The Film (3.5/5)
Detective Joji Kano (Sonny Chiba) is in Tokyo searching for Yuna, a girl from him village. It seems that she is dead, the victim of a heinous serial killer, but he thinks it's a case of mistaken identity. There’s an up and coming singer named Miki (Janet Hatta) who bears a striking resemblance to Yuna. Her manager is a not-so-former yakuza named Hidemori (Hiroki Matsukata) who has a disturbingly tight grip on the not-so-former junkie songstress. One of Kano’s major obstacles is the shithead Tokyo police force whose cynicism and callousness leave the little guy high and dry as well as leave some difficult cases unsolved. They treat Kano like a country bumpkin even though he's a dang superhero in detective form. Though I can't say I blame them for underestimating the guy since he does waltz into town with a live pig in his possession.
This is definitely not your average cops and robbers flick. Doberman Cop is wild, weird, and gleefully trashy. For instance, Kano is in town for about 5 minutes before he's raped by a stripper onstage in front of dozens of onlookers. Then it's the usual Chiba madness with him kicking through tables, taking on 10 gangsters at once, and jumping through the windows of tall buildings in a single bound. The score by composer Kenjiro Hirose is an audacious blend of funk, pop, and blues music that'll have your toe tapping if you have a pulse in your body. Director Kinji Fukasaku really makes this film work even when it shouldn’t. There’s lots of odd subplots (I’m not even going to get into the biker gang bits with Eiko Matsuda), seemingly pointless tangents, and wild overacting from Janet Hatta. I’m surprised that this mess can be so darn entertaining.
Damn yo. Arrow Video just can't go wrong lately and Doberman Cop is no exception. While there is some print damage and the film is just wee bit faded in a scene or two, this really just pops onscreen. There are many shots with diffused light and bright colors filling the screen so it's just awesome to see this rarity on home video.
There are three interviews on this disc and they’re all great. We get another visit with Fukasaku expert Sadao Yamane (who showed up on the Cops vs Thugs disc) to put this film in the context of the director’s career and its place in the oversaturated action movie market of the late 1970s. Doberman Cop co-screenwriter K˘ji Takada gets an interview where he talks about working with Fukusaku and his total disregard for the source material. Good old Sonny Chiba himself is back for another installment of his actors’ studio interviews and unlike the segment on the Wolf Guy disc, he actually talks about the film in question. Mainly, he’s there to discuss working with Fukasaku and the things he learned from him. It’s wonderful! There’s an essay by Tom Mes in the booklet that comes with Doberman Cop where he talks about the manga (by Buronson and Shinji Hiramatsu) that this was based on and its many, many adaptations over the years. And last but not least, there’s an essay by Patrick Macias discussing Doberman Cop and more info about the end of Toei studio’s exploitation cinema days.
This movie gets a half point off for pig hassling. Chiba’s pet pig in this looks like it’s unhappy as it gets harassed in various scenes. And I’m assuming that once the shoot was over, Fukasaku ate the poor thing whole. While it’s no Wolf Guy (but so few movies are), this lukewarm Chiba garbage is good stuff. I wonder if the original manga is as slapdash as the plot of this film. The filmmakers tried throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick but it was already too sticky with everything that was already stuck to it. I mean that as a compliment, naturally. Doberman Cop is bloody, violent, and mostly totally wacko. Did I mention this was also a Dirty Harry rip-off?