In exploitation/cult filmdom you'll often hear of a particularity infamous title, one that really pushes the boundaries of taste and gruesome content. Sometimes that will lead to disappointment, often you'll find a new gem, and in those very rare cases you'll find a film that exceeds that reputation and serves as a benchmark for everything you've seen before and after.
Well, hold onto your hats, Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls is one such film.
When it comes to the Japanese subgenre of pinku, Roman porno, or just pink films, director Norifumi Suzuki was a master of delivering flicks peppered with lurid subject matter, bare bodies, action, offense, and beautiful style. But among a resume that includes standouts like School of the Holy Beast, Sex and Fury, Terrifying Girls High School, and Girl Boss Guerrilla, Star of David is a particularly nasty, near-irredeemable, striking, and vicious number.
We begin with wailing sirens. The police are looking for an escaped rapist and murderer, who we see has taken a professor and his wife hostage, forcing the academic to watch as his wife is violated. Its bad enough that the prof is driven mad by seeing his wife taken advantage of (and reluctantly enjoying it) but nine months later she has a child. That child, Tatsuya Jinno, is the subject of his fathers scorn and is scarred by watching his father abuse his mother which eventually leads to her suicide. He is finally pushed over the edge after discovering his fathers secret diary which detailed Tasuya's supposed conception.
Though Tatsuya appears to grow up into a well adjusted, upper class, quiet, and studious young man, he is in fact an absolute monster who has spent his formative years planning to take up his depraved genetic legacy. He begins by killing his father, abducting his father's mistress, and further a series of women (a teen humanitarian speaker, a pop star and her assistant, and finally his childhood love), whom he tortures and objectifies in a secret chamber he constructed within his lavish home. But, what will happen when his "true" father shows up?
Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls flirts with all of the boundaries of taste but it does so with bold style and impressive technique. Even though the content is often discomforting, you cannot help but appreciate how it is packaged. The performances are pretty solid. Shun Domon carries the weight of Tatsuya, a very tricky role, the disturbing villain being our lead. As for the women, it may not win you Oscars but it takes real guts to put it out there like they do in this film. A big deal was made of former Miss Japan Hiromi Namino, who plays Tatsuya's sweetheart, making her debut and shedding her clothes for this film and actingwise she's the only performer with a few lackluster moments.
Norifumi Suzuki is a fantastic director, especially in the way he imaginatively frames the naughtier scenes which flirt very close to being X-rated. The provocativeness boils over into Suzuki's usual penchant for religious imagery and the title-alluding Nazi/Jewish elements. Yes, its a film featuring bestiality, some serious sadism, necrophilia, a guy jerking off to WW2 atrocity photos, and the like, but is also a study in how to take those kind of extreme elements and make a picture that is beyond blunt boundary pushing. There is actually some thought, albeit twisted, behind the madness. Unlike the usual stalk and slash horrors, Star of David is filled with sequence after sequence sure to burn themselves into your brain.
The DVD: Eastern Star.
Picture: I'd previously seen the film via the shabbier, non-anamorphic Japan Shock disc and, from memory as I didn't have the Shock disc on hand, this transfer struck me as a good deal more robust and, of course, being anamorphic widescreen is also a huge improvement. Colors are quite vivid with healthy fleshtones. In terms of clarity, general age appropriate quality quirks are apparent but otherwise the print is very clean and suitably sharp. No glaring technical quibbles.
It should be noted there is slight optical fogging during one scene near the end of the film. A standard bit of unavoidable censoring by the Japanese decency watchdogs.
Sound: Not expecting much given the era and production, we get a basic stereo track, Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Good, relatively clear and clean. The subs were great, appearing to be well-translated and timed.
Extras: The extras include a trailer (plus more), a great interview with director Norifumi Suzuki (14:34) that races through how he became a director and how the Star of David project came to be, and, finally, feature length commentary by critic Kiichiro Yamashita and director Norifumi Suzuki.
Yamashita- "And this zoom on the panties?"
Suzuki- *chuckles* "You gotta' do it."
I'm not a huge commentary fan. Generally don't seek them out or feel gipped when one isn't included. But when it comes to a film like this, one that features such touchy material, that's a time when I say, "I have to know what the director was thinking." As such, this commentary was a godsend. Though, it is a study in contrasts. Norifumi Suzuki is no Abel Ferrera and his quips are mostly matter of fact and subdued while the onscreen action is lurid tenfold. He does offer some great insights, like the films water motif being symbolic of motherhood, thus that is why Tatsuya drowns his father in a raging sea, his tortured mother. I'd always heard the Japanese thought of water being symbolic of "fertility" not "motherhood", so that bit of lost in translation explanation by Suzuki shows the kind of subtle detail he was engaging in, the kind that makes this film more than empty shock number.
Conclusion: Top notch presentation of a justifiably notorious film. Excellent transfer and great extras compliment one of the dazzlingly seediest exploitation films ever made. It takes real talent to deliver the reptile brain goods of titillation, violence, weirdness, and general nastiness and also add a bit of subtext. It is tawdry horror that also brings up such things as nature versus nurture, predestiny, subjugation and sacrifice. Star of David is a masterful bit of cinematic perversion. Fans and casual viewers should definitely lean towards adding this one to their pinku film collection.