How many wrongs finally make a right?
This poster was made to promote a Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick titled Osoe!, which in Japanese means “attack.” In typical roman porno fashion, the plot is pretty twisted. In brief, Erina Miyai plays a woman who wants revenge on a corporation for its role in the death of her parents. She goes to a disco and deliberately allows herself to be taken home and gangbanged, all for the purpose of later informing the guys who did it she'll accuse them of rape if they don't kidnap the corporation's CEO for her.
We'll say this much for Nikkatsu—their ideas were certainly creative. In this case there's a subtext of turning male power against itself, which is all to the good, but of course things never come off quite how the protagonists intend in roman porno. Which is to say, Miyai's plot goes pear shaped. Osoe! is super obscure in the West but was a successful release and even played a few years ago at the famed Laputa Asagaya revival cinema in Tokyo. Its original premiere was today in 1978.
Pink and yellow are normally so cheery.
Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi, for which you see a poster above, is another Nikkatsu roman porno movie, with a serial killer/rapist on the loose dispatching women in baroque and horrible ways. The star of the movie, Erina Miyai, falls victim to a rapist early on but is not killed. When the murders start she wonders if it's the same man. That question is answered quickly, but mystery is not really the point here. The goal seems to be making a mash-up of Japanese pinku (pink film) and Italian giallo (yellow film).
For example, during one of the killings a woman is pursued past an apartment block, but in filmmaking terms she's running in place, which lends the scene the nightmarish quality characteristic of giallo. All the windows beyond her are illuminated, but as she screams for help the lights go out one by one. As far as mixing filmmaking palettes goes, it's nice work. As far as the message, was director Naosuke Kurosawa also trying to tell viewers Japan was becoming inured to violent crime? Perhaps.
Based on the existence of roman porno Japan was for sure becoming inured to violent movies. Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi is more violent than most, but with its deliberate attempt to transcend—however slightly—the requisites of roman porno, it's also better than most. Does that mean it's actually good? Not as such, but for serious film buffs it's worth a glance and a discussion. It premiered today in 1980.
That moment when you realize your neighbors have known all along you've been watching them.
Above, a poster for Danchizuma: Kanki no yoru, aka Apartment Wife: Night of Pleasure, starring Junko Miyashita, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Masumi Jun. This is of course another Nikkatsu roman porno romp, with all that the label suggests. This entry was seventh in a franchise that eventually totaled twenty-one films. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
The winds of war blow hard and cruel over man and woman alike.
This striking pink poster was made to promote Shunpu den, known in English as Story of a Prostitute. Based on a novel by Taijiro Tamura, this is another of director Seijun Suzuki's envelope pushing dramas. He made a habit of disobeying the directives of his studio Nikkatsu and here he crafts a tale that refuses to simply extol the virtues and glories of the Japanese military. Plotwise, a woman falls in love with a lieutenant's lowly aide, and as the superior officer torments her, she and the subordinate embark on a forbidden affair. This occurs during the Sino-Japanese War circa 1935, and when the Chinese attack, the question of honor versus survival comes to the fore.
A lot of reviews call the lead character here, played by Yumiko Nogawa, a prostitute, but that's a simplification. She plays an ianfu or comfort woman, which was a form of sexual bondage usually reserved for foreigners. Ianfu were sent around to military garrisons to have sex with soldiers, and sometimes the ratio of women to men was very lopsided. We've seen 1:1000 cited, but can't confirm that independently. Lawsuits about this are still crawling through international courts. Japan's oldest English language newspaper The Japan Times recently was called out for acquiescing to Prime Minster Shinzō Abe's insistence that ianfu be referred to by terminology less embarrassing to Japan.
Westerners generally won't have all this history in mind when watching Shunpu den, but it's useful to consider. Nogawa's character Harumi is Japanese and a volunteer, so in both respects she's atypical compared to the reality of Korean, Indonesian, and Filipino women abducted by the tens of thousands. With this type of subtext to the backstory, and a foreground occupied by men indoctrinated into a military corps bound by an intractable and sometimes suicidal code of conduct, a happy ending seems like an impossibility. But you never know. However it turns out, the worth of dramatic cinema is in the trying. Shunpu den premiered in Japan today in 1965
Shima's education costs become too much to bear.
Above is a poster for Dan Oniroku hebi no ana, also known as Snake Hole, starring Izumi Shima. We wish she had made a few movies in the mainstream, but she was a roman porno star, and that means some of her output can be hard to watch. We make no judgments. Well, no, we do make judgments, but we try to be open minded about these crazy flicks. Japanese filmmakers were exploding old taboos and on the balance that was a good thing, but where Toei's pinky violence usually empowered women, Nikkatsu's roman pornos recast them as victims. In this film, for example, Shima is forced to participate in bdsm fantasies. She's shaved, hung from ropes, walked with a dog collar, and is erotically vacuumed (don't ask). This was Shima's last starring role, and it came near the end of Nikkatsu's roman porno obsession. But of course that was just a marketing label. The studio continued its explorations of taboo subject matter. As far as this one goes, we don't recommend it, but we've seen worse films. If it sounds like something that'd interest you—so pee it. Dan Oniroku hebi no ana premiered in Japan today in 1983.
They could not resist when they saw little Nikki grind.
Back to an actual Japanese poster today, with this promo for the roman porno movie OL nikki: Waisetsuna kankei, aka Office Lady Journal: Indecent Relations, which is about two female co-workers who totally shred company rules against fraternization. Is that even the right word when it's two women? Maybe we should go with consorting. Neither is named Nikki, by the way, though we have to thank Prince for the assist there. They're actually named Mina and Aki. Nikki means “diary” or “journal.” This is yet more output from Nikkatsu Studios, more edgy weirdness from Junko Miyashita and Akemi Nijô, and another plot way too complicated to summarize. But even if we did would it matter? By now you know whether this is your thing. Decide accordingly. OL nikki: Waisetsuna kankei premiered in Japan today in 1975.
Truth, justice, and the Nikkatsu way.
This is a pretty cheerful poster, isn't it? But it belies the true nature of Sûpâ gun redei Wani Bunsho, aka Super Gun Lady: Police Branch 82. Emi Yokoyama plays Mika, an unconventional cop who can't play by the rules and is always in trouble with her boss. After her latest screw-up she's assigned a partner in the person of Kaoru Janbo, and the two are soon up to their necks in an interconnected series of problems involving blackmail, heroin, and a degenerate band of bank robbers. As in many buddy movies, the partners dislike each other at first, but as women on the police force they soon find common ground. Which is good because when Mika is kidnapped only her partner can possibly save her.
So about that kidnapping. Up to that point Sûpâ gun plays like a standard cop drama, but this is a Nikkatsu Studios production, and as we've discussed before the company's plotlines were, during this time at least, mere wrappers for bondage and sadism. Thus the kidnapping doesn't go so well for Mika. Not that any kidnapping goes well for its victims, but this one goes worse. Nikkatsu actually had a pretty good police thriller on its hands here but we guess you can't expect the company to deny its own nature, nor the expectations of its audience. You've been duly warned. Sûpâ gun redei Wani Bunsho premiered in Japan today in 1979
Ahoy there, miss! Do you mind if we pull abreast?
At top, a poster for the Hitomi Kozue roman porno flick Nikutai hanzai kaigan: Piranha no mure, aka Sex-Crime Coast: School of Piranha. In this one Kozue rises out of the sea like Aphrodite, which is how we always suspected she came to be. Well, okay, she isn't actually a deity. Instead she plays an all-too-mortal gangster girl who falls for a gangster boy in the seaside region of Shōnan, along Sagami Bay. But romance is never easy in these films, and a love triangle soon brings jealousy and violence to the idyllic sands of central Japan. It's Nikkatsu Studios, and it's roman porno, so you know exactly what you'll get here. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
The money is there. All they have to do is steal it.
Nora-neko rokku: Wairudo janbo, aka Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo, stars Meiko Kaji and Bunjaku Han in a Nikkatsu Studios/Hori Production co-effort. The movie is based on a Satoshi Funachi novel and concerns five obnoxious delinquents who, with the help of an insider, decide to rob a religious group called the Seikyo Society of 30 million yen. There's a festival going on there, which means the organization's coffers will be fat with cash. As usual with these movies, it takes a while to get to the central plot, but the digressions are interesting. A good portion of the running time involves the group's road trip to the religious compound and the various scrapes they get into along the way, including a comical interlude at the beach. When they finally reach their destination does the robbery go as planned? Of course not. They rarely do. As a side note, viewers should know that while Akiko Wada gets top position on the poster she's barely in the movie. But the film is definitely one of the better Japanese juvie flicks and a worthy second entry in the five film Nora-neko rokku series. Nora-neko rokku: Wairudo janbo premiered in Japan today in 1970. Read about the others, here, here, here, and here.
There's nothing quite as awe inspiring as an ocean view.
This is one of the more eye-catching posters you'll see. It was made for the Japanese film Waka-goke ama: Uzuku. The movie's English title is supposedly—ready for this?—Nympho Diver: Tingling. Well, we're tingling a bit already. Junko Mabuki gets top billing here, but that's actually Rumi Sasaki adorning the poster because Nikkatsu never passed up a chance to put a naked woman on its promo art. The same has been said of our website, so we aren't criticizing. In any case, this is obviously another film centered around an ama—a female diver for pearls, abalone, and other aquatic treats. In this one you have a widowed ama who gets involved in kinky business in a seaside town. These movies are basically all the same, so we don't have to get into great detail—although we'll note there's a bizarre scene where Junko puts peanut butter on her body and has a dog lick it off. We know—it sounds utterly obscene. Really, there's very little Japanese filmmakers didn't try at some point or another, but always remember that though the plot devices in these may be crazy, the sexual content is never more explicit than your basic late night cable movie. Sorry to disappoint any dog lovers out there. Waka-goke ama: Uzuku premiered in Japan today in 1980
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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