964 Pinocchio (1991) 964 Pinocchio/Pinocchio 964/Screams of Blasphemy (1991/2004) *

     The synopsis on the back cover of the Unearthed Films DVD edition of 964 Pinocchio reads:

Pinocchio 964 is the nightmare of a cybernetic sex android let loose into the world without a memory. Wandering around Japan, Pinocchio finds Kyoko, another amnesiac with a horrible secret to her own memory loss. Together they try to piece their lives and live in a world where memory is no longer needed.

     I mention this because reading that paragraph is your best bet for making any kind of sense out of this movie, since a viewing of the film itself is strikingly unhelpful on that score. Of course, given that that sketchy summary both contains a glaring typographical error and manages to get the heroine’s name wrong when she’s one of only two characters whose names get mentioned more than twice, even it might justly be considered suspect. It is at least a more or less defensible interpretation of what we see on the screen, though, so we will let it be our guide, even if we might occasionally get the feeling that it is leading us astray.

     The sex android bit is unquestionably on the level. A rather chaotic opening sequence gives us the creature we will come to know as Pinocchio (Hage Suzuki)— apparently a 964-series Pinocchio, but we’ll get to that in a bit— in bed with a pair of trashy women. Despite all outward appearances, Ako, the older of the two females (my best guess is that she’s Kyoko Hara, but who really knows?), is evidently not satisfied with the android’s performance, for she has her younger, apron-(and nothing else)-clad paramour drag him out and dump him in the street in front of their house as soon as they’ve all reached a convenient stopping point. Whether the shaven-headed mad-doctor type we also see lobotomizing Pinocchio with a power drill did so immediately before the dumping, or immediately before ownership of the android was transferred to the two women is virtually impossible to determine. The editing of this sequence makes the lobotomy look roughly contemporary with the eviction, but an important subsequent scene becomes totally incomprehensible unless the women took possession of Pinocchio already in his lobotomized state.

     In any case, Pinocchio blunders around Tokyo for who knows how long before he is spotted by Himiko (Onn Chan), a sub-cellar-dwelling girl who spends most of her time hanging out on street corners, sketching maps of the city. This, presumably is that “amnesiac” the jacket copy misidentifies as “Kyoko,” but the only suggestion of her amnesia that is present in the movie itself is a line of enigmatic dialogue a bit later in which Himiko tells Pinocchio that her maps, upon completion, will be invaluable “for people like us.” Sure, that could mean amnesiacs, but it could also mean bums or even just people who haven’t lived in the city very long. I’m digressing, though. Somehow, Himiko figures out that the weird-looking guy in the ill-fitting white outfit is named either Pinocchio 964 or 964 Pinocchio (the movie can’t seem to make up its mind), and she decides to take him home to her subterranean lair. For the next several days at least, Himiko’s big project will be to impart some semblance of language, social, and survival skills to her inarticulate and seemingly deeply retarded new roommate.

     Meanwhile, Ako is in high dudgeon. She paid good money for that fuckbot, and she wants a replacement at once. Now you might think at first that refunds and replacements are not in the cards for people who deliberately throw their androids in the trash, but Ako may have a valid basis for complaint. Professor Narishima (probably Koji Kita, from Rhyme of Vengeance)— that mad doctor with the power drill— created the Pinocchios for one purpose and one purpose only, so an android who “doesn’t know what an erection is” obviously isn’t up to snuff. However, it looks like Narishima peddles his wares in the strictest secrecy, for he just about loses his shit when Ako tells him what became of her defective 964 unit. Immediately after promising to replace Ako’s Pinocchio with another more to her liking, Narishima summons three of his lackeys to track down the missing android.

     Himiko and Pinocchio have a close call when Narishima’s boys pay a visit to the subway station they were mapping, but the lackeys go home empty-handed. A strange and much more serious thing happens soon thereafter, though, when Pinocchio has some sort of attack in Himiko’s lair; he basically melts into a puddle of red and yellow gook, and then regenerates into a decidedly crustier form. And while that’s going on, Himiko has a seizure of her own, triggering a succession of dreams or flashbacks or hallucinations or some damn thing. For some reason this involves her spinning around in circles and shrieking in a subway station (almost exactly like one of the most annoying moments in Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, now that I think about it) and vomiting in such heroic profusion that even Lucifer Valentine might be impressed (although I hasten to emphasize that the puking in 964 Pinocchio is strictly of the simulated variety). After this incomprehensible interlude, Himiko’s personality changes drastically. She outfits the regenerated Pinocchio with a set of burdensome homemade shackles, treats him with the most resolute sadism, and acts as though she might be gearing up for his final destruction. Narishima’s henchmen, meanwhile, figure out where Pinocchio is, and launch a heavily armed attack on Himiko’s home. This plan doesn’t exactly pan out, however, because Pinocchio understandably picks this time to go berserk. That’s about the first hour of the movie there. The last half hour? Well, it’s kind of like this…

     N N N N N N G G G G G H H H H A A A R R R R R G G H H W W W W A A A H H H H H H H H!!!!!!! O O O O O U U U U U U R R R R R R R R R R R R R R B B B B P H H H H H H H H H H!!!!!!! MMUUWH!! MUUWWWHHH!!!! R R R A A A A R R R R G G G H H H H H H H H!!!! [Himiko kills lackeys violently.] N N N N N N N G G G G G A A O O O U U U A O O U U U A A A O O O A H H H H H!!!! URK! OORRPHHH! W W W W H A A A U U U U U G G G G H H H H H H N N N N N N!!!!! [Lackey abducts a child for no apparent reason.] S S S S H H I I I I I I N N N N N N E E E E E E E!!!! [Himiko attacks Pinocchio and scratches up his face a bit.] B B B B L L L L A A A A U U U U G G H H H!!!! U U W W W A A A U L L A A U U L L A A U U U L A A A H!!!! LLLUUAAH!!!! AAAKHHH!!!! E E E I I I I Y Y Y A A R R R R R H H H H O O O O U U U A A A H H H H R R R R H H H H!!!!! [Pinocchio takes off running at top speed and screaming his fool head off.] OOAAAPH! L L L U U U R R R R R L L L L G G G G H H H L L L!!!! H H W W W O O O O A A A A U U U W W W W!!!! [Pinocchio runs and screams some more.] UHHLLAHH! B B B L L L U U R R R R K K H H!!!! A A A A I I I I I A A A W W A A A U W W A U U W A A H!!!! [Pinocchio runs and screams some fucking more!] Y Y Y E E A A A U U U R R R R R R R R R R G G G H!!!! NNYYI! NNYYI! NNYYI! O O O O O O O O O W W W A A A U U U U U U G G G H H H H H H!!!!!! [Pinocchio battles Narishima and his minions at their headquarters.] OOUUEHH! OOUUEH! H H O O O O W W W W A A A A A A A A A A A A A A R R R R R R R H H H H H!!!! [Himiko arrives for the big finale. Audience members consume hazardously large doses of ibuprofen and begin furiously massaging their temples.]

     I’ve seen some extremely lofty claims made on behalf of this movie. To quote once more the back cover of the DVD, “This underground classic packed the theaters in Japan and stood out among so many other films that it was hailed as a masterpiece of innovation in Japan’s film industry.” The “Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction” volume of the Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia, meanwhile, calls it “one of Japan’s most important underground films.” All I can say is, audiences in Japan must have been fucking hard up in 1991. Important and innovative or not, 964 Pinocchio assuredly is dreadful and exhausting. This is an odd indicator, it’s true, but I really think it says something that I’ve now seen two different movies involving both irritating editing tricks taken to barely defensible extremes and vast quantities of puke within the past couple of months, and I liked the other one a lot better! The most natural point of comparison for 964 Pinocchio is obviously the somewhat earlier Japanese cyberpunk mind-fuck, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a movie which I quite enjoyed when I saw it in the early 90’s. The key difference between this film and that one is that Tetsuo is only about two thirds as long as 964 Pinocchio. There are lots of things I’m willing to accept in a 65-minute mini-movie that I absolutely will not stand for at full feature length, and 964 Pinocchio is loaded with them. On a 90-minute running time, I expect people’s actions to have motivations. I expect goddamned dialogue, preferably goddamned dialogue that either elucidates character or advances the plot in some way. I want to know what in the hell is going on, unless there is something vital to be gained by keeping that under wraps. And most importantly, I do not want to spend fully a third of a standard movie’s running time listening to people scream, groan, and bellow incoherently. 964 Pinocchio is visually interesting— I’ll give it that much— but it’s pretty close to worthless in every other respect.



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