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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/4/00

1996 (2000) - Theater Organ Vital (Synapse Films)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Organ Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/B+

Specs and Features

105 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keepcase packaging, featurette Behind-the-Scenes of Organ: Chapter 2, trailers for Brain Damage and Vampyros Lesbos, film-themed menu screens, scene access (20 chapters), languages: Japanese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English (optional)

"You don’t seem to understand the situation very well."

Leave it to Don May, Jr. and his DVD company, Synapse Films, to ruin my day. I get a package in the mail and I open it up - it’s a DVD from Don. I look at the cover and all I see are pictures of bleeding Japanese people. Mounds of them, with guts hanging out, veins popping out all over the place and a picture on the back (small enough so that you can’t quite make it out) of a guy humping a woman with her middle portions torn out. Hey Don? I think I know why you can’t get your stuff into Blockbuster. Just in case you didn’t get the gist from the cover, there’s a teeny, tiny warning blurb on the back. It reads: "Organ contains scenes of graphic violence and strong sexual content. Recommended for mature audiences only." Do any of you really think a "mature" person would have a real need for this film? I for one hope not, because it ruins all the fun for the rest of us. But just in case you’re a parent and your child comes running up to you at the store carrying this disc, you've been warned.

So, I’m repulsed by what has to be the singularly most disgusting jacket art ever created for DVD. What do I think about the movie contained therein? I'm still not sure, but I'll give it my best shot to describe my feelings here.

Numata and Tosaka are cops, on the hunt for a Yakuza-backed organ farm. They get a good lead when a young biker is beat into a coma and the baddies come to get him. Once they follow the pick-up car to the makeshift operating room, Numata (a lone wolf cop to the Nth degree) jumps his partner and knocks him out of the equation, then helps the bad guys bring the young kid in so he can infiltrate the place. Once in, he has to pass himself off and one of them. Yoko, the one-eyed female enforcer of the group (played by director Kei Fujiwara) gets on the horn and finds out he ain’t the real deal. Meanwhile, Tosaka is coming to, finds a key to the handcuffs Numata slapped on him and goes after him, kicking in the door and screwing up Numata’s plans. All hell breaks loose, and Tosaka has his arms and legs hacked half-off and collapses onto the floor. The place goes up in flames and Numata high-tails it out only to find himself shamed off the force.

Days later, Numata is half the man he was before. He goes back to the scene of the crime and bumps into Tosaka’s twin brother, Shinji. Shinji has the feeling that his brother is still alive, and he and Numata each go their separate way trying to find out where Tosaka is and what’s become of him. What’s become of Tosaka, is that he’s now addicted to some new drug developed by Jun, a biology teacher who’s also experimenting with human bodies. He has Tosaka living in a bed of ferns in his closet, looking like some sort of a mutant Chiapet, his arms and legs now fully amputated. Jun also has a schoolgirl murder racket going, where he kills girls from his classes and feeds the blood to Tosaka for some odd reason. Oh... and Jun has a gaping infected wound on his stomach that squirts puss when he’s excited. Where is all this going? Well... it’s very hard to figure out most of the film. But stick with it. You may never figure it out, but for some odd reason, it’s very compelling, entertaining stuff.

Organ is a pretty wet film, and that just goes to show that there’s truth in advertising. Fujiwara has worked with Shinya Tsukamoto in the past (most notably in his Kaiju Theater company and the film Tetsuo: The Iron Man), and carries on his tradition of disrespecting the human body. Call this film a salute to Tsukamoto and David Cronenberg. If Cronenberg and Tsukamoto were to ever have a child somehow (humor me here), Kei Fujiwara would be it. But that said, as icky as the special effects are, they aren’t so horrifying that you’re going to have to divert your eyes. In fact most are pretty cheesy. Still, when green shit shoots out of someone’s chest, you can’t help but put that BLT you were eating back onto the plate and hit pause for a sec. I wish to go on record and state that Don May, Jr. is a sick f**ker for putting this out. God bless him, I hear that this film is flying off the shelves and already out of print, so it must pay to be a sicko. Oh... and for you readers in Europe, we just got word that the BBFC and customs are wise to this title and have already banned it from being imported. So good luck getting your hands on it.

So how’s it look on DVD, this runny little thing? Pretty good for a 16mm film blown up to 35. There’s grain, but there’s supposed to be grain. Fujiwara meant this film to be very organic looking, and I have to say that this transfer pretty much captures her vision quite well. Colors are good, and they'd better be considering all the reds, greens and yellows on the screen. And as grainy as it is, the film shows a nice thick contrast and great use of blacks. No complaints from me. The audio is good as well. It’s a workable stereo mix that has a nice ambiance to it. You get sucked in right from the start and it has a lot to do with the music. I especially like the "wolves thing" going on towards the end (and in the end credits). What’s that all about? I like it, but it’s creepy as all get out. And props to whomever did the English subtitles - they were spectacular.

Synapse threw in a few fine extras as well. Hidden on the disc (under the Synapse logo) are a collection of trailers (okay, two) from past releases: Brain Damage and Vampyros Lesbos. It’s a nice effort. You’ll also find a 22-minute look at the follow-up feature from Kei Fujiwara, Organ: Chapter 2. There’s no dialogue track, but there is a funky music track and a hard-to-understand-everything voiceover from Fujiwara herself. It looks just as freaky, and she warns that there’s grosser stuff than Organ in the film, although she’s not including it in this loop because she needs to have her secrets. She’s a lady I would like to party with.

Organ sure as hell isn’t for everyone out there. I’m not even sure it’s for me. But Bill pays me to watch movies, so I watch movies. I don’t care, as long as they’re on DVD. So if you want something nice, Organ is now on DVD. The truth is, it’s a festering little boil of a movie that you can practically smell through your TV. It’s a triumph in that respect. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I have no idea.

Todd Doogan
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