Miki and Reiko rock and rule Osaka in 1973's Sukeban.
We already shared this rare circular poster for Sukeban, aka Girl Boss Revenge: Sukeban, in a group post years ago, but since it's so rare and interesting we're bringing it back for a solo look, and as you see below we've split it in half to allow you to have your own copy of reasonable size, if you're inclined to put the two pieces together. We might as well comment on the movie too. When we first shared the art for this, we figured why discuss the film in detail when there were already plenty of reviews online? We even linked to one back then. Little did we know that Pulp Intl. would still be going ten years later and would be a top repository for vintage Japanese poster art online. That being the case, we figure we'll tell you about the movie this time.
It stars two of the brightest stars of the Japanese grindhouse era—Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. Miki plays a gang leader who calls herself Kantô Komasa, while Reiko is the girl gang leader of Namairu High School. They meet in a prison van and escape simultaneously, headed different directions but destined to cross paths again. Miki forms a new gang in Osaka called Gypsy Dance, gets into the usual delinquency, and meets a director of dirty movies who she enlists in a revenge plot. But all the fun and games take a nasty turn when she runs afoul of the North Dragon yakuza and they start dishing out pain and suffering. Only with the help of a young North Dragon footsoldier named Tatsuo is Miki able to escape her predicament.
It just so happens that Tatsuo is Reiko's boyfriend. Reiko has been missing since her escape from the prison van, but arrives on the scene just in time to find Miki in bed with her man. That puts Reiko and Miki at odds in the worst way, but Reiko has no idea Tatsuo is working for the North Dragon. She'll find out, though, via a stunning betrayal. We'll end the synopsis there, but add the warning that the North Dragonare mean as hell and the tortures they administer are hard to watch. But gangsters gonna gangster—if they spent their time at garden parties and poetry readings there'd be a different word for them.
Sukeban, which was directed by Norifumi Suzuki, is a prime example of Toei Company's pinky violence genre—wild, colorful, gritty, and bloody, with moments of humor to leaven the hard tone. Movies of this style influenced many later directors, but apart from Quentin Tarantino and maybe a couple of other mavericks such operatic exploitation is a relic of the past. The film is basically Miki's show, and whether rolling fabulously down a hill in her fur coat and platforms or getting dirty in an alley fight, she delivers a freewheeling performance in a production that isn't for the faint of heart. It's worth watching for its historical value as well as for entertainment, but in either case, hold onto your hat.
As a bonus, below we have some production photos, including a rare image of Miki striking the topless pose used to create the promo poster. We always thought her head looked a little warped on that poster. Turns out it's a defect in the original photograph—someone either shot her off-kilter or introduced the flaw during the developing process, and she stayed that way. We're guessing, but we're pretty sure because normally her head is very symmetrical. As is the rest of her. You'll see what we mean below about the photo. Sukeban premiered in Japan today in 1973. You can see our other write-up on it here.
Sugawara gives the red light to wartime slavery.
This blazingly colorful promo poster was made for the action movie Onna dorei-sen, known in English as Female Slave Ship, which is set during World War II and follows the adventures of a navy lieutenant played by Bunta Sugawara. The tale begins with him sent on a secret mission to obtain radar schematics to help salvage Japan's waning war fortunes, but unfortunately his plane is shot full of holes by a squadron of American F4Fs and he ends up in the drink. He's picked up by a Shanghai bound China boat, or slave ship, carrying twelve women meant to be auctioned to a gathering of Epsteins. Eleven of the women are prostitutes, but Rumiko, played by the lovely Utako Mitsuya, was tricked onto the boat. Naturally, she and Sugawara form an instant connection. Can he save her? You can be sure he'll try his best.
But just when you think Female Slave Ship is a straightforward white-knight-saves-damsel tale, the slave ship is attacked by pirates, and the women and Sugawara are suddenly at the mercy of the most ruthless band of unbathed thugs ever to steam the East China Sea. After some onboard drama the vessel lands, not in Shanghai but on a rocky Chinese coast where traffickers plan to brand and sell the women. This obviously can't stand, which means Buntawara must somehow throw sand in the gears. Why he's even alive at this point is a question. He's been nothing but trouble to the pirates, and the simplest solution would have been to toss him to the sharks. Failing to do that will be a costly and contusion making error.
We wanted to get away from Nikkatsu Studios' misogynistic roman pornos for a while and this effort from Shintoho Film fulfilled the requirement. Well, mostly. While generally tame, you'll rarely see so many women slapped around. But the treatment is meant to outrage. Mission accomplished. You will hate these traffickers. As for the movie overall, we suspect you'll like-not-love it. It's done in broad strokes, but as a sort of surf-to-turf soap opera it mostly works fine. Sugawara, who was soon to become a cinematic icon, has a charisma befitting his burgeoning status. And Yôko Mihara, already a big star at this point, is enjoyable playing a slippery slaver whose allegiances shift with the tides. She and Sugawara are worth seeing. Female Slave Ship premiered in Japan today in 1960.
So far so good. Only 364 days to go.
Well, here we are in 2022, and karate kicking, sword swinging, yakuza slicing, mushroom cloud laying action movie icon Reiko Ike is here to welcome you to another spin round the sun. We think this image has gotten things off to an excellent start, even if Ike looks sort of like she's made a New Year's resolution to smack anyone who utters an unkind word in her direction. But that's just Reiko being Reiko. The shot is from the magazine Weekly Playboy, for which she starred in an entire 1972 calendar. For the fun of it, every first of the month or so, we'll share a new Ike calendar shot. We say “or so” because we used one a while back, and because she doubled up a couple of months in the calendar, but you get the gist—nine or ten new Ike images are coming. If she doesn't get you looking forward to the new year nothing will.
Tanaka and company roll the dice and all kinds of craps happen.
This poster was made to promote the samurai actioner Sengoku rokku hayate no onnatachi, known in English internationally as The Naked Seven, starring the wonderful Mari Tanaka, along with Michiyo Mako, Yuri Yamashina, and others. Tanaka plays Eno, leader of a gang of seven female bandits roaming the countryside of Edo era Japan ambushing and stealing to survive. Tanaka hooks up with a samurai and helps him rob 120 rifles from a powerful warlord, at which point she and her bandit cohort are blamed. Realizing they're in the very deepest shit, they head for the hills with the warlord's bad men—one of whom is indescribably worse than the rest—in hot pursuit. Tanaka has a sanctuary in mind, but ultimately she and her gang of deadlies may have to make a final stand with those rifles.
We assumed The Naked Seven was a samurai actioner, and it is, sort of, but genetically it's really a roman porno. The movie's alternate English title (which we didn't know until afterward) gives it away: Civil War Rock: Hurricane Girls! The Japanese word “sengoku,” from the film's official title, refers to the Sengoku Era in Japan, a time of violent upheaval also known as the Warring States Period, so the civil war reference in the alternate English title makes sense. Plus director Yasuharu Hasebe would make a string of roman porno flicks in the next several years, including Sukeban Deka: Dirty Mary and Maruhi honeymoon: Boko ressha, which, terrifyingly, is aka Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train. Even without knowing all that, the roman porno thought process behind The Naked Seven became clear as the pursuit unfolded in occasionally shocking fashion.
We thought we'd jettisoned roman pornos after the last effort we watched, but that Naked Seven title fooled us. It's obviously a play on The Magnificent Seven—but naked!—and yup, unclothed debauchery fit for a Game of Thrones episode abounds. There's also a sequence in which Tanaka's entire gang is waylaid bathing in a stream and have to flee bare-assed into the woods. They escape, though it's logistically unlikely. Similarly, roman porno chased us and caught us unawares, metaphorically naked in a streaming. Escape from our waylaying was as logistically easy as pressing stop, but we forged ahead until the end, and we did it for you. Here's the upshot. The period setting helps set the movie apart, so we consider it a passable effort from Nikkatsu Studios. Thankfully, it's not as shocking as some roman pornos, but proceed carefully—there are still scary things in the woods. Sengoku rokku hayate no onnatachi premiered in Japan today in 1972.
Oh the weather outside is frightful...
And we couldn't go with just one femme fatale. We have so many scanned at this point we may never get to them all. So let's double up. Here's a beautiful shot of Natsuko Yashiro, who appeared in such fare as Inzetsu ama: Uzuku, Shikijô ama midare tsubo, aka Lusty Ama: Stirred-Up Pot, Onna keimusho, aka Women's Prison, Okasu!, Hirusagari no onna: chohatsu! aka Woman of the Afternoon: Incite!, and about twenty other flicks. For someone with such an extensive filmography, we don't get the impression she was ever a top star, but we could wrong about that. This dates from 1974.
Just another marvelous sight in the City of Light.
This cool and colorful photo shows actress and dancer Tura Satana as the character Suzette Wong—mile-high wig, tassels on the boobs, and all—one of many colorful Parisian prostitutes from the hit comedy Irma la Douce. Satana was born as Tura Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan in 1938, but moved to the U.S. after World War II and became famous in b-movies like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and The Astro-Zombies. Irma la Douce was her debut film, coming in 1963. There's much about her life worth discussing but we can't get into it today. Maybe somewhere down the line. Actually, there should probably be a movie about her. Has anyone done that? Well, get to it.
Hong Kong sexploitation epic isn't very good, but give it credit for ripping the scab off a historical wound.
Above is a poster for the sexploitation flick Nu ji zhong ying, known in English as The Bamboo House of Dolls, and to get right to the heart of the matter, this one must have set Sino-Japanese relations back a few years. The film stars Danish actress Birte Tove as a nurse in Hong Kong who during World War II gets corralled along with her co-workers into Japanese Women's Concentration Camp 13, there to undergo various indignities before finally deciding that escape is her only option. You know the drill. Tove is the marquee attraction, but the film is largely cast with Hong Kong actresses such as Lee Hye-Sook, Hseih Wang, and others, which means that while the movie resembles entries in the women-in-prison sub-genre—with the scheming wardeness, lesbian sex, group showers, and half-cocked escapees made into examples of what not to do while in a tropical women's prison—the obvious historical context of Japan actually sexually abusing Chinese women during the war gives it an underlying grimness that's hard to ignore.
We suspect that if this were made today it would spark an international crisis, insults traded by high ranking officials on Twitter, and possibly diplomats kicked out of China and Japan, but 1970s filmmakers did not shy away from uncomfortable subject matter—and this is about as uncomfortable as it gets. That isn't the problem, though. Well, that isn't the problem for us. The objective problem is the movie is just bad. Legendary Hong Kong producers the Shaw Brothers (and by legendary we mean Run Run Shaw would be knighted in 1977) wanted to copy Jack Hill's women-in-prison movies The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House, but possibly overlooked the fact that setting such films in imaginary Central American hellholes as Hill did was worlds away from making the Japanese villains in a historically laden sexual abuse epic. But what do we know? Run Run got knighted, not us. In any case, Tove's escape plan runs into some snags, but we won't reveal what those are, just in case you're in the mood for politically explosive titillation. Our advice? Give it a pass. Nu ji zhong ying premiered in Hong Kong today in 1973.
I get the feeling there's history here. Since I'm from Denmark, maybe I can I just leave?
She's a little bit of this, a little bit of that.
Above is a Toho Company promo photo of Rika Aoki made for Konketsuji Rika, known in English as Rika the Mixed-Blood Girl, released today in 1972. Though the promo is copyrighted by Toho, that was the distribution company. Kindai Eiga Kyokai actually made the film, which tells the tale of a half-Japanese half-black gang leader who deals—violently—with a lot of very bad men. It was part of a Rika trilogy, of which we've seen installments one and three. This promo reminds us to check out the third.
She has terrible manners but a terrific flair for the dramatic.
Above is another rare promo image of Japanese actress Reiko Ike, someone we've documented extensively through the years, and here, the big hair, bare skin, and brilliant pose make this one of her best shots. We have other Ike images in a stack of Japanese magazines, and if we can figure out how to keep our scanner from putting electronic streaks on the scans we hope to get those posted at some point. This one came from an issue of the magazine Weekly Playboy and dates from 1974.
The classes are challenging, but the extracurriculars are really hard.
The high school that looks normal on the surface, but is a nest of sexual perversion underneath. It's a premise Nikkatsu Studios never missed a chance to trundle out for audiences, and here it is again in Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi, which is known in English as Pleasure Campus, Secret Games. Yuri Yamashina is a teacher at Tokyo Public High School who has a group of recalcitrant seniors, including the star of this flick, the lovely Ayako Ôta, along with the equally lovely Rie Katihara (left and right on the poster respectively). The plot evolves from teacher-student conflict, to secret chemical formulas, to public hypnosis, with many weird stops between, as befits a roman porno flick.
We can't really describe the bizarro plot, but the feel of the movie can be summed up by one sequence. A disobedient Ôta is restricted to the school's chemistry lab while a group of administrators in a nearby conference room decide whether to expel her. One of the panel slips away on the pretext of using the bathroom, but instead attacks Ôta in the chemlab. Meanwhile, some minutes later, another member of the panel decides he needs to use the bathroom, but instead heads to the chemlab. The previous admin has leapt out the window to avoid being caught, and admin two sees Ôta half naked and continues the assault. A third admin says he needs to use the bathroom, goes to chemlab where admin two has just fled out the window, finds Ôta naked and tied to a table, and continues the assault... and so forth.
All the wrestling and leaping out of windows plays like a Benny Hill sequence on acid, with more spazzing, yelling, and pratfalling than a sane mind can witness. We recognized that this serial sexual assault is supposed to comedic, but the laughs didn't come for us. Possibly that's due to cultural blindness—not being from Japan, the humor doesn't cross over. So for that reason, we'll let a Japanese commenter on Filmarks review this one for us. Translated, he wrote: “If this happens to me, I hate it so much that I want to die, but since it is a movie, I almost laughed to death. That's what absurdity is.”
There you have it. Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi is an absurdist comedy based around ideas about sexual desire and authority. We take seriously our efforts to understand the roman porno genre, just as we work to understand all yesteryear's enormously popular genres of international film, from Italian giallo mysteries to Mexican lucha libre actioners, but as far as we're concerned it's time for another break from watching these roman porno flicks. Our stand-in from Japan wrote, in so many words: It's just a movie. We get that, so we'll be back to this genre at some point. Some point months from now, after our heads are clear. Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi premiered in Japan today in 1980. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard
, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
1919—Luxemburg and Liebknecht Are Killed
Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, two of the most prominent socialists in Germany, are tortured and murdered by the Freikorps. Freikorps was a term applied to various paramilitary organizations that sprang up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. Members of these groups would later become prominent members of the SS.
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