Is it possible to make a successful werewolf movie where the protagonist never transforms into a wolf creature of any kind? Well, in 1975, Toei Tokyo proved it was not only possible, but the resulting film could be wildly entertaining in unexpected ways. Based on a popular manga series by Kazumasa Hirai, Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope follows the adventures of Akira Inugami, the lone survivor of a clan of werewolves slaughtered during the opening credits who grows up to be a reporter played by action star Sonny Chiba. After witnessing the grisly demise of a man in a white suit (all the better to show off his red, red blood) frantically fleeing from a phantom tiger that corners him and claws him to death, Akira is grilled by the police, but soon released when the autopsy report comes back. “A human being wouldn’t be able to slash a body like that,” one cop says, “and not in such a short time either.” Little do they know…
From that point on, the fantastical plot Akira gets enmeshed in becomes increasingly convoluted. Turns out the dead man was in the band Mobs which, at the behest of its corrupt manager, gang-raped up-and-coming singer Miki Ogata (Etsuko Nami), who was given syphilis by one of them. As a result, she’s strung out on drugs and reduced to singing in a cheap strip club, which is where Akira tracks her down, but not before facing off against a vicious gang of yakuza thugs. From this altercation he’s rescued by a mysterious motorcyclist all in black leather who takes him back to her place, literally licks his wounds, and initiates sex. “Right now, I’m just a woman who wants an animal,” she says, and she gets one before disappearing from the film as abruptly as she rode into it.
At various points during the story, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi inserts a caption to keep the viewer updated on what day of the lunar cycle it is. This is pertinent because while Akira never physically changes, his mystical powers wax and wane with the moon, so on Day 15 — the full moon — he’s near-invincible and he’s at his weakest when it’s new. Even so, between these extremes he still has astonishing healing powers, which is why he shrugs it off when he’s shot in the shoulder and is unconcerned about catching the clap when he puts the moves on Miki.
For her part, Miki turns out to have a psychic link with the phantom tiger slashing her rapists and other ne’er-do-wells to death. This is why she’s of interest to the Japanese Cabinet Intelligence Agency, which also scoops up Akira and experiments on him, even performing a blood transfusion to see if lycanthropy and its attendant powers can be passed on in that fashion. The answer: kind of, but the effect is only temporary and the recipient has a nasty surprise coming to them. “Is this proof that werewolves and humans can never mix?” Akira muses, sending him back to his birthplace, where he’s immediately recognized and captured by the same superstitious villagers that massacred his clan years before. (Guess they have long memories.)
This development leads to the the film’s third weird sex scene, when Akira is freed by a woman who takes pity on him and says, “Let my body give you some relief, even if just for a while.” (Screenwriter Fumio Konami’s dialogue is full of such howlers, although it’s entirely possible this is just a translation issue.) Inevitably, everything winds up with the long-awaited clash between wolf and tiger as Akira and Miki are pitted against each other by the J-CIA, whose director also meets a fitting end. And now, thanks to Arrow Video’s sterling release, this underseen werewolf exploitation film will be reaching more eyeballs than it has in decades. Long live Wolf Guy!