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Wolf Guy (1975) Review

“Tonight smells like another bloody incident perpetrated by humanity” that’s the thought that runs through the mind of Akira Inugami’s (Shin’ichi aka Sonny Chiba, The Street Fighter, Immortal Combat) in the opening minutes of Wolf Guy, (Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko). He’s just seen a man screaming about curses, tigers and someone named Miki before being mauled to death be an invisible attacker, leaving him equal parts shocked and curious.

That’s followed by credits superimposed over black and white footage of an armed mob killing fleeing villagers, the last image that of a toddler trying to rouse his dead mother. The next we see of Inugami, he’s being interrogated by the police who consider him a suspect in the killing we just witnessed, even though there’s no blood on him. But, when the coroner announces that the killing was committed by a demon, they have to let him go.

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It only gets weirder from here as Inugami, who happens to be a reporter, launches his own investigation. It seems the deceased was a member of a band called The Mob, two other members of which already met the same fate as he did. This has something to do with Miki Ogata (Etsuko Nami, Private Lessons II, Blood) whom the band members gang raped on orders from their manager, although suspicions are he was told to arrange it by somebody else. That left her with a bad case of syphilis and a worse heroin habit, it also triggered a vengeful rage which manifests as a spectral tiger.

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Champion of Death, The Tragedy in the Devil-Mask Village) from a script by Fumio Kônami (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, Graveyard of Honor), Wolf Guy is an adaptation of the manga “Urufu gai”. Its creator Kazumasa Hirai who also created 8th Man, one of the first anime to be shown on American TV, was less than impressed, reportedly storming out of the premiere threatening to sue Toei and everyone connected with the film.

Now, I don’t know how faithful an adaptation Wolf Guy is, but it’s certainly not something to get that upset about. The film is so off the wall you have to admire it as it goes from a weird mystery involving yakuza and corrupt politicians to something totally off the rails. Remember those villagers we saw slaughtered under the credits? They had strange wolf like powers, and that young boy who survived was Inugami.

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I should mention, they didn’t have the budget to actually turn Chiba into a werewolf, which was a major disappointment, who wouldn’t to see him playing a lycanthropic version of Street Fighter’s Terry? What he does gain is super strength and healing abilities, at one point he gets disembowelled but uses those powers to put his organs back where they belong before making his escape. He also has an animal attraction that frequently has women losing their clothes minutes after meeting him.

Eventually a shadowy government agency, the Japan Cabinet Intelligence Agency or J-CIA, led by Kato (Kyôsuke Machida, The Yakuza, Fangs of Darkness: Vengeance) get involved, trying to take advantage of Miki and Inugami’s powers before using his blood to create another wolf man. After fighting him and what look like a bunch of ninjas, Inugami heads back to his birthplace, with Kato and his men in pursuit.

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With all of these plot threads it’s no surprise that Wolf Guy doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, this is one film that actually need to have been two hours long instead of the ninety minutes it runs. Many interesting ideas are raised and just as quickly dropped, and plot threads cut short trying to cram everything in. Even the final battles pitting him first against the sons of the villagers that killed his clan and then a small army of J-CIA agents are rushed through rather than played to their full potential.

And just like those elements, Wolf Guy never reaches its full potential either. But it’s still an extremely enjoyable oddity, with Chiba getting to kick ass in several fight scenes, as well as gun play featuring lots of bloody pre CGI squibs. The various spirit tiger maulings are well executed and quite graphic for their time. The great score by Jun Fukamachi (The Haunted Turkish Bathhouse, Woman with the Red Hat) is just icing on the cake. It may not be quite as off the wall as other Japanese oddities like Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell, but it is a lot of fun if you don’t take it seriously.

Arrow Video has released a restored version of Wolf Guy on Blu-ray, and it’s also available on various streaming services.

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