• Madame O (Synapse Films) DVD Review

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: July 28th, 2008
    Director: Seiichi Fukuda
    Cast: Michiko Aoyama, Akihiho Kaminara, Yuichi Minato, Naomi Tani
    Year: 1967
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    Madame O – Movie Review:

    Seiichi Fukuda's 1967 film Madame O was actually distributed theatrically in North America by Radley Metzger's Audubon Films. According to the liner notes, the film's original title, Zoku Akutoki: Joe-hen, translates to Continuation: Vice Doctor - Female Vice Edition and it's a sequel to Fukuda's earlier Vice Doctor - Maternity And Gynecology Department Diary. It's a shame, based on the quality of this picture at least, that its predecessor seems to be lost.

    The film follows a female gynecologist named Seiko (Michiko Aoyama) who was raped at a young age. As such, her impression of the male population isn't exactly a good one and she secretly walks the streets at night dressed provocatively to pick up whatever dumb, horny man she can lure into her web. What her partners don't know is that Seiko contracted syphilis when she was raped and she's only too happy to spread it around as she sees fit. After she boffs her nightly conquests and they fall off to sleep, she carves an X on their arms with her scalpel and then rubs a syphilitic cotton swab over their wound.

    Seiko's professional life is a little more relaxed than her personal life, however, and she runs a very successful clinic with the help of her assistant, Kiko (a young Naomi Tani of Flower And Snake). The girls soon find that the business is more than they can handle, however, so she brings a second doctor to her practice in the form of a hunky male doctor (Akihiko Kaminara). When he walks in on Seiko giving herself an impromptu abortion (her nightly conquests don't involve condoms!) he saves her and she soon tells him her story. Regardless of her past, he falls for her and the two are soon wed but Seiko's past is catching up with her and her new beau may have a skeleton or two of his own in his closet.

    Madame O is an interesting movie for a few reasons, the first of which is its depiction of the male species - there's not one good male character in the film and in a few ways it's almost feminist in the same way as other rape/revenge exploitation pictures can be. While it's hard to say if the political subtext is intentional or simply a coincidence born out of a wonky script, the film does seem to condemn the misogynist society in which this odd piece of pathos plays out. The film is very much a tragedy in a lot of ways, almost Shakespearian at times in its plotting, but it all comes in the guise of a trashy sexploitation film making it quite a contrast. Adding to the contrast is director Seiichi Fukuda's tendency to switch from color to black and white to emphasize a couple of key scenes and their importance in the development of Seiko's character.

    At eighty-one minutes the picture moves along at a fairly brisk pace even if one or two of the love scenes feel like padding. The film is very well photographed and set to a quirky instrumental score that compliments the action nicely. Naomi Tani, who would go on to become one of the shining stars of Japanese exploitation in the seventies, is sorely underused and her appearance here is little more than a bit part but she is a key player in the story and it's fun to see her here in an early part.

    Madame O – DVD Review:

    Madame O is presented in its original 2.35.1 aspect ratio is a nice anamorphic transfer. Some grain and mild speckling is present on the picture but those are minor issues and don't detract form the picture quality. The black and white scenes (which make up the bulk of the film) are nice with solid contrast while the color scenes are vibrant and have a nice warmth to them. Mpeg compression artifacts and edge enhancement are a non-issue and fans should be pretty happy with what they see here.

    The only audio track available was the English dubbed track so that's what we get. The Dolby Digital Mono mix is clean and clear and there aren't any major problems to report.

    Save for some spiffy menus and a chapter selection option, the only extra on the DVD is the American theatrical trailer bearing the Audubon Films/Radley Metzger Presents type. Inside the keepcase is an insert containing a page of liner notes from author Jasper Sharp of Midnight Eye that give a brief history of the film and its genre.

    Madame O – The Final Word:

    A quirky and fairly trashy effort, Madame O is an interesting blend of horror and eroticism that winds up something else entirely thanks to its trashy aesthetic. Synapse has done a nice job on the transfer and the lack of extras is understandable given the film's obscurity.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      These reviews are reminding me of the Synapse and Panik House DVDs I purchased long ago but I haven't got around too. Glad to see this one was worth picking up.

      Shamefully enough I still haven't watched Meiko Kaji's Wandering Ginza Butterfly flicks despite the sequel starring Chiba as well.
    1. AngelGuts's Avatar
      AngelGuts -
      Great review of a really magic film. Would love to see the lost feature.