Directed by Susumu Kodama
Written by Hideichi Nagahara
Cast: Yûsaku Matsuda, Hiroko Shino, Masaya Oki, Tôru Minegishi and Shinobu Yuki
A young serial gambler turned detective takes up a case dealing with a series of murders committed in a mansion near a mysterious forest.
Murder in the Dollhouse is what it sounds like, a run of the mill mystery. It isn’t an exhilarating or interesting enough for a theatrical crime thriller. The plot shares more in common with an episode of a long running crime show. I suspect most people interested in this film will be for its lead Yusaku Matsuda than any intricacies of the plot. Matsuda established a quite an iconic status during the 70s and 80s in Japan for his machismo. However, that machismo is kind of downplayed here with Yusaku playing a more rookie detective named learning the ropes. This aspect that’s made more interesting by the fact that Toshio Katsu’s mentor is a female. It’s a pretty unique dynamic to see a rookie detective working under a female tutor since the standard trope is to have both types of these characters are male. Though this relationship doesn’t receive much focus, the few moments of them interacting is quite amusing. Katsu’s mentor even disappears completely from the story at points. The actual mystery works well enough, in a sense, it isn’t obvious who the main culprit is for much of the film. Matsuda oozes enough charisma to make Katsu an effective detective. I think he could have used a few action scenes to spice him up. And, the actual investigation is great at building up the mystique, but weak pacing even ruins this a bit. It’s connected to a figure from the 19th century, but the amount of time spent on that figure is too much since his role isn’t even that important to the whole mystery. The whole narrative could have been strengthened if more time was spent on fleshing out the culprit’s motivations. What’s here is rather too simplistic for my tastes, the villain’s simple motivation makes him rather simple minded to be intriguing. It’s disappointing considering there was enough intrigue to expand things much further, but it’s put to waste or there for shock value. Katsu’s affinity with a certain character is more forced than touching because it lacks proper development. The whole mystery is rather too mild to be exciting which makes the entire film a dull affair. Murder in the Doll House is a toyetic fueled mystery that lacks the intensity of a proper criminal thriller. It has some entertainment value for Yusaku Matsuda aficionados though!