Japanese film 'Black Lizard' takes camp to the limit

January 10, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Oh, those nutty Japanese.Not content with outmanufacturing BTC us and giving our president Tojo's Revenge on a global television hookup, they're now trying to outcamp us. In "Black Lizard," they succeed.

This is like the movie that Woody Allen subverted with his own soundtrack into "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" -- only without the soundtrack. The original soundtrack is beyond improvement.

Japan's leading detective is hot on the trail of Japan's leading female impersonator/diamond thief in a baroque series of encounters designed around the abduction of an industrialist's daughter and a large stone called the Egyptian Star. But that premise can't begin to describe the frenzy of operatic absurdity that ensues.

This is a movie where a lot of people hide in couches with secret compartments, living nude "dolls" try not to wiggle in the background and the acting is uniformly atrocious. However, if you like seeing Japanese men dressed up as Barbra Streisand in the staircase scene in "Hello Dolly" and acting imperious to their love slaves while falling in love with their pursuers, then you're in for a rollicking night at the Charles, where the film opens today.

But I haven't even mentioned the movie's nuttiest stroke. If you look carefully, you'll note that one of the nude living dolls is none other than the late, demented genius novelist Yukio Mishima, who later committed seppuku (that's the nasty one, the belly slitting) after failing to rally the Japanese Defense Forces into re-enacting World War II, this time in Toyotas.

Has any major literary figure descended into such utter nonsense? OK, Truman Capote playing himself (poorly) in "Murder by Death" and Norman Mailer trying to bite Rip Torn's ear off in "Maidstone." But from the evidence, Mishima took it all seriously. No wonder he committed suicide.

'Black Lizard'

Starring Akihiro Maruyama.

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku.

Released by Cinevista.

Unrated.

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