Sunday 18 July 2010

Samurai Bikini Babe VS Zombie Hordes!

Chanbara Beauty 2008 Japan
Directed by
Yôhei Fukuda
Jolly Roger
DVD Region 2

I’d never heard of this movie but something moved me to an instant purchase a month or so ago, when I noticed it in the HMV sale. Perhaps it was the tagline that so subtly captured my imagination and inspired a quest for the beauty and visual poetry promised by its delicately written copy... so here’s the tagline for the movie which runs across the top of the cover...

“Babes, Blades and Bikinis - What more do you want?”

After I’d let the soulful melody of these words wash over my consciousness like laying down in a field of poppies... I had to admit to finding myself in exact agreement with the sentiments expressed in this exquisite one liner.

Then there was the picture on the cover which was, not too surprisingly, a bikini clad babe with her blades out. Okay... so the tag line obviously didn’t lie to me so far. Even if she was wearing a cowboy hat.

Then a quick read of the synopsis on the back of the box imparted to me the important message that these particular bikini clad babes with their blades are in the business of chopping up and generally re-killing hordes of marauding zombies. In fact this movie, which is a remake of a popular video game apparently, has the title in the US of “Onechambara - Zombie Bikini Squad” - wow, they get all the unique selling points wrapped neatly into their title over there then. So all of this was, of course, another big plus sign for the inevitable purchase.

But the thing that really swung it for me... the one thing which really tugged at my reason and appealed deeply to my intellect, was the fact that, in the HMV sale, this movie was going for only a fiver!

So there you have it. I bought myself a copy of Chanbara Beauty (along with a copy of the Kiezlowski Three Colours Box Set which was also in the sale) and I’ve now watched it in all its glory.

So where does that leave me exactly?

Well first up... remember that tag line which ended up with the tempting and seemingly rhetorical question - “What more do you want?” Well, I have to in all fairness answer, having now seen the thing, that I would really have liked a fuller and more plausible story to hang the ridiculous set pieces onto, please!

Ok, then. Chanbara Beauty is set in a post-apocalyptic George R. Romero-ish world where zombie hordes infest the planet and the Chanbara Beauty of the title does her best to help people out by wandering the country with her fat, blonde, comic relief guy (come on, you can’t resist a big, fat, comic relief Japanese guy with blonde hair) and killing as many zombies as she can.

Ok so far. The plot is a little less intricate than I’d have liked until we find that her sister was kidnapped by the films generic mad scientist villain who uses her unique clan's blood for zombification experiments (it’s his experiments which have caused the abundance of infectious zombie hordes) and who makes her sister “strong” so she can kill their father who didn’t love her as much as the other and be the babe-villain this film so obviously needs so a big fight can happen at the end.

On the way in their zombie killing quest, our two heroes (the beauty and big fat geezah) come across a babe gymnastically toting a sawn-off shot gun (think Gun-Fu, Equilibrium style) which can shoot an insane number of shots before ever running out of ammunition and who has a common quest of vengeance for the cold despatch of the evil scientist... so they all join forces and kill zombies together.

Which all sounds fine until you realise the Chanbara Beauty of the title also has some kind of magical clan sword which uses the properties of her blood and looks a bit like a light sabre when she gets really gung ho about things (like killing zombies). Her midichlorian blood count must be way off the scale!

Her arch-nemesis, being as she is her sister from the same clan, can also do this stuff with her sword, so when the final showdown comes at the end of the film, the two girls are teleporting all over the place and hurling bolts of bloody, psychic energy at each other. I think if the film would have at least, by this point, tried to give some explanation as to what the heck was going on by the time you see the swords in action, I would have let the film off the hook a little with regards to a lot of the stuff on show here... but at no point does the movie try to explain any of this stuff or even comment on its existence. It just takes the track that, “of course any bikini-clad babe with her blades out is going to be able to magic those blades up using the power of here mind and the bizarre “blood-light” from her body. Isn’t that how the world works normally, after all?”

No it really isn’t. This makes no sense at all. I suspect an explanation for it might exist in the Instructions Booklet for the original console game but, if it did, then the director of the movie has not seen fit to share that with us.

There are some nice things about this movie - for example, during a moment of zombie slaughter towards the end we get a chance to see Chanbara Beauty in action with a birds eye shot as she is hacking up zombies and a whole load of zombie arms get hurled upwards at us and into the camera. At no time in this movie does anyone show even the remotest interest in obeying those pesky laws of physics.

All the blood is CGI, as a lot of that thing seems to be going these days (more’s the pity), but the movie tries to go better with the whole camera eye thing by having that CGI blood quite frequently splashing all over the camera lens. It gets a bit tiresome and repetitive after a while though.

Red blooded males all over will find the main character frustrating because she has giant novelty fur trim on the tops of her bikini... this has the annoying quality of both highlighting her ample cleavage while at the same time hiding it completely from view... forever. This feels a bit of a sly and underhanded way of diluting the pleasures promised by the tag line on the box!

At the end of the day, Chanbara Beauty is an ok film... for £5 in an HMV sale. If I’d have payed any more for it I would not be as amused as I was by the movie!

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