When is a flower not a flower and a snake not a snake? In Japanese cinema.
Above you see a poster for the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno movie Hana to hebi: Jigoku-hen, known in English as Flower and Snake: Sketch of Hell. In this genre, any mention or sight of a flower is liable to be symbolic. Some call them vulvic symbols, some yonic symbols, but in either case something phallic is usually about to rear its ugly head. The movie starred Kaori Asô and Mami Fujimura, and it was second in a Flower and Snake franchise that eventually numbered eight entries, with this one premiering in Japan today in 1985. That puts it outside our vintage purview, since for our purposes we define modern as anything from 1980 and after, but we had to show you the poster art. How could we not? This amazing promo was painted by famed bondage artist Kaname Ozuma, whose work you can see with an image search. Japanese film studios were very interested in bondage, and Japanese audiences must have been too, because many roman porno films with bdsm themes did well at the box office.
Much of the interest in the subject derived from literature, particularly the works of Oniroku Dan, who wrote the source novel for this film. His books were behind about three-dozen roman porno productions. While we don't get these explorations of humiliation and bondage, we understand that every culture has its particulars. For example, if you go on Japanese Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their blood types. On the other hand, if you go on U.S. Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their political allegiances. Objectively, both types of information are completely pointless, yet they suggest—interestingly—what obsesses each culture.
What we're saying is that since we're not Japanese, we can't offer much insight into the roman porno wave that swept Japan. We can do the when, where, who, and how of it—but not the why. But we like the posters, the films are usually incredibly well shot, and the actresses are generally stunning, so we watch the movies and tell you whether we liked them. You're probably wondering if we watched Jigoku-hen. We did, and it's what we expected—longform bondage and torture, softcore style, with little shown, but plenty implied. While it stars Asô and the amazing Fujimura, we don't recommend it unless you're okay with plenty of tears and pee. Neither of those are our bag, and if they're yours, maybe talk to someone. Below, Fujimura is happy after washing off the stain of having starred in such a mean and pointless film, while Asô calls home from vacation and tells her family she's recovering fine.
Junko Mabuko is unjustly detained yet again.
It's Junko Mabuki again, beset by her usual troubles on this poster for the roman porno flick Dan Oniroku joen fujin, which premiered in Japan today in 1980. This movie seems to have been retitled for its English language release either Blazing Bondage Lady or Madam Rope Flame. Different sites say it's one or the other, but both titles kind of mean the same thing, so both are probably correct.
How does Junko get caged? It's her husband's fault. He accidentally runs over a woman who's a star S&M performer and her widower shows up to claim Junko as his own (and as a bonus also kidnaps her sister, played by the ethereal Izumi Shima). Junko's captor introduces her to aspects of bdsm such as whipping and enemas (always a favorite of roman porno flicks), and her shame and resistance eventually turn to acceptance and pleasure.
Mabuki burst onto the roman porno scene in 1979 and in 1980 made a dozen films. Nikkatsu thought they had another Naomi Tani on their hands and even staged a press conference at which they introduced Mabuki to the assembled journalists while she was done up in bondage gear. These types of publicity stunts weren't unusual for Nikkatsu. They had barely enough time to congratulate themselves for finding a new star when in 1982 Junko abruptly retired.
But Mabuki left behind more than a dozen films and established herself as one of the era's most popular stars. Even so, we rarely recommend these movies and can't recommend this one either, but we love roman porno posters, which taken out of context are always amazing art pieces. Junko is like art too, below. Rest assured, this is not the last we'll see of her.
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.
Mine grows faster than yours, but based on length I'd say we've been trapped down here at least three weeks.
We don't know who painted this promo poster but we think it's pretty nice. Looking around the internet we noticed that no good scans of it existed. Until now. Our pleasure. The poster was made for the roman porno flick Dan Oniroku ikenie shimai, aka Sisters To Be Sacrificed, which was based on a book by award winning erotic author Oniroku Dan and starred Minako Ogawa and Miyuki Matsumoto. The two play siblings who inherit their grandfather's inn but are held captive and tortured by the employees. Conveniently, the place has a torture pit underneath with—among other diabolical devices—a seesaw with dildos attached that... Well, just have a gander below. Dan Oniroku ikenie shimai premiered in Japan today in 1987.
Getting into the place isn't the problem.
In Nikkatsu roman porno the question, as always, is exactly how the script will place the female lead under the control of men determined to use her. In Dan Oniroku kurokami nawa fujin, aka Black Hair Velvet Soul, it's alcoholism and debt. A gambling and philandering husband owes a pile to a slimy financier, so he puts up as collateral the restaurant he owns with his wife. Izumi Shima plays the wife. Because the place was founded by her father and succeeded because of his sweat and struggle, as she notes in a monologue, she sees no other choice but to agree to work off the debt in an S&M club run by the financier. She goes through the usual range of indignities, but in what has to be considered a bit of a twist, she at no point likes it, nor has some inner freak unleashed, nor somehow dies by ironic means. She does her bit, the restaurant is saved, and she leaves her shitty husband. Why watch the movie? Well, because Shima is a shimmering goddess and she's always worth watching. Sixty-six minutes including credits and you're done. Dan Oniroku kurokami nawa fujin premiered today in 1982.
Junko Mabuki gets deflowered.
We just saw Junko Mabuki last week, and here she is again in the roman porno vehicle Dan Oniroku bara jigoku, which is known in English as Hell of Roses. Oniroku Dan was Japan's perv laureate of erotic bondage literature, and he became so famous that his name often appeared on the front of movies adapted from his material. And his material was pretty fringy stuff, at least by our standards. Last week's Oniroku Dan movie was centered around a slimy photographer's bondage obsession. This time there are two photographers, working in tandem to produce bdsm shots of young women who don't have any real idea what they've signed up for. Junko plays a famous singer who gets into their crosshairs. She'd never submit voluntarily, so the two predators subdue her with chloroform and spirit her away to an isolated house. Once she awakens she puts up a real fight and even manages to bloody one of her captors, but she still ends up caged, roped, dildoed, etc., and then there's that roman porno pee thing again. And a snake. And a kinky blood fixation. But you know what this movie doesn't have? Roses. Go figure. Dan Oniroku bara jigoku premiered today in 1980.
Woof woof. Arf arf. I must be barking mad.
High priestess of bondage Naomi Tani is at it again in Shôgorô Nishimura’s roman porno Dan Oniroku: Nawa-geshô aka Rope Cosmetology, aka Rope Makeover. Based on yet another Oniroku Dan story, Tani plays Kanako, a frustrated housewife whose best friend puts her together with a bondage artist keen to introduce her to the fine arts of humiliation and subjugation. It’s all pretty basic stuff that he’s into at first. He lets her watch another woman being disciplined. Then he ties her up and gives her intro level treatment. He tickles her. He makes her pee in a bucket. He makes her crawl around his apartment while wearing a leash. Then this happens:
And that’s pretty hard to get past. At least it is for us. Sometimes we encounter pretty weird shit maintaining this website, and this is one of those times. Most assessments of Shôgorô Nishimura’s oeuvre mention that this film was about as far out as he got, and we suppose the world should be thankful for that. Dan Oniroku: Nawa-geshô premiered in Japan today in 1978.
Naomi Tani gets roped into a weird situation.
Above is a poster for Genso fujin ezu, aka Fascination: Portrait of a Lady, aka Fantasy Portrait of a Wife, one of many S&M movies starring Naomi Tani, aka the Queen of Pink. In this one Tani plays Hisako, a bored housewife married to a conservative art professor. Hisako is beset by bizarre sexual daydreams, including one of being captured like a stray dog and stuck in a cage. Her frustrations soon center on Tachiki, a visionary art student her husband has expelled from school for being too modernist. Hisako and Tachiki soon begin meeting, and Tachiki introduces Hisako to a world of bondage and other dubious delights. The husbanddoesn't really understand the extent of his wife’s straying until she doesn’t come home one night. Not entirely her fault, though, as she’s tied up in Tachiki’s flat. In the morning Tachiki is inspired by lingering rope impressions on Hisako’s flesh to attempt something more permanent—he tattoos her entire body with a rope design. Hisako’s husband, you can be sure, is going to be pissed.
That’s all we’ll say about the plot of Genso fujin ezu. The idea of a person’s transformation taking on psychic then physical dimensions is pretty clear, but daydreams of domination and humiliation just don’t resonate for us. Bondage and rope arts occupy an important place in Japanese culture, so maybe that’s simply the default direction for bored cinema wives, the same way American movies from the period often featured women taking a walk on the wild side with hot-rodders or counterculture types. That’s our best guess, anyway. Oniroku Dan is the mind behind the literary genre that birthed these films, and if we’d read any of his books we’d have a better idea exactly why Hisako veers into S&M, but failing that we’ll just take the movie on its own merits. Genso fujin ezu premiered today in 1977.
Scenes from a bad marriage.
If there’s one indisputably true statement about Japanese cinema, it’s this: they will try anything. 1974’s Hana to hebi, aka Flower and Snake, is a bondage comedy based on a novel by Oniroku Dan, who specialized in S&M fiction. For the screen version, Nikkatsu Studios recruited reliable sexploitation queen Naomi Tani, who had already appeared in a previous version of the same film entitled Hana to hebi yori: niku no shiiku, aka Flower and Snake: Rearing the Flesh. Where that version was a mere pinku film, this new version would be a roman porno—which simply meant Nikkatsu would spend more money in an effort to elevate the genre into something mainstream Japanese would accept. In the film, Tani plays an aristocratic wife who asks for a divorce but instead is forced into bondage and submission by a man hired for the task by her husband. She experiences a sexual awakening, the employee forms an emotional bond, and complications ensue from there. We haven’t read the novel, but apparently it’s very different from the film and its adaptation was a source of friction between studio and author. But it didn’t matter—Hana to hebi was a smash. It was the first of Nikkatsu’s many Roman porno flicks, and the first of what would become a Hana to hebi franchise. It premiered in Japan today in 1974.
Just keep reminding yourself it’s only a movie.
The above promo art is for the Japanese sexploitation flick Dan Oniroku nawa to hada, aka Rope and Skin. It’s one of many films based on the work of S&M author Oniroku Dan. This one concerns a card-dealing employee of a yakuza clan who plans to leave her criminal life behind and marry a chef. And that’s all fine and dandy, but when she exposes the leader of a rival clan as a card cheat, his revenge leaves her love murdered. Things get worse when she attempts to free a girl from prostitution, but ends up captured and tortured. But you can’t keep a good avenging angel down, and that means eventually she’s sprung and of course immediately sets about getting a little payback—toplessly, with mucho arterial spray. Rope and Skin would be Tani's last film after a career that included such efforts as Wet Vase, A New Wife’s Hell, and She-Beasts & Warm Bodies. Whenever we watch these gorefests we’re both repelled (there’s a lot of torture) and attracted (there’s a lot of nudity), but mostly just amazed (did we mention that torture thing?). Rope and Skin/Dan Oniroku nawa to hada premiered in Japan today in 1979.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
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