Zoom Up: Murder Site is about why you shouldn’t have a secret affair in front of a homicidal maniac. Modern viewers will describe the action as misogynistic, but I feel the historical nature of the film gives context to that feel. Chief isn’t the typical killer, so much as you can feel that he is confused and mentally ill. That doesn’t give him a pass, but it invites you to watch a truly dark comedy of errors. But, this one ends up with acid being poured on a woman’s vagina.
Nikkatsu rolls hard in their own way. Sexual exploitation films go any sort of way, but what Nikkatsu did with the Zoom Up series is mix styles. By trying to use the familiar conceit of the serial killer movie, Nikkatsu hangs their erotic cinema style all over it. As a result, the movie busts into sketchy territory.
The killer Chief is a typical older man in the community. Throughout Zoom Up, he moves in and out of our heroine’s life, as his private practices are nothing at all. But, societal pressures forces our lead lady to keep quiet or face the shame of being exposed. It’s pretty neat, but Zoom Up bares creepy underpinnings.
How Japanese cinema approaches sex and violence is something I’ve been thinking about for the past month. While I admire the effort to treat adults as free-thinking cinema goers, there is something seedy about films like Zoom Up. Nikkatsu knew that flesh sells, but given Japanese obscenity laws of the 70s…they had to keep playing around with what they did.
So much happens between film angles and other in-camera tricks to make the material play to guidelines. But, it makes Zoom Up so much creepier. By treating adultery and homicide as similar bedfellows, the filmmakers forces certain moral leanings onto the narrative. But, it also makes audiences play our darker fantasies.
The Zoom Up film series was meant to give adult cinema a way to bridge into R-rated mainstream fare. The result left a lot to be desired. While the murder mystery is gripping, there are a lot of sexual images and hang-ups that never get addressed. Night terrors of tit vaginas, the constant push to abuse women and sheer creaming hatred is a lot.
It’s pretty crazy, but international films from the 70s did weird shit all the time. Don’t believe me, just deep dive the El Topo urban legend. Zoom Up and its subsequent movies tried to do the same thing that later adult fiction tried to accomplish. They were earnest attempts at getting attention by trying to play like the films that mainstream adults were watching.
The AndersonVision Rant about the Zoom Up Series
Nikkatsu has firmly established themselves as one of the wildest studios of the 1970s. While they had a robust film history for decades, there is something about the 70s where they lost their minds. The 17 year run of the Pink Films created one of the most fascinating creative outputs in Japanese film history. But, I hate that it overshadows the company’s work in the 60s with films like “Branded to Kill”.
Adult cinema around the world is deserving of its own texts and documentaries. But, we live in a world where the AFI has stopped preserving adult films for the last few years. In a time, where the liberated side is becoming prudish and the other side is turning into stormtroopers, what is a film fan to do?
The answer is lean into what’s available and make sense of it for future generations.
Zoom Up: Murder Site Blu-ray breakdown
Impulse Pictures brings Zoom Up: Murder Site to Blu-ray with a reversible cover. At this point, most Nikkatsu fans should understand that special features for these movies are going come at a minimum. I wish we could get a commentary track, but it’s a tall order.