Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight (1973)
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writers: San Kaji (screenplay), Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima (manga)
Starring: Tetsuro Tanba, Yuriko Hishimi, Goro Ibuki, and Kyoichi Sato.

The Plot: Bohachi Bushido tells a heartwarming story about forced prostitution, extreme violence, and cult activities. It begins in the Edo period where we find The Bohachi, a group that lives by a very distasteful code. They regularly track down women and then molest them until they no longer have regular desires or emotions. The group uses these brainwashed women for both financial and political gain, and when they save the wandering assassin Shino (Tetsuro Tanba), they assume that they now have the muscle needed in order to bring their group to a higher level. However, Shino is a man who takes orders from no one. When this group presses him to join their ranks, they quickly develop an enemy that they are unprepared for.

The Review
I had actually heard of Bohachi Bushido years ago, back when I first began to dig into the catalog of filmmaker Teruo Ishii. This notorious director helmed his fair share of sleazy/dark material, but in recent years Bohachi Bushido has developed a reputation that far exceeds some of his other work. Recently, the movie has picked up a very vocal, albeit still incredibly niche, group of fans that continually heap heavy adoration upon it. So, for certain, I found myself a bit late to the party when it comes to this particular film. Expectations were high, as Ishii is well known for his contributions to the world of ero guro (erotic grotesque, a style within Japanese manga/film focusing on a blend between eroticism and things that are unnatural/malformed), but Bohachi Bushido is actually a fairly typical vehicle for this filmmaker. While not reflective of his more grotesque work, it certainly does resemble his work on Female Yakuza Tale, which was coincidentally released in the same year as Bohachi Bushido. So, for those in the audience who are expecting wall-to-wall nudity and some very “out there” content, this will certainly be the film for you. However, as an exploitation movie from this era, it might not have the teeth that some audience members could be hoping for.

Opening in an extreme fashion, the movie immediately sets itself up as a case of pure style over substance. While that may seem like a negative attribute, such films often have their own merit. Ishii has worked great as a stylist before, and he plays that hand phenomenally well here. Being based upon a manga, the visually-focused narrative should come as no surprise. During the seventies, it seems as if a filmmaker had one of two options when it came to bringing a manga to life. They could have went for a more mature and muted tone, or they could have concentrated heavily on bringing to life the animated feel of whatever comic was in question. There’s no doubt that Bohachi Bushido is certainly one of the more stylish efforts out there, and because of this it falls more into the latter category. Ishii is of course well known for his visual excesses. One look at Blind Woman’s Curse will tell a viewer a great deal about this unusual and talented filmmaker. As is expected, in Bohachi Bushido Ishii fills the screen with vibrant colors and impeccable trick photography.

While the movie is stunning to look at, for some viewers these visual characteristics may not prove to be the first thing they gravitate to. There is no question about it, Bohachi Bushido begins its runtime by being mercilessly misogynistic, and it rarely relents from this ideology. As we meet the Bohachi, we see that they are completely over-the-top in their longing to subjugate all females. Kidnapping women, torturing them, then raping them until they are effectively brainwashed, these Bohachi men are more than just a little nasty. What is more peculiar is how Ishii paints these morally-retarded men in a way that almost seems to be understanding with a tiny bit of awe. Despite their immoral and awful ways, these men are also wholly dedicated to their “craft.” They have intricate philosophies and symbolism behind all of their actions. Even the kanji of their motto has a deep four-part message behind it. While it might be argued that the Bohachi only use women in order to appease their political goals, it does not do anything to quell the “misogynist” taunts that this movie might receive. However, there is still a story to be told here, and Ishii brings it to the forefront as best he can.

Bohachi Bushido may have a deeper meaning than I am aware, but for the most part it is unmitigated sleaze and excess. Although the gore is a bit toned down in comparison to the Lone Wolf & Cub series (which was also based upon a manga written by Kazuo Koike), it still manages to feature a handful of violent deaths that are sure to capture the attention of audiences. The excesses do not stop there, the sex appeal within this period piece is what is most likely to turn heads. Filled to the brim with sex and nudity, Bohachi Bushido certainly rivals the previously mentioned Female Yakuza Tale. During one of the most visually compelling shots in the movie, and one that I wish I could have posted a screencap of (it would be totally against the terms of service of my webhost), Ishii lines a shot with nude women on both the left and right hand sides of the screen. This scene takes place in a room full of mirrors, so the two vertical lines seem to go on in an endless series of naked females. In shots like this, women do seem heavily objectified, but I suppose that is entirely the point for this Bohachi cult.

The Conclusion
There are some tremendous visual flourishes within Bohachi Bushido, and there’s no questioning the “out there” nature of this movie, but overall it has its dead spots. After a while, the movie starts to feel a lot like an ordinary yakuza tale – but with more nudity and rape. This is the greatest weakness of the movie. Yet, if you are looking for an above average title that tries its best to be naughty, then this is probably the movie for you. I give it a solid three out of five.