Angel Guts: Red Classroom (1979)
Director: Chūsei Sone
Writers: Takashi Ishii
Starring: Yūki Mizuhara, Keizo Kanie, and Jun Aki

The Plot: Muraki (Keizo Kanie) is a playboy pornographer who finds himself living a rather monotonous life. One night, Muraki finds himself watching a pornographic film in a makeshift theater with several other gents. As sleazy as the situation may be, Muraki is shocked by what he sees onscreen. In a mock-rape scenario, he sees a beautiful young woman who immediately takes up permanent residence within his mind. Muraki is unable to forget this beautiful young girl and he sets out on a mission to track her down. He asks around about her but comes up with nothing. As he tries to continue on with his life, fate throws Muraki a curveball. The beautiful girl just so happens to work as an attendant at a love-motel where he has scheduled a photography session. When he meets the girl, Nami (Yuki Mizuhara), it turns out that she is far different than he expected. The mock-rape he had seen onscreen was not “mock” at all, Nami explains, but another of her rough encounters with the opposite sex. Nami is a confused young woman and Muraki wants to help her, but is there a happy ending waiting in line for these two?

The Review
Continuing my exploration of the Angel Guts series we embark upon Red Classroom. The second feature in this series, it shares a lot in common with High School Co-Ed (the first movie). While Co-Ed was an unhinged and unbridled look at youth delinquency and the confusion of an aimless, yet highly sexual, generation, this title is the more adult take on some similar material. Indeed, the first movie managed to stand out in comparison to most roman porno titles, which usually focused on adults or sexual situations that were presented with a certain level of maturity. Even in films such as Eros School: Feels so Good, where the cast are supposed to be high schoolers, there is an underlying sense of maturity within the characters. Like an episode of 90210 where the high school kids are portrayed by actors broaching middle age, adulthood can be felt no matter what. With High School Co-Ed, there was a very raw and immature nerve standing out in the movie. Like the early work of Sogo Ishii, this first film seemed incredibly confrontational for its time. Although it may seem to be more in tune with the rest of the genre, Red Classroom is far from being a work of conventionality. A dark tale of obsession and improper expectations, Red Classroom is about as thought provoking and well made as the roman porno gets.

The Angel Guts series was a Nikkatsu staple that served as the definition for their line of roman porno movies. This is a series of films that are dripping with style and go into all of the bleak and dark territories that this line became known for. While it may not have the more shocking elements that some other films do, it makes up for it with rich characters and actual depth. Although these movies can be sensual at times, simple titillation doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the movies. Although I am quite late in finishing up this collection, I see the films as not only being perfect examples of the roman porno line, but I see them as being indicative of the pinku genre as a whole. Any film from the collection is going to deliver something that will push the audience into areas that are not always the most comfortable, and they will do this in the most stylish and artful of ways possible. While not every film in the collection is great or genre defining, they do stand out as wonderful examples of what this genre CAN be when done right. They are, when done correctly, great works of experimentation. That experimentation continues with Red Classroom. Stylishly shot, as always, this entry continues on with some of Chusei Sone’s peculiar choices made during High School Co-Ed. Unlike the many rather plain soundtracks that one is likely to encounter while perusing the world of roman porno, Angel Guts: Red Classroom has one of the liveliest and downright bizarre musical scores that I can remember from this era. Similar to the very youthful musical cues chosen for Sone’s previous Angel Guts title, the music is completely outside of the box. With a very synthesized sound that gives it an eighties style, this stands out as yet another intriguing choice in this rather surreal venture.

For those who don’t recognize the name, Takashi Ishii was the man responsible for the manga that the Angel Guts series was based upon. Many readers may also know him as an accomplished film director as well. He brought to life Evil Dead Trap, Freeze Me, and the highly underrated Gonin and Gonin 2. His manga work during the seventies apparently focused on authentic portrayals of real life human relationships, something uncommon during this era, and this sort of narrative inevitably transferred very well to film. Red Classroom, however, marks the first time that Ishii had any direct involvement within the world of cinema. Not only was his manga the source of inspiration for this film, but the script was directly overseen by Ishii. Not surprising, it is also considered to be the best features within this series. According to Jasper Sharp’s fantastic book Behind the Pink Curtain, the original manga was written in order to express the dynamic between men and women, especially the expectations that men have for women. Red Classroom personifies this theory as we watch as one man strives to fulfill his original expectations via a woman who has been damaged by the world. The film focuses on his disappointments, failures, and sulking acceptance of regular day life in correlation to his fantasy view of a woman he truly does not know. Although the movie borders on being distasteful at times, perhaps being too crude for some viewers, the narrative stays on point throughout and it becomes easy for audiences to casually slip into this brief sexual drama.

The intensity of the film is rather difficult to match when searching around this genre. Sone at no point speaks down to his audience or even tries to explain things. The film is defiant in its style and progressive at all times. While doing this, the film manages to deliver a heart and soul that some of these erotic movies often lack. Early in the film, during the first real meeting between Nami and Muraki, the camera focuses on our two characters in one static angle that holds the screen for numerous minutes. What makes the shot wild is that it takes place seven car lengths away. Sone never draws the camera closer, despite us not being able to read the faces of our two main cast members. Instead, we are allowed to only hear the dialogue, and the effect is that the audiences slowly grows distant from these characters who are showing false faces to one another during the scene. Muraki presents himself as a man who is proud of his work and offers Nami a job, Nami presents herself as a woman brimming with confidence. When the scene moves, immediately moving to a bedroom, we quickly see who these two people really are. The camera is close once again and we become much more personal with these cameras. During this sequence the camera even gets close enough to see the scars that adorn Nami’s wrist from an attempted suicide. These two are not who they claim to be, and that premise is ultimately what the entire film hinges upon.

The Conclusion
Angel Guts: Red Classroom is arguably at the top of this series, but there are a few more to go through before declaring a “best.” Still, this one comes very close to securing a perfect rating from me. Still, there are issues within the movie that detract me from going that far. Although the running time is very brief, there are still some pacing issues within the movie. It is certainly a methodically cut movie, but there are still moments that feel as if they could have been more direct. However, this is me nit-picking. Overall, another solid title and another great reason to own the Angel Guts boxset.