Blu-Ray Review: Doberman Cop

Doberman CopYou may (or may not) confuse Doberman Cop with Wolf Guy for some reason and nope, I’d not fault you one bit if you haven’t seen either film and draw that incorrect conclusion. The former film has nothing to do with the latter other than both films were adapted from popular manga and greatly transformed as a result by their respective writers and directors.

In the case of Kinji Fujusaku’s 1977 flick, it’s a far better made movie once again featuring Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba doing his own stunts, loads of violence (but less nudity) and a weird dip into supernatural detecting as a means of solving a series of serial killings. While crackling with a crazy energy, there are a few logic gaps if you pay close enough attention between Fujisaku’s trademark hard-boiled violence that don’t harm the film, but the narrative suffers as a result.

When a prostitute is found murdered in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho district, Okinawan cop Joji Kano (Chiba) is sent from the island to assist in the case. As the girl was from his homeland, he’s got a special interest in returning her ashes home. However, he arrives and despite the forensic evidence, is convinced the girl’s ID is incorrect. The body found was an Okinawan, but not the one everyone else says. His battered straw hat and reliance on divination only lead the Tokyo cops to think he’s a bumbling bumpkin, but it’s probably the live pig he shows up with as a gift that makes him seem somewhat bonkers.



Add in a stripper who falls head over heels for Kano, a singer the cop suspects is hiding a secret, an unbalanced yakuza boss, and a motorcycle gang out to prove one of its members isn’t a killer and yep, you get quite a meaty action flick. Kano beats up a few rooms full of people, jumps from about two stories down to a hard sidewalk, and in the film’s most impressive stunt, Kano rappels down a high-rise hotel and kicks in a window to subdue a would-be kidnapper.  There’s a kind of Coogan’s Bluff vibe here, although once Kano gets his hands on an illegal .44 Magnum, the film pretty much turns into a Japanese version of a Dirty Harry flick.

As for the narrative hiccups, at one point, Kano discovers the aforementioned singer after beating up a room full of gangsters, but doesn’t get her out of danger. Granted, this would have made the film a lot shorter has this occurred. Later on, Kano’s handiwork with that illegal gun gets him in trouble with the police to the point where he’s beaten up while being interrogated, which comes off as weird. Then again, I’m gathering from a few other Japanese films I’ve seen from this era that a main means of information extraction was the ol’ beat-down. Anyway, Kane ends up taking on the entire precinct in a thrilling fight, bashes his way though the doors and escapes with the help of the motorcycle gang, so it’s all good.

As for extras, there’s a video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane, who points out Japan’s film industry was in dire shape when the film was released, an interview with screenwriter Koji Takada where he mentions how the film deviated greatly from the source material, and the second part of that Chiba interview where he comes off as a pretty genial guy with a long career in Japan and yep, fans who know some of his work from a certain Quentin Tarantino film. Before you ask, yes, this makes a fine double feature with Wolf Guy… but you may want to go for Fujisaku’s brutal, more realistic Cops vs Thugs as a counterpoint to the silliness. It’s your move.



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