Directed by Kazuhito Kuramoto, 1988, 51 min., starring Toshihiko Hino, Mio Takaki and Tomorowo Taguchi.
Guinea Pig? Puke! Bwurp! Blaaargh! Grrlbwg! A natural reaction you could expect from anyone who has heard about the infamous series, but hasn't had the chance to check the movies out. As is often the case, however, with things as ridiculously hyped as the Guinea Pig movies, you're just bound to be disappointed somewhere along the way. Oh certainly, the first two entries in the series, the legendary pseudo-snuff movies Devil's Experiment and Flower Of Flesh And Blood, lived up to their hype. They provided enough guts and gore and torture to satisfy even the most hardened of horror fans. And follow-ups He Never Dies and Mermaid In A Manhole both brilliantly combined whacked-out plots, bizarre humour and an unhealthy dose of stomach-churning imagery. And Android Of Notre Dame? It just sits there, being boring and... yawn... eh, yeah, boring.
The fifth instalment in the Guinea Pig series was directed by Kazuhito Kuramoto, someone neither you nor I had ever heard of before. That is, unless you have a knack for 80's rape cinema, because Kuramoto had already directed Captured For Sex 2 in 1986, which is, supposedly, quite a good movie for its genre even. Android Of Notre Dame, however, certainly is not. While it has a bizarre concept not unlike its two predecessors, it completely lacks humour and, most notably, the gory goods. Sure, Android Of Notre Dame has a couple of scenes that could pass for, well, 'gore', but it's all so disappointingly amateur, you'll find it hard to actually be disgusted by it. Instead, it strays so far from the original Guinea Pig concept, it's hard to believe it's actually part of the series. In fact, if it wasn't for Satoru Ogura, who is once again listed as producer, Android Of Notre Dame would have had no connection to the four movies that preceded it.
It may be hard to imagine that Android Of Notre Dame is not hilarious: any other movie featuring a midget scientist who tries to bring the dead back to life in order to save his terminally ill sister (who is, it must be noted, certainly not a midget) would probably have made me (and you) burst into laughter. However, except for those few moments of unintentional comedy that do manage to put a smile upon the viewer's face, the movie mainly consists of drawn-out and tedious scenes that completely fail to entertain or gross out or well, to do anything.
As I already mentioned, the story of Android Of Notre Dame revolves around a midget scientist, Karazawa, who has a sister who is terminally ill. Needless to say, Karazawa doesn't want her to die, and thus experiments on frogs and mice, hoping to find the cure against death. His first few experiments prove to be fruitless, mainly because Karazawa has only laboratory animals to experiment on. To simulate the exact situation he'll be in when his sister dies, he'll need a human corpse. And well, yeah, those are hard to come by, sort of.
Disillusioned because of his poor results, Karazawa fears he must give up on his hope of reviving his sister when she dies of her fatal heart disease. Just when everything seems completely hopeless though, the phone rings. Karazawa seems to be surprised: who would have any reason to call him? It appears to be a man named Kato. He knows everything about Karazawa's research and has just what he needs: the body of a 21-year old female, for the sweet sum of ten million yen.
Needless to say, this is just what Karazawa has been waiting for. Even if the whole thing seems a bit fishy, he accepts the offer, and soon receives the body (by mail it seems, as it comes in a cardboard box :-)). The experiments he executes on this body go horribly wrong though and the woman gets all but revived (well... more like toasted, actually). The problem, Karazawa manages to figure out, is that the corpse isn't fresh enough. He'll need a fresher one, preferably one he can revive within minutes after death.
Not long after, as Karazawa is doing some computer work, the doorbell rings. It appears that Kato is waiting outside the door, claiming he knows of the 'missing link' that Karazawa will need to actually be able to reanimate corpses. Of course, it soon becomes clear that Kato doesn't have very good intentions, threatening to let loose a virus on Karazawa's computer if he doesn't pay up. When Karazawa is then forced to show Kato his secret laboratory, he goes bonkers and captures Kato to use him as his Guinea Pig.
Android Of Notre Dame features, among a number of not quite familiar faces, the legendary Tomorowo Taguchi, who you may have seen in the brilliant Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Takashi Miike's Dead Or Alive, or any other of the numerous movies he's starred in. Sadly, his performance is one of the few worthwhile things Android Of Notre Dame has to offer. Not only are all four other actors (and that includes one who plays a corpse) virtually unknown, they're also virtually unknown for good reason. Toshihiko Hino, playing the wicked scientist, has all the facial expressions of a wooden chair and identical acting talents. Mio Takaki, playing the scientist's sister, seems to have had acting lessons from Toshihiko Hino, showing a frighteningly similar range of emotions. Granted, I don't expect the script to have excited them to a point where they actually started caring about their characters and their performances, but it's sometimes almost frustrating to be treated to so much disinterest and lack of talent. Almost.
Because, you see, if this movie had had any potential, it would certainly have been frustrating. And if the god-awful performances had been the movie's only weak point, well, yeah, I can imagine it would've been frustrating. However, as pretty much everything about Android Of Notre Dame stinks (which reminds me, the title stinks too!), you'll just say 'whatever', toss the movie aside, and do something much less boring. Like watching golf. Or going to the dentist. Or listening to Coldplay.
The greatest problem of Android Of Notre Dame is perhaps that its one-dimensional story just isn't interesting. While He Never Dies and Mermaid In A Manhole both had similarly flimsy storylines, they were at least entertaining. Here, the all too simple straight-forward structure does a lot more bad than good: it once more makes it painfully clear that the movie has nothing to stand on. Bad plot, bad acting, bad gore; yes, Android Of Notre Dame is, without a doubt, the worst Guinea Pig movie ever made. It's up to you to decide just how bad that is.
(Editor's note: as ever, there is some confusion as to exactly what number entry Android of Notre Dame is in the Guinea Pig Series. However, as it was the fifth Guinea Pig movie released by date, we'll concur with imdb.com and call it No. 5. This is despite the movie being released as Za Ginipiggu 2 in Japan, as well some calling it No. 3, or even No. 6...)
Apple Rating for this film:
Guinea Pig: What's in a name?
Midget Scientists: Well, I guess not all of them can be bad-asses
*** Avoid! ***
Films in a similar style: He Never Dies (if it had sucked), Mermaid In A Manhole (if it had sucked), Naked Blood
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Android of Notre Dame Wallpaper
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Wallpaper credit: Sven, 2006
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