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Tetsuo: The Iron Man


Tetsuo: The Iron Man (鉄男, Tetsuo, 'iron man') is a 1989 Japanese tokusatsu cyberpunk body horror film written, produced, edited, and directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. It is shot in the same low-budget, underground-production style as his first two films. The film established Tsukamoto internationally and created his worldwide cult following.[1] It was followed by Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) and Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009).[2]




Tetsuo: The Iron Man



A "metal fetishist", driven mad by the maggots wriggling in the wound he's made to embed metal into his flesh, runs out into the night and is accidentally run down by a Japanese businessman and his girlfriend. The pair dispose of the corpse in hopes of quietly moving on with their lives. However, the businessman soon finds that he is now plagued by a vicious curse that transforms his flesh into iron.


What a masterclass in industrial tactility. Not necessarily about the transformation of the environment, which Lynch films often tackle (his work is definitely an inspiration on this), but the evolution of the body. The mind as a faltering machine, and its flesh an open canvas. 67 minutes of raging confusion, with every minute a search for some form of stasis. It's as if the film is eating itself, and the spectator is observing the process of assimilation and re-construction. Roaming and unhinged and frequently unsettling - this film is primarily effective due to its tangibility, as if the possibility remains that if you stare at its images for too long, you yourself will lose control of what is 'you'. An absurd, twisted movie.


"Tetsuo II'' doesn't rise (or stoop) to the level of conventional action or suspense; it's a design concept, a director's attempt to take some of the ideas in "Blade Runner" (1982) and some of the Arnold Schwarzenegger films and the Japanese animated films like "Akira'' and extend them into grotesquerie. Japanese art has, since the earliest times, been fascinated by the possibilities in shape-changing, in creatures who take first one form and then another. Here we have the changes forced upon the ordinary hero by the very terms of his environment: Tokyo has reached some sort of critical mass in which flesh and steel combine, just as atomic reactions are created in the center of the sun.


Granted that any attempt to reconstruct the plot of so highly mannered, deeply irrational and desultorily impressionistic a film must be partial and speculative, the story goes something like this. Following a traumatic childhood encounter that left him with a fragment of iron embedded in his brain, a strange, isolated man (played by Tsukamoto himself) has become a 'metal fetishist', inserting old pipes and rusty wires into his increasingly ravaged body in the hope of ushering in a 'New World' where the 'future is metal'. When he is accidentally hit by the car of a suited salaryman (Taguchi Tomorowo) and his girlfriend (Fujiwara Kei, who also helped Tsukamoto with the cinematography), the lovers dump his body in the woods before proceeding to have passionate sex against a tree there.


Yet the collision sets off a chain of uncanny events, as the salaryman is first attacked (in his dreams?) by a female commuter (Kanaoka Nobu) who has been possessed by the fetishist, and thereafter penetrated anally (again in a dream?) by the snaking metal dildo sported by his girlfriend, and then begins himself to metamorphose into a monstrous metal hybrid, tearing apart his girlfriend with the giant rotating drill that has replaced his penis. Finally the fetishist returns (armed with a bouquet of flowers) to face the salaryman in a punishing wrangle, half epic half erotic, of iron on stainless steel.


  • Tetsuo: The Iron Man The High Concept of this movie: a man accidentally kills someone with his car, and as punishment gets to witness and feel his entire body turning to metal from the inside out while being unable to do anything about it while slowly going insane as a result (probably from his brain turning to metal). It'd probably be easier to list the parts that aren't Nightmare Fuel.

  • The opening sequence, in which the Metal Fetishist shoves a metal pipe into his leg, with sound effects that somehow invoke Squick all on their own. And then we get to see a gruesome shot of the Fetishist's mutilated leg with maggots crawling all over it. No wonder he freaked out and ran into the road...

  • The subway chase is claustrophobia incarnate. Imagine fleeing from a mutant woman, but running into a dead end and hiding in a tight bathroom stall, praying she won't be able to find you...

  • The scene where the Salaryman's penis turns into a drill.

  • One scene early on in the film shows the Salaryman on the phone with his girlfriend. Their conversation is just the two of them saying "hello" to each other back and forth. It's much creepier than it sounds.Girlfriend: Moshi moshi. Salaryman: Moshi moshi. (repeat several times)

  • While shaving, the Salaryman discovers a tiny metal needle poking out of his cheek while shaving. When he tries to pull it out, it sprays blood. This is his first clue that something is very, very wrong. When it gets worse, his attempts to remove it result in a chunk of his skin peeling off to reveal scrap metal beneath it.Girlfriend: Hey, what's wrong? Salaryman: It's nothing. It's nothing.

  • The Salaryman's attempt at suicide via electrocution while laughing like a maniac.

  • The Salaryman gets a phone call:Yatsu: So you've done it again. Don't bother to hang up. I know all about you. You can't escape me. DROP DEAD, YOU METAL BEAST!! MAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!

  • The part where the Salaryman realizes that the Fetishist is approaching his house. And rapidly approaching he is - while standing still, gliding down the streets as anything metallic crumbles and implodes from his very presence. But at least he brought flowers!

  • Before and after the Salaryman kills his girlfriend, the film cuts to a CRT monitor view of Yatsu laughing like a deranged chipmunk. It comes straight out of nowhere.

  • The Metal Fetishist remotely transforming almost everything in the house into metal. An unfortunate cat turns into a living metal sculpture and we hear its distorted meowing from its head, which is sprouting out of a can.

  • Yatsu dissolves the Salaryman's girlfriend's corpse into metallic mulch before using the knife she was still clutching as a means of entering her body and bursting out of it. Then he straddles the Salaryman in an extremely uncomfortable way.Yatsu: Fantastic... Salaryman: You didn't die!

  • Yatsu shows the Salaryman a vision of the future he wants to create. It's a landscape of metallic poles and spheres with little if any sign of civilized life. We are shown the Salaryman trapped in one of these spheres screaming and attempting to break free but he is covered in wires preventing him from escaping and then the sphere just *dissolves* him.

  • Yatsu's flashback of a doctor discovering his illness. Who comes across as a little too calm about his patient's condition.Doctor: What the fuck is this? This is unbelievable! How did you make it here? There's a piece of metal stuck in your brain. I can't believe you're still alive! What genius inserted it? You'll die if it is removed. Think of it as jewelry. (Loud static)

  • The Reveal that the Salaryman is far from an innocent victim in the film. Instead of calling the police or an ambulance after hitting Yatsu with their car, the Salaryman and his Girlfriend opt instead to throw his mortally wounded body in a ditch and then have sex by a tree only a few meters away. Not a single person is right in the head in this movie.

  • The chase scene is incredibly jarring even by the standards of the film, as the Salaryman tries to run away from Yatsu in stop-motion.' Neither of them take an actual step, just gliding through empty streets. It comes to a momentary halt when the film cuts to a flashback of Yatsu getting abused as a kid by a homeless man, who calmly confronts him like a samurai crossing paths with an old rival...before wildly beating the shit out of him with an iron rod. Keep in mind that a piece of that rod would get lodged into Yatsu's head, to the point that removing it would cost him his life.Old Man: Hey sonny...

  • Yatsu is in agony as he can feel the same beatdown that the Salaryman is receiving, getting flashbacks to his childhood.

  • The factory scene, where the Salaryman's condition has reached its pinnacle of severity, and gives the Fetishist a taste of his own medicine with sadistic glee, eventually merging into him like an iron amoeba in a disturbingly erotic way.Yatsu: Fuck you! Don't you understand?! Your future is metal!

  • The ending, where Yatsu and the Salaryman fuse into a gigantic rocket-propelled biomechanical penis on wheels like a Kanamara festival gone horribly, horribly wrong.Salaryman: Ahh, I feel great. Yatsu: We can mutate the whole world into metal. Salaryman: Ahh... Yatsu: We can rust the world into the dust of the universe. Salaryman: Let's do it... Yatsu: Our love can destroy this whole fucking world! Salaryman: (just drools) Yatsu: LET'S GO GET 'EM!!! (fires the gun fused to his arm and their engines roar to life, propelling them down the streets of Tokyo at breakneck speed)

  • At the end of the credits, the movie cuts to static - GAME OVER.



  • Yatsu shooting a man using his finger at the beginning.

  • Pick any of Tomoo's Slasher Smiles or transformation scenes.

  • One of Yatsu's henchmen uses Tomoo's son as a human shield as the last second, causing him to utterly obliterate his own child. The sight of the Laughing Mad mook holding his tiny, severed fists aloft ensures that the salaryman is doomed to spend the rest of his life as a Human Weapon mutated by rage.

  • Hell, pick any of the fight sequences. Tomoo's sheer psychotic fury really sells that most fights in the film aren't actual fights, just pure, one-sided maulings. The fact that every single sound that comes out of his mouth during these scenes counts as a Hell Is That Noise doesn't help.

  • The cultists who are chosen to be converted into iron men suffer a serious problem with their transformation. Instead of gaining metallic powers, they just start rusting.

  • The flashback to Tomoo and Yatsu's childhoods. Their dad, also possessed of metallic powers, performs a "magic trick" where he gruesomely transforms a cat into a tea kettle.

  • The dad mortally wounding his wife with a gun while raping her, only to discover that his kids were watching the whole time. Their son Tomoo does what any normal kid would do in that situation: blasts the shit out of both of them with their finger-guns. While smiling.

  • The brief scene of a fetus in its womb, warped by the Tetsuo virus that clenches its fist and lets out a baleful cry.

  • The tank at the ending of the movie. As it rolls through the streets, you can see the skinheads' faces and hear their screams coming out of it.

  • At the very end of the film, Tomoo and his wife enjoy a casual stroll through the city with their new son many years later. Problem is, the city has been annihilated.Wife: It's so peaceful.

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