The Mystery of Rampo
Edogawa Rampo -- a pen name that is also a homonym in Japanese for Edgar Allen Poe -- amassed a major cult following after writing a series of short stories that masterly meld the erotic and the grotesque. Unlike previous films about of his work -- such as Noboru Tanaka's masterful Stroller in the Attic -- this piece is not so much an adaptation of his work than a dreamlike vision of his inner workings. Set during the 1930s, Rampo (Naoto Takenaka), after learning that his piece Osei Tojo was censored by the government, reads a newspaper article about an incident that bears freakish similarity to his suppressed story. The article details a murder investigation surrounding Sonoko (Michiko Hada), the wife of an antique dealer who was found suffocated in an large oblong chest. At the funeral, Rampo is immediately drawn to Sonoko, who exudes a certain femme fatal magnetism. She fires his creativity and soon he is banging out a sequel to his censored work. In his story, Osei becomes the lover of a debauched aristocrat (Mikijiro Hira) who likes to sexually humiliate the recent widow. Meanwhile, a straight-arrow detective, Kogoro Akechi (Masahiro Motoki), ventures to the count's estate to further investigate the murder. While writing this tale, he passionately pursues Osei in real life -- or at least what he thinks is real life. This film was famous in Japan for its turbulent production history. Producer Kazuyoshi Okuyama was displeased with original director Rintaro Mayuzumi's faithful, delicate version of the film and reshot 80 percent of the film, fashioning it into a flashier, bawdier affair. Both versions were released in Japan.