Sogo Ishii is the maverick of Japanese cinema. Making amateur
films with an 8 mm camera while still in high school in the 1970's, his
independent films garnered much acclaim and influenced an entire generation
of Japanese directors including Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Ironman)
and Takashi Miike (Audition). After taking some time off in
the late 1990's, Ishii returned to directing in 2000 with the excellent
and lavish sword drama Gojoe,
and followed that up with a film that returned to him to his roots, the
punk rock inspired Electric Dragon 80,000V. This film couldn't
be more different from Gojoe. While the earlier film was a
beautiful and captivating 2 hour spectacle that tells an interesting and
intricate story, Electric Dragon has almost no story, runs less than an
hour, and goes for stimulating the viewers senses more than their
intellect. Even with these differences, both films are very good
and clearly illustrate what a talented director Ishii is.
Dragon Eye Morrison (Tadanobu Asano, Ichi the Killer) is a reptile
detective. If you lose your pet lizard, he'll find it. He's
very good at his job because when he was a young boy he climbed up an electric
power line tower and received 80,000 volts of electricity. Instead
of killing him, the shock stimulates the reptilian part of his brain and
makes him very violent. As a child he's always getting into fights
(and winning). To curb his aggressive manner, he undergoes extensive
electric shock treatments for years and years. It doesn't work
of course, but that in combination with the shock he received on the tower
gives him the ability to conduct electricity.
No hero is complete without a villain however, and into this story comes
Thunderbolt Budda (Masatoshi Nagase, Gojoe), a half machine, half
cyborg creature who has total control over the electrical spectrum due
to being struck by lightning as a child. Thunderbolt doesn't like
the idea of anyone else having the same power that he does, and sets out
to see which of them is more powerful.
The plot is very basic, not much more than a 45-minute set up for a
10-minute fight, and there's no characterization to speak of. Dismissing
the film on that basis would be a mistake however because this is a film
that's meant to be experienced, not analyzed. Like Dragon Eye Morrison,
viewers have to tap into their primal brains and let the movie flow over
In that respect, this movie is a total success. It's almost an
assault on the senses stimulating the viewer both visually and aurally.
The film has very little dialog, and much of that is reproduced as large
intertitles splashing the words on the screen. The audio portion
of the film it largely taken up by punk music, loud and intense but not
grating. It fits the movie well, giving it a raw feeling.
The black and white cinematography is quite impressive, with every shot
looking like a still photograph. These eye catching images mesh wonderfully
with the thrashing music to create a film viewing experience that is impressive
This LE DVD set comes with the movie on a single sided DVD and a bonus
soundtrack CD housed in a single width clear keepcase. There is an
insert with a short essay on director Sogo Ishii.
This movie comes with the original Japanese language soundtrack in both
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, as well as a stereo English dub. I screened
the film with the DTS track which was excellent. The full soundstage
was utilized with music and effects totally surrounding the viewer.
There's very little dialog in the film, but the audio does play an important
part in the telling of and the dynamic intense soundtrack really
works well. The sound was clean and clear without any distortion
or other audio defects.
The black and white widescreen anamorphic image (1.78:1) looks very
good. There is a little aliasing present but besides that it's a
nice transfer. The contrast is very good and the blacks are deep
and solid. The range of grey tones is large too. A very nice
This disc also has an art gallery with layouts for the title designs
and another one focusing on the tattoos that were shown in the movie, a
still gallery. There's also a 22-minute featurette with the special
effect director who discusses how some of the shots were obtained and about
some of the problems they encountered. This is in Japanese with English
A good number of interviews are also provided, including the formal
press release, an interview with producer Takenori Sento, and three other
discussions about the movie that were filmed after screenings.
Wrapping the extras section up are a series of trailers and a music video.
This limited edition release of the movie also includes a CD soundtrack
from the film, by the punk band Mach 1.67, which is made up of the film's
composer Hiroyuki Onogawa, director Sogo Ishii, and star Tadanobu Asano.
The music is pretty good, especially if you like raw powerful rock, and
it's well worth getting the LE for this soundtrack.
If you want an interesting film viewing experience that is different
from most others, check out this movie. With exciting visuals and
an intense soundtrack the movie wacks the viewer on the side of the head.
This isn't a film that requires a lot of though, it is a film that should
be absorbed. This experimental film by Sogo Ishii succeeds wonderfully.