DVD Review: Masters of Horror: Imprint

“Banned from Cable Broadcast” is the mantra at the top of the video box, harkening back to the days of when “Banned in 20 Countries” sensationalized movie posters.  I was wondering why it was banned, until 30 minutes into the show and then I definitely found out. 

Christopher (Billy Drago) is an American in 19th Century Japan.  He’s looking for the prostitute that he fell in love with and promised to return and take her back to America.  He’s been searching here, there, and yonder and has made his way to an isolated island.  On the way, the boat encounters the corpse of a bloated, bleached white and very pregnant drowned prostitute. 

He arrives at the island he meets a strange midget (Mame Yamada) and asks about the girl he’s looking for.  The little fellow replies that he doesn’t know the girl, but we get the impression that he knows something that he’s not telling.  He encourages Christopher to take in a little of the local nightlife.  Christopher decides to choose a prostitute that is not writhing around at the front of the store-front window, but appears to be somewhat isolated and distant. 

They go back to the room and The Woman (Youki Kudoh) tells Christopher that she knows what happened to Kumomo (Michie) and commences to tell him the tale.  He doubts what he hears and wants her to tell him the truth, however, he might not like what he hears.

Imprint is the title that in the Masters of Horror that I most looked forward to seeing.  It developed a large amount of controversy when Showtime refused to air it.  As you’re watching the film, you’re almost saying that surely there’s nothing to offend.  That is, until you get to the halfway point and you find out, with a vengeance, why exactly they decided not to air it.  There’s a sadistic torture scene that made me look away from the screen with the willies.

Christopher makes his way to the island

Christopher makes his way to the island

I don’t exactly like the idea of putting long needles under the fingernails, even if it is a special effects.  I even less like the idea of having them put in my gum line!  What is even more interesting is that the author of the novel, Shimako Iwai, that the show is based on cameos as the sadistic prostitute that places the needles.  The grand finale has some secrets in it that pale in comparison to the torture scene, but fans of [potential spoiler]Basket Case[/spoiler] might appreciate it. 

Unfortunately, the show is not without some problems.  It seems that since the show was shot for American cable television it was decided that it had to be shot in English.  Since the affair was shot in Japan and used a Japanese cast (except Drago and the Americanized Kudoh), the actors learned their lines phonetically.  Some actors this works for.  I thought that the strange delivery of dialogue works for Mame Yamada and gives the characters a somewhat otherworldly, creepy quality. 

However, others come off sounding like they’ve….learned their lines phonetically.  I feel that this affects several actor’s acting since they’re thinking more of phonetically reciting their lines and not on acting.  Irony of ironies is that this never ended up airing on the very medium that forced this concession.  This would’ve played so much better if it would’ve been presented in Japanese and subtitled.  It’s still a good show, but prepared to be distracted by the phonetic performances. 

Imprint is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16×9 televisions.  Before I go into the usual description of the special features, I have to mention that this release differs from the other Masters of Horror.  They were starting to have a familiarity to them (Interview with director, Working with a Master, Behind the Scenes, etc.) and Imprint, due to its special status, differs somewhat from the formula and feels somewhat special because of it.

The sadism scene is what got this kicked off of Showtime

The sadism scene is what got this kicked off of Showtime

The first special feature is a commentary from with author, musician, and American Cinematheque programmer Chris D. and writer Wyatt Doyle of NewTexture.com.  The first featurette is the 47 minute “Imprinting: The making of Imprint.”  It has interviews with Mick Garris, director Takashi Miike, author Shimako Iwai, Billy Drago, Youki Kudoh, Michie, actress Noriko Egulhi, actress Megumu Takada, actress Yuno, dialogue coach Nadia Vanesse, actress Miho Harita, actress Kumiko Imai, and producer Fumio Inoue. 

Next is the 41 minute “I am the Film Director of Love and Freedom” which is an interview with Miike.  The final featurette is the 21 minute “Imperfect Beauty: The Make-up and Special Effects of Imprint.”  It has interviews with Miike, Kudoh, Michi, Garris, and special effects and make-up artist Yuichi Matsui.  The rest of the special features include the familiar trailers, still gallery, Miike bio, DVD-ROM screensaver, and the script on DVD-ROM. 

Imprint is not for the weak of heart and its midpoint surprise will have you looking away from the screen.  Takashi Miike lives up to his reputation and delivers the gut-wrenching goods.  The story has a creepy feel to it, but is slightly let down by the phonetic dialogue.

The maddening part is that it would’ve been so much better with Japanese dialogue, was shot the way it was because of being on cable, and then ended up not even airing.  It’s now available in all its gory glory on DVD and Miike and Masters of Horror fans will be glad to see it. 

The Woman has many secrets

The Woman has many secrets

Masters of Horror: Imprint is now available at Amazon. As of yet, there is not a release date for the UK. Visit the DVD database for more information.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.