Based on a manga by Masaaki Soto, Star of David portrays the life story of Tatsuya, a young man of proper descent whose outward respectability hides his urges for rape and torture. The handsome lad seduces women, then brings them to the basement of the mansion he inherited from his well-to-do parents, where he indulges in lengthy sessions of sado-sexual violence.
An explanation of sorts is given for Tatsuya's sinister urges: he was conceived when his mother was violated by a deranged serial rapist while his father was forced to watch. More than simply inheriting his natural father's character traits, his inheritance and privileged social status have made him a thoroughly class-conscious mind and his raping and torture is accompanied by philosophical monologues about the division between the weak and the strong (hence the film's title, which symbolises the epoch when similar theories served as an excuse for genocide).
Then one night, one of his victims escapes. The young woman, who has been kept locked in a cage in the basement for several weeks and subjected to humiliation, degradation, torture and rape, runs from the house screaming, right into the arms of a passer-by. Though she thinks she has found safety, this person is none other than Tatsuya's natural father, the serial rapist. He brings her back to the house where he joins his son in his activities. From that moment the torture and violence shift into an even higher gear. I won't give a summary of the events, but suffice it to say the first act involves Alsatian dogs.
One of the more notorious entries into Nikkatsu's already ignominious Roman Porno line of racy skin flicks, Norifumi Suzuki's film could be regarded as a contemporary variant on the work of D.A.F. De Sade in the way it presents philosophy and unflinching sexual violence as interlinked elements. Unlike Pier Paolo Pasolini's similar Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), Star of David attempts to entertain at the same time as raising questions and moral issues and it's here that the film opens itself up to criticism. Philosophy or not, this is still a film that tries to amuse us with lengthy scenes of rape and other forms of sexual degradation. And while Salo at least had discernible social relevance by using its violence as a symbol for fascism, Star of David's philosophical content remains resolutely vague.
This is tricky territory, for a reviewer as much as for a filmmaker. It's at a point like this that cinematic issues make way for moral concerns, making it nearly impossible to do such a thing as 'review' a film like Star of David. The issue goes all the way back to Simone De Beauvoir's literary essay 'Must We Burn De Sade?' We could point out that murder (one of the most beloved subjects in American and European literature and cinema) is no better as a source of entertainment than rape. How can we morally justify smiling when Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger mows down a hundred faceless foreign baddies with a machine gun, when at the same we protest when the protagonist of Star of David subjects three women to sexual degradation? Is murder more fun than rape? Or more clean as a source of entertainment?
In the end the judgement belongs to each individual viewer. Some may be reviled, others intrigued, while yet others might be able to laugh it all off. It is, after all, only a movie. Perhaps that is the best possible conclusion. You know what you're getting yourself into when you watch a film like Star of David. If there's no excuse for a film like this, then there's also no excuse for complaining afterwards.