As the hype goes, Showtime refused to air Japanese director Takashi Miike’s contribution to the channel’s Masters of Horror anthology series, making Miike the only director among such genre heroes as John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Dario Argento to be so rejected. Ironically, in an interview included on the disc, Miike recounts the freedom he had starting out in the early 1990s as a director of straight-to-video shockers aimed at an audience of rural, adolescent Japanese boys. Since his salad days, Miike has made freedom the most dominant principle behind a wide-ranging oeuvre that includes the musical comedy of The Happiness of the Katakuris, the tightly wound Audition and the cartoonish violence of the Dead or Alive trilogy. The beginning of Imprint is uncharacteristically restrained. Miike’s pacing seems off, weighted down by an enforced American preoccupation with exposition (the first 10 minutes of Dead or Alive, by contrast, whiz by with such furious flash and brio, they feel like a trailer for the film instead of its opening sequence). The slow build makes all the more obvious a leaden performance by the film’s star, Billy Drago, as an American searching the darkest corners of turn-of-the-century Japan for a lost love. Thankfully, Drago gets pushed to the sidelines by Youki Kudoh as a severely scarred geisha at the most notorious brothel on a night-shrouded island where only “prostitutes and demons live.” The subsequent flashbacks find Miike back on his game. A tale of torture, incest, abortion, bitterness and revenge, the film seethes with skin-crawling, fetishistic imagery shot with a craftsman’s loving attention to detail. That’s especially true for the sound effects — simply closing your eyes doesn’t offer any respite. It’s a perfectly fucked up way to kick off your October.
Other recommended new releases: Humphrey Bogart: The Signature Collection Volume 2: Across The Pacific, Action In The North Atlantic, All Through The Night, Passage To Marseille, The Maltese Falcon 3-Disc Special Edition(DVD); X-Men: The Last Stand (DVD)
Also released this week: DVD:Abominable; Body Double: Special Edition; Bugsy: Extended Cut; Changing Times; Commander In Chief: Season One: The Inaugural Edition; Favre 4 Ever; Forever Knight The Trilogy: Part Three; Glass House: The Good Mother; The Greatest American Hero: The Complete Series; Hollywood’s Legends Of Horror Collection: Mark Of The Vampire/The Mask Of Fu Manchu, Doctor X/The Return Of Doctor X, Mad Love/The Devil Doll; Live Feed; The Little Mermaid; Lost: The Complete Second Season: The Extended Experience; Mcleod’s Daughters: The Complete First Season; MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge Vol.1; The Norliss Tapes; The Polar Express; Scarface: Platinum Edition; Stooges on the Run; The Stuart Little Movie Collection: Stuart Little, Stuart Little 2 And Stuart Little: Call Of The Wild; Thank You for Smoking; Three’s Company: Season 8; Viva Baseball; Voodoo Moon; The Woods.