Brand new prison, same old problems.
The sixth and final entry in the Female Prisoner 701 series was Shin joshuu sasori: Tokushu-bô X, known in English as New Female Prisoner Scorpion: Special Cellblock X. It starred Yôko Natsuki as a woman stuck in a hellhole prison where the warden is incompetent, the guards are corrupt, and the other prisoners are hateful. The movie opens with her being returned to confinement after an escape. Via flashbacks we're told how she was originally jailed, flew the coop, but was wounded and caught. Now she's singled out for cruel treatment by both her jailers and her peers, the former group due to the damage her escape caused their reputations, the latter group due to the extra punishment meted out as an escape deterrent. All of this already makes for a chaotic prison, but hell truly breaks loose when a new head of security arrives to “reinforce discipline.” That would be this guy:
Doesn't exactly look like Department of Corrections material does he? He brings in a regime of humiliation and torture that would impress even a CIA waterboarder, but finds himself at odds with the old head of security. The conflict eventually sees one of them dethroned, which makes him an unlikely ally for Natsuki. These two—the abused and her former abuser—plot an escape from the isolated prison and are soon fleeing over a barren wasteland chained together like the Wild Ones, while chased by guards and German Shepherds. Natsuki, who was given her first starring role here (the first four movies in the series starred Meiko Kaji, and the fifth starred Yumi Takigawa), may have been hired solely because she can make steely eyes:
That's an almost Eastwood level of flintiness. When we try that look on the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they ask if we've got sand in our eyes. Even in the throes of action or torture Natsuki never drops her mask. Her expression says, “I get to kill you eventually, asshole. It's in the script.” Anyway, the last third of the movie is a pure escape thriller, but you'll get no hints from us whether Natsuki triumphs. On the whole, we think this is a solid enough women-in-prison entry, though the consensus among pinku aficionados is that it doesn't hold a candle to the Meiko Kaji episodes. We'd have to watch those again to form an opinion on that, but why make it a competition? Just watch them all. Shin joshuu sasori: Tokushu-bô X premiered in Japan today in 1977.
It's ride or die on the streets of Kyoto.
Toei Company goes biker culture for Boso sekkusu-zoku, known in English as Hell Riders in Kyoto and Wild Sex Gang, which combines the typical Toei action film with aspects of American b-movies like Easy Rider and The Rebel Rousers. Takashi Shirai is a nihilistic and lawless twenty-something addicted to speed, and especially to motorcycles. When he's caught speeding by police his obsession goes into overdrive, and he decides to buy a 750cc bike that will enable him to outrun even the cops. Tsunehiko Watase is also obsessed with speed. He couldn't afford a bike to satiate his addiction, which is why he became a motorcycle cop. It allowed him to ride the 500cc bike he desired. Now Shirai is outrunning him. The rivalry between these two leads to one-upmanship that spills from the roadway and into other areas of their lives, but just when Shirai seems doomed the beautiful Miki Sugimoto arrives on the scene, and he starts to see that there's some value to life after all. But is it too late? Well, maybe.
Boso sekkusu-zoku is an interesting but not great entry from Toei that, like many crime movies from the ’70s, hinges on the presumption of redeemability. Shirai is lost, and is a danger to all those around him, but with luck and love he could become a good person. Needless to say, this is a retro concept today, in the age of non-forgiveness, and the belief that punishment must be decisive, vengeful, and usually permanent. For that reason it's interesting to watch the filmmakers here weigh Shirai's potential value. And it's also interesting to see how the cop Tsunehiko threatens to be corrupted by his hatred for Shirai. But these themes are not new, and exploring them as perfunctorily as Boso sekkusu-zoku does is a fatal flaw, in our view. More plot, more depth, more stuntwork, and more commitment across the board would have helped immensely. Still, though, it's worth a watch. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
It's a bold color but in samurai movies everyone who's anyone wears it.
The above poster was made for the samurai thriller Bôhachi bushidô: Sa burai, known in English as Bohachi Bushido - The Villain. Gorô Ibuki plays a mid-1600s samurai named Kyushi-Issho who goes to work for a gang called the Bohachi that kidnap women from across Japan to sell them into sexual slavery. This gang is uniquely cruel, which suits Kyushi-Issho just fine. He's cruel too. He chops off numerous arms and heads, and generally paints walls red wherever he goes. Enter Reiko Ike, one of the stars of Toei Company's pinky violence genre, as Monkmatsu, who procures women for the gang. When she meets the samurai sparks fly, but she learns that Kyushi-Issho isn't exactly all there.
Their gang is soon arrayed against a rival group, and the tensions come to a frothy head. The conflict is resolved via a blood drenched final battle—a common motif in these films, the same way a final duel is standard in so many American westerns. The nihilistic Kyushi-Issho is fond of saying that to live is hell, yet death is also hell. Somehow, though, he always finds the will make a choice between giving up and going on. For life may be hell, but better the hell you know. Bôhachi bushidô: Sa burai is blades, blood, and boobs done with style, well worth a watch. It premiered in Japan today in 1974.
You know what the ceiling needs? A splash of red. You know what that wall needs? A splash of red. You know what her make-up needed? A splash of red. I like red. I shall paint the entire house this color. Yes. Just as I envisioned. Why stop inside the house? When this woman is torn in half she'll paint the entire yard red.
And now, Reiko and Co.
And lastly, the standard promo poster, as opposed to tateken size at top.
They don't make happy music but it'll stick with you for a long time.
Above, a Toei Company promo photo for Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi, aka Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, featuring one of the great girl gangs of pinku cinema—comprising, counterclockwise from upper right, Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Masami Soda, Chiyoko Kazama, and Yumiko Katayama. We have some beautiful material on this flick, here, here, and here. It premiered today in 1973.
That whole prison rehabilitation thing doesn't seem to be working.
Well, this completes the collection of posters we have for Zeroka no onna: Akai wappa, aka Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, starring Miki Sugimoto as a vigilante cop released from prison to take on a gang of kidnappers. We've shown you the limited edition poster panted by Toru Shinohara, and the tateken sized promo. This is the standard sized poster and finishes up all the promo material we have on this iconic film. Don't worry, though. We have more on Sugimoto and even some rare promo images of her never before seen online. We'll get to those later.
Katayama finds herself with too much skin in the game.
Above you see two posters for the Japanese movie Tokugawa irezumi-shi: Seme jigoku, which is known in English as Inferno of Torture, and, occasionally, Hell's Tattooers. We aren't going to get too deeply into the film. It's where Japanese cinema delves into bondage and tattoo fetish layered with gore, and deals with two Edo-era master tattooists who play out a bitter rivalry on the skin of Yumiko Katayama, as well as other unfortunates. If you can tolerate the frontloaded blood and torture, the latter two thirds of the movie may be worth watching for the tattoos, which verge on magical rather than merely ornate. The set design and Teruo Ishii's direction are good too. The tateken sized promo at top is rare, if not even nonexistent online until this very moment, so we thought we'd share it. Tokugawa irezumi-shi: Seme jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1969. Below you see Katayama in a nice pose, untattooed.
They're planning to make a sizable withdrawal.
Above is an alternate poster for the bank heist flick Suke Yakuza, aka Female Yakuza Convict, which premiered in Japan today in 1974 and starred Reiko Ike and Yoko Horikoshi. We still haven't tracked down the movie, and since we know of no other promos than the four—including this one—we've now shared, if we ever do find this we won't be able to write about it because we'll have no art to pair with a write-up. Unless, of course, there's yet a fifth poster out there. But we doubt it. So consider this rare horizontally oriented version the last you'll hear from us about this film.
Cold steel is fine but hot lead is a hell of a lot more efficient.
This poster was made for the classic Tomisaburô Wakayama gangster flick Kapone no shatei yamato damashi, known in English as A Boss with the Samurai Spirit. It's the third one we've found for the movie, and as you already know from our previous posts, these round promos are rare. They were made only by Toei Company, as far as we know, and only for a few years during the late 1960s and early ’70s. We have others we'll get to later. For now, see two more examples here and here, and a third in this group. Also, you can see the other two Kapone posters here and here.
New main ingredient, same old Female Prisoner Scorpion.
We've already shared two posters for Yumi Takigawa's women-in-prison pinky violence flick Shin joshuu sasori: 701-gô, aka New Female Prisoner Scorpion: 701, which premiered today in 1976. Above is the slightly different tateken sized poster, added here for the sake of completeness. The film is a reboot of the original Female Prisoner Scorpion series starring Meiko Kaji, and most consider it to be of lesser quality than the first four films, but quality is a relative term in pinku. Some would say all the films are bad. Not us. But some would say that. Bonus material: a Yumi promo image below. And you can see the other posters here and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect
Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
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