There are sometimes films which are depraved for the sake of being depraved. There is some seriously disturbing stuff happening on the screen but the progression of the narrative to reach that extreme stage seems so contrived that you ultimately end up somewhat dissatisfied in the end!
Based on Rampo Edogawa’s story, Yasuzo Masumura’s “Blind Beast” (1969) falls in this category. Michio (Eiji Funakoshi) is a blind sculptor (blind since birth) who has, over the years, developed the “sense of touch” to the fullest to satisfy or please himself. All other senses like sound, smell and sight are of no use to him because they aren’t the real deal and "sight" he has never known! He has come to learn a lot about how things may look and has developed his own understanding of the forms of various objects around him. Most notably he has become obsessed with the female body as he finds it the most beautiful creation and feeling up the female body parts gives him the most pleasure(!). He has a studio built out of a warehouse and it contains a lot of sculptures of the female body and the individual parts as he has perceived them using his sense of touch! And now he has made "pioneering the art of touch" his life's mission! "An art form for the blind, by the blind" as he describes it!
Enter beautiful model Aki (Mako Midori), stories of whose beautiful body Michio has heard! A desire to feel up Aki’s exquisite anatomy and to use her as a model for his latest sculpture drives Michio into kidnapping her with the help of his mother and holding her captive in his studio. Aki tries her best to flee but is overpowered by the blind sculptor and his mother. Amidst the labyrinth of giant female body parts including eyes, lips, nose, breasts, hands, legs, he starts building a sculpture, feeling up a reluctant Aki once in a while and then moulding his clay accordingly!
Aki starts thinking up ways to escape and even makes several attempts to trick the mother-son duo into letting her go. But a dramatic change of events turns this kidnap drama into a strange tale of macabre fetishism, as the kidnapped starts identifying with her captor and finds herself embracing his perverse ways…..
“Blind Beast” surely has the power to grip from its very first frame. The initial few sequences after the kidnapping are very well filmed and give a distinctly eerie and claustrophobic feel as Aki fumbles and stumbles in the surreal studio full of sculpted body parts. It is also commendable that the film doesn’t follow the oft-trodden path that kidnap dramas usually take. The final half hour takes an entirely different direction and that’s a good thing. What isn’t very appealing, however, is the abrupt manner in which that direction is taken! The jump or transition is somewhat half-baked. It is not entirely unusual for kidnap dramas to portray their victims as utterly stupid and clumsy idiots whose repeated attempts to escape always predictably fail, because if the escape really happens, then there is nothing left to film! “Blind Beast”’s Aki is no different, as in spite of some clever tricks she plays to fool the mother-son duo whilst trying to escape, she always manages to bungle up in the end. That’s not all, what’s more frustrating is how she even gets overpowered by a completely blind man and sometimes even misses some blatantly obvious chances of getting the better of him….all for the sake of movie continuity perhaps?
It also doesn’t help that the otherwise efficient blind person who is very adept at sensing a presence from their smell, footsteps and breathing sounds, lacks consistency and behaves in the clunkiest manner at times. Towards the third act, as the film gets to its focal point in a bizarre twist to the proceedings, we, the audiences wonder…how did things even get so far? It just doesn’t quite cut it.
But for all its worth, “Blind Beast” is a watchable film and manages to disturb the viewer in the final act, with terrific performances from the two leads Mako Midori and Eiji Funakoshi. One wonders though, whether this film was an excuse for the filmmaker and the lead actor to simply to feed their nasty appetite of fondling their lead woman, because moments when she ISN’T groped in this film are few and far between!