UK DVD Release Date: 08th October 2012
UK Distribution Label: Third Window Films
I rarely talk about the extras on a DVD because I am more interested in the film. I do watch the extras but I would rather write about the films. Unless a director says something interesting in an interview or there is something easy or interesting to spot like the quality of the visuals or inaccurate subtitles I tend to leave them alone. I really should get a grip on this situation so now is a good time to start because Third Window Films have pulled out all of the stops for this re-release of the Tetsuo films…
The two films are part of a 2-disc DVD/Blu-Ray set. This Blu-Ray will be the first time the Tetsuo films have graced the format. Most importantly is the fact that Shinya Tsukamoto is heavily involved with the project which means that there are a goodly amount of interesting and hard to get extras.
What are the technical details/extras included?
New High Definition Transfer supervised by Shinya Tsukamoto
Tetsuo: The Iron Man Japanese Trailer
Tetsuo II: Body Hammer Japanese Trailer
Tetsuo UK Trailer
Exclusive interview with Shinya Tsukamoto
‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’ – Shinya Tsukamoto’s early film
The technical aspects of the DVD are excellent and extras are extremely fascinating. Even a guy like me who is usually more interested in the films was bowled over by them. Visually, the differences in the colours are startling. Comparing this set’s films to clips and trailers on YouTube, you can see a real difference in terms of the sharpness of the picture and the way colours are highly defined. You can make out the smallest of details. The sound is also excellent, clear and audible which is why I was able to write a lot about the images and sounds for my reviews. Even Tsukamoto’s early indie effort, The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy, sounds and looks good. This clip on YouTube is nothing compared to the version on this DVD set and we get to see the whole thing through in great quality.
What about the extras? I started with the trailers. There are the original Japanese trailers for Tetsuo and Tetsuo II and a UK trailer that combines the two. I never watch a trailer before viewing a film because I want to go in as cold as possible so I am surprised by the film. The two Japanese trailers give away so much about the films, I am thankful I avoided them. The UK trailer manages to be more enigmatic and intriguing without giving too much away.
Now we get to the real meat of the extras. Shinya Tsukamoto is interviewed. How did he get his start and where do his weird ideas come from? We get some of those insights in an interview which lasts nearly twenty minutes. It gives excellent background information on Tsukamoto’s early career, the making of Tetsuo and he also addresses being compared to David Cronenberg and what cyberpunk means to him. Tsukamoto explains how he went about working on this new release, how he went back to the original negatives and worked from them, rebalancing colours etc.
The biggest plus I can find is the inclusion of ‘The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy’, an early film Tsukamoto made with the Kaiju theatre just before Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Seeing this film for the first time was interesting because it further reinforced the fact that Tsukamoto is a true filmmaker. The creativity flowing through Tetsuo can be seen in this short film. It is an absolute riot.
Hikari, a boy with an electricity pole growing out of his back travels to a dystopian future where he is placed in a battle with a trio of Shinsengumi bio-mechanical vampires who have enslaved humanity.
The best way to describe it might be Tetsuo: Iron Man crossed with Vampire Hunter D and Steins;Gate only far more irreverent, insane and good natured. Sounds like a contradiction but the mixture of time travel, sex, death, mutation, and school comedy antics is a joyful mix in a film which shows more invention than the average Hollywood project. I say that a lot but the low-budget physical effects, the editing, the acting and the story are inventive and enthusiastic and despite the ridiculous narrative and flimsy sets I enjoyed it tremendously. We see scenes and ideas similar to some of the insane sights in Tetsuo such as the stop-motion chase scenes along Japanese streets between the electric rod boy and the vampires, crazy morphing sequences and images of a world heading to disaster. The performances are winningly delivered with the central protagonist being a character straight out of Arakawa Under the Bridge and the villains being goofy Slayers style and all of it is layered with a cute anime soundtrack mixed with hard rock and a nightmare sound-scape. Effectively it all shouts imagination, enthusiasm and effort. Considering the age and nature of the project, the quality of this short film is impressive and it helps to show Tsukamoto’s background. Now this high standard has been set I want to see a Kiyoshi Kurosawa box-set with his un-erotic pink film… for research purposes of course.
I was really impressed by this package and I have been really impressed with the films. The involvement of Shinya Tsukamoto has made this an essential purchase for anyone interested in films. I cannot recommend this set highly enough!
I may have to look at the extras on Blade Runner (there are lots including different versions of the film) and Retribution now… The extras in the Ringu box-set (which my Japanese teacher currently has) Tartan put out are very impressive as well. Expect a separate review for the extras from that set when I come to do a Hideo Nakata season.