Want to discuss this? GirlsWithGuns.org: The Forum - now open!
"Pinky violence" is a genre of cinema that flourished in Japan during the 1970's. It was spawned from the "pink film" genre of sexploitation movies, which started the previous decade with Satoru Kobayashi's Flesh Market, which grossed over 100 million yen on a budget of just eight million. It was originally the domain mostly of independent producers and studios, but as the Japanese market became tougher, due to competition from imported movies and other forms of entertainment, major studios like Nikkatsu and Toei moved in to the field. While the former took the more traditional route, Toei opted to merge sex with the other staple of exploitation cinema, violence.
But what makes them of interest here, is their focus on women as the central characters, active participants in the violence, rather than simply being passive victims. Frequently, the heroines are sukeban, a term which means "delinquent girl" or "bad girl", often operating in conjunction with, or leading, other girls in a gang, This may form part of a larger Yakuza enterprise, or work entirely independently. Sometimes, the focus is on obtaining revenge or justice for some past crime, whether against the girl or someone she loves. The ratio of sex to violence did vary, as did the setting: while most had a contemporary setting, films like Lady Snowblood took the themes are ran them out against a period backdrop.
While the 'golden era' of the genre is generally considered to be in the seventies, the influences and general themes continue on. They can be seen in the likes of the Female Prisoner Scorpion and Zero Woman series, and arguably, even in the new wave of Tokyo Gore movies, such as Mutant Girl Squad or Gothic & Lolita Psycho. We start by reviewing the four movies included in the box-set released by Panik House in December 2005. While it's now out of print, its contents remains available from various sources, and it's as good a place to begin as any. Further entries will be added during the coming months, with the movies listed in order of release date.
- Lady Snowblood 1 + 2
- Operation Pussycat
- Prisoner Maria: The Movie
- Scorpion Double Venom
- Scorpion's Revenge
- Sukeban Hunters
Delinquent Girl Boss:
Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)
[a.k.a. Tokyo Bad Girls]
Dir: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Star: Reiko Oshida, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yukie Kagawa, Bokuzen Hidari
Brief: Not very delinquent, and certainly not much of a boss.
This was my first true vintage "pinky violence" movie, though I had bumped against some fringe entries in the genre before e.g. Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, which I enjoyed and really must get round to reviewing for here some time. This one...not so much. It focuses on Rika (Oshida), who gets out of reform school, and gets a job as a 'companion' at a bar, where most of the girls have a similarly troubled background. The local Yakuza boss is sniffing around, and his path crosses Rika's after she (semi-unwittingly) helps a colleague steal some drugs from them. As a result, the house mother/bar owner, is on the hook for three million yen, plus interest.
It's hard to say exactly why I found this so disappointing. I did like Oshida's performance, as she has a kind of breezy delinquence that carries the film. However, most of the other characters (particularly the men) are little more than caricatures: witness the comic-relief gay character, while the Yakuza boss could have strayed straight from a Victorian melodrama, if only he had twirled his moustache a bit more. The plot doesn't go anywhere interesting, capping itself off with a battle in a pachinko parlour 0 and even here, the owner has to call on male help, in the shape of the man who murdered her father, but is now very, very sorry about it...
Including action sequences that are largely lamely staged and executed (the director would do a lot better when he got someone who could actually fight, like Sue Shiomi), plus just enough nudity to make Chris tut disapprovingly, without actually providing any cheap thrills, this looks and feels every one of its forty years. I suppose this might be the point, for a certain audience. But it fell far enough short of expectations that I was left suddenly rethinking my plans to have an entire section of the site dedicated to pinky violence.
Delinquent Girl Boss:
Worthless to Confess (1971)
Dir: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Star: Reiko Oshida, Yumiko Katayama, Junzaburo Ban
Brief: Not very violent, and certainly not pink.
When Rika (Oshida) gets out of reform school, she goes to visit her friend Midori (Katayama), and gets a job working in the garage belonging to Midori's father Muraki (Ban), even though Midori is estranged from him - except when she needs money to pay off her boyfriend's gambling debts to the local Yakuza under Boss Ohya (Nobuo Kaneko). Another friend of Rika's is working in an "art studio", doing nude modelling to support her sick husband, and still others are hostesses at the Ginza Girls cabaret, a dance-hall which Ohya's gang are also extorting for protection money. After Muraki has to take a loan using the garage as collateral to pay Ohya, Rika tries to offer herself as an alternative to the boss. This goes about as well as you'd expect, though there's a genuinely cool twist in which we find someone isn't quite who we seem. There's a tragic fatality, which sets the scene for all the girls to get together and take on Ohya's gang.
As you can tell, there's no shortage of plot going on here. However, the overall result is more like an overwrought Japanese soap-opera, with a lack of much delinquence, or indeed, real action of any kind from the girls, up until the last ten minutes. Indeed, there's very little exploitation present at all, with a surprising lack of nudity as well, though personally, this is less a concern. Reading various reviews elsewhere, there is a broad spectrum of opinion as to whether this makes it the best or the worst in the series. I tend to be somewhere in the middle: while I can appreciate the dramatic elements, and the two lead actresses are good in their roles, it's not what I expected at all, being too worthy, and completely lacking any sense of excess of transgression.
I'm definitely uncertain where the poster image comes from, although that may be because I had to look at it twice, since the first time I thought she was holding a yo-yo. Must have been some kind of residue from Sukeban Deka, I guess.
Girl Boss Guerilla (1972)
Dir: Norifumi Suzuki
Star: Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike, Michitaro Mizushimi
Brief: Faster pussycats who kill, kill...
This is more like it, right from the moment Sachiko (Sugimoto) rips open her top, revealing a heavily-tattooed breast, before she and her Red Helmet Gang of biker chicks kick the asses of another, male gang who are hassling them. It's clear that Sachiko deserves the title far more that the 'Delinquent Girl Boss'. She and her crew from Tokyo head off to Kyoto, where they face off against, and end up taking control of, the local girl gang - some of whom are none to happy by this invasion [Kyoto being the former capital, its residents seems to hold a grudge against those from Tokyo]. Sachiko ends up on the wrong side of the local Yakuza, one of whom has a sister, Nami (Ike), who is an independent free-agent girl gangster, affiliated with none, but kinda over-seeing all. Sachiko meets and falls for a boxer, Ichiro (Mizushimi), after he helps her girls out of a tough spot with the Yakuza, and follows him to a seaside resort where he is training. Needless to say, love does not quite conquer all.
I really like the two heroines here, who are just about everything I expected from the genre, combining toughness and beauty, savagery and tenderness. Both actresses are excellent, fleshing out (pun not intended...) what could easily have been no more than shallow stereotypes. What doesn't sit so well is the strange lurches in tone. Oh, look: here's a (supposedly) hilarious sequence where one of the girls catches VD from a priest, then deliberately passes it on to the Yakuza! Oh, hold my aching sides... Then, there's a bit of unintentional hilarity where a Japanese hippie sings a mournful lament to a dead friend, accompanied by his guitar - but the soundtrack is very clearly a piano. Barely have you finished rolling around the floor laughing hysterically at that, then there's a genuinely nasty torture sequence involving rather a lot of topless whipping, which appears to have strayed in from a very different movie entirely.
This inconsistency of approach makes for a rather jarring experience, as it switches gears like a badly-maintained Model T, and seems at odds with the female empowerment present in much of the film. However, this still remains a pleasing slab of exploitation for the not-easily offended. Below, you'll find what Youtube calls a 'trailer' but is really more a random selection of clippage; however, it'll still give you an idea of what to expect. The movie can be found, in its entirety, on Google Video.
Wandering Ginza Butterfly (1972)
Dir: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Star: Meiko Kaji, Tsunehiko Watase, Koji Nanbara, Tatsuo Umemiya
Brief: More suited for 'Cuties with Cues' than this site.
Nami is sent to jail for killing a Yakuza boss, and when she is released, returns to the Ginza district of Tokyo to live with her uncle, who runs a pool hall. She gets a job as a hostess in a bar, with the help of her new friend Ryuji (Watase), but the quiet life doesn't last for long, even as she tries to help the widow of the man she killed - whose petition on behalf of Nami is what helped lead to her early release. For the local mob, in the shape of Okada (Nanbara) and his gang, are sniffing around the bar, seeking to take it over. To settle things, Nami offers to take on Okada's champion at billiards, a challenge the gangster readily accepts, not realizing he has just been hustled, and that Nami is no mean player herself. Can she win - and even if she does, will Okada live up to his side of the bet?
While certainly fitting in to the overall themes of the genre, with a significant emphasis on revenge and its execution, this is another entry which downplays the more exploitative angles in favor of the dramatic elements. Put another way, if you want tits 'n' gore, look elsewhere. If, however, you want ten minutes of billiards with your heroine unconvincingly trying to imitate Paul Newman in The Hustler [a film whose poster can be seen lurking in the background during the match], this will be right up your alley. It's only at the finale that this delivers; with the ever-loyal Ryuji at her side, Nami ploughs into the Yakuza gang's HQ, to interrupt their group porno viewing, by releasing some of their other body fluids.
While Kaji possesses some undeniable presence, the script doesn't live up to expectations, meandering off in directions that prove neither necessary nor interesting, and the billiards match - even with its bizarre drug-withdrawal subplot - is a poor substitute for action. The film was (inexplicably) successful enough commercially to lead to a sequel, which includes Sonny Chiba playing a comedic pimp - I sense this is likely not the best use of his talents, and won't exactly be rushing to include it in this article.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)
Dir: Atsushi Mihori
Star: Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Yumiko Katayama, Ryoji Hayama
Brief: Hell hath no fury like a woman... Let's leave it at that, shall we?
With a bit more of an intricate plot than most entries, this is the tale of revenge served cold. The Oba Yakuza gang shoot one of their flunkies up with drugs and dump his dead body in a ditch. His daughter, Maki (Ike), tries to stab the boss responsible (Hayama) in a nightclub, but she is, frankly, a bit crap with a blade; the attack fails, and she ends up in prison. There, after proving her toughness in a jail "I quit" match, she is accepted by the other girls, including the heavily-tattooed Masayo (Sugimoto). A few years pass, and Maki gets out of jail; her friends are waiting, and they agree to help in her plan for vengeance. This involves Tetsu, the psycho scion of the Hamayasu clan, who used to rule things before the Oba group came in and kicked their asses. Maki will use him as the scapegoat, to trigger war between the groups, then step in to take out Oba once he has been weakened. That's the plan, anyway, with Maki whoring herself out, to (gasp!) foreigners and even (shock!) a black airman to get resources. However, a large spanner in the works is that Masayo is also Oba's wife...
I liked the way the girls play the two sides off against each other, using their greed and anger to make them suspicious of each other - it reminded me of spaghetti Western Fistful of Dollars, or more accurately, I suppose, Kurosawa's Samurai movie Yojimbo on which it was based. However, from an action-heroine point of view, that's the film's biggest weakness, as the ladies largely sit on the sidelines, stoking the fire, rather than opening fire themselves. The exceptions are a pair of monumental brawls between Maki and Masayo, that act as bookends to their character development, and possess interesting similarities, from the way both start as knife-fights before becoming hand-to-hand battles, right down to the white powder in which they end up rolling around.
As usual, Ike and Sugimoto hold the viewer's attention effectively, and I also note the use of a chainsaw by a mobster, an entire decade before Al Pacino went ape in the shower with one for Scarface. That's a particularly nasty sequence, with Maki bound - as usual, topless - slapped around and threatened with said chainsaw. Then Masayo turns up, with a lit cigarette, and explains to hubby that she knows better "how to torture a woman". Oh, my... Yep, what transpires is certainly both pink and violent.
Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture (1973)
Dir: Teruo Ishii
Star: Reiko Ike, Ryohei Uchida, Tatsuo Endo,
Brief: I should have paid more attention to the second-half of the title.
This starts with a memorable sequence in which Inoshika Ocho (Ike) fights off a number of attackers, armed only with her umbrella; albeit, an umbrella that is rather more heavily-armed than most. While she succeeds, she ends up losing all of her clothes in the process, leading to some artful staging in which the discarded umbrella is used to hide her naughties bits. Unfortunately, the rest of the film, while occasionally reaching the same levels of unsanity is largely crude and unpleasant. Even the central concept - a gang smuggling drugs in the vaginas of junkies - falls firmly into that category.
Ocho falls into the gang's clutches when an unfortunate wardrobe choice leads them to mistake her for one of their mules. When they discover there is no heroin in our heroine, they try to frame her for the "Crotch Gouge" murders, which they have been carrying out themselves to inspire fear in their employees. She is assisted in escaping this peril by the clan's former boss, Joji (Uchida), who has just got out of jail to find his spot taken by Goda (Endo), who has embarked on the scheme in question. Since Ocho had some history with an earlier clan boss, after he sacrificed his own digit to save hers, when she was caught cheating in a gambling den, she teams up with Joji to restore the clan's good name.
Its an odd combination that manages to mix nasty levels of sexual violence with slapstick comedy, and the results are unsatisfying in just about every way. There's no shortage of breasts on view - particularly at the finale, which echoes the opening, except with the nipple-count increased by a factor of x50. However, the film also diverts itself off into a number of thoroughly uninteresting subplots, which chew up time and offer very little except more Japanese women being pawed. A sequel to Sex and Fury, despite a decent lead character, there was almost nothing here to inspire any interest in seeing its predecessor. I was left with a feeling of distinct exploitation, and not in a good way.
Girl Boss: Escape From Reform School (1973)
Dir: Sadao Nakajima
Star: Miki Sugimoto, Yuko Kano, Hiroko Isayama, Tsunehiko Watase
Brief: Bad girls go to...the seaside?
Serial escaper Ruriko (Sugimoto) is more persistent than good, and is dragged back to reform school after her seventh escape attempt ends the same way as her previous six. After whizzing through most of the standards of the women-in-prison genre in about 30 minutes or so e.g. corrupt staff, gratuitous nudity, solitary confinement, etc. she and a few of her colleagues (supposedly teenagers, but that clearly ain't the case) break out as a group. Splitting up to avoid detection, they arrange a rendezvous at a deserted building by the sea, from where they plan to hijack a ship and escape Japan for good. Truth be told, a sense of urgency isn't exactly top of the their skill-set, and as they meander their way there, various escapades happen, of which the only significant one is Ruriko meeting, by chance, a male criminal (Watase), who is also trying to out-run the law. But the police are also keen to ensure that they run their record in terms of Ruriko to a perfect 8-for-8...
I watched this less than a week ago, but already, I can't remember very much about it. Sugimoto is her usual charismatic self, and the film is certainly more interesting when she's on-screen. However, the supporting characters are entirely forgettable, and in my mind, all merged into one amorophous, largely uninteresting blob. That's particularly problematic after they split up, which is when the film seems to lose direction entirely, meandering around until the finale, where the police besiege the perps in their beach-house. I have to say, the major takeway from that is how incredibly inept the Japanese SWAT team are. Not only are they easily held at bay by criminals armed with precisely one gun, they mill around like disturbed sheep in the face of anything coming the other way, e.g. burning tyres, and are completely oblivious to even the most basic law-enforcement principle, such as "maintaining a perimeter." If those are supposed to be the elite, it makes me wonder how the hell Ruriko managed to get herself caught the previous seven times she escaped.
It's probably significant that the lack of compentence by the special forces of law and order is my lasting memory here. While competently made, and touching all the expected bases [that's clear from the way solitary confinement in the prison involves Ruriko both bondaged up and topless!], it doesn't have any real heart or passion, and if you skip this one, you won't be missing much.
Terrifying Girls' High School:
Lynch Law Classroom (1973)
Dir: Norifumi Suzuki
Star: Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike, Tsunchiko Watase, Kenji Imai,
Brief: Or, as Chris called it, 'Lynch Law Lolitas'...
This was the title that finally 'broke' Chris, and she wondered what the hell I was Googling to come across this movie. Shame she missed it, as despite some rather nasty sexual sadism, it's among the best of the genre. Girl gang leader Noriko (Sugimoto) is assigned to the "School of Hope", a morally-bankrupt educational establishment for delinquent girls. It's principal is entirely ineffectual, and it's actually run by the vice-principal (Imai), with the collaboration of the "Disciplinary Committee," a group of the girls he allows to dish out punishment. Noriko isn't going to stand for that, and teams up with a sleazy journalist (Watase) to bring down both the Committee and those in charge.
Right from the opening scene, where the Committee drain the blood of a victim, before she falls to her death from the roof, this certainly grabs the attention. Another review described it as, "Like Mean Girls via Caged Heat as written by Jess Franco and directed by Russ Meyer," and that's about as accurate a synopsis as you'll get. The girls - not just 'Noriko of the Cross' [which she has tattooed on her inner thigh], but also "Razor-blade Remi" and the members of the Committee - are undeniably hardcore, and not the kind of people you want to cross. Yet, other sequences are outright misogynistic, such as one pupil being punished by having a light-bulb inserted into her, then being forced to do push-ups. Where did that come from? There's also a lengthy omorashi fetish sequence. Look it up. Could have done without it as well.
But if you can get past that - not that I would blame you if you couldn't - the good stuff outweighs the bad. You can even read a socio-political subtext into this, as the early seventies were a time of political instability in Japan, with their Red Army group in operation. The main theme is power: the struggle to achieve or hold on to it, and the final ten minutes, with the entire school rioting and taking on the Japanese police with rocks, stick and other weapons is pretty much a middle finger at all authority. Almost all such structures are portrayed as rife with corruption, and if the male side of the species is not subject to the same level of brutality, they're cynically depicted as relentlessly perverted and driven by their brains. The only honour or humanity to be found here is with Noriko and her allies, in a severely screwed-up world, and it's this transgressive approach that deserves approval.
The Yakuza Wives (1986)
Dir: Hideo Gosha
Star: Shima Iwashita, Rino Katase, Masanori Sera, Akiko Kana
Brief: Could comfortably kick the asses of the Mob Wives.
Perhaps a better title, however, would be Yakuza Sister, since this is a tale of two siblings. Tamaki (Iwashita) is an actual mid-level Yakuza wife, who is running their branch of the gang in the jailed absence of her husband, and doing quite well at it, enhancing its size and reputation. She is largely estranged from both her sister Makoto (Kitase) and their father - she's a bartender, he works in his machine shop, but it's clear from the get-go that his time is limited [this isn't much of a spoiler when you see him coughing his lungs out while simultaneously chain-smoking]. Two things upset their semi-orderly lives. The overall head of Tamaki's clan dies, opening up a power vacuum which sets off a struggle between rival factions, and Tamaki attempts to arrange a 'suitable' marriage for her sister. Makoto rebels, taking up instead with Kiyoshi Sugita (Sera) - which is unfortunate, because he's a loyal member of the faction now battling Tamaki's group for control.
The first in a long-running series of films, both direct sequels and knock-offs of the basic concept, this is somewhere between The Godfather and a soap-opera. Among the things I apparently learned from this were, that in Japan, organized crime syndicates have press-conferences to detail leadership changes, and that the best way to get a Japanese women to marry you, is to rape her. Who knew? [Legal note: GirlsWithGuns.org does not make any claims regarding the reliability of this information, and accepts no responsibility for any damages, prosecutions or severed digits resulting from acting on it.] It's a bit of an uncomfortable mix, but the steely-gaze of Iwashita and her character's single-minded dedication to the cause is impeccable: she's a better female character than anyone in Coppola's trilogy.
Things head towards their expected tragic outcome, but there are a few twists along the way, as well as an interesting cat-fight between the two sisters, when Makoto opts for her husband over her family. About five minutes in duration, there's only about three cuts as they brawl their way around the apartment, in and out of the closet, before collapsing, exhausted. If not exactly a martial-arts epic, it's an interesting stylistic choice, quite unlike anything else I've seen, and is presented for your viewing below. If a little low on the action quotient outside of this, it's a solid piece of drama that should keep the spectator interested.
The player will show in this paragraph
Girls With Guns Home Contents FAQ Links News
Visitors this year: