Nikktasu's revitalized roman porno screens for NYC audiences.
Today in New York City at the New York Asian Film Festival, two productions from Nikkatsu Studios' ballyhooed Roman Porno Reboot Project will screen for audiences. The Reboot Project was announced last year, and includes major directors such as Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame, Sion Sono of Cold Fish and Tokyo Tribe, and Kazuya Shiraishi, who made The Devil’s Path. Three films will be included in the New York fest, which began several days ago—Kazuya Shiraishi's Mesunekotachi, aka Dawn of the Felines, and Akihiko Shiota's Kaze ni nureta onna, aka Wet Woman in the Wind, will screen today. Isao Yukisada's Gymnopedies ni Midareru, aka Aroused by Gymnopédies premieres on July 14.
Will these be as edgy as Nikkatsu's vintage roman porno offerings? We have our doubts—some of those movies indugle in excesses so extreme we're amazed they're even available on DVD. We expect the new roman porno to be milder but perhaps contain a modern feminist twist, a shift in point-of-view that would be welcome, at least to us. All three of the movies playing in NYC have already seen release in Japan and gotten decent reviews, which means festival audiences should find something enjoyable in them. If you're in the Big Apple area you now have a potential plan for the next ten days. As for us folks who live far across the ocean, hopefully we'll get a chance to see some of the films soon as well, and if we do we'll certainly report back.
Two of pinku's biggest stars headline a rare film festival in Tokyo.
If you find yourself in Tokyo today, Cinema Laputa Asagaya is hosting a retrospective of films featuring two of the biggest pinku stars of the 1970s—Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, who are not only big stars but also Pulp Intl. faves who we've discussed many times. A new film will be featured every weekend until April 1, with all the pair's most legendary efforts appearing on the program, including Yasagure anego den: sôkatsu rinchi, aka Female Yakuza Tale (discussed here and here), Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi, aka Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, for which you can see the badass promo poster here, and of course Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô, aka Sex & Fury, which we talked about way back in 2009. There will be thirteen films in all, and the festival represents the best chance to see all these movies on a big screen in many years, and in a pretty cool location too. If you're in the vicinity, don't miss it.
You can't keep a good girl down.
This dramatic poster was made for Nikutai no mon, aka Gate of Flesh, a movie based on a 1947 novel by Japanese author Taijirô Tamura. The book has been filmed five times. The most famous version was made in 1968 with Jo Shishido and Yumiko Nogawa earning acclaim for their lead roles in what was a serious and artistic film, but the above promo is for the 1977 roman porno version starring Reiko Kayama, Izumi Shima, and Junko Miyahsita. Needless to say, the two films diverge rather sharply. However, we need to point out, as we do periodically, that roman porno isn't porno—it's softcore. The “roman” in roman porno is short for “romantic,” and though the movies aren't typically romantic in the normal sense, they aren't explicit. Such depictions were illegal in Japan back then, and remain so today (though filmmakers use pixilation of sexual organs to skirt the law).
When the novel Nikutai no mon appeared in 1947 a different censorship regime existed called the Civil Censorship Detachment, which was under the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, aka Douglas MacArthur. Under SCAP CCD censorship, explicit accounts of fraternization between Japanese and whites were forbidden, as were detailed accounts of the atomic bombings, or anything that could generate distrust toward the American occupiers. Most Japanese authors obeyed. A few wrote obliquely about the forbidden subjects. And a very few broke the rules entirely to describe war horrors—e.g. flashburned nuclear victims walking naked and blind amongst the ruins, their hairless bodies so swollen their sex could not be determined. Tamura's novel falls in the middle. It tells the story of a group of Japanese women trying to survive in the rubble of Tokyo via prostitution.
Where the 1968 movie stuck pretty close to Tamura's fiction, the roman porno focuses more on the sexploitation angle, though it keeps the action set in 1947. A criminal syndicate known as Black Rose provides Japanese girls as prostitutes to the American military, and any who resist the various examinations, training, and indignities are punished with torture and death. When Reiko Kayama arrives on the scene, she eventually inspires the others to follow her as she leads a revolt against her enslavers. You get sex, girlfights, killings, and blood. If you're looking for standard roman porno fare—with perhaps a bit more visual piazazz than usual thanks to director Shôgorô Nishimura and cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki—you've picked the right film. Nikutai no mon premiered in Japan today in 1977.
Oshida and Co. may have been to reform school but once a boss always a boss.
First film in what would become the successful Zubekô banchô series, Zubekô banchô: yume wa yoru hiraku, aka Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams, aka Tokyo Bad Girls stars Reiko Oshida as a parolee from a reform school who takes a job in a Shinjuku hotspot called Bar Murasaki, but finds walking the straight and narrow a difficult ambition to fulfill. As usual in these pinku films set in and around nightclubs, a criminal syndicate wants to take over, which means she's soon stuck between a resistant owner and an insistent Yakuza. Some girls she knows from reform school have also found spots at the club, and in addition to Yakuza problems, Oshida finds herself drawn into the issues of her friends.
But it's good they're around, these girl delinquents, because when the climactic brawl with the villains happens, Oshida will need loyal friends at her side. On the whole Blossoming Night Dreams is tamer than later entires in the Delinquent Girl Boss series, but considering the sexual violence that began to appear, most would consider that a good thing. Of course, it's always important to remember that these films are counterculture in character, replacing the subservient women of previous eras with badass riot girls who always took violent revenge upon men who wronged them. The formula was both exploitative and pro feminist, with the sexploitation putting rear ends in the seats, whereupon the progressive message was hammered home.
Anyway, moving on to the poster, you may notice that, by a quirk of design, Oshida, star of the film, does not appear to be star of the promo art. The topmost position is given to Keiko Fuji. But a closer look reveals that Oshida gets a full body shot in the center foreground of the art, while Fuji is layered behind. It's still unusual that Fuji is placed where she is, though. While she plays Bar Murasaki's headlining performer, she has far less screen time most of the other castmembers. But she's good in her role, Oshida's excellent, Masumi Tachibana, Yukie Kagawa, and the rest of the troupe are having fun, and everyone deserves credit for making the movie well worth a screening. Zubekô banchô: yume wa yoru hiraku opened today in 1970.
When worlds collide you want front row seats.
So, everything we write today, pretend we wrote it yesterday. Ready? We talked briefly about Muhammad Ali's proto-MMA experience a few weeks ago. We've been saving this item to share. It's an actual unused ticket stub for the Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki exhibition match at the Nippon Budokan arena today yesterday in 1976, exactly forty years forty years and one day ago. Oh yes. This is rare. At least we think it is, because we've never seen another one. We've uploaded it vertically below so you can get a good look at it by dragging it to your desktop and rotating it.
Ali invades Japan and helps invent MMA.
When Muhammad Ali died last week we remembered we had some rarities laying around, but it took a few days to find them. These are the items we were searching for—posters from Ali's June 1976 match at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. In what would now be called a mixed martial arts bout, Ali and Inoki fought to a draw, however this was not a freeform battle, but rather a tightly regulated exhibition match. Nevertheless, Ali's leg was so damaged from Inoki's repeated kicks that an infection set in and for a brief time the medical discussion turned to amputation. Today the Budokan match is considered by Ali fans an embarrassment in the boxer's storied career, but it was also an important precursor to MMA, a case study in how boxing and MMA are incompatible sports, and yet another example of Ali's trailblazing nature. He was the king and he will be missed.
It's a hard job but they make it look easy.
What better way to complement the collection of paperback covers above than with photos of actual dancers doing what they do best—making their strenuous and often unglamorous work look easy and fun? We present assorted burlesque dancers, showgirls, and strippers from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, both onstage and off, photographed in such hot spots as London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome, New Orleans, and of course New York City. Among the performers: La Savona, Lilly Christine, Lynne O'Neill, the gorgeous Misty Ayres, Patti Cross, Tina Marshall, Carol Doda, Nejla Ates, Lili St. Cyr, Wildcat Frenchie, and more. If you like these, check out our previous set of dancers here.
Young dogs learn new tricks all by themselves.
More Japanese goodness, a poster for Nihiki no mesu inu, starring Mayuki Ogawa in the tale of a Turkey miss—basically a prostitute who services men in Turkish baths—whose plans to get rich in the stock market, open a beauty salon, and marry her sweetie are turned upside down by the arrival of her boyfriend-stealing half sister Mako Midori. The Association of Tokyo Film Journalists gave Midori a Burū Ribon Shō—a Blue Ribbon Award—for Best New Face in this role, her debut, and she went on to star in many popular films, including the bizarro psychodrama Môjû, aka Blind Beast, which we may discuss at a later date. Nihiki no mesu inu premiered in Japan today in 1964.
Junko can’t come to the phone right now—she’s taking dictation.
OL nikki: Nureta satsutaba premiered in Japan today in 1974 and starred Aoi Nakajima as a woman named Junko who’s seduced by a banker involved in a scheme to embezzle 900 million yen. That’s like $350 in U.S. money. Just kidding—it’s actually a shade over a million dollars in 1974, we think. We gather that the inspiration for this film was an actual embezzlement scheme at Tokyo’s Shiga Bank. The “OL” of the title stands for “office lady,” and the entire title would translate roughly as “office lady diary: wet wad of money.” Hah hah. Wad. Um, this was the fourth entry in what was a very popular series, with seven made all together, though not all starring Nakajima. We have posters for other OL movies and we’ll get those up down the line, hopefully.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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