The word around the campfire was that Assault! Jack the Ripper was considered the most violent of Hasebe’s Violent Pink films and possibly his most violent ever. That kind of cinematic transgression deserves at least one viewing! After having sat through the film however, If you’ve come expecting grisly violence then you may leave a bit disappointed. That isn’t to say Assault! isn’t a intensely violent movie or that it doesn’t have the power to disturb, because it does! This is a project that is far more concerned with the dynamics of human relationships than simply being about gore. So, gorehounds, leave your expectations at the door. There is a lot more to this project than simply the disturbing content. With Assault! Jack the Ripper I have found one of the most engaging entries into a Pinku subgenre that I have seen yet. Although this may not be the type of movie that outsiders might expect to be intellectually challenging, Assault! Jack the Ripper is rife with subtext and intense character study. It is also incredibly weird and equally as disturbed. So, there is a little bit for everyone with this one!
Made in 1976, Assault! Jack the Ripper couldn’t help but push some buttons with its graphic nature. A story about a man who stabs women in the crotch is going to turn some heads no matter what year you make it in, to be honest. What might intrigue Western viewers however is the artistic manner in which films like this were made. The erotic genres of Japanese cinema from this time period were often very rich and far from being formulaic. The filmmakers were given budgets and a certain amount of necessary nudity and they were ultimately left to their own devices and so a movie like Assault! Jack the Ripper was made. Hasebe is best known for his abundance of visual style and he lets himself go with this film as well. There are few large set-pieces throughout the movie, but even the most simplistic of sets are shot with an eye towards visual flare. Even the bedroom of our two leads, where we see these two share a considerable amount of time, is shot with a panache that brings out the vibrant colors that often dominate Hasebe’s work. The color red is often shown in a vibrant and dominating position and the contrast that Hasebe manages to give these colors helps really sell this imaginary world.
Although Hasebe takes the violence up a notch, knowing his position as a director for hire in many regards, I don’t doubt that this particular film was taken more as an instance of his feeling the need to experiment. There are a lot of really interesting ideas at play in Assault! Jack the Ripper that don’t really feel connected with one another by the strongest of means. Hasebe seems intrigued in the roles of violence and sexuality throughout the picture and does his best to examine the similarities and differences between these two concepts. Love and hate are shown as fleeting concepts that acts as fronts for our own selfish desires. The film opens with a cake being laboriously decorated by our leading man, as he dabs it with frosting and ensures the quality of his product down to the last detail. As he finishes his cake, his soon-to-be love interest steps in and slams a knife through the center of the cake ruining it. The violence of the knife piercing the cake is devastating after all of the love and time put into this project, for it to be demolished in seconds seems almost painful after witnessing the beauty of the work. The reason behind this destruction seems to be jealousy on the part of this female, as she disapproves of his attention being paid to this cake rather than to her. This introduces us to this constant theme of selfishness that runs throughout the movie.
The selfishness of sex itself is explored by this relationship that these characters discover. It is a relationship based entirely off of the eroticism of murder and the fear of being caught that comes with it, as well as the destruction of life. The taking of ones life for your own sexual satisfaction is the ultimate form of self-centered gratification. Although ideally sexual companionship should be about mutual gratification, we are ultimately individuals and we all care about our own sexual satisfaction first and foremost. The young woman of our story ultimately grows to have feelings for this young man, but does she really “love” him or does she simply want to control him? As we see, our male character is simply in on this relationship for his own sexual gratification and soon murder itself becomes his only sexual compulsion. These are loose ideas that are littered throughout the project, but they are most assuredly there. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the women are repeatedly stabbed in the vagina! Using the knife as a phallic symbol, and what this possibly means in terms of symbolic imagery will be based entirely off of what the audience takes from the movie. It would be nice if these ideas were a little more focused, but the movie remains addictive in its watchability regardless. The strange atmosphere and the violent imagery make it a bizarre but fascinating watch for any viewer, but especially for those who love Japanese cinema.