• Star Of David: Hunting For Beautiful Girls

    Released by: Discotek Media/Eastern Star
    Released on: 3/31/09
    Director: Norifumi Suzuki
    Cast: Shun Domon, Hiromi Namino, Asami Ogawa, Natsuko Yagi, Yuka Asagiri, Yûko Asuka, Hiroshi Nawa, Rei Okamoto, Bunta Sugawara
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    One of the best known pink films to come out of Nikkatsu Studios, Star Of David: Hunting For Beautiful Girls (also known as Star Of David: Beauty Hunting) begins in the 1950s where a man breaks into a home and proceeds to tie up the wife and make the husband watch as he rapes her. Nine months later the woman gives birth to the rapist’s son, a child who her husband has nothing but complete disdain for. The young boy is beaten and abused, as is the woman, who the husband hates for climaxing during the rape.

    Cut to what would have been the present day when the film was made in 1979 and we meet the boy, Tatsuya (Shun Domon), now a young adult. His wealthy mother and ‘step father’ have both passed on, the later at Tatsuya’s hand, and left him a small fortune so, not having to work, he spends his time masturbating to Holocaust pictures and abducting pretty girls to rape and abuse. It seems that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and it all leads up to a rather fascinating and unexpected conclusion…

    Director Norifumi Suzuki has justly earned himself a bit of a reputation in cult movie circles for crafting some of the more memorable ‘pink’ and ‘Roman Porno’ movies to have seen legitimate English-friendly release on home video. Films like School Of The Holy Beast, Sex And Fury and Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom have all found an audience thanks to Suzuki’s uncanny ability to blend requisite exploitative elements like sex and violence with genuinely interesting stories and often times superlative visuals and Star Of David stands with the best of his entries in this genre thanks to those same qualities.

    Yes, the film definitely features a pretty ridiculous amount of sexualized violence, rape, and torture but underneath all of that there’s actually a pretty interesting and unusually humanistic storyline that bubbles up often enough to make this one stand out. Adding to that is Suzuki’s often seen penchant for adding Catholic iconography into his films, and this time we even get some unusual Nazi imagery as well. The film has absolutely no qualms about shoving taboos in the audiences face, be it bondage, sadism, bestiality, or anti-Semitic politics but behind all of that is the simple tale of a young man who doesn’t really know who he is and in turn searches for a sense of identity. Granted, this is told through a story in which a young man, covered in blood, rapes a bound woman in front of a stained glass window depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so the visuals do tend to overpower the more tender side of this odd morality tale, but that side is definitely there even if it isn’t always obvious.

    Like many of Suzuki’s films, Star Of David is a gorgeous looking picture that does an amazing job using color to portray emotion and tension. The Bava-esque primary hues bathe certain scenes and give them an air of sophistication that somehow manages to elevate the softcore sex scenes to something more akin to a classical painting. Setting the entire picture to an emotive and at times rather touching instrumental score also helps in this regard. The performances are strong across the board, with Shun Domon turning in an excellent lead and with welcome supporting efforts from Asami Ogawa and Hiroshi Nawa. The legendary Bunta Sugawara, star of too many Yakuza films to list, has a brief cameo role in the picture and the stunningly beautiful Hiromi Namino does a fine job in her debut as Tatsuya’s unfortunate girlfriend.


    Eastern Star presents Star Of David in a nice 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen progressive scan transfer that is, at times, a little bit on the soft side but otherwise very good. Colors look nice and natural while black levels stay consistently deep. There's a coat of grain noticeable in some spots but perfectly acceptable. There's very little to complain about in terms of print damage, edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts. All in all, the movie looks just fine here. There is some optical fogging between the 1:34 and 1:35 marks to hide some naughtiness as required by the Japanese censorship laws of the time.

    The Japanese language Dolby Digital Stereo mix comes with optional English subtitles sounds just fine. Dialogue is clean and clear and the levels are all well balanced. Being an older low budget film, this isn't a track that has a ton of range but considering the limitations of the original source material, really, it sounds fine. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and everything sounds nice and crisp and the classical score sounds very good.

    The coolest extra feature on this release is an audio commentary with Norifumi Suzuki himself. In Japanese with English subtitles, the moderator keeps Suzuki talking about the cast and crew that he worked with on this picture as well as some of the nastier themes that we see played out in the movie. He explains the ‘fallen angel’ motif used in the movie, talks about who shot what for the picture, and discusses adapting the original manga into a live action movie. They talk about the marketing of the film, the one sheet specifically, how they wanted some of the rope play scenes to look like spider webs, and about that lead character’s intense hatred of mankind doesn’t necessarily represent Suzuki’s own world view. They talk about Suzuki’s Truck Bastard films and how some of the ideas from that series spill into this one and about what was and was not changed from the original source material in its voyage to a feature film. This is a pretty solid discussion, one with very little dead air and which proves to be pretty informative even if there are often times where the moderator, who lends some very welcome critical interpretation to the track, does more talking than the somewhat subdued director.

    There’s also an excellent Interview With Norifumi Suzuki (14:33 anamorphic widescreen), who talks about how he got his start at Toei ‘by accident’ and how part of his success came from his ability to better communicate with some of the producers and discussing the ‘period film’ slump that Toei was in when he joined up. Surprisingly humble about his work and his ability, he attributes his success to being in the right place at the right time. From there he explains how he went to work for Nikkatsu Studios to do a live action version of the manga story, Star Of David because Toei wouldn’t make it. He describes the film as one that deals with ‘the joy of being evil’ before comparing it to his Toei films talking about the differences in his work for the two studios. He also talks about the large budget he had to work with on Star Of David, and, more interestingly, where some of the Christian influences in this and other films in his filmography come from.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, Bohachi Bushido: Clan of the Forgotten Eight, Blind Woman’s Curse, Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Ebola Syndrome and Sukeban Boy. Animated menus and chapter selection options are included and the cover art for this release is reversible.

    The Final Word:

    Eastern Star has done an excellent job with this release. The transfer looks excellent and the plentiful supplements are interesting and informative. As for the film itself, Star Of David is rightfully considered a bit of a classic of the genre. It’s twisted, but beautifully made, truly a fascinatingly bizarre film ripe with memorable imagery and stand out set pieces.