ArtsmagicDVD has acquired the North American rights to the notorious Japanese “Angel Guts” series. This series has been described by critic Pete Tombs as being the breakthrough movies that enabled the current surge in Easter horror to take place. They also mark the introduction of director Takashi Ishii to the movie business, since it was his manga, Tenshi no harawata (Angel Guts), that led to the creation of the series, and finally to his emergence as not just screenplay writer but director. Beginning in 1979, the latest “Angel Guts” was made in 1994. As a director, Ishii is perhaps best known for “Gonin”.
The five “Angel Guts” movies are to be released in digi pack form this March. The directors involved include Chusei Sone, a man who spent his whole career in roman-porno. His offerings are “High School Coed” and “Red Classroom”. The script for the former was written by Toshiharu Ikeda. Ikeda, best known as director of “Evil Dead Trap”, (which was incidentally scripted by Takashi Ishii), went on to direct “Red Porno”. Noboru Tanaka, who directed “Village of Doom”, was in charge of the most horrific of the series, with scenes involving gut wrenching mutilation. Its title is “Nami”. All Ishii’s heroines are called Nami, but this is the only film of that name. Finally, Ishii himself emerged to direct “Red Dizziness”.
This is a collection of important directors all dealing with the same theme – rape – and all center around a girl called Nami. The results range from poignant to nauseating.
Says ArtsmagicDVD, “We hope that our release will do a lot to disperse the misconceptions that have grown around these films, that have been condemned for supposedly taking a sympathetic attitude to rape. Even the title the series goes under, ‘Angel Guts’, has lead to misunderstanding, and has tended to have it filed with the Japanese kitsch horrors, ‘Guts of a Beauty’ and ‘Guts of a Virgin’. The title a literal translation of the Japanese..’Tenshi no harawata’, or ‘Guts of an Angel’….but the guts referred to in this case have nothing to do with disembowellings, but with the metaphorical guts of endurance and bravery. Rather than being misogynist tracts advocating rape, the ‘Angel Guts’ series can now be seen as it was intended; a tribute to the courage of violated woman in a world of male violence. These are Angels With Guts. Ishii, from the very beginning, saw his theme as feminist, and wished to show real women in manga and then in film. He saw the portraits of Japanese women back in the seventies as being little more than cyphers for the roles they filled….the Office Lady, the Mother, and so on. He wished to create women with real personality, and he wished them to be shown as flesh and blood, rather than platonic ideals. What is more, he wanted to set them off against the sombre background of a world filled with male inadequates who turn to sexual violence, and to show them rising above it. How well he carried this out is a matter for individual judgement and there is no doubt that where ‘Red Vertigo’…the first film that Ishii directed in the series….may stand scrutiny against this template, some of the films seem to carry darker messages. Indeed, the film ‘Nami’ was so extreme that members of the audience fainted on its first release. For all that, it is difficult to doubt the sincerity of Ishii’s intentions. The model for Nami, he tells us, was his wife. His devotion to her is obvious; he initially sacrificed his career in the movies to provide for her. When she died, he ceased to write any more of the Angel Guts series, and he asks us to draw our own conclusions.