Blind Beast (1969)
By: J.R. Gregory on April 26, 2009  | 
DVD
Image Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0 Mono. English Subtitles. 84 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Mako Midori, Noriko Sengoku
Screenplay: Yoshio Shirasaka
Country: Japan
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
The erotic and grotesque combine in Japanese culture with an effortlessness that can be disconcerting to Western eyes. It is a tradition that goes back many centuries and continues today, from the medieval illustrated scrolls of the Buddhist monk Toba, through the atrocity prints of 19th Century artist Tsukioka to the current crop of AV films.

In Japanese society this has increasingly become the realm of cinema. Startling arrays of sexually oriented films - with varying degrees of explicitness - have been spread across screens for decades. Not only have these films been of a sexual nature, they have also explored other deviant themes, often crossing over into darker territory. Some have dealt with mutant beasts attacking nubile young women, as in Guts of a Virgin, or with kidnap and rape, for instance in Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunter. Others have looked at obsession, as with In the Realm of the Senses, or S&M as in the Flower and Snake series. In the nascent stages of Japanese horror and erotic cinema, and one of the first cinematic realisations of sexual obsession and S&M, is Yasuzo Masumura's Blind Beast (Moju).

We meet Aki (Mako Midori), the narrator in Blind Beast and principle antagonist, at the opening of a photographic art exhibition, where she was the principal model. The pictures show her in a variety of elegant bondage poses, but the centrepiece is a life-size sculpture of her. When she enters the exhibit she sees a blind man (Eiji Funakoshi) fondling the statue with almost reverential awe. She is startled, seemingly as much by her own attraction to this event as to the repulsion she feels. Aki quickly leaves the building.

A few days later she orders a masseur to come to her apartment, and she is greeted by a blind man. It is the same man from the gallery, but Aki is too preoccupied to notice. She becomes aggravated at the masseuse as his massage turns more sexual and he repeatedly fondles her buttocks and breasts. When Aki tries to get him to leave, the blind man chloroforms her, and too late she recognises him. Once unconscious, the blind man's mother comes into the apartment to assist in escorting her away to their isolated farmhouse.

Upon awakening, Aki finds herself in a subterranean lair. Her kidnapper reveals himself to be Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), a would-be sculptor who wishes to create a new kind of tactile art for the blind. We then are slowly shown the surreal world Michio has created for himself, a giant studio that has all sizes of eyes, arms, legs, breasts, ears and noses adorning the walls, created from his recollection of touching women through massage. The centrepieces are two gigantic sculptures of the female form, one lying face-up, the other face-down. The majority of the film is played out on the surface of these two prostate monoliths, Aki sitting between two huge breasts while Michio speaks with her, idly caressing his creation, with walls of body parts staring down at them.

Michio asks Aki to be his model for his new type of art. Understandably, Aki refuses and tries to escape, only to be foiled by Michio's mother (Noriko Sengoku), an overbearing type who supports her son in all his endeavours. The film descends into a tragic confrontation, starting an unstoppable degeneration into sado-masochistic sexual insanity.

Blind Beast was originally written by Japanese author Edogawa Rampo, whose works have been adapted for film since the 1920's. Masumura brought in elements of John Fowles novel, The Collector, and created a claustrophobic tale about perverted desire and human obsession. Superbly portrayed by the two main leads, Mako Midori is at turns caring, manipulative and entranced throughout the film. It also helps that she is absolutely stunning. Eiji Funakoshi is equally impressive, bringing a depth to a role that could have simply been repulsive; you care about and sympathise with his motivations and feel his pain at not being able to realise his dreams. Masumura's set design, use of lighting and shot construction similarly raise this above the ordinary.

While the film might be considered a little coy for a modern audience used to gratuitous nudity and graphic sex, such as in In the Realm of the Senses, it remains an undeniably powerful film. It's simple structure, deep characterisations, beautiful score and amazing sets and visuals, all combine to create an atmosphere of dread. Blind Beast was at the forefront of Pinky violence cinema, and is marvellous to behold.
Video
For a film from the late sixties, and one as relatively obscure as this, the print looks stunning. The dark confines of the subterranean lair, contrasted with the flesh-coloured statues, are depicted cleanly. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for 16x9 screens.
Audio
While the sound is available only in mono, the sparseness of this film is suited to this. The haunting baroque score sounds immaculate and there are no discernible fluctuations in the voices. Presented in Japanese audio with optional English subtitles.
Extra Features
You get a stills gallery, the original theatrical trailer and a biography of Yasuzo Masumura. Liner notes are provided by Patrick Macias, author of Tokyoscope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
At the forefront of the erotic-grotesque movement in Japanese cinema, Masumura's Blind Beast is a moving exploration of sexual obsession and depraved desires. With compelling performances from the two main leads, a mesmerising set, beautiful photography and a well-constructed story, Blind Beast has earned a reputation as a cinematic masterpiece. While the pace of the film can be considered languid at times, it is enthralling to view. As an example of sexual cruelty and obsession, it has few equals.

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