Every once in a while a movie comes along that just defies description. One such film is The Calamari Wrestler. What can you say about movie that has man-sized sea creatures fighting each other in a boxing ring? While wearing wrestling boots no less. Decidedly odd and a little off kilter, this film was actually a lot of fun to watch.
The film opens on Taguchi, a young pro-wrestler who in the ring finishing off opponent to win the national title. As he raises his hard won belt over his head though, it is snatched out of his hands by a giant squid. A quick battle ensues, where Taguchi discovers that it is impossible to put a Full Nelson on someone who doesn't have bones.
Angered over his humiliation, Taguchi wants to fight the squid, whom the press has dubbed the Calamari Wrestler. The wrestling federation's crooked owner won't allow Calamari to fight unless he agrees to throw the fight, something he'd never do.
While this is going on, Taguchi's finance, Miyako, gets a strange feeling whenever she sees the Calamari Wrestler. He reminds her of her old boyfriend, wrestler Kan-ichi Iwata, who died a few years ago. Could this cephalopod be the famed fighter in a new body?
Things get even stranger when the wrestling match is finally set up and Taguchi enters the ring. No longer a man, the champion has transformed himself into an octopus. It's a battle for the ages as a giant squid fights a giant octopus for the Japan Super Pro Wrestling title belt.
No one can accuse this low budget film of being great, or even very good. The dialog is force, the plot is absurd, and the acting only occasionally rises to the level of mediocre. Taking that all into account, this was a fun movie. The secret is that the film is played straight, they don't try to add a lot of camp or slapstick to the film. No one seemed to think it's strange that a huge squid is walking down the street, or that he'd want to be a professional wrestler. There aren't a lot of overt jokes thrown in, it's the situations themselves that are humorous. The scene were Calamari is trying to buy some sardines in a fish market is a riot not because of anything that's said, just because it's so odd. The same can be said for the love scene between Calimari and Miyako. I'll leave it at that and let you imagine the rest.
Though a lot of the production values of this movie are a bit less than average, the one thing that they did a splendid job on were the costumes. These were just great. The foam rubber and latex creations looked impressive and held up to a lot of abuse. The wrestling scenes were well staged too, and really tested the limits of the costumes.
There's no mention of languages on the case, so some people might be surprised when they pop this disc in their player and discover that it's in Japanese with no English dub. I usually prefer the original language, so this isn't a big deal for me, but they should mention it on the DVD case. Aside from this omission, the stereo soundtrack sounds about average. This isn't a very a very dynamic disc, the roar of the crowds aren't very forceful. The dialog is easy enough to hear though, and there isn't any hiss or distortion. An adequate soundtrack. There are optional English subtitles.
The 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic display looks pretty good for a low budget effort. The main problem with the image is that many of the scenes, especially the exterior shots, have a pink tinge to them. The blacks aren't as solid as I would like either. Aside from that, the image is sharp and the level of detail is fine. There is a very slight grain, but nothing too bad. Digital defects are at a minimum.
I was surprised at the quality and quantity of the extras on this disc. The main bonus item is a making of featurette which runs 22-minutes long. It shows the actors trying on a rough version of their costumes, as well as rehearsals and the filming of the movie. There wasn't any narration, but I still enjoyed it. There is also a still gallery, two trailers and two TV spots and a music video.
While a lot of people will watch this film and just not get it, fans of Japanese giant monster films or Mexican wrestling movies will get a kick out of it. The film is played straight, not for laughs, and that makes it all the more humorous. Probably the strangest movie I've watched this year, this gets my Recommendation.