ScrewedOne of the final films by Japan’s late, occasionally great Teruo Ishii, adapting a manga by the legendary Yoshiharu Tsuge.  The 1998 SCREWED, in the manner of quite a few Ishii films, is silly and overwrought, but also appealingly wild, sleazy and weird as fuck!

Yoshiharu Tsuge is considered one of the true pioneers of the Japanese manga.  He was often drawn to weird and perverse subject matter, and SCREWED (a.k.a. NEJI-SHIKI, or WIND-UP TYPE) was definitely one of those occasions.  The material, which like many Tsuge stories was about a frustrated comic artist, seemed a natural for director Teruo Ishii, who was also known for his interest in the outré.  His films include the notorious JOY OF TORTURE series from the sixties, HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN, BLIND WOMAN’S REVENGE, BOACHI BUSHIDO and quite a few assorted over-the-toppers.  SCREWED was Ishii’s third-to-last film before his 2005 death.

Comic artist Tsube has problems: he can no longer pay the rent on his apartment, his girlfriend is screwing around on him, and his drawings have become increasingly violent and disturbing.  Eventually he tries to kill himself with an excess of sleeping pills, but wakes up in a hospital.

From there Tsube’s existence grows increasingly weird and irrational.  Among his bizarre experiences are a ride in a miniature train manned by women in cat masks and a swim in a lake where he’s bitten by something that makes a deep gash in his shoulder.  Tsube happens upon a woman gynecologist who becomes his lover, and who finds a novel way of healing his shoulder gash: by attaching a device to it with a handle that can literally screw the wound shut–hence the title.

Whether Teruo Ishii had some profound sociopolitical intent or was simply indulging in weirdness for weirdness’ sake is immaterial, as SCREWED is an exercise in irrationality that works on a wholly subconscious level.  Attempting to “understand” it is pointless; one either takes the film as it is (which is to say, totally bizarre) or immediately checks out.  Ishii has a real knack for surreal erotic weirdness, although he lacks the artfulness of his disciples Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike.

I felt the early scenes illustrating the protagonist’s dull existence were overly staid and boring, far more so than they needed to be.  The idea, perhaps, was to enhance the strangeness of the third act by appearing to set viewers up for an entirely different kind of film.  If that was the intent than Ishii succeeded, though to what degree is up to the individual viewer to decide for him/herself.

Vital Statistics

Ishii Production/Eleven Arts

Director: Teruo Ishii
Producers: Keiko Kobayashi, Teruo Ishii
Screenplay: Teruo Ishii
(Based on a manga by Yoshiharu Tsuge)
Cinematography: Takahiro Kadoi
Editing: Nobutake Kamiya
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Miki Fujitani, Yuko Fujimori, Kazuhiko Kanayama, Tetsuro Tamba, Tsugumi, Mutsumi Fujita, Mika Aoba, Kaoru Mizuki, Nijiko Kiyokawa, Hideo Sunazuka