Movie Reviews That'll Put Yer Eye Out, Kid!

Electric Dragon 80000V

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Electric Dragon 80000V (2001)

A young boy perched near the top of an electrical tower gets electrocuted, receiving a high voltage zap that damages the "reptilian" area of the brain controlling emotions and desires, thus awakening the dragon lying dormant within. This initially exhibits itself via some pulverizing electro knock-out punches that the kid delivers to the chins of would-be bullies at various stages of his childhood. After this the inevitable career in boxing quickly ensues, and just as quickly ends, with one electrifying punch in the ring (which KOs his opponent) and several outside the ring aimed at any and all within range of Dragon Eye Morrison's (as he is now called) high-powered punches.

(click images for larger view)

Due to his fury of flying fists and lack of self control, things don't look to be going too well for Dragon Eye Morrison; that is, until he discovers his savior... the electric guitar! Now able to pour his superabundance of energy and emotion (not to mention a few thousand volts) into the musical instrument, things quickly start to take shape. Using his newfound ability to communicate with reptiles, Dragon Eye Morrison thereafter transforms himself into a rock n' roll reptile investigator, helping people locate their lost lizards in the jumble of modern Tokyo (who more qualified than one who has rediscovered his inner dragon?). However, little does Dragon Eye Morrison know, he has an archenemy! An electrician in a metal suit going under the name Thunderbolt Buddha sets out to destroy everything Dragon Eye Morrison holds dearest, as a means of luring our hero in for a super battle to the death, and, for ultimate electrical supremacy!

With his film Electric Dragon 80,000V, director Sogo Ishii returned to the hyperkinetic style of cinema he launched his filmmaking career with, and which would prove so influential to contemporary Japanese filmmaking and many of its most talented modern day practitioners. Like Ishii's punk rock movie Burst City, Electric Dragon 80,000V is another high voltage, eye-bursting movie with flurries of indelible imagery set to hard edged musical dissonance, and plenty of cinematic style and flair to spare.

The movie was shot in beautiful black and white and it is really visually mesmerizing - featuring crisp, detailed close-ups, dynamic/high-contrast cinematography, time lapse photography, super impositions, febrile camerawork, animated intertitles and credits, and great editing - with Ishii's hyper-stylized aesthetic sensibilities electrifying every frame. The film's visual strengths elevate what is again a rather scant story (the film clocks in at a mere 55 minutes); however, it's filmmaking at its most pure, relying heavily on visuals to tell the story rather than an abundance of dialogue.

Actors Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer) and Masatoshi Nagase (Suicide Circle) play the super hero-like duo of Dragon Eye Morrison and Thunderbolt Buddha, respectively, and both prove to be very game for their over-the-top roles, turning in a couple of fun and entertaining performances. Like the performances, the film is also quite playful and rather funny, proving to be a very approachable and entertaining piece of experimental cinema that fans of the Sogo Ishii and newcomers alike should enjoy.

Discotek's limited edition double-disc release of Electric Dragon 80,000V features an excellent anamorphic widescreen print of the film presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (with optional subtitles) and the DVD is loaded with extras. They include a feature that isolates the film's finale (allowing for instant access), the Electric Dragon 80,000V theatrical trailer, staff and cast profiles, press conference footage covering four days and featuring stars Tadanobu Asano, Masatoshi Nagase and director Sogo Ishii (all of whom discuss the film and its making), special effects footage (with commentary), an insert written by Tom Mes, a sequence with illustrations and information regarding the dragon tattoo used in the film, filming snapshots, title designs, and best of all, a second disc featuring the film's soundtrack by Mach 1.67. In all another exemplary DVD release by Discotek for another little-seen Sogo Ishii film.

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