Review for Electric Dragon 80000V
One of the things that I love about Third Window Films is the way that they approach their titles with such enthusiasm, tending to curate certain directors or actors rather than just pick single titles to release with less in the way of context. That’s how we got most of Shinya Tsukamoto’s catalogue, a brace of Takeshi Kitano films, and a couple of Nobuhiko Obayashi boxsets. Quite recently, they’ve been teasing a forthcoming Katsuhito Ishii (Taste of Tea/Funky Forest) boxset, although unsurprisingly I got my Ishiis mixed up and thought that this month’s Electric Dragon 80000V and Punk Samurai were part of the promotion.
These two films are by Gakuryu, a.k.a. Sogo Ishii, director of Isn’t Anyone Alive? and Crazy Thunder Road. However, they were also two films in a three film tease by Third Window Last year, as they promoted some of the films of Tadanobu Asano, who stars in both Electric Dragon 80000V and Punk Samurai. I’m still hoping that the third film will be Survive Style 5+ (Third Window have teased that enough), but it would be misplaced of me to hope for a Blu-ray of the mainstream Returner. Electric Dragon 80000V is as far from mainstream as you can get...
It turns out that Dragons really do exist; only they exist within us. You really should remind children to not climb on electricity pylons. One boy did and got hit with 80,000 volts. The electricity made a shortcut to the primitive, reptilian centre of his brain, and his aggression was unleashed. It was a hard childhood, punctuated by electro-shock treatment in a futile attempt to calm him down. In the end, the only thing that could calm ‘Dragon’s Eye’ Morrison was the sound of electric guitars. And he found an affinity to reptiles, working as a private detective looking for lost lizards in the city. But now a challenger has arisen... Thunderbolt Buddha!
Electric Dragon 80000V gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p monochrome transfer, with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Japanese with optional English subtitles. It’s an excellent transfer of a striking film. The image is clear and sharp, with excellent detail and contrast throughout. The audio is nice and immersive, with the surround really quite effective. Initial narration aside, this isn’t a dialogue heavy film, indeed could be a silent movie, although the music really is striking, a soundtrack that is more of a pulsing undercurrent than anything obvious and obtrusive, which given the punk guitars is quite an achievement. It’s also visually a striking achievement, through locations and composition making what should be a familiar cityscape look quite alien.
The disc boots to an animated menu, with added punk. The film is comparatively short for a feature at just 55 minutes, but there is some compensation in that there are more than the usual extra features on this disc. Most of them date from the 2001 theatrical release of the film, but there is a new interview with the music creator as well.
Director Sogo Ishii Stage Interview (14:30)
Tadanobu Asano Stage Greeting (5:50)
Masahoshi Nagase Stage Greeting (8:22)
Producer Takenori Sento Stage Greeting (9:33)
Music Creator Hiroyuki Onogawa Interview (21:29)
Synthesized Images With Commentary (22:33)
Premiere Stage Greetings (3:37)
If a Shinya Tsukamoto movie could be more surreal, and infused to the core with comedy, you would get something like Electric Dragon 80000V. At 55 minutes, you shouldn’t expect anything approaching a narrative, certainly no complexities of plot. In many ways it feels like the cinematic expression of a joke, a 55 minute visual gag and punch-line, and in that respect it is very well done, and certainly effective.
It is something of a methodical build to the film’s climax, with much of the runtime given to introducing and developing the character of Morrison. As a child, we see the accident on the electricity pylon that awakens his inner dragon. Subsequently, he’s shown to be unable to control his aggression, to the point that he is given electro-shock therapy, which does nothing to contain his violence. It gets to the point that he’s too violent even to be a boxer. This is when he discovers the soothing power of punk guitars, and his affinity for reptiles, which gives him something of a career. We also get to see his punk lifestyle.
Then the challenger, Thunderbolt Buddha appears, an enigmatic man who wears half a Buddha mask, and who at first glance seems to be some kind of vigilante. But it soon becomes clear that he’s after Morrison, and does whatever it takes to get his attention and provoke him.
I know that I’ve basically just reiterated what I wrote in the introduction, but this isn’t a film where you get depth of story, and even the characterisations are broad. This is a cinematic experience, where the combination of the striking visuals and inventive cinematography, along with the stylish and visceral music and sound design, all makes for a surreal and memorable experience. Electric Dragon 80000V is definitely worth a watch, and will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled.
Electric Dragon 80000V can be bought from Terracotta, Arrow Video, and all the usual mainstream e-tailers.
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