... aka: Zoom In: Rape Apartments
Saeko (Erina Miyai) is having a very eventful day. In the morning, her competitive cyclist husband Kôchi (Toshikatsu Matsukaze) wants a quickie before he heads out the door on an extended trip. In the afternoon, she's riding her bike through a vacant lot when someone throws a rock into her wheel spokes and makes her crash. The rock-thrower - decked out in a black trench coat, black pants, black toboggan and black leather gloves - then bends her over and rapes her. Strangely only slightly disturbed by the attack, Saeko makes her way to an apartment house to meet up with Takaya (Keijirô Shiga), an ex-lover she hasn't seen in five years. The two had bumped into each other aboard a train a week earlier, he sent her a key to his apartment and there she is. It isn't long before the two are rekindling things. After having sex (twice), Takaya confesses to Saeko that, when she left him for the other guy; "I wanted to kill you so badly." Considering Takaya wears the same exact outfit and gloves as a psycho who's recently been killing women in the same area and brandishes the same assault weapon (a "hammer felt picker;" basically a needle with a handle used to tune pianos), he may not be kidding about the killing part...
Immediately after Takaya arrives on the scene, the currently-under-construction Kibougahara high rise apartment complex is haunted by a psycho arsonist who gets his jollies raping, torturing and murdering young women. The first victim is a schoolgirl who gets her eye gouged out before the killer strips her naked, stuffs a gasoline-soaked rag up her vagina and then sets it on fire. Yow! The next woman's dead mutilated body is discovered strewn in a jungle gym. Saeko begins to suspect Takaya may be the culprit, but continues her passionate affair with him. In fact, deep down inside she may actually be turned on by the fact he's nuts. Despite news bulletins recommending women in the area not go out alone, women continue to, anyway. A third victim is assaulted inside a vacant unit, where the killer strips her, knocks out her teeth, forces her to perform oral sex on him and then takes a blowtorch to her privates. Saeko goes to visit her married girlfriend Sachi (Yôko Azusa) for comfort and ends up getting comforted all right... by both Sachi and her husband (Ren Seidô). There's also a mentally-disturbed young homeless girl (Yûkô Osaki) lurking around who seems to be obsessed with Takaya and hides in a garbage dump masturbating while watching the killer incinerating another naked woman alive (!!)
Pleasant stuff this is not, but it's actually not as disturbing and outrageous as it probably sounds. Part of that is due to Japan's ban on showing pubic hair and full frontal nudity, which keeps the sex and genital mutilations a bit less explicit than what one may see in an American or European counterpart. Another reason is that it refuses to tap into the psychology of its characters enough to really get under one's skin. Sure, the attack scenes are somewhat nasty, but they would have been more disturbing if we knew something - anything - about what makes the lead characters tick. The fact our heroine has some dark sexual desires herself could have been a novel angle to play, but it's not adequately fleshed out. There are many long simulated sex scenes (again, shot not to show any below-the-waist nudity) and T&A though, and this was clearly made primarily for titillation purposes. In that regard, it's probably most successful, at least for roughie, rape and / or fire fetishists.
Best known here in the U.S. as Zoom In: Rape Apartments, this was issued on DVD by Synapse as Zoom In: Sex Apartments, which is a more apt title since there's more consensual sex on display than actual rape. Though the writing is highly uneven, it's otherwise technically sound, with good photography and music, plus some nice visual / directorial touches. The running time falls just short of 70 minutes.
There were numerous other Zoom In or Zoom Up soft-core titles released in Japan around the same time as part of Nikkatsu's long-running Roman Porno series. The ball started rolling with the financially successful Zoom Up: Rape Site (1979), which was also written by Chiho Katsura and starred Miyai. That led to this one, Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl (1980), Zoom Up: Sexual Crime Report (1981), Zoom Up: Genuine Look at a Stripper (1982), Zoom Up: Graduation Photos (1984) and Zoom Up: Special Masturbation (1986).