Kung Fu and lycanthropy: an irresistible combination if you ask me,
and this fun Sonny Chiba movie proves it!
Adapted from a popular manga, 1975’s WOLFGUY: ENRAGED
LYCANTHROPE (URUFU GAI: MOERO OKAMI-OTOKO) was one of several dozen
1970s starring vehicles for JJ Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba, Japan’s answer
to Bruce Lee, who’d shot to stardom a year earlier in the phenomenally
popular STREETFIGHTER and its sequels.
WOLFGUY, a quasi follow-up to the 1973 film HORROR OF
THE WOLF, is certainly one of the most unique and interesting of Chiba’s
100-plus films, yet also, curiously enough, one of the most obscure. For
decades it was presumed lost, and remains tragically little known.
A man freaks out in the middle of a crowded city
street, screaming about seeing a tiger, and inexplicably dies, with his
body bearing what look like tiger claw scratches. This sordid spectacle
is witnessed by Inugami, a cop afflicted with horrific memories
triggered by the assault.
Inugami is investigating the case of Miki, a popular
singer who was gang raped and injected with syphilis. The assault was
apparently ordered by Manabe Productions, the yakuza-riddled company for
which Miki worked. Inugami tracks her to a nightclub where she’s
performing, and from there she leads him back to her lair, where he
takes out several of her yakuza tormentors by pelting them with coins.
In the melee one of the yakuza undergoes a freak-out much like the one
that occurred in the beginning, spasming and screaming about a tiger,
and bleeding all over from seeming tiger claw wounds.
Inugami shacks up with Miki, and in the process
discovers more about her. It seems she was killed by her tormentors,
only to be brought back to life--in which guise she cursed the scumbags
to be attacked by a spectral tiger.
This inspires Inugami to think back to how as a child
his mother informed him that on the 15th day of every lunar
cycle he’ll transform into a werewolf. He’s the last member of the
Inugami blood line, with his relatives having all been massacred.
But then the Manabe lackeys capture Inugami and subject
him to horrific surgical experiments. These include a blood transfusion
in which one of the gang’s minions is given werewolf DNA.
Not that any of this matters, as the 15th
day of the lunar cycle is at hand, and Inugami transforms--not into a
wolf, but a more souped-up version of himself that can leap impossible
distances and reverse the surgical injuries done to him. In this state
Inugami breaks out of the bad guys’ compound and fights his wolf
blood-transfused nemesis--the latter dies, however, due to the fact that
human and werewolf blood apparently don’t mix.
Inugami decides to head back to the forest stronghold
where his family originated. There he gets involved in yet more fights,
and meets a hot chick who provides sex (of course), and also some vital
information about Inugami’s unique heritage.
For what it is WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE works: it’s
lean, unpretentious and ultimately (despite a rather abrupt ending)
quite satisfying. It contains a great deal of nastiness, with the
spectral tiger attack motif allowing for a lot of spurting blood. There
are also plenty of kung fu fights, enhanced, as was the case with most
martial arts films of the seventies, by outrageously over-modulated
whishing and thwacking sound effects. There are also copious explosions
and a great deal of gunplay in the final scenes, evincing a definite Sam
The film is further marked by an outrageous funkadelic
score, as well as the inevitable overuse of the zoom lens, outré camera
angles and rudimentary psychedelic effects that mark it out as a
quintessential product of its time. Yet it contains some genuinely wild
and unexpected sights, such as that of Inugami’s exposed innards sliding
back into his open stomach cavity, which then seals itself shut.
As for Sonny Chiba, he essentially essays the same role
he did in better-known seventies programmers like THE STREET FIGHTER and
THE BODYGUARD: that of a stoic and largely personality-free tough guy
who never comes up short in a fight. The fact that he plays a
lycanthrope here only enhances his particular talents.
WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (URUFU GAI: MOERO OKAMI-OTOKO)
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Screenplay: Fumio Konami
(Based on a manga series by Kazumasa Hirai)
Cinematography: Yoshio Nakajima
Cast: Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba, Saburo Date, Koji Fujiyama, Tooru Hanada,
Ryuji Hayami, Jiro Ibuki, Harukui Jo, Kenji Kawai, Hiroshi Kondo, Koji
Miemachi, Etsuko Nami, Yoshio Neshima