Archive for the ‘Cult & Exploit. (new)’ Category

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Himalayan Wanderer

April 2, 2017

Himalayan Wanderer (Himalaya no mushuku: Shinzo yaburi no yaro domo) (1961)

A very loose sequel to the wonderfully nutty The Big Gamblers of The Amazon. Unfortunately this one is not half as much fun. It has the same lead cast, including Chiezo Kataoka, but that’s where the similarities end. In this film Kataoka (not a gambler this time) finds a yeti in the Himalaya and brings him to Japan. Not much interesting happens since bringing a yeti out to the public is no easy task and we end up spending too much time with a fake-yeti (Eitaro Shindo). Reporters and gangster businessmen alike are after the real yeti, who spends most of his time sleeping in Kataoka’s bathtub. A poor man’s King Kong with a lot of filler material between the relatively good opening and closing parts.

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Kanto Woman Yakuza

April 2, 2017

Kanto Woman Yakuza (Kanto onna yakuza) (1968)

Nikkatsu Noir meets Girl Gang Films at Daiei. Michio Yasuda, one of the studio’s few female action stars,  leads a group of three girls who make their living playing on the clubs. They soon run into trouble with the yakuza. The film has a phenomenally energetic opening with great music, fantastic cinematography and Yasuda kicking ass. It’s just a shame the storyline gradually takes a more conservative turn with emphasis shifted towards the male characters, who do the dirty work in the climax. It’s still a very stylish film with superb cinematography and amazing moments where director Akira Inoue sets scenes to a blazing rock score. The film also does great job capturing the streets and clubs populated by the lower class. This is a small discovery, although more noirish and down to earth than the likes of Stray Cat Rock that would make a passable comparison point.

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Oh Wonderful Utamaro

April 2, 2017

Oh Wonderful Utamaro (Shikijo Toruko Nikki) (1974).

Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi was best known for martial arts (Karate Bull Fighter) and Pinky Violence (Delinquent Girl Boss) films but he also directed a couple of erotic films in the mid 70s. This one is a mildly amusing sex comedy mainly remembered for starring American actress Sharon Kelly aka Colleen Brennan.

Kelly plays an American nymphomaniac who literally falls off the sky (with a parachute). She’s supposed to be picked up by a local yakuza gang, but “Porno Broker” Tatsuo Umemiya and his pal Gajiro Sato gets to her first. Umemiya then makes her work in his Turkish bath, which she doesn’t mind at all. In fact, she does eight men on her first night and comes asking for more. Poor Umemiya has trouble “getting it up” (or to be more precise, it usually gets up on the wrong moment, e.g. when bad guys are trying to kill him) and can’t help.

Kelly is obviously the main attraction here, whether you mean it literally or as a cinematic curiosity. It was not entirely rare to see foreign stars in Japanese sexploitation films in the 70’s though. Toei also imported Sandra Julien (Modern Porno Tale, 1971; Tokugawa Sex Ban, 1972) from France, Christina Lindberg (Sex and Fury, 1973; Journey to Japan, 1973) from Sweden, and even Harry Reems (Harry and the Geisha Girl, 1978) from USA. Nikkatsu even commissioned some Roman Porno films to be shot in Sweden by Japanese filmmakers utilizing fully Swedish casts.

Oh Wonderful Utamaro was Kelly’s only Japanese film. She was already a familiar face for Japanese audiences thanks to Teenage Bride (1970), A Scream in the Streets (1973) and The Dirty Mind of Young Sally (1973), which had been released in Japan in 1973-1974. She had also been covered in TV variety show called 11 PM quite a few times.

The film itself is a pretty ridiculous affair with hippies, yakuzas, lots of (boring) sex, silly comedy, Kelly, and a bit of extremely mediocre action at the end. It’s somewhat less fun than it sounds like. The best supporting character is an English speaking hippie dad taking care of a baby and having sex (at the same time) with Pinky Violence co-star Harumi Tajima who was probably more famous for her large breasts than her acting skills. Speaking of English, Kelly reads her lines in her native tongue with few sentences of (understandable) Japanese here and there. The rest of the cast speaks Japanese with a few sentences of (understandable) English here and there. Nice.

A fun curiosity, but don’t kill yourself if you never get to see it.

I saw the film at a Kazuhiko Yamaguchi retrospective in Tokyo in 2015. The screening was preceded by a video greeting from Kelly. She recalled the ridiculous costumes, the language barrier thanks to which she had no idea who she was supposed to be shooting at when they put a machine gun in her hands, and the fact that she found director Yamaguchi more attractive than her co-star Umemiya. Umemiya famously disagreed and claimed in an old interview that he and Kelly got along so well they were having real sex in the film. The claim most likely has no base in reality.

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Tag

August 22, 2015

Tag (Real onigokko) (2015)

Sion Sono kills more high school girls than a medium size natural disaster in this often energetic and amusingly over-the-top, but uneven horror film. The story is loosely based on the popular manhunt franchise by Yusuke Yamada (already adapted into 5 other movies and two series), in which a man named Sato finds himself a parallel universe where all people named Sato have been ordered to be captured or executed on spot by killers hired by the government. Sono, however, goes his own way with not a single Sato to be found in the film, and brings the film closer to his own Suicide Club and certain David Lynch twists than Yamada’s straight-forward dystopias. In Sono’s film Japanese high school girls find themselves targeted by someone – or something – that starts slaughtered them in epic fashion.

Tag is bound to anger the more sensitive viewers with its endless schoolgirl splatter, although it also offers quite an interesting commentary and criticism on the Japanese schoolgirl phenomena. In one of the key lines the protagonist utters “stop playing with us [high school girls]” which is clearly aimed at not only characters but viewers as well. Indeed, a notable part of Japanese entertainment industry from family movies to music industry and adult videos is built on the popularity of school girls. That being said, most of the criticism here is probably more comparable with the anti-violence message in Death Wish 3 than anything else, and even the amount of panty shots Sono inserts in the film roughly equals to the number of punks killed by Charles Bronson in Death Wish 3.

The all female cast – there isn’t even a single male seen during the first 70 minutes – is solid as well. Sono is consistently good with young actresses, bringing the best out of them in nearly every film he makes. The handsome heart knob Takumi Saito appears in the film’s only notable male role – a nice shock aimed his Japanese female fans who know nothing about his involvement in racy pictures like this; and indeed, he’s not even credited in the advertising materials or in the end credits.

Like many recent Sono films, Tag suffers from some lame and distracting CGI effects. However, the film also features some nice practical gore courtesy of Yoshihiro Nishimura, and fantastic camerawork with lots of aerial shots done with drones. There’s also a pretty atmospheric score by composed by Takaakira Goto, the lead guitarist for the instrumental rock band MONO. The film’s official “image song” by Glim Spanky doesn’t seem to be in the film at all – and all the better for it. It was used for na on-demand mini-series released online around the same time as the film, featuring three episodes directed by Hajime Ohata (Henge), Eisuke Naito (Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club) and Kayoko Asakura (It’s a Beautiful Day).

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Yubari 2015: Use the Eyeballs + Kim

August 22, 2015

Use the Eyeballs! (Hana Medama Kotaro no Koi) (2015)

2015 was the 4th year in the row Naoya Tashiro has had his new film screened in Yubari. Most of his earlier works (e.g. Naked Sister, 2013) were amusing short movies. Use the Eyeballs is his first movie to be shown in the competition series. It’s also his first not to feature any kind of horror or splatter elements. In fact, it’s a bizarre love comedy about a bullied schoolboy Kotaro. His problem is the eyeballs – not the normal pair, but the additional pair that pops up from his nose whenever he gets nervous. Needless to say, girls usually run away screaming.

Tashiro is a fanboy director whose films are full of references (e.g. Kotaro gets self-confidence by watching The Toxic Avenger on VHS) and insider jokes. There’s also an amazing cameo at the end of the film. It’s by no means great cinema, and some of the jokes miss the target (e.g. Tokyo Tribe parody), but it’s pretty fun and oddly sympathetic overall. Supporting roles are full of familiar faces like Eihi Shiina (mom) and Asami (evil office ninja) as well as small cameos by people like actor Demo Tanaka and photographer/filmmaker Norman England.

Kim (Fuzakerun ja neyo) (2014)

A terrific, hard hitting and intelligent medium-length film (approx 40 min) by film school student Shunpei Shimizu, who proves to be a more competent director than most mainstream professionals. The film follows an injured boxer who hates Zainichi Koreans, whom he feels are exploiting the Japanese society and giving him a bad name – even though he’s the worst type of Zainichi himself. Unable to fight in the ring, he vents his frustration on the streets by beating people and burns his social welfare money on a housewife-gone-part-time-prostitute who is dreaming of better life.

It’s a thought provoking, technically competent, and uncompromising film. Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tokyo Fist comes to mind a few times; however, Shimizu refuses the over-the-top antics of Tsukamoto and goes for utter, yet intelligent, bleakness. There is neither happy ending nor epic downfall waiting for its sad anti-hero. The film’s Japanese title, Fuzakerun ja neyo, comes from a 1970s rock song by the band Brain Police, effectively used as theme song here.

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Yubari 2015: Haman + Makeup Room

August 22, 2015

Haman (2015)

A high school girl’s first sexual experience comes to an abrupt end when the teeth in her vagina bite the boyfriend’s penis off. It’s not exactly a sophisticated premise, but debut director Tetsuya Okabe (former AD for Takashi Miike and Yoshihiro Nishimura) has a few surprises in his back pocket. Not only is the film pretty well acted, it is actually a moody, melancholic horror drama about a lonely girl who cannot control her body and knows she can never fall in love without endangering other people’s lives. The film never falls for idiotic post modernism or humour, nor does it contain any kind of vengeance / slasher element. On the minus side, the film’s CGI blood is absolutely atrocious. Amusingly enough, the film won the Hokkaido Governor’s Award, who happens to be a woman in her 60s (that that there’s anything wrong with that).

Makeup Room (Make Room) (2015)

This year’s Yubari Grand Prix went to AV veteran Kei Morikawa, whose resume contains more than a 1000 porn films. Makeup Room, one of his first mainstream releases, is an utterly hilarious look behind the scenes of a porn shoot. The movie, which takes place entirely in one room, follows a makeup artist who is trying to prepare the female stars on time for the shoot that is taking place in the next room. However, the day escalates into an apocalyptic farce when everything imaginable goes wrong. Lead star Aki Morita (Henge) aside, the cast is made up of real AV stars.

It’s a very funny, well made film that gets funnier scene by scene. And yes, there’s nudity, although no on-screen sex since the camera never leaves the makeup room. From the typically cynical Western perspective, however, it is surprising how the AV industry is presented in a very positive light: chaotic shoots aside, people are nice and working is rather fun.

While in Yubari, Director Morikawa said he never even dreamed of winning the main price, let alone international recognition. That’s exactly what the film is now heading for with UK’s Third Window Films prepping it for UK release and pushing it to international film festivals. He and his stars have already presented the film at foreign festivals for example in Italy, and received a good bit of publicity in local medias.

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Yubari 2015: Hentaidan + Damager

August 22, 2015

Hentaidan ( 2015)

This is the filthiest film Noboru Iguchi has ever done (excluding his AV work). The medium-length movie (approx. 50 min) brings together all kinds of perverts from shit lovers to piss drinkers. It starts all silly and ridiculous, e.g. with a segment about a man who’s dreaming about a school girl idol’s crap, but gets gradually darker and darker. Towards the end we get a suicide bus and a scene where a woman is slowly hammered to death by a pervert who gets sexually aroused by the sound of breaking bones. Though darkly humorous throughout, it was in scenes like that where even the hardened Yubari audience went totally silent. Impossible to evaluate as a movie, but it certainly is an experience, and not for everyone. Think of John Waters with an Iguchi spin. It just might be the best thing Iguchi has done in nearly a decade.

Damager (Jisho senshi Damager) (2015)

Noboru Iguchi is on fire for a change. This 25 minute half-fiction was born when an ordinary Japanese salaryman Yu Kazama approached Iguchi to realize his lifelong dream to star in a superhero film. Iguchi though the idea was great and would help Kazama find his first ever girlfriend. After all, what’s cooler: to have a profile on a dating site, or to be able to tell the girls you starred in a superhero movie? Iguchi brought together his usual team, had a superhero suit designed, and wrote a theme song. Kazama paid the bills.

The film opens with footage from Iguchi’s office before proceeding to the fiction film which stars Kazama as Damager, a superhero whose superpowers can only be activated via pain (e.g. 40 punches in the stomach to travel back in time). He must now save a pretty high school girl (Airi Yamamoto) from her murderous boyfriend (Demo Tanaka). It’s silly and cheap, but also fun and sympathetic! The film finally cuts back to Iguchi’s office where Kazama receives a copy of the completed movie.

While not exactly a masterwork, the film works perfectly as a short movie when it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It was also an amazing live experience in Yubari with Iguchi, Kazama and the rest of the cast in attendance. The audience was cheering for Damager (almost unheard of with the typically dead silent Japanese audiences) and singing the theme song together with the staff. Kazama, moved by the audience’s enthusiasm, promised to finance a sequel as well. Let’s home Mr. Kazama is a man of his word – and also that he finds a cute girlfriend soon.