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Japan/1995/Yellow English Subtitles/Widescreen 1.77:1/Stereo Surround/101 minutes/Directed by Kazuyoshi Okuyama/Starring Masahiro Moto, Naoto Takenaka/Image Entertainment/24 Chaps/CLV/$39.99

This erotic film creates an intensely seductive ambiance, drawing you into the mysterious world of Japanese mystery writer, Edogawa Rampo. Directed by Kazuyoshi Okuyama, The Mystery of Rampo, is a complex layering of overlapping and intersecting stories woven brilliantly into an overall fabric that explores the survival of the artist the film, including a short, suffocating opening animation that melds together beautifully with the live action that follows. Every aspect of this production embellishes the complexity of the questions it explores.

During 1930's wartime Japan, the censors rise up their ugly heads to question what art is fit for public consumption. Edogawa Rampo(MASAHIRO MOTO)sits before the censor listening impassively to the decision that his latest work is banned from publication. At a party celebrating the release of a movie based on one of his novels he makes a speech to the decadent assemblage but is barely acknowledged. A screening of the film reveals that the screenplay Rampo has written has been altered beyond recognition. He leaves in disgust. Rampo retreats to the pen and paper, unable to act in the real world. But he discovers that a real life event is a absolute parallel of his unpublished novel. He is drawn into the mystery. It seems that as he writes, the words from the paper are turned into events involving the woman from his banned story. The paper calls and the woman calls and Rampo is pulled deeper into the maze he himself has created. Add to the mixture Rampo's delicate flower of a femme fatale (NAOTO TAKENAKA), his alter ego detective Akechi, and a bizarre decadent baron, and the fascination is endless.

The Mystery of Rampo is one of the most stunningly photographed and composed films you are likely to see. Every aspect of this production is placed precisely as a perfect part of this puzzle of the artist and the ultimate freedom to create. The film is erotic beyond description. The camera literally caresses and strokes the players. There is one moment captured on screen that produces such an intensely erotic feeling, yet in description it is merely mundane: a scarf slips from the shoulders of a young woman looking out through a moonlit window but before it falls to the ground the man who has been watching her captures it in his hands and restores its protection. The scene is filmed in exquisite slow motion, embellishing the graceful motion of the scarf floating in air and adding a mysterious grace to the movement of the actors. Likewise, the signature image of Rampo running through the wet night streets, umbrella aloft, is gracefully executed with slow motion strokes. Yasushi Sasakibara's photography is a stunning achievement. The score by composer Akimasa Kawashima is highly hypnotic, capturing an intensity that adds to the brilliant imagery. The music is performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, adding to the luster of this marvelous movie.

There is but one way to thoroughly enjoy The Mystery of Rampo and that is to let the accumulation of images invest themselves in you. Let the mystery unfold subconsciously. There is an understanding beneath the beautiful veneers of this movie. Experience The Mystery of Rampo. Don't spend your mental energy trying to figure out what's happening or what it means. Go with the flow. I probably sound like a hypnotist or an evangelist but I am only a Rampoist.

The laser disc looks gorgeous. The blacks are beautiful and the colors stunning. The is no evident grain in the laser transfer. The meticulous images of The Mystery of Rampo have been resolved with professional polish. This is an excellent laser transfer, though perhaps the contrasts could have been slightly stronger. The sound is flawless. The surrounds create an open ambiance, complimenting the pristine images perfectly. Small sonic details are clearly discernible, while the more spectacular moments are appropriately big. There are 24 chapter stops provided on this CLV disc priced at $39.99. You will find that The Mystery of Rampo is a splendid experience both cinematically and in laser terms. Don't miss it!

The Mystery of Rampo is a 1994 Japanese production that runs 101 minutes. The Widescreen images have been framed at 1.77:1 and the disc is encoded in Stereo Surround. The yellow English subtitles are easy to read The disc is from Goldwyn by way of Image Entertainment.