Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Bloodthirsty Doll – review


Directed by: Michio Yamamoto

Release date: 1970

Contains spoilers

Before I look at this film I want to explain the film title I have used. This film, ‘Yûreiyashiki no kyôfu: Chi o suu ningyô’, has a variety of Western titles but if you look at imdb ‘Bloodthirsty Doll’ is not listed. However the DVD I have does use the title (as well as Legacy of Dracula, but there are no substantive Dracula connections with any of the film series by TOHO). Is this a new title to fit it in with the other two films in the series? Probably, but it works well enough.

Atsuo Nakamura as KazuhikoOf all of the three TOHO films I am going to be looking at this is probably the least vampiric, in a traditional Western sense, and yet has some lore that is very unusual and, to me, fits in with that created by Stoker – in a quite off the wall way. The film begins with Kazuhiko Sagawa (Atsuo Nakamura) being driven, in a taxi, to his sweetheart’s home. He had met Yuko Nonomura (Yukiko Kobayshi) in Tokyo but then had to work abroad for six months.

The taxi gets to the house, as a storm rages, and drops him there. He is admitted by the mute deaf servant Genzo (Kaku Takashina) who then attacks him. This brief fight is quickly ended by Yuko’s mother (Yoko Minakaze) who then tells Kazuhiko that Yuko died some two weeks earlier having been in a car accident. Kazuhiko stays the night, intending to visit the grave the next day, but awakes and hears something in the house. Through the keyhole of a door he sees movement and enters the room, no one is there. He checks a closet and sees Yuko, he is hit and passes out.

Yuko's eyes changeWhen he awakes the mother tells him that he must have been having a nightmare. Alone, he looks out of a window and sees Yuko running through the grounds. He follows her into a graveyard and finds her. She asks him to kill her but he holds her instead. We see her eyes change, in a very effective and subtle way and her arm raises.

Hiroshi and KeikoKeiko (Kayo Matsuo) bolts awake from a nightmare. Her brother is Kazuhiko and he has not called for 8 days. She persuades her boyfriend, Hiroshi (Akira Nakao), to drive up to Yuko’s home. They meet the mother who tells them that Kazuhiko left the day after arriving and then they visit the grave. Near the grave are the corpses of mutilated birds, presumably attacked by Yuko, and Kazuhiko’s bloodied cufflink. They knobble their own car in order to stay the night.

bloody sceneThe film, which is on the short side, then follows their investigation into the events and the family’s dark history. I don’t want to go into that too much but suffice it to say that we are dealing with a vampire. But what an unusual vampire…

using a knife to killYuko does kill, but by knife and is referred to as a vampire. The way she became a vampire is the unusual aspect however. As she was dying she was hypnotised, and this has caused the vampirism – how we do not know. Using hypnosis to create a vampire has been done before in the movies, specifically in Blood of Dracula but somehow I do not think that was the inspiration.

However, if we look to Dracula, we do see that hypnotism plays a prominent role in the story of Lucy. ‘“In trance she dies, and in trance she is UnDead, too. So it is that she differ from all other. Usually when the UnDead sleep at home," as he spoke he made a comprehensive sweep of his arm to designate what to a vampire was `home', "their face show what they are, but this so sweet that was when she not UnDead she go back to the nothings of the common dead.”’ Describes how Lucy seems almost human at times, due to the fact that she died in a trance. Yuko passes through phases, sometimes becoming the girl she was, weeping and asking for death. When she becomes vampiric her eyes change and she attacks anyone, other than her mother and Genzo.

Yuko's bloodied armThe only way Yuko can be released is by the hypnotist releasing her, or dying himself. Sorry to hit you with a major end of film spoiler but she does die and I mention it because of the extra lore insight. Through the film her arm, which was injured in the accident, is bloodied. When she dies it seems to collapse on itself, as she reverts to corpse, in a very Hammer like effect. Indeed, all the TOHO vampire films are heavily influenced by Hammer, but most with unique Japanese twists.

the doll in the graveThe film is about obsession and the refusal to let go of the past but it also has a little to say about following correct funeral rites. Yuko was buried but she was not cremated first, as standard. When the grave is opened her mother has replaced the body with a life-sized doll.

I have read that the dubbing on some versions of this is poor, but the version I have is subtitled and the acting seemed fine. If there is a major problem it is in the dark scenes which can be exceptionally dark, even brightening the screen does not help.

An unusual film, no doubt, but absolutely necessary for the strange and unusual lore. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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