Thursday, October 17, 2013

Watcher in the Attic

Watcher in the Attic (1976)
Dir. Noboru Tanaka
Written by Akio Ido (from a story by Edogawa Rampo)
Starring Junko Myashita, Renji Ishibashi
Original title: Bride of Godzilla

Boy, what to say about this one? It’s about a Japanese boarding house in 1923 owned by one Lady Minako (Junko Myashita) who hangs around sexually pleasuring herself in various ways while a creepy, reclusive tenant named Goda watches from the attic through a peephole in the ceiling. Well, at least the title checks out.

To be honest, this is much more of a porno than a horror film, despite the adaptation from Japanese horror/mystery author Edogawa Rampo (whose name is a phonetic pun on… well, sound it out for yourself). In fact, it’s part of the “Roman Porno” series from Nikkatsu studios, which if wikipedia is to believed were not exclusively sexual films, but I’m, you know, guessing that was a pretty big part. Despite the creepy voyeuristic premise, the majority of the film is taken up with Lady Minako getting off, either by herself, getting eaten out by a clown, being pleasured by a chauffeur sewn up inside a red armchair, etc, etc, you know the routine. She knows (and enjoys) that Goda is watching her, so it’s actually more of an adorable indie rom-com except that one of the things Lady Minako also enjoys is murdering her sexual partners while Goda watches. This inspires Goda to give up his self-imposed isolation and come out of hiding to impress Minako by committing his own series of murders. For awhile it’s kind of unusual because it’s a Japanese sex film where no one gets raped, but thankfully, near the end, they give up and finally rape someone. Whew, that was a close one.

Boy, what do you get for the woman who has everything?

The description sounds like a good plot for a horror movie, or maybe some kind of dark Coen brothers murder/comedy, but honestly the film has no sympathetic characters whatsoever, and the people getting murdered are really annoying assholes or clowns, so who cares? There’s not a lot of dark atmosphere, and in fact I honestly think the film actually sort of applauds Minako and Goda rather than condemning them. To the extent that there’s any narrative arc in this thing, it has to be that Goda gradually transitions from watcher in the attic to self-confident murderer who has hot naked sex in the attic. The movie seems to consider this a good thing, or at least admires the guy for growing a sack, poisoning a priest and pleasing his landlord. Good job, guy.

If the X-files taught me anything, things are about to get really confusing here.

Director Noboru Tanaka does create an appealing --if not exactly atmosphere-laden-- production, and stages a few effective and occasionally tense scenes (one, where Goda agonizingly waits for hours while trying to run poison down a long string into the open mouth of an irritating old man, is positively Hitchcockian). If you’re into seeing an icy psychotic murderess moaning in pleasure for minutes on end as she sits on a red chair, well, lucky you, Haru Matsuri came early this year, this is about the prettiest version of that you’re gonna get. But honestly despite the polished direction, the film offers no insight into Goda or Minako and doesn’t really provide much in the way of suspense since you don’t really care about them any more than their victims. In fact, even at a ridiculously slim 76 minutes it gets a little repetitive and --I can’t believe I’m saying this about a film which provides clown cunnilingus in the first 10 minutes-- kinda boring. If you’re not getting off on the aberrant sex or particularly repulsed by it, there’s not much going on here.

This is the chair I was telling you about.


  • LITERARY ADAPTATION: Yes, from the short story Yaneura no sanposha by Edogawa Rampo.
  • SEQUEL: Wikipedia says it's the middle entry in Tanaka's "Showa Era Trilogy," (the other two films are "A Woman Called Sada Abe*" and "Beauty's Exotic Dance - Torture!"**) but as far as I can tell none of those films have any characters or events in common, so I think it's probably more like Kevin Smith's "Jersey series."
  • REMAKE: Yeah, a 1993 adaptation of the same story by Akio Jissoji. If you're wondering if his version has more horror elements, well, Wikipedia says this: His career is ... unusual in that he went back and forth from children's television to film projects that were sexually provocative in some way or another. It is perhaps this aspect of his work that has prevented wider distribution of his films. Sadomasochistic and non-consensual sexual practices [wikipedia's Orwellian euphemism, not mine] are featured in many of his film works, with women receiving the brunt of the abuse."  Sounds like a real charmer.
  • MORE (PETER) CUSHING FOR THE PUSHING? Nope. I'd like to think Cushing never knew this sort of thing existed.
  • BOOBIES: In the majority of scenes.
  • ENTRAILS? None.
  • CULTISTS: None.
  • SLASHERS: Hmm, I don't think it counts since it's from the killers' perspective. But you could definitely make a decent slasher about the other people in the house getting bumped off.
  • CURSES: None
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? No dolls, although there is a clown hooker.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: I've got to imagine pretty damn high. Who's going to admit to knowing about this?
  • ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE: Awake and incredulous.

*It is based on the true story of a woman who strangled her lover during a love-making session, then severed his penis, which she carried with her until her arrest.

** I think this one speaks for itself.

This gets saved from 2-hook ignominity purely on the strength of the poison-string scene.

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