I’d be remiss if we talk about Doberman Cop and don’t get a little bit into a couple of the bigger names attached to the film. If you are only here wanting to learn about this one movie, then by all means skip ahead to the next section.
One could spend weeks watching Kinji Fukasaku’s films and Arrow Video would have the hookup with a few of them. Notably, the Battles Without Honor and Humanity films with the new ones coming soon as well, Cops vs Thugs, and the film you have come to read about, Doberman Cop. The late 70’s had Fukasaku start to turn away from Yakuza films and head into some new genres like Science-Fiction with Message from Space, and a run of period samurai films before culminating in his final film Battle Royale. While Doberman Cop features some Yakuza, it’s almost more of a crime mystery.
With Fukasaku gaining notoriety as a director he was seemingly given more leeway with his films. According to Patrick Macias is his essay for the supplemental booklet, he was able to take major liberties with the main character. He changed him from a macho Tokyo cop to a country guy from Okinawa that carries around a pig. This definitely lends to Doberman Cop being a “kitchen sink” type film that has a little bit of everything. We’ll get more into that later.
The other big name in the film is of course Sonny Chiba. Already having a storied career up to this point, it’s no shock that he has obtained leading man status. Known early on for his fight scenes and martial arts prowess, he certainly does not shy away from it here. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of safety equipment if any was used while he dangled on the side of a building many floors up. If you told me it was just the one rope wrapped under his arms, I would not be surprised.
The Movie Itself (4/5)
Like all review copies I get, if I have no prior knowledge of the film, I try to go in blind. So starting this up I wasn’t quite sure if our hero was going to be part dog or what. Especially since Arrow had released Sonny Chiba’s Wolf Guy just a couple of months ago. To be fair, I also watched Wolf Cop not too long ago and thought maybe Doberman Cop was some weird inspiration for it. Alas, doberman only referred to Joji Kano’s tenacity as a detective.
This film while only 90 minutes has a lot going on in terms of story. It opens on a murder investigation by the Tokyo police and they see potentially another victim of the serial killer they have been tracking. That is of course until Detective Kano states this is a different murder and it was just made to look the same. Over the course of the film he is tracking several different cases and even decides to climb down a building to stop a kidnapping in his free time. Everything intertwines neatly at the end and for such a “kitchen sink” film the plot is an asset, not to just be discarded like most action films of recent memory.
Also probably NSFW
As far as the “kitchen sink” goes, there is some singing, some comedy, you have Yakuza gangsters, and motorcycle gang that fights the police. The police fight the police at points, there is a stripper that falls in love with Kano and his pig. Not a euphemism, the pig was offered to be roasted for the police as a gift and then appears at the oddest time, including distracting the pimp at the strip club so the stripper can copulate with Kano on the stage with everyone watching. While the film sounds crazy and over the top at times, it is also grounded and serious. Usually vastly different tonal shifts from scene to scene don’t work, but Doberman Cop seems to be a rare exception.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
I know transfers on older Japanese films can be iffy and the companies that get them have to make do with what they get, but for the most part Doberman Cop looks really good. There is some loss of detail, especially in the darker night scenes. The palette and colors look nice and feel natural. The visuals and cinematography work well and you can tell Fukasaku is no novice. While one could hope for a more detailed and brighter picture at times, I think most should be extremely happy with what Arrow has given.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
Doberman Cop features an LPCM 2.0 mono track in the original Japanese, which has nice clarity. Dialogue comes through with no issues. The fight/action scenes can be a little muddled at times with the sound effects lacking punch. The score itself was fun and matched the scenes well. The club music and singing came through very bright. The parts where Miki is singing do look lip-synced and I’m assuming they were, can’t fault the track too much for that.
Special Features (3/5)
Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop (08:54) An interview with Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane made exclusively for this Blu-ray release. In it he discusses the film and how it was at a crossroads for Japanese cinema. He repeats himself often and doesn’t get into too many specifics, but is still interesting to learn about the overall changes.
Koji Takada: Cops, Pigs and Karate (17:55) An interview with screenwriter Koji Takeda also made exclusively for this release. Takeda talks about how the film was changed from the manga. It’s interesting to hear him tell about his relationship with Fukasaku and all the things he wrote. While he meanders at times, it’s a fun listen. He seems like the kind of person you could chat with all day.
Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Part 2 (17:53) First off, Sonny Chiba looks like he can still do action movies to this day, even being nearly 80. Much of the beginning is him discussing his relationship with the director Fukasaku. Apparently, they worked a ton together and even spent holidays as friends. He only briefly talks about Doberman Cop, which isn’t a bad thing since he has a lot to say. This continues from the special feature section from Wolf Guy and even has a to be continued part after this one. I would say this feature stands alone and can be viewed as such. It didn’t seem to continue a specific story from part 1, though it makes me want to order Wolf Guy sooner to watch it.
Theatrical Trailer (03:16)
- Disc Art
- Reversible Liner
- Clear Non-ECO Case
- Booklet Essay (First Pressing Only)
- Blu-ray & DVD
- Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
- Japanese: LPCM 2.0
Runtime 90 Mins
Doberman Cop Overall (4/5)
While Doberman Cop neglected to hit it big originally, there is a lot of fun to be had. There is a little bit of everything and something for everyone. Due to the fact you have some franchise type names attached, I’m surprised it never spawned a sequel. Arrow put together a superb package for this film and I’m glad I got the chance to watch it. The technical aspects are more than serviceable, the packaging is still better than most companies, and the features were fun and informative. Definitely give this a recommend to those that like these types of films and/or director or cast.
Available at Amazon or other fine retailers
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.