Blu-ray Review: Doberman Cop

While Sonny Chiba was a major international action star in the ’70s through his various Street Fighter movies. However a lot of his output from Toei didn’t get a major push outside his native Japan. The good news is that recently a few of these titles that you’d only read about in a Asian action book are finally legally coming to home video in high resolution. Recently there was the odd joy of Wolf Guy and now we get a taste of Doberman Cop. While both films starred Chiba, were made in the mid-70s, feature animal references and based on Manga comic books, there are not part of a series. At no point does Sonny Chiba turn into a dog with a badge like a member of Paw Patrol. Doberman Cop does have a lot of barking and even a little barking on the screen as Chiba refuses to lose scent of a killer.

The homicide cops investigate a prostitute found murdered and set on fire in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The local homicide cops are ready to quickly pin this horrifying crime on a suspect and move on. Blame it on a small town girl and a broken dream in the underbelly of the big city. But the cops don’t count on the arrival of Joji Kano (Chiba). He’s a police officer from Okinawa that’s immediately written off as a hick since he’s not only wearing a straw hat, but hauling around his pet pig. But he’s been dealing with the victim’s family since the girl ran away from home. He thinks there’s more to her murder. The local cops quickly learn that Kano is tougher than expected. He won’t back down from any trail of clues. He senses this is the work of a serial killer and not merely on of the girl’s criminal connections losing it. Kano has everyone going against his investigation including the Yakuza and the cops that don’t appreciate being out investigated by the guy with the pig.

Doberman Cop is a fantastic Sonny Chiba film. The movie plays like an episode of McCloud in graphic overdrive. Kano’s the hick cop poised to show the city law how to track down a criminal. Chiba however is much better at kicking ass with extreme martial arts moves than Dennis Weaver. The texture and tones of Doberman Cop are greatly assisted by legendary director Kinji Fukasaku that created such action and crime flicks as the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, Cops vs. Thugs and Battle Royale. He brings the same kinetic energy to the screen. Actors seem to deliver their lines ready to leap into action. Very few scenes seem static and procedural. Action scenes feature plenty of fights that grow big. The charred bodies are not for the squeamish. Sure there’s a bit of comedy especial when it comes to the pig being part of the investigation. But there’s still high tension of a cop investigating a brutal killing in mob territory. Strange to think that this was not imported into America for drive-in and grindhouse fun in 1977. Doberman Cop is a beast of a film gives Chiba another level to his talent as he mixes comedy with his usual dose of violence and a touch of compassion for his pig co-star.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the details of Tokyo’s underbelly. There’s quite a bit more to see in the 1080p transfer in both Chiba’s moves and acting. The audio is uncompressed mono audio of the Japanese mix. Things sound fine as Chiba roams into nightspots. Since the movie appears to have not really been distributed in America, there’s no English dub. The movie does have English subtitles.

DVD has all the features of the Blu-ray.

Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop (8:54) is video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane. He speaks of how the Japanese film industry had changed in 1977 as they studios had to slow down mass producing films as people going to cinemas had died down. The industry tapped into Manga books to get the comic book audience to see a film instead of spend the night reading. Somehow Doberman Cop didn’t click with audiences 40 years ago.

Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Part 2 (17:53) continues his talk about his career that started on Wolf Guy Blu-ray. He talks of his life as an action star at Toei.

Koji Takada: Cops, Pigs and Karate (17:55) interviews the screenwriter. He discusses adapting the Manga for the screen.

Original theatrical trailer (3:16) packs in the action. How was this not a hit?

Arrow Video presents Doberman Cop. Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku. Screenplay by: Kōji Takada. Starring: Sonny Chiba, Janet Hatta and Eiko Matsuda . Running Time: 90 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: July 4, 2017.

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