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October 01, 2012

The Bloodthirsty Doll

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Chi wo su ningyo: Yurei yashiki no kyofu / Fear of the Ghost House: Bloodsucking Doll
Michio Yamamoto - 1970
Shadow Warrior All Region DVD

I must say that the transfer of this movie is so dark that some scenes are heard but barely visible, unintentionally making me think of Val Lewton's productions, that suggested various unseen horrors.

Nonetheless, The Bloodthirsty Doll should be of interest in the transfer of the vampire genre to Japan. It is worth noting that the film was from Toho, the biggest and most conservative of Japanese studios, from a time when the studio system was collapsing. One could also consider this film as one that helped pave the way for Obayashi's House, seven years later. The film is a curious hybrid of mixed cultures.

The basic story is of a young man, Kazuhiko, who drives to a remote, western style mansion to reunite with his girlfriend, Yuko, after being abroad for six months. He finds out from Yuko's mother that he is two weeks to late, and that his beloved died in a landslide. Spending the night, he hears strange sounds, and sees what looks like Yuko, alive, and later follows her to a wooded area. Yuko softly begs to be killed. The Kazuhiko's sister, Keiko, alarmed at no contact for over a week, shows up with her boyfriend to find out what happened to her brother. Keiko finds out things she probably didn't want to know.

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The film mostly takes place in a mansion that is pointedly very western in design, with lots of stairs, a creepy cellar, and creaky doors. One of the characters is a deaf-mute servant, Genzo, a variation of the stock characters found in many Hollywood and European horror films. What might throw off some western viewers is a small plot twist, when it is revealed that Yuko was buried rather than cremated, cremation being the standard treatment for the dead in Asia. Also, Yuko is not your standard blood sucking vampire, slashing the blood from her victims. Not entirely successful is the use of a harpsichord based music score, adding more western flavor.

There is little in English on director Michio Yamamoto. While an early stint as Assistant Director was for Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, Yamamoto seems to have primarily worked under Kihachi Okamoto before ascending to his own directorial assignments in 1969, at age 36. That Yamamoto was a bit older when making his directorial debut indicates how Toho was unlike several of the rival studios that made a point of courting a younger audience, with filmmakers of about the same age like Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda already with several features behind them. Ei Ogawa was one of several writers to have a hand in Okamoto's Age of Assasins. His best known solo credit is Space Amoeba.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 1, 2012 08:59 AM