Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

tetsuo the iron man poster 1989 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Makes the most of the low-budget to create something significant and new

Not for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name: Tetsuo:  The Iron Man

Studio:  Japan Home Video (JHV)/K2 Spirit/Kaijyu Theater

Genre(s): Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  June 1989 (Fantafestival)/July 1, 1989 (Japan)/April 22, 1992 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

tetsuo the iron man tomorowo taguchi transformed

I’m no Tony Stark

A salaryman (Tomorowo Taguchi) and his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara) find themselves caught in a growing horror.  Following an accident involving a man with a metal fetish (Shinya Tsukamoto), the salaryman finds his life is turning upside down as a strange metal growth begins to overtake his body.  The metal fetishist did something to the salaryman and now the world could be destroyed at the Iron Man is born!

Written, produced, and directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, Tetsuo:  The Iron Man (鉄男 or Tetsuo) is a Japanese body-horror cyberpunk movie.  The low-budget movie gained a cult following and helped launch Shinya Tsukamoto’s career.

I had heard stories of Tetsuo for a long time.  I knew it was edgy, I knew it was an acquired taste, and I knew I wanted to see it.  The movie was often available to through cheap copies and bootlegs, but now with digital transfers, a nice Blu-Ray copy of Tetsuo:  The Iron Man shows off the film’s unique style and innovation.

tetsuo the iron man drill penis kei fujiwara

Thrill Me

The story for the movie is pretty basic, but it is the type of movie where reading up on what exactly is occurring does help more than it hinders the movie.  The movie lacks a lot of dialogue and the dialogue that does exist is often quite basic.  The story is rather incidental to the imagery and the craziness of the movie.  The short movie is one of those movies you just need to strap in and try to enjoy.

The movie was made over a few years and led to a lot of crew turnover.  The only stability was the actors Tomorowo Taguchi gets the role of the “salaryman” who is transformed into a metal monster through the course of the movie while director Shinya Tsukamoto plays his nemesis the “metal fetishist”.  Both performances are very over-the-top but Nobu Tsukamoto also pushes the edge as a woman caught up in the infection.  Kei Fujiwara plays Tomorrowo Taguchi’s girlfriend who meets a bad fate after an unfortunate “impaling”.

tetsuo the iron man metal fitishist shinya tsukamoto

Let rot and decay rule!!!!

The movie is really about the visuals which carry everything else.  Watching the film is like watching a high energy music video.  Made in the 1980s, it incorporates practical effects and some crazed stop-motion sequences that really almost attack the camera.  The black-and-white film was actually aided by being in black-and-white since much of the “metal” that catches up the characters was simply scraps and random pieces attached to it…the black-and-white nature give it a real darkness.

Tetsuo:  The Iron Man is a movie that is also an experience.  It reminds me a lot of Eraserhead and seeing that for the first time.  In addition to the arthouse nature of the movie, there is a big homage to Cronenberg and his body horror (in particular The Fly and Videodrome feel like hardcore influencers…but Shinya Tsukamoto made something unique.  The movie is something you won’t forget, and that might or might not be a good thing depending on where you fall.  The movie was followed by a sequel with a bigger budget in Tetsuo II:  Body Hammer in 1992.

Related Links:

Tetsuo II:  Body Hammer (1992)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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