Modern Pulp Aug 28 2014
ILL WILL HUNTING
Yes, in pinku films there actually is a point to all that bloodspray.


You know what we like about pinku films? Their symmetry. Generally, slimy guys have the upper hand for about 65 minutes before the girls band together and, to the accompaniment of arterial bloodspray to spice things up, shoot them or stab them or chop off their heads. It’s nice. Balanced. In that way they’re like blaxploitation movies. In those, generally, the villain meets ruin at the hands of a black hero or anti-hero. Nice, you see? The films touch on serious problems—sexism and racism—but in a freewheeling, taboo-busting fashion that both entertains and makes the antagonist’s eventual violent demise a catharsis for audiences that know the wicked aren’t generally punished in real life. Taking all that into account then, you can see why removing the cathartic revenge from the proceedings would be problematic.

But that’s exactly what has happened with Onna kyôshi-gari, aka Female Teacher Hunting. Director Junichi Suzuki and writer Hiroshi Saitô, at the behest of Nikkatsu Studios, actually want to make a serious movie about gender roles and sex, but cloaked in a quasi-pinku flick in which a student falsely accused of sexual assault is driven by stress and rage over his predicament to later commit a sexual assault. It’s all beautifully shot andquite well acted, but what’s the message here? Was the monster always part of this man? Was he falsely accused because his accuser already saw this in him? Does the old saying about how any man will kill under the right circumstances also apply to rape? All are worthy themes to explore, but not embedded in a movie genre that by nature trivializes serious questions.
 
But the message of Onna kyôshi-gari might be something else entirely. Maybe it’s simply telling us—at a time when women were gaining more control over their own bodies and, after long last, wresting an iota of political power from the male establishment—that sexual consent was becoming a blurrier concept for confused men losing their hold on the top of the pyramid. But we don’t buy that either. For our part, we can’t remember the line between consent and coercion being blurry—at least not outside well-crafted fiction, and certainly not during the 1980s, when this movie was made. But as always there’s the one disclaimer—we aren’tJapanese, have never lived in Japan, and don’t know the culture deeply. If there’s one thing we’ve learned doing this site it’s that language, psychology, behavior, metaphors and signifiers simply don’t translate from culture to culture. In other words, for all we know this may be considered in Japan to be a wildly feminist movie. Nevertheless, we have to assess Onna kyôshi-gari as best we can with our deficiencies, and we say: interesting effort, but in pinku, realism without revenge converts the sex to sadism, and this entire movie into an anti-feminist polemic.

The star of the film (and poster), Yuki Kazamatsuri, in the final scene discovers a killifish inexplicably living in a swimming pool. She observes to her female friend, “Killifish are strong—I guess they can live even in a pool.” And of course the fish are metaphorical women and the pool is male-dominated society. But sorry, after an entire plot suggestingwomen are complicit in their own degradation, a morsel of dialogue telling us they’re tough enough to take it (and men are to be forgiven for supposed weakness) doesn’t excuse what came before. On the contrary—it makes it worse. Onna kyôshi-gari premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 7 2014
POWER OF LOVE
Rainbowman is a lover and a fighter.

You’ve probably been asked a few times in your life what superpower you’d want, but why would you have to settle for one? This poster promotes the Japanese television series Ai no Senshi Reinböman, aka Warrior of Love Rainbowman. The main character is a former pro wrestler who trains in India under a yogi and develops not one but seven different incarnations. Each of those incarnations has a comprehensive set of abilities, so Rainbowman has about a hundred superpowers—everything from becoming jointless so he can move like a snake to using pine needles as deadly projectiles. And of course he can fly and shoot fire from his hands and do all the other mundane superhero stuff too. Unfortunately, among his many powers are none involving costume design, which is why he looks more like a backup breakdancer from an 80s hip-hop tour than a superhero. Cool poster anyway, though.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 1 2014
THE GOOD, THE BETTER, AND THE BEST
Who needs a name when none of your enemies survive to remember it anyway?

There are precious few movies that truly age well, and far fewer series. But like the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western series colloquially known as the Man with No Name Trilogy, these Japanese posters have stood the test of time. From top to bottom they are for A Fistful of Dollars, aka Koya no yojimbo, For a Few Dollars More, aka Yuuhi no ganman, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, aka Zoku yuuhi no ganman. There are some who say Eastwood’s character actually has a name in these films, but we beg to differ. In the first he’s referred to once as Joe, which is a name, yes, but more likely is a tag, like calling him “hotshot,” or “buddy.” In the second he’s referred to as Manco, which colloquially means “one armed” in Spanish. And in the third film he’s referred to as Blondie. But whatever his real name was, probably everyone thought of him the same way—as trouble. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 21 2014
CLAMMY HANDS
Dive-in cinema at its best.

This poster is for Shiofuki ama, aka Clam-Diving Ama. You of course remember that an ama is a woman who dives for valuable undersea items, typically abalone or pearls. Like the other ama movies we’ve discussed, this one is from Nikkatsu, and it stars Akiko Hyûga as a neglected ama named Saki whose truck driver husband is inconveniently away for long periods. When he dies in an accident the men of Saki’s village turn their attention to her, and a resultant affair leads to trouble. This one has a secret pregnancy, a miscarriage, and betrayal, and while Hyûga is the lead it’s actually co-star Yûko Asuka who does most of the down and dirty. For those interested in viewing the movie, it will prove impossible to find, probably, but at least we can show you the poster. Oh, and the promo shot below. Shiofuki ama premiered in Japan today in 1979.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 9 2014
STIRRING IT UP
Rub-a-dub-dub, a girl and her tub…

By now you know we’re really into these promos for Japanese ama movies, so here’s one for Kuikomi ama: Midare-gai, aka Marked Ama: Stirred Up Shell. The poster is instructive because it’s the only one we’ve seen that offers a good look at one of the ama’s most important tools. No, not that, silly. We mean her wooden tub, which floats on the water's surface attached to its owner by a rope. Typically they’re a bit larger than the one pictured, and are used to hold whatever she finds. One source said they were used as buoys that she clung to in order to rest between dives, but we’re not too sure on that. By chance we ran across some black and white ama photographs from the 1950s and we’ll put those up soon. But getting back to the movie, basically you get the standard plot here of illicit sex in a small fishing village triggering jealousy and revenge, and upsetting the delicate local equilibrium. The movie stars Ryoko Watanabe and was directed for Nikkatsu Corporation by Atsushi Fujiura. It premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 23 2014
MONA RIZA MYSTERY
Like the mysterious Da Vinci painting we can’t figure out this piece of art.


Above and below are two posters for Iwataro Ishii’s Mona Riza okyo, which was based on the graphic novel of the same name by Teruo Tanashita, and stars Mari Atsumi as a pickpocket trying to get her hands on a valuable but elusive diamond pin called the Star of the Sea. Strangely, the word “Kyoto” clearly appears in the poster titles—it’s the last symbol on both—but all the sources we checked said the film is called Mona Riza okyo. It’s a mystery too deep for us to solve, but if any of you can shed some light on it please drop us a line. Mona Riza okyo premiered in Japan today in 1971.

Update: David W. writes in and tells us: Indeed the last word on each poster is Okyo, not Kyoto.

Mystery solved. Thanks David for your help.

Update 2: NelC offers a more detailed explanation of the title. Here's what he wrote: The transliteration of the subject line is indeed Mona Lisa O-Kyō. The proper name for Kyōto is 京都市, "Kyōto-shi" or "Kyoto City" in English. 京都 is "Kyōto." 京 is "Kyō." 京 by itself means "capital" as in "capital city," and お is an honorific, so お京 might be read as "the capital." (モナリサ is, of course, "Mona Lisa.")

So the title might be read as "The Capital Mona Lisa." The significance of this is beyond my meagre abilities in Japanese, though. A colloquialism for "the great," maybe, as in Wodehouse-era British English? I don't know.

Thank you NelC. Your excellent explanation is more than we could have reasonably hoped for. Mystery solved, again.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 17 2014
LA STRADA SYMEONI
Sandro Symeoni presents an Italian vision of Japan.

We often share Japanese movie posters, but today we thought we’d look at Japan through the eyes of Italian illustration master Sandro Symeoni. This poster is for La strada della vergogna, which was a Japanese movie made by Kenji Mizoguchi entitled Akasen chitai, aka Street of Shame. No shame in this art. 1956 on the original film, 1959 on this poster.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2014
SOAP OPERA
Out of the bath and into the fire.

You can see this poster for the 1966 comedy Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number! around the internet, but we thought we’d share our scan anyway because we like the art and the graphics. Concerning the latter, that isn’t a big 70 in the middle of the poster—those are Japanese characters meaning “flow.” Combined with the rest of the text, the entire title reads “Queen of the Bath.” Maybe Lana Turner would have something to say about that, but in any case the title isn’t as random as you’d think. The movie is about an actress who is famous for her bath scenes but wants to be taken seriously. In a fit of pique she goes AWOL from her latest production and ends up hiding out in Oregon in the cabin of a married real estate agent, who spends the movie trying to keep his wife from finding out. It’s classic, 1960s style romantic slapstick, and the best thing about it is Elke Sommer in the starring role, though Bob Hope is always watchable. We uploaded many production stills below. Why all the imagery? Because Sommer is good for you. Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number! premiered in the U.S. this month in 1966. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 2 2014
SLOW BURN
What Mari wants Mari gets.

We said we’d get back to Mari Tanaka and here she is again, sooner than you expected, we bet. This poster advertises her 1973 roman porno movie Koi no karyudo: yokubo, aka Love Hunter: Desire, which was a sequel to an earlier film titled simply Love Hunter. Tanaka had a small role in the first film, but in this one she’s the star, playing a stripper who is at one point arrested on obscenity charges. Nikkatsu Studios was doubtless inspired by its own experience being raided and seeing personnel hauled to court on obscenity charges associated with the first Love Hunter. The notoriety did not hurt, though—both the first and second installments were major successes, and a third iteration was made later. It’s worth noting, as we often do, that these roman porno films are actually softcore in nature, with no actual sex and no frontal nudity at all. We will admit though, that they can be provocative and even shocking. Or put another way, it’s amazing what a director will elect to show when told he/she cannot show genitalia or pubic hair. Charges loomed over the original Love Hunter for years, until it was finally deemed not obscene by Tokyo District Court in 1978. Below is a lovely image of Tanaka, and we can all agree it’s not obscene either, hopefully. As far as we can tell, this is the first appearance for the above poster on the internet. Koi no karyudo: yokubo premiered in Japan today in 1973

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Femmes Fatales May 25 2014
MARI GO ROUND
Every angle produces the same great result.

Above are two rare shots of an actress long overdue for some exposure here—Mari Tanaka, who appeared in numerous Nikkatsu movies, including Kanno kyoshitsu: ai no technique, aka Excitement Class: Love Techniques, and the wonderfully titled Joshidaisei: Sexy Dynamite. The photos come from a coffee table book celebrating Heibon Punch magazine circa 1970. We have more images of her and we also have a rare movie poster, which means we’ll be coming back to her soon.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 03
1941—Auschwitz Begins Gassing Prisoners
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps, becomes an extermination camp when it begins using poison gas to kill prisoners en masse. The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, later testifies at the Nuremberg Trials that he believes perhaps 3 million people died at Auschwitz, but the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum revises the figure to about 1 million.
September 02
1967—Nation of Sealand Established
The Principality of Sealand, located on a platform in the North Sea, is established under the rule of Prince Paddy Roy Bates. Proving that paradise is a pipe dream as long as humans are involved, Sealand has already endured a coup, a war, and a hostage crisis since its formation.
1973—J.R.R. Tolkien Dies
British fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, dies at the age of 82.
September 01
1902—French Go to Moon
Georges Méliès' Le voyage dans la lune, aka A Trip to the Moon, is released in France. It is the first science-fiction film ever made.
1939—Germany Starts World War II
Nazi Germany, along with the Soviet Union and Slovakia, attack Poland, beginning the chain reaction that leads to war across Europe.
1972—Fischer Beats Spassky
In Reykjavík, Iceland, American Bobby Fischer beats Russian Boris Spassky and becomes the world chess champion. The match had been portrayed as a Cold War battle, and thus was a major propaganda victory for the United States.

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