964 PINOCCHIO (1991) – The Dungeon Review!
Unfortunately I was not nearly as aware of the wonderful world of Japanese horror films in the early 90s as I am today. I am not terribly surprised 964 Pinocchio didn’t make my radar back in 1991. I’ve come to have a massive appreciation of the diverse range of horror Japan has to offer. Beautiful haunting folklore inspired ghost stories like Kuroneko and Kwaidan, strange, trippy, mesmerizing nightmares like Horrors of Malformed Men, Strange Circus and Jigoku, and over-the-top gorefests like Versus, Tokyo Gore Police and Junk. That is just scratching the surface of the amazing and unique entries hailing from Japan. I could go on and on! 964 Pinocchio is horror/Science fiction of the ilk that would fall under the Cyberpunk category.
We meet a man who is sold as a sex toy to a couple of rich eccentric women. Apparently this particular model 964 seems to be malfunctioning and can not maintain an erection. Angered by their faulty purchase the women throw 964 Pinocchio out on the street. A young woman named Himiko befriends Pinocchio after he flops down and puts his head in her lap. Himiko tries to help Pinocchio adapt and teaches him how to speak. At one point Himiko leaves Pinocchio alone to run an errand. Himiko encounters a group of men who are looking for Pinocchio and when she rushes back to where she left him he is gone. She is overcome by a sense of relief when she finds him but this will be short lived. Once Pinocchio begins to question who he is both himself and Himiko take one bizarre, insane, dizzying journey through hell.
I think most of us are familiar with the story of Pinocchio; the little wooden doll who wants to become a real boy. To say 964 Pinocchio is a unique interpretation of the story is probably a grand understatement! 964 Pinocchio is a lobotomized cyborg sex slave who like all cyborgs possesses both human and robotic qualities. I felt sorry for Pinocchio! He is still new to this world like a baby thrust from the womb kicking and screaming. He has this little tuft of hair on his head which sort of furthered the whole baby thing in my own mind. Everything is a mystery to him as he tries to grok every item he passes by when Himiko drags him by the hand through a grocery story. He eventually begins to question who he is and trips out something brutal! When I say Pinocchio has a meltdown, I mean his skin literally begins melting off of his body! And that is not the only bodily punishment Pinocchio takes that would be inhuman to withstand! The visuals that support Pinocchio’s journey are really something else!
I didn’t quite get the Himiko character. Wasn’t Himiko the nurse in the opening scene? She seems to have had something to do with the creation of 964 Pinocchio. Or not. I am not entirely sure. But she has a lot of empathy for Pinocchio in the early part of the film and is sweet and kind. Himiko seems to be having her own memory recollection. Was Himiko lobotomized? How did she come to live in an abandoned building having to eat grocery store samples for sustenance? Is it a fluke that Pinocchio chose her to be his mother? I say mother because he tries to suckle on Himiko’s teets! The more memory Himiko gets back the crazier and more sadistic she is. The ending for the Himiko character was beyond bizarre; I can only discern it was intended to be symbolic.
The company that created and sold 964 Pinocchio want him back. The company CEO is a creepy weirdo and eats a lot of cherries. What was with the cherries? He comes off as more eccentric than evil. The CEO and his assistant were vaguely interesting but the company lackeys were as useless as tits on a bull. They are ill prepared to handle the 964 Pinocchio when he voluntarily returns. Pinocchio doesn’t intend malice; he just wants the company to help him! The reunion does not go well.
There are certainly films with similar visuals; Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo series comes to mind. There are several, long dizzying POV shots, insane angles, quick cuts, stop motion animation not to mention one of the longest vomiting scenes of all time. Himiko stumbles down several long corridors in the subway stopping every few seconds to wretch violently and spew yellow vomit. Pinocchio’s skin melting was awesome! It looked like they used good old fashioned paint for the special effects judging by the thickness and bold coloring of the ooze. One of the best scenes is when Pinocchio is running at breakneck speed down a busy pedestrian littered street with huge clamps around his neck chained to a concrete block he is pulling behind him. A description or even the pictures I included could not do the visuals justice! The films effects are definitely creative. 964 Pinocchio is not always an easy film to follow with its lack of dialog, tweaked-out visuals, abrasive sound effects and the screaming. Bloody hell the screaming! The flashback scenes are shot at you like a machine gun and you would miss something if you blinked. Obviously the film relies heavily on its visuals but there is in fact a story here. I am not sure I understood it entirely, or at least the ending mystified me, but it was nonetheless a trip. I look forward to re-watching 964 Pinocchio; it was a fascinating, bizarre and creative bit of insanity! People prone to seizures may want to avoid. Highly Recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Shozin Fukui
Starring: Haji Suzuki, Onn-chan, Kôji Ôtsubo, Kyoko Hara, Rakumaro San’yûtei, Kôta Mori, Tomio Watanabe, Anri Hayashi, Kyôko Irohani, Michiko Harada, Yûko Fujiwara, Yoshimitsu Takada, Naoshi Gôda, Takahiro Hosoya, Ranko