Tetsuo: The Iron Man

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This article is about the Japanese cult film Tetsuo: The Iron Man. For the character from the Akira anime and manga, see Tetsuo Shima.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
Produced by Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by Shinya Tsukamoto
Starring Tomorowo Taguchi
Kei Fujiwara
Shinya Tsukamoto
Music by Chu Ishikawa
Cinematography Kei Fujiwara
Shinya Tsukamoto
Edited by Shinya Tsukamoto
Distributed by Kaijyu Theatres
Release dates
  • July 1, 1989 (1989-07-01)
Running time
67 minutes
77 minutes (final cut)
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (鉄男: Tetsuo) is a 1989 Japanese cyberpunk horror film by cult-film director Shinya Tsukamoto produced by Japan Home Video. It is shot in the same low-budget, underground-production style as his first two films. Tetsuo established Tsukamoto internationally and created his worldwide cult following.[citation needed] It was followed by Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) and Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009).[1]


The film opens with a man (called only "the man", or the "Metal Fetishist"), cutting open a massive gash in his leg and then shoving a large threaded steel rod into the wound. Later, upon seeing maggots festering in the wound, he screams, runs out into the street, and is hit by a car. The driver of the car, a Japanese businessman (Tomorowo Taguchi), and his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara) try to cover up the mess by dumping the body into a ravine, but the dumped man gets revenge by forcing the businessman's body to gradually metamorphose into a walking pile of scrap metal. This process starts when the driver finds a piece of metal stuck in his cheek while shaving. He tries to remove it, but realizes it is growing from the inside.

The scene shifts to the businessman at his home having breakfast, with a bandage over his cheek. The businessman receives a phone call, consisting of nothing but him and the other speaker (possibly his girlfriend) continuously saying "Hello?" to each other and thinking back to having sex after dumping the Metal Fetishist.

The first of several highly stylized chase scenes starts with the driver pursued through an underground train station by a woman whose body has been taken over by the Metal Fetishist. The businessman seems to win this encounter by breaking the back of the radically transformed woman (she begins the sequence as a demure office worker and ends it as a wild metal-infected woman) after even more metal has erupted on his ankles and arm.

The next segment is a terrifying dream sequence where the businessman's girlfriend, transformed into an exotic dancer with a snake-like metal probe, terrorizes and rapes the businessman. After waking from this dream, the businessman and his girlfriend have sex at his apartment and eat erotically. As she eats each bite given to her, he hears the sounds of metal scraping. The businessman suddenly discovers his penis has mutated into a gargantuan power drill. A fight ensues where the businessman terrorizes his girlfriend, and acquires more and more metal on his body. She fights back and in the end impales herself on his drill and dies.

Helpless to do anything, the businessman, now the Iron Man, is visited by the Metal Fetishist, who emerges from his dead girlfriend's corpse to show him a vision of a "New World" of nothing but metal and turns his cats into grotesque metal creatures. The Iron Man flees and is followed by the Metal Fetishist into an abandoned building. After the Metal Fetishist explains to the Iron Man how both of them became what they are, a final battle ensues. The Iron Man ends by attempting to rust himself with the Fetishist but backfires and merges both of them into a two-headed metal monster. The two agree to turn the whole world into metal and rust it, scattering it into the dust of the universe by claiming "Our love can put an end to this fucking world. Let's Go!" The duo charges through the streets of Japan in a horrific fusion of the two men and the accumulated metal, in a largely phallic form. The film ends with the words "GAME OVER" as opposed to "The End" after the closing credits.



This was Tsukamoto's first movie to be shot on 16mm, all of his previous work being done with Super 8 cameras. The camera work was split between himself and Kei Fujiwara both of whom also play the roles of major characters. (Fujiwara has since directed several of her own films.)[2]


The film was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by Original Cinema in 1992.[citation needed] It was subsequently released on VHS by Fox Lorber.[citation needed]

The film was released twice on DVD in the United States; by Image Entertainment in 1998[3] and by Tartan Video in 2005.[4] Both releases are currently out of print.


The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. It currently has a 77% "Fresh" rating on film review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7.2/10 based on 13 reviews.[5]


  1. ^ Newitz, Annalee. ""Tetsuo: The Iron Man" Gets A Crazy English Sequel - Sdcc". io9. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  2. ^ Mes, Tom (2005). Iron Man. The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto. FAB Press. ISBN 1-903254-36-1
  3. ^ "Tetsuo". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-08. 
  4. ^ "Tetsuo". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-08. 
  5. ^ "Tetsuo: The Ironman (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 

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