Judge Paul Pritchard took a bite from this DVD but found it to be a little stale.
Sink you teeth into The Bite.
Sexploitation; is there any better word in the English language? Verisimilitude, onomatopoeia, seeping; they're all great words, but none come close to sexploitation. Sadly, that's about the best thing going for The Bite, director Kan Mukai's 1965 slice of erotica, presented here for the first time on DVD.
I can still vividly recall my first VCR; it was a noisy, bulky thing with a remote that was on an insanely long cable that would always get tangled up. These small annoyances aside, this device opened up a whole new world of movies to me, thanks to this marvel of science I could record and playback any movies shown on late night TV. This baby gave me my first experience of Akira, Videodrome and Blade Runner, perhaps more importantly, it also allowed me to record the more risqué material that would occasionally take up late night timeslots. These would range from the works of Russ Meyer to foreign efforts, such as the (at the time at least) glorious Betty Blue. Watching The Bite, I was taken back to those days of scouring the TV guide on the off chance I'd get lucky and someone had seen fit to schedule some filth. Unfortunately, while as a teenager I could just fast forward through the boring (i.e. talking) scenes, on this occasion I didn't have the luxury of that option; the experience was all the poorer for it.
The Bite tells the story of Koichi, a gigolo who seduces young women and has sex with them, while the high class madam who pays him watches on with her clientele. Through a series of voiceovers, used to enlighten us to Koichi's thoughts, we learn he is deeply disillusioned with his lifestyle and, were it not for the money, which allows him to look after his sick mother, he would quickly get out. When Koichi falls in love with one of the girls he is paid to seduce, he seeks to escape the clutches of his madam and find more reputable work. However when his mother takes a turn for the worse, Koichi must seek any means necessary to help raise the money for her operation.
The problems with The Bite begin with the films structure. At a mere 63 minutes long, the film lacks any sense of coherence; scenes come and go yet barely move the plot forward. Indeed, the film is some 40+ minutes in before any dramatic development occurs, even then the film is so laid back it's hard to notice, let alone care.
With Koichi taking up the lion's share of the screen time, you'd expect to develop some sort of empathy toward the character; yet so stony faced and cold is he, that it's hard to really care when he becomes emotionally involved with one of the girls. Sure, the voiceovers inform us of his feelings, but they seem at odds with both his actions and mannerisms. Not helping matters is the fact the disc only offers an English dub, with no option for the original Japanese track and subtitles. Perhaps something is lost in translation, maybe the voiceover artists are just really poor, but the performances are wooden and do nothing to elevate the lazy screenplay that operates under the delusion of being far deeper than it actually is.
As for the sex scenes, which, let's be honest, are going to be one of the bigger draws for this disc, they are without exception cold, lifeless affairs, perhaps intentionally so to reflect Koichi's ambivalence towards the situation he finds himself in.
The discs transfer is often hindered by dirt and scratches and lacks any fine detail. Taking into account that this transfer is from the only known 35mm print remaining, these imperfections are a little more forgivable.
Come the final credits, it's really hard to find any worth to The Bite, making recommendations difficult. If The Bite is trying to say anything, it appears to question our feelings on exploitation and how it's okay, as long as we aren't the ones being exploited. Unfortunately this potentially interesting subject matter is hidden, deep beneath an un-engaging film that, though I'm sure will appeal to fans of the sexploitation genre, is nothing more than a curio, unlikely to find much of an audience on DVD.
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