There are films that simply belong to another place—a place reserved for the indefinable, the indefensible, the irredeemable, cinematic slime banished long ago to a dimension that is accessible only in the darkest hours. So leave your humanity behind, embrace the social mutant within, and enter… the Midnight Void.
Throughout his vast and varied career, Sonny Chiba has portrayed an undercover ventriloquist named Mr. Magic, a ninja-for-hire who farts in faces, and a country bumpkin cop from Okinawa who interrupts a live sex show with his pet pig. But only in one film, and only in one place, has he played a down n’ out reporter who’s kinda-sorta-not really a werewolf, and makes every woman within range of his animalistic scent horny. That film is Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope, and that place is here, in the Midnight Void…
It used to be that Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope was a title lost in a wasteland of exploitation flicks and trash pics, one only spoken of in whispers, and at best viewed in a cropped, second-generation VHS haze with nary an English subtitle in sight. I was one of the lucky few who was able to view it, handed a DVD-R of a VHS recording of a late-night satellite TV broadcast in exchange for a hamburger in a parking lot just off Hollywood Blvd.
It was practically indecipherable. I thought it was great. And now with the ability to see it properly, it’s somehow even more indecipherable and better than ever.
Yet one issue remains the same: Sonny Chiba does not go full werewolf. No fangs, fur, or claws, not even a howl at the moon. But there’s a reasonable explanation for this, you see—he’s not playing a wolf man, he’s playing a wolf guy. Confusing, yes, since “lycanthrope” is in the title, but allow me to explain.
Steeped in ancient folklore and myth, and later redefined by screenwriter Curt Siodmak, the werewolf— or wolf man—is a human being cursed to transform into a wolf or wolf-human hybrid during the full moon, or sometimes as a result of Satanic rituals, “gypsies”, being born on Christmas, or the desire to steal cheese.
Pulled straight out of the butt of wildly prolific novelist and mangaka Kazumasa Hirai, a “wolf guy” is given the powers of near-invincibility, karate, thick eyebrows, and a water-resistant perm by the full moon. He’s also immune to syphilis, and women must have him because he “smells like an animal.”
A popular and seemingly endless series of novels and manga, Wolf Guy was obtained by Toei as a starring vehicle for their in-house action star Sonny Chiba. Assigned the task of actually making the thing was director Kazuchika Yamaguchi, who would go on to make nearly a dozen films featuring either Chiba or one of his proteges—such as Etsuko “Sue” Shiomi. Yamaguchi thought the source material stunk and that werewolves were dumb—he really didn’t want to direct the picture. So he was the perfect choice for Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope.
A tilt-a-whirl camera follows a man as he freaks out on the streets of Kabuki-cho, howling (but not at the moon) about a tiger before being ripped to shreds by a set of invisible claws. Naturally, this attracts the attention of wolf guy Sonny Chiba. It turns out that the recently eviscerated was in a band called Mobs. And it turns out the Mobs were hired by an ultra-conservative politico to infect a girl named Miki with syphilis. Why? Because she fell in love with his son.
Chiba then hits up a strip club with a vagina-butterfly drawing on the wall, where he finds Miki being pelted with garbage. She’s also a smack addict who talks about her syphilis a lot. Oh, and I almost forgot, through the “power of resentment” she can conjure up an invisible tiger-demon to murder those who infected her.
After observing this, Chiba states—via hardboiled narration—that Miki carries “a nastier pathogen than syphilis, the hatred of humans.” If given the choice between hating everyone and having syphilis, I myself would choose the former—but who am I to argue with Sonny Chiba? Speaking of Chiba, he’s now determined to use his confusing and poorly defined set of abilities to help Miki kick her habit, cure her syphilis, and get revenge.
But then he’s distracted by a mouse, and the two are abducted by the J.C.I.A to carry out political assassinations.
Miki immediately goes about using her resentment powers to unleash the tiger-demon on a series of unsuspecting targets. Chiba, meanwhile, refuses to let the J.C.I.A use his wolf guy-ness for nefarious purposes, so they surgically remove his guts. But don’t worry, the full moon allows Chiba to suck his guts back into his stomach and pull off a daring escape.
Once free, he faces an evil wolf guy created with his blood and a pack of wolf guy hunters before burying his face in a woman’s naked breasts. This causes him to reminisce about his mother, and unlocks the ability to finally focus his wolf guy powers—powers he plans to use to get revenge on the J.C.I.A, those who gave Miki syphilis, those who hunt wolf guys, and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.
Now, if while reading this you thought that I brought up syphilis one too many times, then you should never watch Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope. But if you do watch Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope, and I think you should, then I ask you to please walk away with one important lesson. And that lesson is this: never, ever fall in love with a conservative, because you will be infected with syphilis and forced to murder people with a tiger-demon via the power of resentment, and that leads to nothing but a wolf guy enraged.