Skin Deep (1989)

Zach (John Ritter) is something of a jerk, and it’s a truth everyone around him learns fairly quickly. After losing both his wife and mistress to his voracious libido and poor self-control, he spirals downward with excessive amounts of alcohol, sexual interactions, and poor choices.

Writer/director Blake Edwards was in the twilight of his career with Skin Deep‘s release, but while it doesn’t live up to the highs of Operation Petticoat, A Shot In the Dark, or S.O.B. it’s still an entertaining romp giving Ritter a rare lead role on the big screen. Sexually-active, morally lubricious men were Edwards’ go-to protagonist type, and Ritter excels with a character we should despise but can’t quite ignore. Similarly, while the film predates concerns of political correctness and is guaranteed to offend today’s audiences, there’s a clear sweetness and playfulness to Zach’s behavior. It’s fun despite itself. He’s given the expected redemptive arc, but we don’t begrudge him the journey’s end.

The swordplay here is admittedly something of a cheat, but I’m not sorry. Any opportunity to encourage people watch the great Ritter in action is one worth taking, and while the “sword fight” he engages in is as far from literal as you can get it’s a scene for the ages. Zach dons a glow-in-the-dark condom, enters a pitch black room – leaving only his bouncing member visible – and is interrupted by another man seen only as a glowing and alert phallus. The pair proceed to run in circles, struggle, and nearly go tip to tip with their weapons of choice at the ready. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds.

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Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

It’s the near-future, and Tokyo has privatized their police force in response to a new breed of criminal. Engineers are bad guys whose bodies have been modified in various ways so that wounds and injuries morph into deadly weaponry. Ruka (Eihi Shiina, Auditon) is a cop like her dad, but while he’s dead, she’s a death dealer and the best the department has to offer in their fight against the engineers. If she’s lucky, she may even discover who’s responsible for creating them and why.

I first saw this utterly amazing and absolutely bonkers Japanese film late one night at a film festival in San Francisco, and I’ve probably thought about it every day in the decade since. Fine, maybe every other day, but the point remains it’s ridiculously memorable. Director Yoshihiro Nishimura‘s (Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl) style will never appeal to the masses, but while some of his output is nigh unwatchable, this remains his crowning achievement. The practical effects work is abundant, creative, and at times jaw-dropping, and the violent and bloody action sequences are all the more mesmerizing for it. The story is engaging and wonderfully twisted, and Nishimura even layers in some Robocop-like humor via advertisements for the Tokyo Police Force and products for teens like the Wrist Cutter G (the razor with the cute design for stylish girls). It’s crazy, blackly-comic fun woven through a dark tale involving murder, madness, and vengeance. And I didn’t even get to mention the girl whose bottom half is a crocodile head!

This is a world with guns, bazookas, chainsaws organically growing from lopped-off limbs, but our heroine Ruka prefers the simple pleasures of her katana sword. She uses it to fight villains of all stripes, but in one of the film’s many visually striking sequences, she wields a blade against a pervert who makes the mistake of feeling her up on a crowded train. “An act of molestation is clearly a crime,” she says after slicing off both his hands and popping up an umbrella to deflect the crimson shower of arterial spray. Another sequence sees her facing off against a quadruple amputee in a gas mask with swords attached to all four stumps. She’s a formidable foe, and their blades sing with each clash of steel on steel.

Buy Tokyo Gore Police on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon streaming.

Der Samurai (2014)

Jakob is a rookie cop in a small town where he gets little in the way of respect from co-workers or residents, but their attitude doesn’t interrupt his focus on the case at hand. It seems a large wolf has been entering the rural village at night causing mayhem and the occasional bit of pet-related carnage, but when Jakob investigates, he crosses paths with something far more unexpected. A muscular man, in a dress, wielding a samurai sword.

Writer/director Til Kleinert’s feature debut is part thriller, part horror film, and part Lynchian black comedy, but woven through it all is an allegorical tale about sexual repression and identity. Well, probably. You can finally find more than a few interpretations of what’s happening here, but to my eyes the clearest and most successful one involves Jakob’s unspoken efforts to conceal his true self from a cruel, judgmental world. As such it works beautifully to give image and voice to a carnal desire and violent action to a restrained sexuality through story turns and dream-like imagery. The two men, halves of the same coin in some ways, become an unlikely pair as each is forced to respond to the other’s actions, but it’s Jakob’s shell that’s soon forced to split open and reveal what hides within.

While the film’s metaphorical leanings are its ultimate goal, the actual sword-related action still delivers some thrills. The samurai (Pit Bukowski) begins by slicing up property throughout the sleepy village from gardens and laundry to a family pet, but he soon graduates to people when the locals push him too far. He takes out a gang of motorbike-riding thugs with a stylized flourish, and as the film moves towards its equally strange conclusion, we’re gifted with a beautiful beheading (?) set to the glorious sound of The Ark’s “It Takes a Fool to Remain Sane.”

Buy Der Samurai on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon streaming.

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