Kinji Fukasaku is an interesting director, because for the most part he is only known in the western world for his final film, the masterful Battle Royale–he died during the production of Part 2. However, he had a very long career in Japan, dating back to early ’60s and including making many Yakuza, cop and Samurai films. Doberman Cop is the in-between film for Fukasaku, from aftder his old Yakuza films and before his later work.
The Japanese film industry in the mid-’70s was in flux, not unlike the US film industry now. The old style of filmmaking was out, and they turned to Manga for inspiration to make films that in turn became incredibly successful for the studios. Doberman Cop is one such example. It’s based on the Manga by Buronson. It was Fukasaku’s only Manga adaptation: some people mistakenly think Battle Royale is based on a Manga because one was later produced, but the original source material was a novel.
Most film fans know Sonny Chiba from the constant references to him by Quentin Tarantino in his films, most notably the Sonny Chiba triple bill in the Tarantino-scripted True Romance and Sonny’s role in Kill Bill Volume 1. In Doberman Cop, he plays a fish out of water detective, Joji Kano, who gets thrown into a murder investigation of a young woman in the big bad city. Joji is perceived by his fellow officers as some hick from the sticks, but he is actually tough as nails. He takes the case into his own hands and starts solving it, and along the way is thrown into a world of prostitutes, the music industry and, of course, the Yakuza.
It’s not a great film by any means, but it’s a fun romp through the Tokyo underworld. It has some enjoyable quirks, most notably Joji’s pig, who he brings along in one scene as a gift to be roasted. It’s only 90 minutes, with a solid mixture of action and comedy.
It’s been impossible to get in the English-speaking world till now, so the DVD release is definitely welcome. The disc includes an excellent introduction from Sadao Yamane, interviews with screenwriter Koji Takda and newly filmed interview with Sonny Chiba himself. Initial pressings include a booklet by Patrick Marcias.