Archives for November 2010 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for November, 2010

School of the Holy Beast Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 30 - 2010
The final day before we enter into the month long kung fu celebration! Can you believe it has already been one year? It blows my mind! With the final day of November upon us, I unleash an equally mind blowing review for School of the Holy Beast! I highly recommend you all check it out, post comments and join the forum! DO IT NOW!

The Plot: Maya Takigawa (played by Yumi Takigawa) is a young delinquent who is hanging on to a past that has abandoned her. Her mother was a devout nun who at some point became pregnant by an unknown father, which lead to her eventually committing suicide. Now Maya looks to discover just who pushed her mother to her fateful end, and in the process discover who her father is, by infiltrating the convent! As she does so, she discovers that the beautiful exterior is simply for outward appearances and this school of god is nothing more than a home of torture inflicted by a group of hypocrites. Maya will use all of her contacts, intellect and anger to open this case and destroy this school from the inside-out!


CONTINUE READING HERE!

School of the Holy Beast

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 30 - 2010

School of the Holy Beast (1974)
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writers: Masahiro Kakefuda, Norifumi Suzuki
Starring: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi and Yayoi Watanabe


The Plot: Maya Takigawa (played by Yumi Takigawa) is a young delinquent who is hanging on to a past that has abandoned her. Her mother was a devout nun who at some point became pregnant by an unknown father, which lead to her eventually committing suicide. Now Maya looks to discover just who pushed her mother to her fateful end, and in the process discover who her father is, by infiltrating the convent! As she does so, she discovers that the beautiful exterior is simply for outward appearances and this school of god is nothing more than a home of torture inflicted by a group of hypocrites. Maya will use all of her contacts, intellect and anger to open this case and destroy this school from the inside-out!


The Review
To be perfectly honest, the nunsploitation genre is something that I have never full-researched. School of the Holy Beast is arguably not even a part of that subgenre, depending on who you talk to, but it had enough elements going for it to rope in my attention. For one, this is a seventies-era Toei production. That alone counts for something. So, regardless of how good or bad the content may be, the movie will probably remain interesting. Number two, it was directed by the amazing Norifumi Suzuki! Third, it has made the top tier amongst many pinky violence lists that I have seen on the internet. Although it doesn’t really seem to belong in this genre, it still makes for an interesting reference before watching. Those three things add up to a concoction that no true Asian cinema nerd could possibly refuse. Going into the movie, I found myself slightly puzzled as to how the film would categorize itself and to what genre it most belonged, but after watching… I find myself even more puzzled than before!



School of the Holy Beast is a true genre film jack-of-all-trades. It knows a little bit about everything, but not a whole lot about any one thing. To be honest, the nunsploitation genre does not actually entice my personal interest as a viewer. This is partly the reason I have put off watching the movie, despite having the DVD just lying around for several months. I was not raised Catholic, I honestly know little about that culture, and films that sell themselves on eroticism generally do little for me. I can enjoy an artistic pinku title, but sexual marketing generally turns me off as a viewer. The jolly surprise that I discovered with School of the Holy Beast however, is that this movie actually goes a bit deeper than what expectations might lead one to believe. There is sex, and plenty of it, but there are also some interesting political and cultural points made, as well as a ton of vivid artistic imagery.

If you take away the religious garb, School the Holy Beast is most assuredly a women-in-prison movie. In fact, when the nuns have visitors from the outside they are forced to have conversations through steel bars as if this were a real prison. Similar to films such as Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, the monastery that these girls stay in is ruled by a dominant and pious group who want to enforce strict discipline on the inhabitants. The difference here is a palpable sense of skepticism for Christian leadership. While the film never shows utter disdain for the religion itself, there is a great deal of anger felt throughout the movie. These catholic nuns are shown to be the true bearers of the Inquisition, and they enact massive amounts of bizarre torture throughout the film. This seems to create a slightly surreal atmosphere within the movie, because we are constantly shown a strange dichotomy of worlds. Despite the outside world being a very obvious 1970-era Japan, the interior of this monastery is truly medieval in terms of its torture and pious attitudes.

The way the convent is depicted shows a truly bizarre vision of Christian theology. A vision that is shown through the prism of a culture that is not accustomed to this religion. Essentially, all Christians are shown to be self righteous and hypocritical bigots who are unable to control their own actions. Some would argue that this presentation is merely being factual, but an intellectually honest person recognizes this as a stereotype. Hypocrisy seems to be a main theme running throughout the film. The stern preaching of the priest and his lead abbess is shown in direct confrontation with their actions, which are far less moral. The character of father Kakinuma is an interesting one to me. He leads the monastery with a righteous hand, but he secretly has an internal war going on between his faith and his worldly ideals. The background for this character is that he resents god for having never manifested himself physically in front of him, and his immoral activities are either a result of this resentment or are simply a part of his own true disbelief. The film isn’t really clear, and since we do know that he has been abusing his power for at least the past eighteen years, I think it is safe to say he has held onto his beliefs for even longer. If he has lived with this resentment for over 18-20 years, when was he ever actually in touch with his own religion? Within the Christian faith, God is said to be pleased through acts of faith and worship, yet this man of the cloth shows neither faith nor fulfills even the basic tenants of Christian fellowship… and yet demands for god to show himself. His hypocrisy is not just felt through the face that he puts on for the crowds and the church, but through his own internal strife and (dis)belief in God.



Christian theology is referenced throughout the film. During the final minutes, there seems to be a reference made to the story of Jacob. In that story, Jacob wanted to marry a woman named Rachel, but he was tricked by Rachel’s father into taking Leah (Rachel’s sister) as his wife before ultimately marrying Rachel. Although the parallels that are made aren’t wholly compatible with the original story nor this film’s context, there is enough in the film that I think that this was intentional. Also, in one of Maya’s final confrontations with a relative who has been absent her entire life, a relative who also claims to be a devout Christian when they instead revel in hypocrisy, she uses the phrase “I don’t even know you.” This line, within the context of the film, also seems reminiscent to a quotation from the Bible. In Luke 13, Jesus says: “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.”. For those outside of the religion, it might seem like grabbing and picking at pieces of a scripture that hardly seems applicable. However, this quotation from Jesus is used very often and is one of Jesus’ most memorable parables. The situation is flipped inside of this film, however, and instead of the flock coming to the master – a worldly lamb is speaking to a worldly Sheppard who has always been absent. If you look hard enough, there is enough subtext to appreciate the film on a different level outside of the generic “Oh my gosh, lesbian nuns!”. While one does not have to study theology in order to understand the basic tenets of the film, I think the movie does have plenty to say for those who want to pick up on some of these aspects.

School of the Holy Beast is a very mixed production. We have moments of slapstick comedy that feel best suited for a 1980s teen-sex romp, but then we have the other side of the movie which features a searing indictment of organized religion. Not to mention, the movie has absolutely beautiful photography. The torture sequences, which can be explicit in their sexuality at times, are actually quite amazing as well. There is one sequence in particular that stands out as being both beautiful and revolting at the same time. This bit of torture revolves around Maya, and it shows her being wrapped up in thorns from a rose bush and then being swatted with bouquets of thorny roses. As she twirls in anguish, we watch as rose pedals flow through the air making the entire experience surreal and beautiful. No questions about it, the film absolutely looks spectacular, and the backdrop of a European castle only helps re-enforce this beauty.


The Conclusion
While the true intentions of the film are entirely up for debate, I think School of the Holy Beast is intelligent enough to garner a larger audience than your average nunsploitation title. The film is beautifully helmed and marks some of Suzuki’s best work from a visual standpoint. Although I may end up at odds with some, I’m giving the film a four out of five stars. It is a confrontational film that carries the attitude of the era while directly attacking social ideals.




Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 29 - 2010
We’re back! Expect one more review tomorrow, as long as things don’t explode on me! Today we have another pinky violence review! This time it is for Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess, I hope you guys dig it!

The Plot: Our film opens in a girls reformatory that more aptly resembles a prison, and it is here that we meet Midori (Yumiko Katayama) and Rika (Reiko Oshida). Midori is a rough and tumble girl with family issues, but Rika is a helpful, almost naive, delinquent herself. Middori’s father, who loves her but disaproves of her yakuza boyfriend, comes to the gate and hands a family necklace to Rika so that she can pass it along to his daughter. Midori doesn’t want the trinket however and acts offended when Rika tries to give it to her. After both girls are released from school/prison, Rika heads off to live with Midori’s father, Muraki, who owns a mechanics shop. His situation is rather dire though, as Midori has been living a very selfish life with her boyfriend and they have racked up huge debts with some local yakuza thugs that Muraki now has to pay. Knowing that Rika has nowhere else to stay, Muraki allows her to live on site and work. Rika tries to patch things up between Midori and her father, but Midori is still as stubborn as ever. She soon meets up with her old friends from the reform school, including Mari who is pregnant and out of work because her husband’s illness has caused her to have troubles with her former employers and the debts she could not pay off. With Rika’s help, these girls will have to form together in order to solve all of their problems!


CONTINUE READING HERE!

Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 29 - 2010

The Plot: Our film opens in a girls reformatory that more aptly resembles a prison, and it is here that we meet Midori (Yumiko Katayama) and Rika (Reiko Oshida). Midori is a rough and tumble girl with family issues, but Rika is a helpful, almost naive, delinquent herself. Middori’s father, who loves her but disaproves of her yakuza boyfriend, comes to the gate and hands a family necklace to Rika so that she can pass it along to his daughter. Midori doesn’t want the trinket however and acts offended when Rika tries to give it to her. After both girls are released from school/prison, Rika heads off to live with Midori’s father, Muraki, who owns a mechanics shop. His situation is rather dire though, as Midori has been living a very selfish life with her boyfriend and they have racked up huge debts with some local yakuza thugs that Muraki now has to pay. Knowing that Rika has nowhere else to stay, Muraki allows her to live on site and work. Rika tries to patch things up between Midori and her father, but Midori is still as stubborn as ever. She soon meets up with her old friends from the reform school, including Mari who is pregnant and out of work because her husband’s illness has caused her to have troubles with her former employers and the debts she could not pay off. With Rika’s help, these girls will have to form together in order to solve all of their problems!


The Review
If you have paid any attention to Varied Celluloid over the past year (and let’s not pretend, we know you haven’t!) then it should come as no surprise that I am addicted to the Pinky Violence genre. After putting these films off for years, all it took was the right couple of films and I am now hopelessly hooked. For those who are not familiar, the Pinky Violence genre is an expansive (or ridiculously select, depending on who you ask) number of Japanese films made during the seventies. These are essentially female youth films that focus on the bad girls of Japan. The original production studio for all things “Pinky Violence” was Toei, but the girl-gang and corrupted-youth market essentially spread out to all of the studios who were suffering from financial instability. Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess is one of the Toei produced pieces of Pinky Violence and is actually the fourth film in the Delinquent Girl Boss series. Despite being a Toei production and a sure piece of Pinky Violence history, Worthless to Confess isn’t your run of the mill entry into the genre.
These movies are well known for their female empowerment, almost as much as they are for their ample amounts of nudity and ridiculous exploitation. Although Worthless to Confess does have its inspired moments of silliness (the conclusion is bonkers!), it is a far more mainstream production than the average. Featuring a great deal of comedy and some rather typical drama, it is a better time capsule of the time and movement than it is a action movie of any sort. There are the pre-requisite elements all lined up in a row for us here, that is for sure. We have a group of bad girls incarcerated (this time in a reform school) who are set loose and form a bond with one another as “street sisters”. The group runs into some male yakuza thugs who hassle them and its up to our girls to set them right, while wearing the most fashionable outfits that they can possibly find of course. This is a skeleton that many films within this genre are built upon, but without the bite that those films have Worthless to Confess can at times seem like a toothless watch dog. It does manage to save itself in the final ten minutes, by pacing up the action to ridiculous levels, but it proves to be too late in getting there to really leave this feeling like a great genre entry.

The best aspect about Worthless to Confess is going to be the cast. The beautiful Reiko Oshida contributes everything that she can to her role, but the male pigs in the audience (myself included) will have to drag our eyes away from her beautiful legs every five minutes. Sporting a pair of very short-shorts, Oshida shows off her naturally thick thighs and drives the male (or female!) audience wild. A true beauty, she actually proves to be quite the talent in this film. She stretches out and handles a multi-faceted character who is difficult to read, but is always charismatic and engaging. Rika strikes the audience as naive, due to her inappropriate attitudes, but there is a certain amount of clever ulterior motives at foot in all of her actions. I like the way Oshida plays this off, really finding that perfect balance that allows her to be silly and sexy at equal times. Although she at first appears to be ignorant, she grows on the audience throughout the picture. Aside from Oshida we also have the beautiful Yumiko Katayama who plays Midori, and is perhaps best known for appearances in genre favorites like The Horrors of Malformed Man, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. She is actually the only actress in the film to really show any kind of skin. The nudity is rather inoffensive, mostly in place to show off the tremendous tattoo that Katayam sports for this film, which is a nest of vines and flowers across her back that stretches out to her right breast and forms as a rose on her nipple. The tattoo is really impressive to tell the truth and one of the more unique criminal tattoos that I have seen in a girl-gang film at this point.
The comedy throughout the film works very well and there are several very funny moments in the movie that do not rely heavily on slapstick. A favorite moment of mine comes in the conclusion of the film (which I will get to in a second) where our girls take part in a massive battle and has each one sporting a sarashi (traditional bandaging that goes around the stomach up to the chest) but the cloth pieces are so tight that it really presses against their chest. I simply remember Reiko grabbing at Katayama’s bandaging, pulling it up and saying “Midori! Your boobs!”. It seemed like a spontaneous moment and I couldn’t help but chuckle. The girls bring the good humor as well as the serious drama, as we see the movie ultimately evolve into a very poignant revenge tale based around the tenants of sisterhood. If this entire film were as stylish, entertaining or as wild as the last ten minutes of it are – we would be talking about one of the very best films this genre has ever seen. The drama comes into full swing, the violence finally comes to fruition and it is as if director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi finally decided to let loose in a torrent of creative ideas and shots. With our girls wearing their matching red trenchcoats, Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess finally makes good on all of its promise but it unfortunately seems too late in the game.


Trivia
  • This is the fourth film in the Delinquent Girl Boss series and follows Blossoming Night Dreams (1970), Tokyo Drifters (1970) and Ballad of Yokohama Hoods.
  • The Japanese title for the series is Zubeko Bancho, which roughly translates as “Bitch Boss”. It might also be interesting to note that the term Sukeban, which translates as “Girl Boss” and is synonymous with the Pinky Violence genre as well as the actual Sukeban series (Sukeban, Girl Boss Guerilla, etc.), is a conjunction of Suke (girl) and Bancho (boss) in Japanese.

  • The Conclusion
    It is a weak piece of Pinky Violence, I can’t argue that fact, but for fans of the genre there is still enough interesting elements here to keep you busy. It is tragic and touching by its close, but it takes a lot for the film to stir up those emotions in us. For fans expecting fast paced energy, go in with your expectations lowered and you may walk out pleasantly surprised. I give the movie a three out of five. It’s a solid movie, but unfortunately lacks the qualities that might make it special.



    Dinner With a Vampire Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On November - 26 - 2010
    I almost forgot I had this one sitting around! How embarrassing! I went back and found two reviews already finished and waiting for me to post, but I had been sitting on them so long they had slipped my memory! I guess my mind is so focused on our upcoming A Very Kung Fu Christmas that I let it slip my mind! Well, here you go, the first of three reviews to be posted before the end of the month! My foray into the work of Lamberto Bava continues with Dinner With a Vampire!

    The Plot: When a local talent agency puts on an audition, several young people show up in order to grab a piece of the pie. Apparently the audition is for any and all entertainers, as we see an actress, a dancer, a singer and a comedian all show up to perform in order to gain access to a role in the famed Jurek’s (George Hilton) next feature film. Jurek is a rather creepy gentleman who has his own castle out in the far hills of Italy, where the four lucky winners (three young women and a young man) are invited to come stay. When they arrive, it turns out this might be a bit more than they expected. First they are shown a gruesome vampire film, and when Jurek finally arrives he seems more creepy than suave. As it turns out, Jurek is an immortal creature of the night! A vampire! Tired of his immortality, Jurek wants to die and he asks for this group of young people to attempt to kill him at some point during the night. Will they succeed or will they simply turn into another platter on Jurek’s dining table?


    CONTINUE READING HERE!
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    Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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