The Criterion Collection Blu-ray: Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (1977)

House (1977)

Plot: Gorgeous invites her six friends, Prof, Melody, Kung Fu, Mac, Sweet and Fantasy to come along with her on her vacation to her Aunt's House which she has only been at one other time. On arriving at the aunt's house, the girls are greeted by Gorgeous' aunt to whom they present a watermelon as a thank you item. Soon the girls realize that the house and everything inside it has its secrets and most of all is nightmarish ways.

Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba

My Review and Thoughts:

House is a true acid trip made into a film. This a hippie psychedelic hard to explain reality on camera unless you have seen it. A pure comic book like 70’s retro trip. This has an odd sense to it that words can’t express. I have never been one to be stumped at being able to describe a film in a review until now.

This is a film that mixes trick photography and avant-garde experimental techniques that are surreal visuals that leave the viewer in amazement and stunned.

A young school girl named Gorgeous is happy because her father is back home from a trip but soon she realizes daddy has brought a woman back with him. Her mother died 8 years ago and now daddy announces this will be her new mother. She grows upset. It’s a summer vacation she and her father was supposed to spend time together but now she refuses and is angry and contacts her aunt who she has only seen once and asks if she and her friends can come and stay with her. Her aunt agrees.

Gorgeous is excited to visit her mother’s home town and the places her mother grew up. You got card board animation, Chinese hippies, silent movie black and white flash backs. A magical green eyed demon cat. Music playing out of nowhere. Seven girls all named weird: Melody, Gorgeous, Kung-Fu, Sweet, Mac, Fantasy, Prof which all join together to go with Gorgeous to her aunts out in the middle of nowhere.

Once there they find an old creepy house and many evil spirits. I enjoy how the back of the Criterion Collection DVD case describes it as an episode of "Scooby Doo directed by Mario Bava". All I really can say is that this is a trippy movie filled with weird collage bubble comic book moments.

A piano that wants blood and many visions of silly goofy insanity is the best way to describe this. This is a mix of a waking nightmare drenched in cotton candy. Each one of the girls names are a metaphor that describes them. They act and follow through on how they are called such as Kung-Fu knows Kung-Fu. Soon one by one the girls disappear or experience strange unexplainable things.

This movie has just about everything in it, decapitation, flying killer animated wood, dancing skeletons, watermelon, demonic moments, kung-fu all that’s missing is Scooby Doo and Shaggy. This is described as a comedy fantasy horror. It is possibly the most bizarre haunted house movie I have ever seen if not the most bizarre movie I have ever seen.

This is a colorful film that as soon as the viewer pops it in, your intrigued, and your dumb founded and you’re almost wondering are you seeing what you think you are seeing. I think what needs to be brought up is that what makes this a stunning and memorable movie is the production, the sets, the overall filmed quality of the movie makes it stand out as something unique and amazing. A child like feel with added violence and nudity.

I came across a review or a statement on line in passing in describing this movie as a little "Beetlejuice directed by Dario Argento" that’s a really good statement and sums it up good. This film is filled with amazing and odd, spectacular visuals that are flooring to the viewer. This is all CAMPY good time. I laughed out at moments and then was floored at the overall violence.

I want to pin point Nobuhiko Obayashi because he is a gifted artist that captured a living artwork on screen. He mastered this movie because it’s original and fresh for its time and even today as you go into this you as the viewer are scratching your head on just what you have stepped into. He clearly is and was an experimental artist on this movie.

I personally feel this is a triumph when it comes to creating something new in cinema. I want to say it’s gorgeous and yet that sounds weird to me. There are insane moments of violent scenes mixed with colorful coloring book comedy. I feel this would be a great way to get people off drugs instead of getting high for a trip just watch this movie, I want to say be warned don’t be drunk while watching because you might just go insane.

True life madness done in the style of a Salvador Dali painting done on screen. I am reviewing the Criterion Collection DVD and its well worth the adventure to seek out this one of kind little odd gem.

Special Features:
New, restored high-definition digital transfer.
Constructing a “House,” a new video piece featuring interviews with director Nobuhiko Obayashi story scenarist and daughter of the filmmaker Chigumi Obayashi and screenwriter Chiho Katsura.
Emotion, a 1966 experimental film by Obayashi
New Video appreciation by director Ti West (House of the Devil)
Theatrical Trailer
New and Improved English subtitle translation
Plus: An Essay by Critic Chuck Stephens.

Interesting to note is that most of the actors and actresses in this are more or less amateur other than Kimiko Ikegami and Yoko Minamida who both acted before this, most of them had been models or was part of commercials or independent films.

Something I find really odd is that TOHO film studio asked Nobuhiko Obayashi to write a script on the lines of Jaws because Jaws was such a cool hit that they wanted something similar. Which might I add that House is nothing like Jaws? Also Obayashi has stated when asked where some of his ideas came from he explained that it was from his daughter Chigumi Obayashi.

Stated that: referring to adults: “only think about things they understand…everything stays on that boring human level,” “children can come up with things that can’t be explained.” Many of the odd moments in the film came from his daughter such as the reflection in the mirror attacking, a loud clock, watermelon being a head, a house that eats girls, a pile of futons falling on you which his daughter stated was a fear of hers saying that it was like a monster attacking. Many ideas she gave to the screenwriter Chiho Katsura.

Obayashi also gives a touching understatement to this odd weird mind trip of a film in that he wanted to add a touch of the tragic ideas of WW2 and the atomic bombings which he lost many of his childhood friends because of the bombs. The story plot of a woman ghost waiting for her lover after WW2 never returns creating in her an evil spirit that consumes young girls that did not become affected by the bombs.

I think what is one of the biggest realities is that Obayashi was allowed to direct the film when he himself was not even part of the TOHO staff which was unheard of and to me that shows you how much they favored the idea and approach to this film. TOHO had never really thought House would do anything at the box office so they released it as a double bill feature alongside a romance called Pure Hearts which I find the idea laugh out funny, watching a romance and then entering the realms of “what the hell am I watching,” attitude of House.

House was a success to the shock of TOHO. Sadly it never ran here in American and it took Janus Films to resurrect this little odd coloring book masterpiece at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival. In 2010 House was shown for the first time in America theatrically throughout America.

What is really great about this Criterion DVD is you get a fan video interview featuring Ti West who is an amazing modern director with his cult like wonder House of the Devil which is a wonderful throwback to 80’s horror films that I greatly enjoyed and recommend whoever is reading this to give it ago to showcase and represent a retro style of film making.

So where are they now?

Nobuhiko Obayashi was born in 1930 and still directs today. His last as of this writing was this year 2012. He had directed one other movie and three shorts before House. He is a director, screenwriter and editor of movies and TV and film producer. He is most known and most powerful as a surrealistic experimental filmmaker in the 60's. Sadly he is really not known outside of his home land of Japan. He is a celebrity there and a common name whereas here in American he is basically unknown.

In 1956 he started working in small film. At Seijo University he started his experimental ways on film which brought his fame throughout the 60's with his avant-garde techniques which would transcend into his later work in films. In the 1980's he still directed and made more mainstream films grabbing the audience. He is a master at his own game and his own reality. He made many films but is known for three that stand out which are all related to coming of age story plots. All three mixed with a surreal fantasy tone. House begin the most extreme vision of this reality but also his 1982 coming of age film Exchange Students and his 1991 coming of age film Chizuko's Younger Sister.

Yoko Minamida who plays Auntie was born in 1933 and sadly passed away in 2009 at the good young age of 76. She was a wonderful prolific actress starring in over 60 films her last being in 2006. She had started acting in 1952. It would not only be her performance and starring role in this odd film that would attract me to her but it would be her struggle of living with Alzheimer's which she was diagnosed with in 2006. Her husband actor Hiroyuki Nagato chronicled his care and struggle in a TV documentary taking care of his wife. Her career was great staring in the wonderful 1956 smash hit by Takumi Furukawa known as Season of the Sun which she became a star and acted in many roles after. She would also meet her husband on the set of Season of the Sun. They became a show business couple famous throughout the 60's which was the spark and highlight of her long career. She would transcend into the television setting of acting throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90’s all the way to her passing. 

The main star of this was played by Kimiko Ikegami she was born in 1959 and plays the lead role of Gorgeous. She still acts today her last as of this writing was this year 2012 in the TV series Hidamari no Ki. She had acted in four other projects before House. She made her television debut in 1975. She made of feature film debut in 1975.

Miki Jinbo who plays Kung Fu still acts today her last role was a TV movie in 2009. She was born in 1960.

Kumiko Ohba who played Fantasy still acts today her last role in 2010 she was born in 1960. House was her first movie.

Mieko Sato only acted once playing Mac in House not much is known about her.

Ai Matsubara only acted two other times after this the last role being in the Shogun TV movie in 1980. She played Prof.

This was Eriko Tanaka's only role she played Melody and not much is known other than that.

Masayo Miyako acted one other time in 1977, she played Sweet.

Nobuhiko Obayashi has had a 50 year long journey in film and his master technics never fade. He always will be remembered in my mind for this film I am reviewing. House I feel is his landmark movie that baffles me because it is in reality the only movie that I have ever been stuck on in not being able to grasp in review form just what it is.

The wonderful cheesy effects and the over filmed Scooby Doo like wonders and dark natures of nightmares come to life with this film. I for one think it’s brilliant and also so over the top that it’s hard to recommend or put into words just what it is. I do feel this is a major part of cinema history and a film that should be looked at as being something so original and fresh and new and powerful in the sense it’s never been done before.


Make sure you head over to to buy all the wonderful Criterion Blu-rays. The main page that gives you these beautiful releases on top quality Special Editions.

Also head over and like Criterion on Facebook