• Doberman Cop



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: July 4th, 2017.
    Director: Kinji Fukasaku
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Janet Hatta, Katsu Shiga, Hiroki Matsukada, Eiko Matsuda
    Year: 1977
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    The Movie:

    Based on the manga written by Buronson and illustrated by Shinji Hiramatsu, Doberman Cop, directed by Kinji Fukasaku in 1977, stars Sonny Chiba as Joji Kano. He’s a tough cop from the island of Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo to find out what happened to a girl named Yuna. She came from his home town who had come to the big city to work as a prostitute. It seems she was murdered, believed to be the victim of a serial killer working in the area who has already claimed three victims.

    With the Tokyo cops assuming that Yuna is really and truly dead, Joji (and the pig he has travelled along with him!) start exploring Tokyo. This leads to his getting involved with the case of Miki (Janet Hatta), a beautiful but troubled nightclub singer whose star is on the rise thanks to her manager, a former Yakuza named Hidenori (Hiroki Matsukata). When she gets kidnapped by a lunatic, Joji manages to rappel off the top of the skyscraper she’s being held in only to smash through the window and save the day. After all, as he tells one cop, his arms are as strong as a hammer and his legs five times stronger than that! The closer Joji gets to Miki the more he realizes that the case of Yuna’s death is far from resolved, leading to some assistance from a biker named Hotshot and a tryst on stage with a sexy stripper named Kosode (Eiko Matsuda) and then ultimately the inevitable violent showdown.

    What starts out as a fairly typical fish out of water story played mainly for laughs soon starts to cross genre boundaries and offer up a decent amount of action movie thrills complete with a fair bit of Chiba’s trademark ass kicking. There isn’t as much martial arts in here as you might hope for but some bloody gun play, complete with a Dirty Harry inspired .44 Magnum, helps to make up for that. We get some great stunt work here too, highlighted by that scene where Chiba rappels off the skyscraper but accompanied by some really strong stunt riding and some cool chase scenes.

    The movie also offers up a fair bit of sleaze and nudity to go alongside the over the top violence. Not only does Kosode ride Joji in front of a live audience with his pig running around on stage but as also see poor, manipulated Miki stoned out of her mind lying naked in her room, a sight that the camera lingers on a bit more than it probably should. Scenes like this give the movie a weird tone. It bounces from gag to gag, what with Joji played for the Japanese equivalent of a hillbilly complete with a straw hat and a friendly pig, but then deals with violence, drug use and a serial killer. Tonally this one is all over the place, but it’s nothing if not entertaining.

    Fukasaku’s direction keeps things moving at a very quick pace. There’s a lot crammed into the movie’s hour and a half and the picture never feels like its dragging or going to slow. The cast are solid too. It’s fun to see In The Realm Of The Senses’ Eiko Matsuda play the stripper who starts to basically stalk our hero, while Janet Hatta makes for a sympathetic chanteuse, clearly being exploited by her manager. Hiroki Matsukata plays that manger well, a total snake in the grass out to get his new meal ticket on a nationally syndicated talent show no matter who he has to screw over to get there (and he does screw over the competition in a surprisingly sleazy way!). And then of course there’s Chiba, handling both the comedic side of the picture and the showcase action set pieces with style. He does most of his own stunt work in the picture (though not all, some of the more complex motorcycle scenes were done by professional riders) and he makes it look natural. The guy’s got plenty of charisma here too, screen presence to spare.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Doberman Cop arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video on a 50GB Blu-ray disc. Framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition from a transfer that was ‘remastered in high definition and supplied for this release by Toei Company, Ltd.’ The picture quality here is good, quite solid actually. The image is clean showing very little print damage while color reproduction is pretty decent and black levels just fine. Detail is a bit soft in spots, though this could have to do with the photography employed during the shoot. Skin tones look natural enough and the image is free of any obvious digital tinkering like sharpening or noise reduction.

    The Japanese LPCM Mono soundtrack is clean, clear and free of any hiss or distortion although there is some sibilance in the higher end from time to time. Optional English subtitles are included that are easy to read and free of any typographical errors. The score comes through with enough power behind it that it accentuates the more intense scenes of the film, but it never buries the performers. The same comment applies to the foley and the sound effects. As far as older mono tracks go, this sounds alright.

    Extras for this release start off with Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane. In this nine minute piece Yamane gives us a quick overview of Fukasaku before then getting into the specifics of the making of Doberman Cop offering up some critical analysis and interesting bits of trivia, including some historical information about the Japanese film industry around the time that this picture was made.

    Arrow has also included the second part of their interview with Sonny Chiba (the first part was included on the Wolf Guy Blu-ray) that clocks in at just shy of eighteen minutes in length. Chiba talks quite candidly about his relationship with the late Kinji Fukasaku, the different films that they worked on together starting in the sixties, some shared career highlights and how they got to be good friends in real life. He also gives us some cultural background information on Okinawa and talks about his own feelings on that island’s culture as well as some of his own experiences working there. Arrow has also provided an exclusive interview with screenwriter Koji Takada that also runs just under eighteen minutes. He speaks quite candidly about his time working as a writer in the sixties and seventies and also discusses the source material, writing Doberman Cop in particular and a fair bit more. Both pieces are pretty interesting and serve to offer up some welcome background information on the feature and its origins.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray flipper style case also holds a DVD version of the movie that has the same extras on it as are found on the Blu-ray disc. Also included inside the case is some reversible sleeve art featuring a newly commissioned piece by Chris Malbon on one side and the film’s original Japanese one sheet on the reverse. The first pressing of this title also comes with an illustrated full color insert booklet that contains an essay on the film and the manga that inspired it written by Patrick Macias alongside credits for the feature and for the Blu-ray release.

    The Final Word:

    Doberman Cop isn’t quite as hard-edged as some of Chiba’s better known action pictures but it’s a solid cop thriller with some quirky comedy and genuinely unexpected plot twists thrown in. Arrow’s Blu-ray presents the picture in nice shape and with some quality extras too. Chiba-philes and Fukasaku fanatics take note!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






























    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      One rappels off of things. To repel is to drive away.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      God damn it.
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