Synapse // 1986 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // August 13th, 2004
A crime against women and cinema? Or just an example of exploitation escape?
Desperate to find out what happened to her sister, a young woman confronts the mysterious gigolo whom the sibling used to date. Instead of answers, she finds herself trapped in a Yakuza crime hideout and systematically gang-raped over the next few hours. The thugs even resort to drugging the poor girl with a kind of super-cocaine called "Angel Rain" to make her more prone to the multiple violations.
When the young woman finally escapes, she seeks out the help of her psychiatrist friend. But before much information can be shared, our abused and battered gal takes a skyscraper swan dive and ends her life. Trying to uncover what happened, the doctor finds herself next in line for the crime syndicate's unquenchable perversion. After a similar series of sexual batteries and more of the potent potion, the shrink is left for dead. Then the misguided member of the gang that started all this is slaughtered -- sliced up into a pile of bloody pieces.
Through some manner of supernatural symbiosis, the dead doc and the carved-up claret merge and form a hermaphroditic monster. This beast seeks out the mobsters and uses its killer driller penis and/or vicious vagina to slaughter every last one of the fetid felons. Blood and bile pool and puddle as the ghost-demon seeks justice against those who would breach the Entrails of a Beautiful Woman.
It's hard to know how to react to a movie that so flagrantly celebrates the degradation of women. If there is one clear concept emanating from Entrails of a Beautiful Woman, it's that the female of the species is a flesh-feast of available orifices just waiting for all manner of misogynistic, sexually dysfunctional men to penetrate them with brute force. Taking this tawdry ideal one step further, the film suggests that if given the proper injectable stimulant, girls will actually want to be debased and used. While a myopic view of gender and sexual role is still traditional in the Japanese social structure (men deal with business, women control the home), it's hard to imagine any Tokyo man accepting this kind of dehumanizing hierarchy -- all hentai aside.
Yet with every ugly comment, with the constant references to virginity and loose virtue, Entrails of a Beautiful Woman starts out like a pathetic political protestation against woman's liberation wrapped up in the skin of a coarse crime thriller. Every female in the film is destroyed once her purpose is past (from the sister sold into white slavery after she refuses to continue embezzling money, to the psychiatrist who proves to be a poor sleuth). Sure, it can be argued that, in the end, sex kills all the psychotic bastards who are willing to place their paternalistic thumb over half of the population, but Entrails is not really interested in making that kind of symbolic statement. At its core, this is a film about how a climate of objectification and second-class citizenship leads to an acceptance of defilement and manipulation as a means of complete and utter control -- with a sickening satisfaction of the libido a fetid fringe benefit.
For these very reasons, Entrails of a Beautiful Woman causes quite the conscientious conundrum. With such an outrageously un-PC approach to sex and violence, one's primary instinct is to lash out in all directions, to make broad sweeping stereotypical statements about other cultures and entertainment climates, wondering out loud how they could even begin to support such a cinematic staining. There will be those who cast aside the obvious aspersions, believing that this is nothing more than a tainted, twisted gore-soaked extravaganza in the vein of Street Trash or Dead Alive. But there is a deeper message here, and director Gaira (actually a notorious filmmaker named Kazuo Komizu hiding behind a War of the Gargantuas reference) wants to make sure that his horror-oriented audience doesn't miss a single social commentary beat. His females are nameless, faceless props, only good enough for forcible sex and softcore silhouetted oral action. They are sleazy, doped-up debs unable to control their desire to be wantonly worked over by drooling dolts. And yet, the argument continues, the story is all about revenge, about how no horrible, horrendous deed goes unpunished. Truth is, the entire retribution motif is buried in the backend of the movie, an apologist's attempt at moving the focus away from the physical humiliation and sexual shame. By the time the inside-out flesh fiend with the precarious private parts shows up to correct the carnal corruption, a kind of catharsis occurs. But it's not because the payback is so sweet or the deaths so deserving. It's because the monster's last-minute appearance is an indication that the 65-minute running time is, indeed, about to end, and we're grateful for the breathing room.
It's hard to call Entrails of a Beautiful Woman a work of escapist fun, or even politically insightful. It is a gut-munching geek show, in which the lowest depths of human depravity are explored in a Grand Guignol gross-out manner. Pushing the limits of taste and acceptability to the extreme while never recognizing the repulsion it creates, Entrails is an endurance test that even the most maniacal gorehound may find hard to take.
Similar to the United States ratings philosophy on sex and violence, the Japanese are even more vehement in the non-depiction of genitalia in film. Up until the late 1990s, the pubic area of either gender could not be shown on screen, and technology was often employed to blur, or "fog" the redolent regions from curious viewers. Entrails maintains this mid-'80s haze, and it raises more issues than it corrects. Even though the DVD contains a rather wordy essay discussing why this Eastern culture takes such a staunch stance on showing the crotch, one can't help but extrapolate a rationale based on the other material present in this film. All issues of honor and respect aside, for a film exalting the gang-bang to stay in step with the social stigma of the nether regions suggests something deeper, and more suspect, about its overall philosophy. America supposedly cornered the market on the Puritanical notion of making sex and sexuality as dirty as possible. But thanks to some of the insights offered by Entrails of a Beautiful Woman, there are other societies equally adept at pandering to the prurient while also extolling -- and evading -- its sinful stature.
If you can remove yourself from all the mixed signals given off by the grotesque gender indignity and take the non-stop rape and violation as the price to pay for an overblown bloodbath ending, you may enjoy Entrails of a Beautiful Woman. It is no more shocking than, say, Last House on the Left, and deals with the settling of scores with a far more supernatural twist than I Spit on Your Grave. Any movie that calls upon an androgynous entity with both a vengeful vagina and a snaggle-toothed tool gets a couple of corrupt brownie points just for creature creativity. And when the claret needs to flow with voluminous efficiency, Entrails delivers the vein vintage with disproportionate glee. Taken on the level of an experiment in hysterical humors, Gaira's vulgar display of insincere chauvinism meshed with bone marrow machinations could be an international litmus test for the tolerability of exaggerated exploitation. Entrails of a Beautiful Woman may not be a reflection of Japan in general, but many of its mandates stink of tainted traditions taken to a ridiculous, radical end.
Synapse Films deserves some manner of chutzpah award for even unleashing this title onto an unsuspecting audience. The DVD elements are basic, but provide a luster of legitimacy that this movie may not really deserve. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer captures the colorful corruption quiet nicely. Blacks are solid and the blood red bile gets a radiant response from the print. The movie definitely looks like it was made almost two decades ago (the elements have that notorious aged atmosphere of most Asian cinema), but this uncut, original language version looks great, nonetheless. The Dolby Digital Mono is nothing special, but at least we can hear the film clearly -- and understand it equally as well, thanks to the newly minted subtitles.
As for bonus content, we get a decent trailer (which gives away a great many of the gore gags, frankly) and the aforementioned essay. The final bit of companion context is a 16-minute interview with director Komizu, and it's an eye-opener. An unseen voice asks him to explain why he made Entrails of a Beautiful Woman (a sort-of sequel to his Entrails of a Virgin) and Gaira responds with an eight-minute answer, discussing everything from money and controversy to the philosophical requirements of man. Looking like he could be a member of some aberrant gang of flesh-peddling pornographers (or a member of a bad Japanese avant-garde band), Komizu never really explains the Entrails films, except to say that he wanted to address the spiritual nature of revenge and how man interacts with woman. Obviously, he believes in a more torture-based approach to the battle of the sexes.
Entrails of a Beautiful Woman is highly reminiscent of another experimental journey into cyberpunk technology terror, 1988's Tetsuo, the Iron Man. But instead of crafting a cautionary tale about scientific knowledge gone insane (in that earlier film, a man melds with metal to become a kind of carnal killer robot), Kazuo Komizu merely wants to shock and disgust with his special effects-heavy cinematic sideshow. Had Entrails been crafted with less of a disgusting dogma at its foundation, it could have worked as an example of blood-soaked sensationalism. Instead, we end up feeling as unclean as the acts committed in the name of the macabre.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Japanese)
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Essay on Japanese Film Fogging Controversy
* Video Interview with Director