways. Another visual stunner with a nice bit of kinky exploitative goodness thrown in to the mix. The violence is not graphic but is certainly creative; I was rather impressed with how the director chose to represent the melting of the women’s faces. Tadanobu Asano stars as the detective working on the case and Hiroki Narimiya is Toru the mirror maker and both are perfect in their roles. Mirror Hell is a beautiful, twisted and intriguing story with visuals that will leave you avoiding your own reflection.
Directed By: Hisayasu Sato (Splatter: Naked Blood, Rafureshia)
The third story in the collection is Caterpillar. Oh bloody hell is this a nasty one! I loved it! Caterpillar is without a doubt the gnarliest and most graphic of the anthology. A lieutenant returns from the war and his wife in desperation does what she must in order to keep her hubby from returning to the battlefield. She essentially transforms him into a caterpillar cutting off his arms and legs; her actions become more perverted, disturbing and brutal as each day passes. The psychedelic sequence shot from the perspective of a caterpillar is just brilliant! The less I say about Caterpillar the better, but it is gruesome and its finale is a perfect payoff. I am torn on whether this one or the final segment Crawling Bugs is my ultimate favourite of the lot.
Directed By: Atsushi Kaneko (his other director credit is for a TV Series called Soil but he is a successful manga artist…some might even say manga god)
The final film in the anthology is Crawling Bugs; manga artist Atsuchi Kaneko’s debut film. Again, Tadanobu Asano stars this time as a limousine driver with a bad case of germaphobia and a serious crush on his celebrity passenger. As hallucinogenic as each of these entries are Crawling Bugs is the mother of them. Have you ever wanted to be with someone so badly that you would be willing to kill them to do so? The imagination of the obsessive limo driver is a weird, blue-skyed, flowery, sun-shiny, rainbowy sparkly ass-kicking head trip! Crawling Bugs is bizarre, charming and hilariously fucking sick!
Love, torture, revenge, obsession and Tabanobu Asano; what more could a person want? Rampo Noir is a sense titillating and grotesque vision that bleeds the lines between fantasy and reality. Love it or hate it Rampo Noir’s images leave a mark. Despite being a touch more style than substance it is such a hypnotic trip that the stories themselves seemed secondary. This is my third viewing of Rampo Noir and it will not be my last. Rampo Noir gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Akio Jissoji, Atsushi Kaneko, Hisayasu Sato, Suguru Takeuchi
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Yûko Daike, Chisako Hara, Masami Horiuchi, Mikako Ichikawa, Hanae Kan, Ryûhei Matsuda, Kaiji Moriyama, Tomoya Nakamura, Hiroki Narimiya, Tamaki Ogawa, Nao Ohmori, Yukiko Okamoto, Minori Terada, Susumu Terajima, Yumi Yoshiyuki