h1

Recently seen movies #81

August 26, 2008

Delinquent Girl Boss: Ballad of Yokohama Hoods (Japan, 1971) – 4/5

As the title suggests, and appart from the usual reform school intro, the third film takes place in Yokohama. The harbour town comes a fresh change from the usual Tokyo City views. Similarly to the other films in the series, Yokohama Hoods begins with Rika (Reiko Oshida) looking for work after being released by the the freedom stealing authorities that always seem to catch her sometime between the end of the previous film and the beginning of the next. And, as usual, she soon finds a new home under an ex-yakuza and tries honest living. But things are bound to go wrong.

Director Yamaguchi stumbled a bit with the second film, but now he returns the series to top form. The storyline is better written, there’s more music and characters are more interesting. Veteran baddie Asao Koike gives his usual solid villain performance, with some nice bits in the end, but it’s Yukie Kagawa who really steals the show. Unlike in the rest of the films here she plays Oshida’s opponent. And it’s a complete success. Kagawa, as a leader of a girl biker gang, dressed in black leather and always carrying a whip with her, is quite a sight.

Reiko Oshida is her usual self in the lead role; charming in other words. There are no strong male characters in the film (both Tsunehiko Watase and Tatsuo Umemiya are having their week off) although Hayato Tani and Tonpei Hidari return in suporting roles. A bit amusingly Hidari (the film’s comic relief) has been coupled with pinky violence bad mama Yoko Mihara, who somehow manages to keep her clothes on throughout the film (although her dress is constantly one inch from falling down). Speaking of which, there’s no nudity in the film; the concept is strong enough to work without added eye candy.

Ballad of Yokohama Hoods reminds a bit of Nikkatsu’s late 1970 Stray Cat Rock entry Machine Animal (released just 4 months prior to this film). Both films share the seaside setting, biker gangs, musical performances, and also themes of foreign people in Japan. Just like Meiko Kaji’s gang in Machine Animal, Oshida with her friends here ends up helping a US army deserter. The similarities however are not overly striking and by no means hurt the film. The Stray Cat Rock films were also slightly more serious in dealing with these issues, while Yokohama Hoods aims purely at entertainment values and doesn’t attempt to make any social points.

Yokohama Hoods holds up throughout, but the real bomb comes right at the end. The big action finale, packed with motorcycles, machine guns and samurai swords, is the most satisfying ending in the series. Worthless to Confess comes as a close second, although all things considered it’s a slightly better movie. Another area where Yokohama Hoods has the edge over Worthless to Confess is the theme song; it’s by Reiko Oshida herself. It may not be one of her best songs, but it’s always nice to have the leading lady perform the theme, especially when it’s someone like Oshida who can actually sing.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: