Doberman Cop (1977) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Directed By: Kinji Fukasaku
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Janet Hatta, Eiko Matsuda
Rated: UR/Region: A/2:35/1080p/Number of disc: 2
Available from Arrow Video
Released just as the popularity of yakuza movies was waning in Japan, and as the country’s film industry was undergoing some fundamental shifts, Doberman Cop is a unique entry in the career of director Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Cops vs Thugs), and reunited him with star Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba (The Street Fighter, Wolf Guy) in an American-style crime movie that mixes gunplay and pulp fiction with martial arts and lowbrow comedy to create one of their most entertaining films. Based on a popular manga by “Buronson” (creator of Fist of the North Star), Doberman Cop follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough-as-nails police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the savage murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute. Initially dismissed as a country bumpkin (complete with straw hat and live pig in tow!), Kano soon proves himself a more savvy detective than the local cops, and a tougher customer than anyone expected. As he probes deeper into the sleazy world of flesh-peddling, talent agency corruption and mob influence, Kano uncovers the shocking truth about the girl, her connection to a yakuza-turned-music manager (Hiroki Matsukata), and a savage serial killer who is burning women alive.
You say the name Sonny Chiba and I’m in! I don’t care what kind of movie it is going to be. I’m that big of a fan of the man. That being said, him along with the plot and the material this film is based off of, still wasn’t enough to make Doberman Cop enough for me to fully sign off with my seal of approval. I don’t think the pace was there enough for me, as this is one story that can be a bit too slow for its own good from time to time. Chiba’s character does take the time to kick someone’s ass from time to time, but he’s also wondering around with a pig, drinking coke, and doing other not so hardcore things in between the stuff we came here to see. I mean, yes, he does do such acts as swing inside the window of a building to give someone a stompin’ but he just doesn’t do those cool Chiba things enough here in this one for me. It feels like the cop and mystery of it all overloads the action for the most part and that did hold me down on enjoying just a little bit.
That isn’t me saying that Chiba isn’t good, because he always is. Some might actually welcome this bit of a different side to the man here in this one. The story is slow, yes, but it is also interesting enough to make you at least want to stick it out and see where it all leads. Also, Arrow did give is a great transfer with some very cool extras on this one. I always am happy to see these types of films come from Arrow and I’ve enjoyed far more than I’ve not enjoyed, but that all being said Doberman Cop isn’t one of the better ones. It looks great and has Sonny Chiba. That might be enough for most, but I would have liked a little more violence for a much longer period of time in this one personally.
– Original uncompressed mono audio
– Optional English subtitles
– Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
– New video interview with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba
– New video interview with screenwriter Koji Takada
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
– FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s book featuring new writing on the films by Patrick Macias
Quality of Transfer: 95%