Blu-ray Review: Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)

September 2, 2018

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Hirosuke Hitomi (Teruo Yoshida) finds himself confined to a drab sanitarium seemingly filled to the brim with psychotic, half naked women. How did he come to be in that predicament? Well read on dear fiends…
As Hitomi revisits his past in his thoughts we learn of a bizarre, animalistic figure he met on a beach, and the store room in which he was imprisoned after encountering said being. While imprisoned he has bizarre hallucinations (or are they?) of a beautiful woman whose face transforms to that of a deformed man and back again. He also continuously hears a haunting lullaby, and has to contend with a strange, violent bald man, and abusive guards. After escaping his room one night, our hero meets a young woman who has no recollection of her past…and we learn Hitomi doesn’t as well.
While on the lam, he ends up implicated in the murder of a circus performer (the girl he met previous) and takes on the identity of the late Genzaburo Komoda, who is Hitomi’s doppelganger. He does such a bang up job of this he even manages to convince Komoda’s wife and mistress that he has actually returned from the dead. Things go swimmingly until Hitomi begins having visions of  Jogoro, the web-fingered father of Genzaburo…which gives him the bright idea to explore a nearby island. While there he discovers Jogoro is working hard on building an island of deformed creatures…as well as learning some rather unpleasant things about his own past!
Filled with strong visuals, a growing sense of tension as Hitomi tries to keep up his ruse, and a twisting,turning story line, Horrors of Malformed Men is a wonderful, slow burn thriller with a pervasive sense of nightmare logic that keeps the entire affair drenched in a surreal ambiance (as director Teruo Ishii’s work from this time usually did). Adding to the aesthetics, the setting of 1920’s Japan also adds to the uniqueness…well, to these Western eyes anyhow…and Yoshida’s sweaty, desperately trying to keep his shit together, performance adds a palpable sense of nervous energy to the proceedings.
As for the negatives, there is a snake in this film that definitely did not appear in any more films…
Moving on to the bonus material found on this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, we are first treated to two audio commentaries (courtesy of Japanese cineam experts Tom Mes and Mark Schilling) that provide a massive amount of information as to the film’s production in an engaging manner. I love tracks like these as they really provide an extra level to my appreciation of the film at hand. Following that we get interviews with Toei exploitation screen writer Masahiro Kakefuda, fimmakers Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo the Iron Man) ans Minoru Kawasaki (The Calamari Wrestler) discussing the impact of Ishii’s career, as well as a piece on Ishii and Schilling visiting the Far East Film Festival. Bringing up the ass end we get the film’s trailer and an image gallery.
Snake death aside, Horrors of Malformed Men is one hell of an off-filter, fever dream of a thriller, packed to the rafters with bizarre goings-on, anxious energy, and mounting suspense, and this features packed release is definitely the best way to check out the batshit insanity!


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