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Onsen Ponbiki Jochu

August 17, 2018

Onsen Ponbiki Jochu (温泉ポン引女中) (1969)

The leaps of development in loosening censorship, and pushing the envelope in terms of what was acceptable in a major studio film, were huge in the late 60s and early 70s Japan. The first Hot Springs Geisha (1968) film, a harmless resort sex comedy and one of Teruo Ishii’s dullest efforts, only managed to sneak in one or two brief topless shots. This sequel, which hit the screens 12 months later, by first time director Misao Arai, manages more in its opening credits scene alone, which consists entirely of a peeping Tom zooming into bathing girls’ breasts for the viewer’s pleasure.

The somewhat serviceable storyline is about an elder sister (Mitsuko Aoi) employed by a ‘sexual-services-ok’ hot spring coming at odds with her cool girl sister (virginal Ishii muse Masumi Tachibana) who establishes a competing club with her hoodlum man (Shinrichiro Hayashi). Of course it’s not long until gangster Toru Abe also wants his share of the pie.

Pretty girls in bikinis. And quite often without bikini. What’s not to like? For once, the formula actually works. It’s a skin flick in and out, but thankfully it’s one with an enjoyably laidback swing and drenched 60s aesthetics. And just when you’re about to get a bit tired of it, the film throws at you a really bizarre nude party scene with Tatsumi Hijikata’s Butoh dancers! Which is soon followed by a super violent shocker of a scene that makes you wonder if the filmmakers suddenly realized they should have gone the Joy of Torture (1968) route instead.

Yes, while the comparisons to Russ Mayer’s masterpiece Beneath the Valley of the Dolls (1970) may be unjustified quality wise, you cannot quite help but to see some parallels here. And yes, director Arai did work on The Joy of Torture (as writer), as did half of the other people involved in the production, in case you were wondering.

Not exactly a great film overall, and it does have its boring bits here and there, but plenty more fun that you might expect. This is as good if not better than the two Norifumi Suzuki directed instalments (parts 4 and 5) which followed with a bit of delay.

Finally for a bit of name dropping, the lovely and underappreciated Yumiko Katayama who had starred in Ishii’s Inferno of Torture plays one of the hot spring girls. And the opening reels features everyone’s favourite toruko Osman Yusuf (Toei’s man to go for whenever they needed a sleazy foreigner) as one of the customers.

It’s worth noting that while this film is the second part in the Hot Springs Geisha series, it’s also billed as the 7th film in the Eros series in the original trailer. The first Hot Springs Geisha film, in turn, was part 2 in the Abnormal Love series which had been initiated with History of the Shogun’s Harem (1968) and continued with The Joy of Torture (1969), Orgies of Edo (1969), Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love (1969) and Inferno of Torture (1969). It’s possible that the Eros series and the better known Abnormal Love are the same thing, and Toei just decided to alter the title on the run.

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