While it surprises younger audiences, graphically violent and culturally taboo breaking films didn't begin with Eli Roth or the now popular 'splat pack.' Labelled 'torture porn' by mainstream critics (a lazy term inviting negative impressions) stories that emphasize both mental and physical cruelty, not to mention spectacularly violent death, have been told from the earliest days of cultural mythology. Shocking audiences in literature and the theater of the Grand Guignol, the art of violence soon became a staple of movies. Celebrating excess of theme and viscera, Asian filmmakers displayed more gusto and nerve -- and often more cerebral skill -- than their European or American counterparts. The Nikkatsu Violent Pink and Erotic Cinema moniker lead the way in terms of both shock and artistry. Providing the sensation hungry populace with eroticism and aesthetic discomfort on an often mature and disconcerting level rarely reached, Nikkatsu married complex characterizations and captivating trashy storylines with raunchy spectacle, celebrating sexual and violent excess. Assault! Jack The Ripper is one of the more accomplished of these roughies, throwing subtlety to the wind as it revels in an emotionally harsh storyline. And Mondo Macabro's impressive presentation highlights director Yasuharu Hasebe's stealthy action and disturbing set pieces.
Assault! Jack The Ripper is an unrepentantly gritty and exploitative vivisection of the dirtiest human impulses, emphasizing antisocial yearnings borne from alienation and amorality. When an antisocial pastry cook and unpleasant waitress meet at a restaurant, she convinces him to give her a lift home. Along the way they run over a hitchhiker. They both enjoy the experience, which ignites a lustful co-dependent relationship founded on violence. Soon, the two are kidnapping and murdering attractive young women as a form of foreplay, as the sight of blood turns the waitress into an insatiable nympho. When the chef determines to indulge his new found fetish on his own, he embarks on a private killing spree. This betrayal of his bond with the waitress spirals into an orgy of destruction.
Fan favorites Mondo Macabro are cinematic archaeologists, digging into the far corners of the cinema wasteland to unearth rare and often stigmatized cult and horror films. They have outdone themselves with Assault! Jack The Ripper, which if not the most literate script or dramatically convincing film, is certainly one of Nikkatsu's more scathing, depicting a truly unnerving dysfunctional romance. Much more profound than the healthy viscera on display is the downbeat and nihilistic worldview encompassed by the characters, with the filth and hopelessness of our species amorality and viciousness as heavy as the shadows draping practically every frame. Suggestion isn't the order of the day in this psychologically harsh sleaze fest. Surprisingly neither is the glamorisation of violence, as is the case with most Slasher and Giallo films, which approach the art of death as a poet approaches a line. Violence is primarily implied rather than lingered on, employing atmosphere and tone to suggest the depressing futility and angst of these characters. This is unsettling precisely because the characters are believable enough to convince us of their twisted needs. The violence, sudden and brutal and messy, indulges in sexual victimization and extremely bothersome (especially for its time) stabbing of vaginas. The symbolism, like the performances and themes of misanthropy and hatred, is so loud that it screams. This isn't one for the kiddies, nor will mainstream fans of modern Cineplex drivel find much to interest them. This is precisely because the filmmakers aren't out to coddle, staring hard and deep at the basest human drives. One feels as though an enema bag has been spilled on them after viewing this thriller. Rape, misogyny and sadistic sex run rampant. Not poetic or wonderfully written by any means, this is 'roughie' horror at its finest, er, nastiest. Which is exactly what Hasebe and company appear to have been aiming for.
Mondo Macabro presents Assault! Jack The Ripper in anamorphic 2.35.1 widescreen. Picture quality is generally clean and without scratches. What little grain there is actually seems to fit in with the dark tone of the film. Colors are bright and vivid. Audio is featured in Japanese Dolby Digital Mono with optional English subs. The dialogue and score are both clean and no background defects are noticeable.
Extras are always a celebration at MM, serving the dual roles of entertainment and crash courses in cult cinema history. This disc is no exception, including the expected stand out essays and features by Pete Tombs and crew. The most significant supplement is "The Erotic Empire," a generous documentary spliced with scenes from the 2001 Roman Porno festival in Japan. Jasper Sharp discusses Nikkatsu's colorful history while Seijin Suzuki explains the decision of the studio to focus on two main kinds of movies. Several other actors and critics pontificate on the genre and its glory days, with an emphasis on the literary influence of Asian scribe Edogawa Rampo, whose writings were pivotal to Mond's other DVD (currently available), The Watcher In The Attic. This is all strengthened with film clips and poster art, offering a truly interactive experience. Next is an Introduction by Sharp who discusses the film from a more critical perspective. The film's Theatrical Trailer is joined by a handful of other Nikkatsu Trailers (without subs), finishing with an Essay by Tombs. And don't forget the ever expanding (and always fun) Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel.
Review by William Simmons
|Released by Mondo Macabro|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|