1979, 99 mins. 50 secs.
Directed by Norifumi Suzuki
Shun Domon, Natsuko Yashiro, Asami Ogawa, Hiromi Namino
Impulse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Discotek (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Geneon (DVD) (Japan R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Japan Shock (DVD) (Sweden R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1)
"You have been warned!" exclaims the box copy for Impulse Pictures' Blu-ray of this infamous Nikkatsu shocker, and they ain't kiddin'. A prolific director known for films like Sex & Fury and School of the Holy Beast, Norifumi Suzuki pulls out all the stops here with an extreme mixture of aberrant psychology, bloody horror, and twisted (but non-explicit) sex. As with some other Japanese '70s films, it trades on religious iconography in a very non-Western way with Christian and Jewish symbols mixed into the nonstop taboo subject matter in a way that can still make the jaws of the most hardened roman porno fans drop straight to the floor.
On a dark and rainy night, an escaped convict hops the gate of an upper class home and terrorizes the couple inside, ultimately raping the wife while the tied-up husband watches on the floor. The offspring of this assault grows up to be Tatsuya (Domon), a disturbed young man scarred by the years of his sadistic father taking out his fury over the crime on his wife. After finding a diary that reveals the grim circumstances of how he was conceived and discovering his very twisted inner fetish involving the Holocaust, Tatsuya decides to slap together a secret chamber in the house and, with his dad out of the picture and unlimited funds at his disposal, unleash his demons on a string of frequently trussed-up women. Apparently deciding he still isn't despicable enough, he vows to track down his biological father, who's still wanted by the police -- a bad move that also involves his dad's unwilling mistress, a creepy iron mask, a German Shepard, improper bathroom conduct, and other assorted nastiness.
So beautifully shot it somehow makes the subject matter even skeevier, Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter is an unforgettable experience that's gradually built up word of mouth among English-speaking viewers for almost two decades. Its fairly wide availability with English subtitles probably has something to do with it along with the "you gotta see this!" shock value of its content, though obviously the target audience here is limited to those who are into outrageously wild Sadean Japanese films with an uncomfortable Nazi fixation. (An early scene involving our protagonist gratifying himself is one for the all-time bad taste hall of fame.) The film does seem to be attempting to make a statement about Japanese culture's blindness to its complicity in World War II atrocities and the dangers of indulgent wealth run wild, though you could easily miss that with all the rope play, screaming, and occasional romantic montages.
Initially released on DVD around 2007 by Japan Shock (non-anamorphic) and Geneon (not English friendly), Star of David got its first really solid release as a DVD from U.S. company Discotek under its Eastern Star banner in 2009. As with virtually all Japanese-sourced transfers around that time (not to mention long before and since), it was calibrated for local display specs which means it was far too bright with milky, flat black levels. Otherwise it was a good release with nice color, good English subtitles, and some very worthwhile extras. Suzuki appears for a subtitled audio commentary with critic Kiichiro Yanashita, which focuses mostly on the filmmaker's approach to his characters, his method for eliciting the proper reactions from his performers, and his sometimes complex thoughts on the film's themes (including a somewhat uncomfortable bit around the 41-minute mark). Though the track lapses into simple recitation of what's happening on the screen more than necessary, it's still a rewarding listen with some welcome insights into the mind of the director despite the lack of significant info about the studio or general filmmaking climate. Those last topics do get touched on in a separate video interview with Suzuki (14m36s), about his start at Toei, the professional advantages of his "speed and work ethic," his approach to shooting commercially necessary erotic cinema, his transition to Nikkatsu, and the obliging attitudes of actors in the field. Also included are the trailer (which downplays the really nasty stuff and tries to pass this off as a vaguely kinky romance) and bonus trailers for Zero Woman Red Handcuffs, Bohachi Bushido, Blind Woman's Curse, Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Ebola Syndrome, and Sukeban Boy.
In 2021, Impulse Pictures added this ferocious puppy to its roster of Nikkatsu erotic titles with the distinction of being one of the few to merit a Blu-ray release -- a wise decision given its reputation. The new HD transfer is a huge step up here with the blacks finally looking deep and inky as intended, with the colors also now getting a nice boost in the process including some really rich and vibrant browns and reds scattered throughout. The DTS-HD MA Japanese 2.0 mono track is as good as the modest source material will allow, with optional English subtitles provided. Both the video interview and commentary with Suzuki have been ported over here, plus a new HD scan of the Japanese trailer. The disc also comes with reversible cover options featuring the naughtier original poster art you won't see on the shelves at Target any time soon.
Impulse Pictures (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on September 15, 2021