Release Date(s)1975 (May 23, 2017)
Studio(s)Toei (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
Few films ever attempt to mix genres so blatantly and unapologetically the way that Wolf Guy does. Fully titled Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope (Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko), the movie tells the story of a reporter named Wolf (Sonny Chiba), the only survivor of a clan of werewolves that were massacred long ago. While using his wolf powers for sleuthing and fighting crime, he happens upon a crime syndicate, members of which are after a vulnerable young woman that he comes to care about. Mysterious cursed deaths at the paws of a ghostly tiger, multiple acts of bloody violence, heaping amounts of female nudity, a bombastic rock and roll soundtrack, and a mob boss with diabolical plans of his own, combine to make this film a frenetic action/mystery/horror/thriller hybrid worthy of the grungiest grindhouse theater you can find.
Wolf Guy is one of those movies that you might not fully comprehend on your first time through, which is completely forgivable. The movie throws so much at you that just getting the gist of it is an accomplishment unto itself. The positives here are fairly obvious, including seeing Sonny Chiba in action, as well the over the top gore – both of which are the prime meat (pun intended) of what genre fans crave from a movie like this. The plot sort of dwindles in the third act, and things seem to come together with no real connectivity, but the set pieces (and how they’re put together) are really what make this movie a fun watch. Not recommended for the faint of heart or easily offended, Wolf Guy could be seen as a precursor to modern movies like Kill Bill, Hot Fuzz, and Turbo Kid, if one were so inclined.
Arrow Video’s presentation of Wolf Guy is taken from a high definition master supplied by Toei. It has the distinctive look of a vintage Japanese film from this era. While not overly depthful, it looks impressively film-like with variable but thick grain and high levels of fine detail. Because of the kinetic style of the way it was filmed, some shots are softer than others, which doesn’t reflect my final score, but is worth mentioning. Colors also have the same feel. While they may be bold and stand out in some scenes, they take a back seat in others. The same goes for skin tones, which are fairly natural for the most part. Black levels too are sometimes deep but other times lightened up by the grain, while brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. Leftover film damage is minimal as the presentation is quite clean and stable. Suffice it to say, it’s a transfer that looks like something that played in a cinema, which is the best compliment I can give it. The same goes for the audio, which is a Japanese mono LPCM track spaced out into two speakers. It sounds like many martial arts movies often do, particularly the sound effects, but dialogue and the hard-rocking score both have plenty of space to work in regardless. Hiss and other age-related issues are fairly inconsequential, but the flavor of the presentation itself is vintage. Optional subtitles in English are also included, playing automatically when you start up the movie.
For the extras selection, there’s Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts – an interview with the director; Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master – an interview with the producer; Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1 – an interview with the actor himself; the original theatrical trailer; a DVD copy; and a 36-page insert booklet with essays on the film and films like it by Patrick Macias and Jasper Sharp... not that there’s many films like it in the first place.
Arrow Video continues to dig up these obscure genre mash-ups and give them the spit and polish that they deserve. Wolf Guy certainly won’t garner the kind of following that many cult films nowadays do, but for Sonny Chiba fans, Asian cinema fans, or just fans of genre, this should be on the must-see list.
- Tim Salmons