Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guinea Pig 5: Android of Notre Dame (1989)

Review #0022

Make no mistake, this is the fifth entry in the series. And although it is often featured as "Guinea Pig 2", it's only because it was the second one made after the distribution deal with JHV (Japan Home Video). As the two previous entries ("He Never Dies" and "Mermaid in a Manhole"), this one features some sort of a plot, albeit a poor one. It involves a dwarf scientist experimenting with corpses in order to cure his sister suffering from some unnamed heart disease. As in most films of this kind, scientific terms are thrown around as if to magically infer legitimitacy to a pulpy, improbable script. Throughout the film, the link between the sister's disease and the dwarf's experiments with pickled body parts and alligator clips is never made quite clear. We can only watch in amazement as some fucked-up science goes down, fucked-up science being the raison d'être of this tame splatterfest. Things get even weirder once a mysterious sponsor tries to crook our crafty protagonist who manages to trap him, sever his head, and regenerate it as part of the ongoing experiments. Surprisingly, the relationship between the dwarf and his sponsor's severed head is much more involving than that with his bed-ridden sister, which is a revealing indication about the quality of the script...

In the end, "Android" is yet another poorly-produced, effects-driven exploitation quickie to add to an undeservingly notorious series. Considering the vast and varied output of Japanese horror, I doubt anybody but the most hardcore completists would want to see this mild-mannered freak show. Designed to attract viewers, I would even argue that the plot risks repelling them by impairing the functionality of the film as freak show. In a way, "Android" is "less pure" than the uber-exploitative "Flower of Flesh and Blood" and "The Devil's Experiment", looking more like a toned-down version than the rightful successor of these two titles ("He Never Dies" being in the middle). With its diminutive protagonist, naked breasts, electronic gizmos and soundtrack straight out of an old computer game, it plays more like a home-made version of "Frankenstein" for Japanese nerds than a truly exportable film. And anyway, I doubt that any Western moviegoer could watch this without making at least one smart-ass remark, most of them being likely to turn it off halfway in disgust or exasperation. For a truly remarkable experiment in pain and grossness, I suggest you privilege the vastly superior "Rubber's Lover" by cyberpunk great Shozin Fukui (also available through Unearthed Films for even less than you'd pay for the out-of-print "Devil's Experiment/Android of Notre Dame" double bill).