Detective Doberman

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Detective DobermanShinichi "Sonny" Chiba as Joji Kano is Clint Eastwood & Janet Yata (aka Janet Ha) as Miki is Judy Garland in Detective Doberman (Doberuman deka, 1977), a hybrid of Dirty Harry & A Star Is Born. It's based on a manga comic book series created in 1975 by "Boronson" (i.e., Charles Bronson) the nom de plume of Yoshiyuki Okamura.

Chiba's use of the .44 Magnum is skillful & interesting, but the film breathes more life when he is showing his stuff with karate, not bullets. He is an admitted "crazy" cop from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo intent on finding a missing girl from his hometown.

The police believe she is dead. Chiba knows better, because the girl's mother, a seer, said so. The ultra-modern Tokyo police department is not interested in the evidence of a superstitious country bumpkin. By means of magic shells, which always say the girl is living, Chiba fails to prove more than his own lunacy to the Tokyo police, who refuse to help him.

Detective DobermanChiba alone unravels a trail of intrigue and murder. He discovers who really died & how the drug-addicted singer from Okinawa planned her own faked death.

She is presently guarded & guided by a gangster (Hiroki Matsukata) who honestly loves her & will go to any length to protect her from the law and make her the most famous singer in Japan. Chiba's investigation must, from the gangster's point of view, be stopped.

Though known as Detective Doberman in Okinawa, Chiba becomes Detective Tarzan in Tokyo because of a television news report that shows him rappelling off a skyscraper to save a woman trapped in an office with a knife-swinging maniac. Thereafter, people he meets say, "Hey, you're Tarzan!" Humor is an important part of the plot, but it is human comedy, not slapstick.

Detective DobermanChiba had brought a piglet from Okinawa to give the police department as a present. When they refuse to take the pig, it becomes Chiba's personal pet a la the orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose.

He takes the pig with him to a sleazy burlesque house where it, & Chiba, inadvertently become part of the show: Chiba the bumpkin is happily raped on stage by a stripper (Eiko Matsuda) who becomes his girlfriend for the duration of the film.

In the course of events, Chiba learns that the bikers, hookers, & small-time crooks of Tokyo are the "real" people, the best people, while the yakuza big shots & the police are equally to be mistrusted.

As a cop himself, he is in a rather ambiguous position, but sides ultimately with society's riffraff. The girl he came to take back to Okinawa should be turned over to the police, but he'd rather take her home. That's no good either, & only when his magic shells finally tell him she's dead (spiritually if not physically) does he leave Tokyo, having failed in his mission.

Detective DobermanThe final battle with the big-time gangsters focuses too much on the Magnum.

We've seen Chiba bash his way out of the police department when the police decide to lock him up; we've seen him disarm a seeming maniac; we've seen him take & give punishment.

But the climactic battle is a showcase of bullets that can pass through three bodies at once or kill bad guys on the far side of a wall. So what? Any cretin can look tough with a big gun. This was disappointing.

Yet, final battle aside, Chiba's personality & prowess are strong throughout &, for a confessed madman, he's rather a sweetheart besides.

His roundhouse kicks are showier than those of Chuck Norris in Chuck's prime & his boyish charm more sincere. The libertine romance lends a touch of depth rather than sexploitation, & the film never gives the viewer a chance to slip out to the popcorn stand. A real treat.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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