Tetsuo: The Iron Man/Body Hammer REVIEW

Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

WARNING: Never do the hoovering with wet hands.

1989/1992 | 18 | 148 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£24.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Third Window Films
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nobu Kanaoka, Sujin Kim

Back when The Stone Roses were flare-wearing fresh faces, two emissions from the East left us faintly worried about the Japanese nation’s collective mental state. One was tentacle-rape anime Urotsukidōji; the other Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

In this low-budget cyberpunk classic, a salaryman finds himself mutating into a misshapen mass of metal and flesh – a sort of scrapyard Borg. Sequences like the one where he suddenly sprouts a giant, whirling drill penis are still jawdropping, and Shinya Tsukamoto’s visual and aural assault remains exhilirating. Yet, with its crisp black and white photography and low-fi stopmotion effects, Tetsuo is also eerie and strangely beautiful, falling midway between the body horror of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and the spooky atmospherics of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

In follow-up Body Hammer, sinister goons threaten our hero’s loved ones in order to kick-start a transformation; he eventually obliges, sprouting a massive phallic chest cannon. Shot in Dario Argento-style washes of red and blue, it’s comparatively conventional and more action-orientated, featuring frequent frenetic chases. It’s still flippin’ mental, though.

Other Japanese filmmakers have picked up Tsukamoto’s ball and run with it since, producing bad taste splatterfests like The Machine Girl, but they lack the artistry of their perverse progenitor.


The most intriguing bonus is The Adventures Of Electric Rod Boy, an early super-8 short which contains some of the seeds of Tetsuo. You also get 16 minutes’ worth of a rather bland interview with Tsukamoto, three trailers, and – hold onto your hats – weblinks (hold on, is it still the ‘90s?).

Ian Berriman

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