Human depravation… Sex… Torture… Death.
Or, how to be mislead by Japanese 70′s exploitation cinema.
Tatsuya is a handsome but lonely man who inherits his family’s fortune. This includes his late parents’ luxurious mansion on an isolated and serene location. Tatsuya likes beautiful young women. He also likes inviting them to his mansion. But sadly, they don’t really like what all he does to them.
(Paragraph #3 contains a mild spoiler)
Oh-la-la, oh my, oh my, dear goodness… My 8th pinku film this week and this one really went too far… Beyond too far, even. Those Japanese filmmakers are crazy. They even were in the 70′s already. The stuff they show here… you simply don’t do that to women. Not even when they’re asking for it. I had seen some similar things already in certain anime series. But never really in a live action movie. Well, not like this one does it anyway (thankfully, no girls were harmed during the making of this motion picture… or at least I hope they weren’t). And Star Of David is also completely unlike the other 7 films on this list (which served as my introduction to the Japanese pinky violence exploitation subgenre; thank you Offscreen), especially concerning disturbing themes & explicit nature of events. Okay, let me have a second to come to my senses now…
I will deliberately not go into the (rather minimal) plot. You best discover & experience this film while you sit through it as it will evoke more genuine reactions to it that way (for better or worse, that’s very unpredictable). But you might perhaps want to wait with Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter until you’re ready for it (i.e. watch some other pinky violence films first), as it crosses lines most “normal” people are probably not willing to cross. Yet, dig this, it’s all filmed with such a decent budget that it looks like a very accomplished film, complete with decent cinematography and a capable cast. Almost like arthouse exploitation made on a mainstream budget. It results in an unwordly clash of styles & subject matter. A simple example for this can be find in the musical score, as often tender classical pieces are used in shrill contrast with the shocking events unfolding on the screen.
The girls convincingly act out their subordination to sex, rape, torture & bloodshed. In all their nakedness, they seriously act their way out of this infernal film. Director Norifumi Suzuki has the character of Tatsuya played by a handsome young actor (Shun Domon) and his choice for having him play his role in an undercooled fashion adds strength to his performance. But I feel Suzuki messed up by having Tatsuya’s dad come across as a pathetic, unstable nutcase (in this case, a perverted serial rapist). It does make up for an interesting sort of paraphrasing, though, of that in which an adult malignant human being – pretty much a loose cannon – spawns forth a son (even more messed up and pernicious in his loathful ways) that’s actually more stable, confident and better organized. But I would have preferred the father character to be a more silent, enigmatic menace, perhaps plagued by moral anguish and tormented by remorse. A character trying to come to terms with his actions from the past, but ultimately failing, slipping back into depravation when being confronted with his son, who’s now become a stronger & more determined malignant & misogynistic entity than the father used to be. The son overpowering his elder. That, to me, would have made up for a much more interesting conflict and also would have given the fatherly character more depth. Granted, that also would have turned this into a different film, but now the father figure just feels like an incompetent fool; a loser offering some uncalled for comic relief (whether intended or not, hard to tell in this otherwise pretty serious film).
The misogyny itself, is not merely portrayed but also explored in this film, pushing the limits of reason. It’s clear that the father never could channel his uncontrolable hatred towards women. But his son, on the other hand, seems to have gone far beyond that. He channeled it, making himself presentable for the public eye, and his wealth & social status gave him the means to exploit and build on it. Privately, beyond common reasoning and far exceeding social & moral standards. It’s as arguable as it is credible to assume that what all unspeakable acts he inflicts on his beautiful girl victims, Tatsuya does not out of hate… but yes, out of love. In search for love. To find his kind of love answered, and in the light of his personal issues, Tatsuya is very much doomed. A very sad but nevertheless a very dangerous person. And this leads us to something else that the film can have you ponder on… Tatsuya started out as your prototypical ‘innocent child’ – or was he, really, considering who his real father was? – that grows into a psychopath. Now, any psychopath can be very dangerous when not restraint… but give him money – which as we all know in this world constitutes power – on top of his freedom, and the possibilities are limitless. So Star Of David seems to show us in a very private & sickening manner. Viewers who merely see females humiliated, raped & tortured in this film, are missing the bigger picture. No, I don’t want to sound pretentious here.
Star of David features pretty much anything but a ‘classic’ plot structure. It does introduce us some characters, but once they have been, you’re being lead from one scene featuring insane acts of torture to the next one, featuring bizarre sexual acts or, a mixture of both. Arousing or unsettling? You’ll have to excuse me for leaving that one in the middle. There is little traditional story-telling present, but other ways were used to make the plot progress. And it progresses mainly by bits of info and unexpected twists inserted between all this horrific sexual insanity, often making use of flashbacks & -forwards. You may very well argue that this film utterly fails at telling a decent story, but the fact remains that a couple characters are fleshened out surprisingly well enough and the film is out to go somewhere after all. And since its ways of getting there are pretty much those bits of info you receive about the main characters, instead of a real story that drives it, I say that’s a pretty clever way to keep the viewer’s attention. And not an easy task with a film like this, which comes close to being structured like your basic porn flick. In structure only, my friends, not exactly with what all you get to see on the screen here. Perverts might still get their rocks off on this film, but avid porn-lovers will only find disappointment. Serves them right, if you ask me, for possibly seeking out this film for those reasons.
This subgenre was called roman-porno, if you should wonder. And in this particular case, it translates to something like “romantic sex & torture”. But this film is actually something that could be called “torture porn” (even though technically it’s not porno what they show, but more along the lines of softcore sex, S&M, bondage, torture & slayings). But in a literal sense, it’s a much more accurate description for this film, than it is for what so many people mistake nowadays “torture horror” for. Or, that’s how I like to look at it. But all this on a side-note, as we are talking about a film made in 1979 here and one that comes across as a unique crossbreed of certain elements from various exploitation subgenres going on in the Japanese cinematical landscape at the time. This has nothing to do with what idiot critics today call “torture porn”. But I can surely advice them to take a look at Star Of David and be aware of their ignorance.
Yes, most critics are idiots. I really like saying this as I will never consider myself one. Never was it, nor will it ever be a goal of mine to become one. At best, part of me is only a reviewer. And reviewers only become idiots when they start calling themselves critics. So I’ll just end this case of the Beautiful Girl Hunter by expressing a couple more brief personal thoughts on the film… Star Of David, at times, managed to really upset me. But I have to thank those two Japanese ladies who were doing the real-time subtitling for this film during its late-night screening at Offscreen… When that one scene where this captive girl (was it Hiromi Namino that was holding her pee for an hour? Not sure…), uhm, climaxed – darn, I should have said “payed off” – our female subtitlers started giggling spontaneously themselves. That kind of made me feel a bit more comfortable watching this film again. Kind of, sort of, but not really. Because scenes of child abuse, necrophilia & bestiality along with puzzling references to nazism, the holocaust, religion & redemption and nauseating philosophies about human supremacy and inferiority, are bound to leave a mark. Most likely one that hurts a little too. Maybe I just made this film sound more complex than it really is, but still, it’s all there, in the mix.
I could as easily make a case against this film, as I could make one up for it. But as it stands, Star Of David will add up to a more intelligent film than you’re most likely to anticipate. The key to reaching this conclusion is to eliminate all the exploitation elements of this film – not an easy task, as it features an abundance of nudity, torture & sex, which I think I mentioned already – and focus on what all the info sprinkled throughout the plot is trying to give us. Still, when you place all elements on a scale of balance, it will ultimately swing the way of exploitative sexual depravation. I would have prefered to have seen the balance remain in check. At any rate, since we’re talking about a very intoxicating cocktail here, if any film deserves to come with a warning, just like most alcoholic beverages do, Star Of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter is one that truly deserves a word of caution. This is not just trash or sleaze that aims at nothing else than to entertain the niche mass audience – that’s a contradiction itself, is it not? – for this type of underground cinema. It’s utterly deranged decadence, but done with style & flair. Very sick, but portrayed in a strangely beautiful fashion. A film very hard to like, but not impossible. And let one thing be clear: Only a perfectly sane person can like this film for the right reasons. This also includes people who view Japanese Manga as an acknowledged form of pop art separated from its often exploitative & misogynistic nature.