December 16, 2008 – 4:46 am

A common saying in murder movies is that the killing gets easier after the first kill. But what if murder is the ultimate aphrodisiac? Yasuharu Hasebe’s Assault! Jack The Ripper features a pastry chef who uses sex to ease the tension after each kill. Stephen Tan reviews.

Tamaki Katsura is the new waitress at the restaurant. After fending off an amorous customer, she picks on pastry chef Yutaka Hayashi as someone she can bully. There is a downpour when the restaurant closes and Katsura asks Hayashi for a ride home in the company car. Along the way, they stop to give a ride to a woman standing in the rain.However, the woman turns out to be mentally unbalanced. She strips off her top and rubs icing cream (that’s in the car) over her chest. Finding a cake knife she stabs her arm. After Hayashi manages to get the knife away from her, she shows Hayashi a bunch of razors that she had kept. Feeling he’s had enough of this woman, Hayashi stops the car and drags her out. But the woman clings to the car as Hayashi drives off and then falls to her death. Katsura suggests they hide the body in an abandoned car yard.

The anxiety and fear over the woman’s death heighten Hayashi’s sex drive and Hayashi and Katsura end up having passionate sex in her home. In the restaurant Hayashi seems indifferent and cold towards Katsura. To spite Hayashi, Katsura goes out with a customer. Aware that Hayashi is following them, Katsura and the man have sex in the car in a quiet stretch of the road. During sex, she sees Hayashi looking at them. Dissatisfied with the sex she is getting, she leaves the man and heads for Hayashi’s car.

Realising that it is the killing that works as a powerful aphrodisiac, and spurred on by Katsura, Hayashi commits more murders to fuel his sex drive. A young woman on a bicycle is driven off the road. Pretending to help her, Hayashi and Katsura bring the woman to an abandoned building and tie her up. Finding a woman helpless before him also brings out another side of Hayashi - using a sharpened cake knife, he draws the blade across the woman’s chest before plunging the knife into the woman’s vagina and then ripping her body. All these Katsura watches with anticipation, after which the two have another round of furious sex. In another instance, a woman is kidnapped from the airport and she is forced to have oral sex with Hayashi before she is “penetrated.”

Increasingly Hayashi begins to stray on his own. He gets a prostitute into his room and kills her; spying on a woman dressmaker, he enters into her room but she finds her escape blocked when Katsura shows up (she has been following Hayashi). While making his cake deliveries, Hayashi meets one of his customers and ends up stabbing her in her nether region.

Finding his urges building up, Hayashi breaks into the nurses’ quarters at a hospital and goes on a bloody killing spree. Just as he finishes, Katsura steps into the room.

Director Yasuharu Hasebe’s pinku eiga movies - Rape!, Assault! Jack The Ripper (1976) and Rape! 13th Hour - were all hits for the Nikkatsu company in the ’70s. But a common description for Assault! Jack The Ripper is disturbing. Other than scenes of the knife stabbing the arm or the knife cutting the woman’s chest, the act of plunging the knife into the woman’s vagina is never shown (though graphically heard on the soundtrack). Yet it is this thought that becomes horrifying and that it brings about something pleasurable especially in the mild-mannered Hayashi that is disturbing.

Since the emergence of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, serial killers have come under the movie spotlight but fans of the genre can cast aside their expectations. Apart from the increased intensity and the piling bodies, there is nothing to mark Hayashi as a serial killer. That this is a young man with serious problems relating to women is not a concern of this movie - his concern is rather basic - sex and more sex.

To this end the movie fulfills its role. There is a lot of sex and lots of bare breasts. Kill first, sex later seems to be the prevailing motto and there is no slack in this trim movie. This isn’t a Hitchcock movie but there is a suspense in figuring out who the next victim will be - after all viewers already know how the women will be killed - not like in an Argento movie where various devices are used to different effect.

As much as Assault! Jack The Ripper is disturbing, it’s hard to recall another movie where murders had such a liberating effect on their serial killer so much so that the film’s ending seems open for more sequels. Murder as aphrodisiac - well, nothing’s too bizarre for this Japanese pastry chef.

Note: The Assault! Jack The Ripper DVD (Mondo Macabro) is banned in $ingapore.

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