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Terrifying Girls’ High School series

October 29, 2009

The Terrifying Girls’ High School series (1972-1973)

Hitting the Toei theaters in the midst of their second Pinky Violence wave (preceded by Teruo Ishii’s period movies in the late 1960’s) Terrifying Girls’ High School movies were basically a high school variation of the Sukeban girl gang movies which ran from 1971 to 1974. The main difference was that the girl bosses would now wear school uniform, and the villains would include corrupt high corrupt school officials rather than just ordinary yakuza. The opening installment, Violent Women’s Classroom (1972), stars Miki Sugimoto as a heroine who must fight Ema Ryoko’s ruthless girls for the supremacy of the school. Reiko Ike co-stars as a sukeban who has not yet decided her side. This was the basic casting also in most of the Sukeban films, where Ike and Sugimoto would take turns playing the heroine / guest star. Poor Ema Ryoko was destined for villain roles and fight scenes where her shirt gets ripped for life.

Violent Women’s Classroom features little if any deviations from the genre conventions. It’s an enjoyable, fast paced exploitation film full of violent girls beating each other and making fools of their senile teachers. Typical to Suzuki, there’s a lot of humor included, and none of it can be described as very sophisticated. Nudity is plenty as well, but thankfully there are no long sex scenes interrupting the minimal storyline – something director Norifumi Suzuki has been found guilty of a few times before. Technical execution is of relatively high standard, as expected from a Toei production. The stylish theme song is performed by supporting actress Rika Sudo, and was re-used in the superior sequel, Lynch Law Classroom.

Lynch Law Classroom (1973), Norifumi Suzuki’s second attempt with the Terrifying Girls’ High School series, counts as one of the high points of the genre. Compared to its predecessor the follow up is a much darker film. Occasional silly comedy now walks in hand to hand with torture scenes that make reference to the Vietnam War! At the same time the film manages to be wildly entertaining (Reiko Ike’s introduction scene with a motorcycle is a small genre benchmark) and even beautifully shot at times. Dull moments are almost entirely missing for the film. The primary casting is the same as before (Sugimoto as heroine, Ike as guest star, Ryoko as villain), with Tsunehiko Watase’s sunglass wearing lone wolf yakuza being the most notable addition. The film’s most satisfying scene by far is the ending, which is high school anarchism at its best.

After Lynch Law Classroom the series lost two important talents; actress Miki Sugimoto and director Norifumi Suzuki. In Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) Reiko Ike carries the lead role, leaving the film without a strong guest star. Probably standing out most (and not due to their acting talents) are the American actors who play evil drug dealers and rapists. Yes, this is yet another film that does not improve cross cultural understanding. Director Masahiro Shimura is no first timer in the field of exploitation cinema. He worked as an assistant director in the previous two films, and was also involved in screenwriting several Toei action films such as The Street Fighter (1974). His directorial filmography is short, but perhaps for a reason. While not a bad movie, Delinquent Convulsion Group is not among the genre’s best films, and this would appear to be largely Shimura’s fault. His direction is a bit sloppy, lacking the intensity and visual style of Suzuki’s best movies. Delinquent Convulsion Group is mainly saved some memorable scenes such as the sailor suit and machine gun finale.

The Terrifying Girls’ High School series ends with another Shimura effort. Unfortunately Animal Courage (1973) is the weakest of the four films. It suffers from similar problems as the previous film; Shimura directing features no sharp edges, and there are no strong supporting characters (although lead star Reiko Ike almost becomes one). The storyline is all over the place, and gives more room to sex scenes than action. There are visual highlights, but they tend to be inconsistent, and often the follow up doesn’t live up to build up. The soundtrack is somewhat restrained but does feature one rather stylish spaghetti western tune. Another ear pleaser is the language mix on offer; you’ll get to hear the girls speak French and English on language lessons. Yes, we are trying hard to find positives here…

Somewhat interestingly the film spends a considerable amount of time mocking Christianity (Yankee Mark Darling returning as a dirty priest), immediately making one suspect Suzuki had his fingers involved with the screenplay. Another cast member one might recognize is Harumi Tajima, who later made a rather memorable beach run in the final Sukeban movie (1974). Finally, and literally so, the film’s very last scene is quite excellent. Animal Courage may not have been the best way to end the series, but the last 30 seconds couldn’t have been better (rviewer note: it’s been approximately 2 months since I viewed this film and wrote this review, and I can no longer remember how the film ends).

Verdict:

Violent Women’s Classroom (Japan, 1972) – 3.5/5
Lynch Law Classroom (Japan, 1973) – 4/5
Delinquent Convulsion Group (Japan, 1973) – 2.5/5
Animal Courage (Japan, 1973) – 2/5

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