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Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001) Review

Electric Dragon 80.000 V’s opening narration, delivered by Masakatsu Funaki (Shadow Fury, Godzilla: Final Wars), informs us that dragons are not mythical creatures, they exist with the bodies of men. That’s followed by scenes of a young boy climbing an electrical pylon, only to get a massive shock from the high-tension wires.

This does something to the part of his brain that “we inherited unchanged from lizards” and results in Dragon Eye Morrison (Tadanobu Asano, Battleship, Mortal Kombat) frequently getting in trouble for fighting. Attempts to cure it with electric shock therapy only make it worse, turning him into a walking battery. Now an adult he collects lizards and plays guitar to work out his aggression. As the narrator puts it, “what saved him from ruin was…THE ELECTRIC GUITAR” as we watch him play.

But ruin in the form of Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase, We Are Little Zombies, They Say Nothing Stays the Same) has come looking for him. He believes that, like Highlander’s Immortals, there can be only one Electric Dragon.

Electric Dragon 80.000 V

Written and directed by Sogo Ishii (Punk Samurai, Labyrinth of Dreams) before he rebranded himself as Gakuryû Ishii, Electric Dragon 80.000 V was allegedly shot in three days with money left over from making Gojoe: Spirit War Chronicle. With its high contrast black and white cinematography and bizarre imagery set to a loud score that ranges from Ramones style punk to pure noise, the film resembles a cross between Earaserhead, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and a music video.

The plot never goes any deeper than the brief outline above, it’s just something to hang Electric Dragon 80.000 V’s visuals on. That makes sense, as it was shot primarily to provide background visuals for Asano and Ishii’s band Mach 1.67.

And it is a visual treat. Cinematographer Norimichi Kasamatsu (Angel Guts 6: Red Flash, Tekken) captures the raw power of Morrison’s guitar playing as well as the deadly beauty of lightning and other, man-made electrical discharges as the film races from the back alleys of Tokyo to its rooftops.  Combined with the score by Hiroyuki Onogawa (Wild Virgins, Tokyo Halloween Night) and Toshihiro Isomi’s (Prisoners of the Ghostland, Raise the Castle!) set design, it’s a remarkable achievement for such a short shoot.

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It may only run for fifty-five minutes, but Electric Dragon 80.000 V packs a lot into them. And there’s really not a lot more to say about it. It’s a wildly unique piece of eye candy that had enough style to power through its lack of plot and keep me watching.

Third Window Films has given Electric Dragon 80.000 V its first Blu-ray release and anyone into Japanese underground film, or strange films in general, will probably want to check it out if they have a player that can handle Region B discs.  The extras are listed below, and you can check the company’s website for more information. If you got a charge out of this film, FilmTagger can suggest some similar titles for further viewing.

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• New HD master from the original negatives
• Director Sogo Ishii, musician Hiroyuki Onogawa and producer Takenori Sento Stage Greeting
• Tadanobu Asano Stage Greeting
• Masatoshi Nagase Stage Greeting
• Premiere Stage Greetings
• Producer Takenori Sento Interview
• Music Creator Hiroyuki Onogawa interview
• Synthesized Images with Commentary
• Storyboards
• Trailer

• Slipcase with illustrated artwork by Ian MacEwan
• Reversible Sleeve with original Japanese artwork
• Slipcase edition limited to 1500 copies

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