Friday, April 25, 2008

Hanzo The Razor - The Snare (1973)

The second entry in the Hanzo The Razor series follows the pattern of the first film quite closely. Samurai cop (played by the amazing Shinatro Katsu) is a dick to all authority figures, rapes his female suspects into submission, and then shows himself to be the biggest bad-ass in feudal Japan. The Snare decides to dig deeper into exploitive elements as Hanzo takes on an underground abortion clinic, female slavery (and BDSM) ring, and a gang of murdering thieves.

Oh, and he's once again pouring hot water on his penis, beating it with a rod, and making sweet love to a bag of rice to prepare himself for his "interrogations".

The Snare is superior to Sword Of Justice in that it spends less time setting up Hanzo as a supercop, and more time on him killing Ronins and yelling at his superiors (particularly Magobei Onishi, who steals his scenes as Hanzo's impossibly corrupt superior officer who is constantly flaking out about his attitude).

Still, despite the entertaining plot and high production values, it's still difficult to get over Hanzo's torture methods, and the rather sickening way that the women bend to his every whim after being sexually dominated by him. It's certainly reflective of the time it was made, and certainly a response to the sexist attitudes prevalent from James Bond to Dirty Harry, but the sexual elements of this film certainly trump the original.

For those who can look past the sexual exploitation (which, I admit, can be difficult to do), there's still a lot to enjoy here. Katsu's ornery performance is a true 180 from his famous Zatoichi role, and the swordplay on display is well choreographed and appropriately bloody. Hanzo's booby trapped house is a highlight of the films, as spears and arrows embed themselves in would-be trespassers.

I'll admit I went into this series expecting something a little closer to the Lone Wolf and Cub films, which despite the high production values and source material share few similarities in content. However, it is a very strong example of Japanese exploitation with elements of the Pink Film style that was still popular in Japanese cinema at the time.

The DVD features the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the print is nearly flawless. Subtitles are, with a couple of exceptions, clear and well translated. Once again, the only features on the disc are trailers for the three Hanzo films.

Recommended for fans of Japanese exploitation.

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