Over the previous month or two, I watched the various "Pinky Violence" movies recently released by Panik House Entertainment. These movies were particularly inspirational to me creatively and were excellently packaged and wonderful to have available in the U.S., so it seems worth consolidating at repeating my thoughts on these movies.
Sex & Fury is awesome! It's just pure exploitation magic.
It stars Reiko Ike, who is my new object of cinematic lust, as Inoshika Ochô, a wronged woman, seeking revenge against each of the people responsible for the death of her father.
Let's just say, this movie has a scene where Ochô gets out of the bathtub and takes out a whole gang with her sword, completely naked, in the snow. What could ever be better than that? I'm not sure what I could say to make anyone want to see this who wasn't drawn in by that. But I will note that it has a strange poker match between Ike and Christina Lindberg, star of the harrowing Thriller: A Cruel Picture, which is quite intriguing, even if it's not as suspenseful as intended.
It is an exploitation movie that delivers on its exploitation elements in spades and still manages to be a solid movie all around. Director Norifumi Suzuki was nearly obsessed with zooms, which I, for one, found to be utterly charming, and Lindberg's command of English, or lack thereof, was offputting at first. But ultimately it has its own rhythm and manages to succeed at being itself.
The sequel, Female Yakuza Tale, is so over-the-top in its offensiveness as to be almost numbing to me. After watching the commentary, I was drawn to some interesting touches by director Teruo Ishii and it made me intrigued to see more by him in the future.
Ike reprises the Ochô role and is still tremendous. The movie, on the other hand, tries to be everything. There's broad comedy, bad taste humor, ever worse taste action and while there are elements I found amusing, I can't say they ever blended very well. Each of the elements undermines the others rather than enhancing it.
Mind you, Ike is super hot, there's plenty of interesting visual moments and a climax that's almost amazing, but the confusing yet ultimately simple plot and the audacious yet ultimately meaningless offensiveness make it hard to like the movie as a whole.
Panik House has also released a four movie box set called The Pinky Violence Collection.
The first movie in the collection, Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, was my favorite. This movie also stars the stunning Ms. Ike, which only partially explains that status. How can the Internet not be littered with naked pictures of her? I suppose if I could look for them with Japanese characters, I might have better luck...
It's a rather peculiar blend of exploitation subgenres, starting with a women's prison movie, slowly unfolding the father-killing/gang rape-revenge movie and somehow still managing to fold in a chick buddy action movie in there. Surprisingly, it manages to not only tell each of those stories solidly but folds and spins them together with decent skill.
The visuals, including but not limited to the prodigious nudity, are solid through most of it, although some may require you to appreciate a well-used zoom as much as I do. It's also quite well-paced, although some may balk at the extraordinarily long test-of-endurance and will prison yard catfight that I thought kicked ass and carried some solid emotional weight, but would understand that some people would not see it.
Interestingly, it's also fairly charming for the genre. Little of the brutality takes place onscreen, although it threatens to a few times and does make it all the way there once, and the women united to kick ass I.M.F.-style is pretty sweet and does get a nice, if obvious, twist.
The second film in the collection is Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess, of which I have the least to say.
First of all, it wasn't nearly as "pink" or violent as I would have preferred. I suspect it's trying to harder to be a good movie, which I can't say that the effort makes it better than - or even as good as - Criminal Woman: Killing Melody or Sex & Fury in a purely cinematic sense. I probably wasn't helped by the estranged father relationship, which was more depressing than moving for me right now.
The third movie is Girl Boss Guerilla. I likewise have only a limited amount to say about this one. It probably sits comfortably in the middle for me in terms of enjoyment. It begins as a biker movie, but ultimately becomes a reasonably straight Yakuza movie about the girl bike gang and their war with a the local Yakuza.
That's not a putdown. It's certainly a solid Yakuza movie with Ike carrying fair amount of weight as the girl whose brother is in the local Yakuza gang and the complexities of their relationship. It simply a good movie and lacks the cinematic and story audacity of some of the more exciting entries listed here.
For example, the Panik House page describes the fourth film in this series as follows, "Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom opens with a female school clique bloodletting a fellow student amidst verbal abuse and harsh accusation. The terrified girl breaks free of the life-draining vacuum syringe and races to the roof, where her tormentors force her off the ledge and stomp on her fingers until she falls to her death. This is all before the main titles! And that clique? They aren't even the real bad girls! This is reform school, and the new crop of inmates (whose apprehension we witness) includes Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. This is like Mean Girls via Caged Heat as written by Jess Franco and directed by Russ Meyer. All those Takashi Miike fans need to check out this film."
I don't have any argument there. I'm not sure I would have put the italics around the "need" Miike fans have for watching this film. Of course, I'd probably say "ought to", which wouldn't make me much of a salesperson, would it?
The thing is, I think the relentless audacity of something like 1 the Killer, not to mention that of the manga on which it is based, owes a certain debt to the audacity of the films that came before it. And this film, with its blending of horror stylings with the more common reform school girls format, would be an obvious antecedent. I just think overplaying that would disappoint.
I think the obvious parallel that's missed in that description is Allan Arkush's Rock 'n' Roll High School. Mind you, you can't take those other balls, Franco, Meyer, Miike, Mean Girls, Caged Heat... That's just another ball being thrown with those.
Mind you, it's not brilliantly all of those things... or necessarily brilliantly any of those things. But such a combination much be celebrated for even being competently all of those things, and I think this manages, for the most part, to be quite a bit better than that. Mind you, I'm still in love with director Suzuki's use of the zoom lens, although it's not quite as magnificently pronounced as in Sex & Fury.
It's a very strange mix of elements, at times very, I want to say "operatic", however, in his commentary, Chris D. calls it the "outlandish tall tale" quality, which does seem to fit this story better. It's also a broad political cum societal satire, and an amazingly harsh one at that. Blend in some, but surprisingly little, broad comedy. A good amount of sleazy sex and S&M-styled torture. Kick-ass action. And somehow still get some sincere performances and poignant moments well beyond what Americans would ever attempt in a movie in this style... and you have something... Well, not quite like anything I've ever seen before.
This is rough around the edges, lumpy in the middle, not quite sure of itself. It's the dork in the back of the classroom who doesn't talk much. Awkward, different, but possibly smarter and a lot more dangerous than most of the rest of the class.
Overall, I'm very happy that these movies are being found and released in such excellent packaging. The films as a whole are fascinating and exciting on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that much moreso than in American exploitation films, the people involved seem interested in taking artistic risks and in grounding the characters in a basic humanity that makes nearly all of the human moments in them work.
I hope that Panik House is having at least the success from this that would justify producing plenty more of these sets in the future, as I'm finding them not only wonderfully entertaining, but also very creatively inspiring.