One might want to jump to the conclusion that The Bite (1963) is one of those cutting, maverick Japanese films, like Imamura's The Pornographers, reflecting the Post War state of the country, in particular how the youth struggle to survive in a nation whose identity and economics were shattered. But really I think it boils down to far more simplistic intent, a tabloid tale of sins of the flesh and a hustler who is unable to leave the hustle behind and the tragedy that befalls him.
Koichi is a sunglasses clad, convertible driving, gigolo who specializes in private peep shows. His madam has Koichi seduce young girls and bed them in front of a two way mirror while select clientele enjoy the show. In the first scene, surprisingly, the audience consists of nothing but older, stuffy women, dabbing their feverish necks at the sight of the young buck in action.
Koichi falls for one of his unsuspecting catches, a waitress named Akiko. He begins to develop a conscience and guilt about his job and when publicly mocked about his reputation at a club, he goes on a violent frenzy and refuses to be bailed out of jail by his madam. He tries to cut all ties and settle down with Akiko but the failing health of his mother and tight grip of his madam temp him back into the sex trade. After his madam uses Akiko against him, thinking a reveal of his and Akiko's true debauched colors will turn him, he trudges toward a desperate act of revenge.
Firmly steeped in 60's mod energy, The Bite a passable low budget number. It goes through the perfunctory beats of an exploitation vehicle. Though tame by todays standards, for it's era it has plenty of sleaze and profuse nudity. As far as the genre goes, it is purely an orthodox entry with basic pulp aspirations.
The DVD: Cinema Epoch.
Now, my biggest misgiving about this film is due to the English language print. The catch is, this might be the only print of the film, or at the least, it is a rare enough film that you'd have to give a little leeway. Like pauper children at Sunday church, you might have to forgive the presentation.
Cinema Epoch states that the DVD was produced via the "only known Existing 35mm print." It is a genre that, in its earliest days, was very small and very independent so many pinku films of the 60's have been lost over the years. But, does this mean the only "English dub 35 mm print" or the "only print-period?" In other words, is there no Japanese language source out there that they could draw from?
Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. Black and White. The film definitely shows its age and there is a good deal of wear and tear in terms of heavy grain and dirt. Luckily, I consider it to be within acceptable levels, just be forewarned that this isn't the cleanest print. The lack of anamorphic enhancement is a puzzler. Rough or not, one assumes we've come technically far enough in DVD mastering that this sort of step should be a no-brainer.
Mono, English dub. Get ready for the echo-echo-echo-echo. Technically it is limited by age and poor production values. The real problem is how this English language dub distorts the storytelling of the film.
There is blatant voice over during dialogue scenes and it appears to be a product of the English distributors wanting to dumb down the story and over explain what is going on. Two characters will be in a simple exchange, yet we hear the echo-drenched voice over of, say, Koichi giving exposition of things the viewer should be able to assume based on character actions (like the fact that he resents his madam). I doubt this is how the film was originally intended and if it was, well, it appears to be a terrible storytelling device.
As they did with Slave Widow, Cinema Epoch presents another barebones edition of a rare film by a noted pinku director. The Bite director Kan Murakai (aka. Hiroshi Mukai or Ryo Ino) was apparently a steadfast and prolific pinku film maker but many of his films have become lost over time, so one has to be very grateful for the effort of resurrecting anything from his resume. Unfortunately, the soundtrack has me on the fence about recommending the film. In its original language/soundtrack, I'm certain I'd like the film more. Classic Japanese erotica enthusiasts will want to purchase it, but casual viewers should opt for a rental.