Tetsuo: The Iron Man

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1988)
Tartan Video
Cast: Tomoro Taguchi, Nobu Kanaoka
Extras: Trailers, Production Notes

I have a very high tolerance for crazy movies. Gore, extreme violence, and surreal oddities are all too common in my DVD collection. Sometimes these crazy titles like "Bad Boy Bubby" and "Three….Extremes" manage to stimulate the mind while corrupting it with excessive amounts of filth. There are many fans like me out there, who look forward to the DVD release of "The Candy Snatchers" more than "The Longest Yard". For movie lovers who like a change of pace, Tartan Video is more than happy to meet your needs. Discover (or rediscover) oddities like "Tetsuo: The Iron Man", a Japanese flick that gives a man with a metal fetish a chance to be heard. It may be weird, but at least it is different.

This one is bizarre. For some reason, 2005 has been the year of revenge movies for me. "Oldboy", "Man On Fire", and "Thriller: They Call Her One Eye" are just a few revenge flicks that I was introduced to this year. Despite the common themes "Tetsuo" is in a world of its own. A surface look at the movie will showcase hate, transformation, gore, and sex. It is below the surface where "Tetsuo" captures the attention. There are conflicts between characters as well as with technology. The movie plays out like a nightmare as the stream of consciousness plot spirals down a visceral path of mayhem and revelation. The pace, look, sound, and feel of the movie changes so much it feels as if you are trapped in a dream with a character known only as Man. Constantly trying to break free, we struggle with our ill fated character as he evolves into The Iron Man.

Isn't it nice to see something different every now and again? I'm not saying that "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" is the best movie I have seen, but it certainly is a change of pace. In an age where movies are being remade, revisited, and revamped, it is nice to see a glimmer of originality every now and again. While "Tetsuo" certainly shows its influences, the 1988 movie feels unique even today. Sometimes we all want a mindless comedy or cookie cutter drama to relax after a long week. I am no exception. There is just something refreshing about a movie that flexes individuality, regardless of how crazy it may be. "Tetsuo" may not be your cup of tea, but there are plenty of other great titles that are overlooked. Small titles usually boast big ideas so take a chance and try one.

"Tetsuo" is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame ratio. Considering its intended ratio is 1.37:1, there is not a lot missing from the original format. The black and white picture adds to the independent feel. There are some lighting issues so some scenes are tough to decipher what exactly is happening. A green tint throughout the movie gives an odd futuristic twist when mixed with the black and white film stock. Some shots in the film are rough looking, but many of these are due to the rough nature of the movie. There are some scratches, grain, and minor blemishes, but all is forgiven. The white subtitles are always easy to read and never disrupt the picture. "Tetsuo" is one of those rare movies where the flaws are somewhat overlooked. Given its age and status as an underground Japanese independent film, I would imagine this is as good as "Tetsuo" has ever looked.

Tartan Films has always given lots of love in the audio department. Their release of "Tetsuo" is no different. The two Japanese 5.1 tracks are in the DTS and Dolby Digital format, which sound great given the movie's limitations. From a technical standpoint, Tartan did a great job with the mixes. There are no pops or hisses and the limited dialogue is audible. Both are strong additions, but the movie obviously wasn't made with rear speakers in mind. Surrounds could have been easily simulated to utilize the 5.1 tracks, but the restricted rear sounds do not feel forced. The speakers that are used work overtime with "Tetsuo". With an abundance of odd sounds and effects, the front speakers balance the audio chaos with ease. The DTS track provides more intensity than its Dolby Digital counterpart, but both are an upgrade from the included Japanese Mono track.

Oddly, there aren't very many features on this Tartan release. There is a first look at Director Shinya Tsukamoto's new film "Vital", but it turns out to be a fancy way to market the word 'trailer'. There are numerous other trailers as well, both from Tsukamoto movies and various Tartan releases. We are given filmographies for Tsukamoto, actor Tomoro Taguchi, and actress Nobu Kanaoka. An underused feature which I always enjoy is liner notes. Tartan adds something similar with some production notes included on the disc. The notes provide minor depth to a movie that may have benefited more from a featurette or interview. It was a good read though.

"Tetsuo" is not for the casual movie fan. It has some extreme situations that will certainly turn people away. One thing that can't be overlooked is the film's style. Shinya Tsukamoto has blended the styles of David Lynch, Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg, and others to apply an exceptional vision to a unique story. A great presentation is coupled with limited extras to round out a decent DVD. Fans of "Eraserhead" should seek out "Tetsuo".