Fairy in a Cage (1977)
Director: Koyu Ohara
Writers: Oniroku Dan and Seiji Matsuoka
Starring: Naomi Tani, Hirokazu Inoue, and Rei Okamoto

The Plot: Fairy in a Cage takes place during the heightened period that came near the end of the second World War. Kimiko Shimishiza (Naomi Tani) is a very pretty housewife who is married to a famous jeweler within Japan. Perhaps feeling that his time in power is soon to be over, or simply overdosing on this power, Judge Murayama has taken his position as chief of the secret police to some very deranged levels. Murayama is a sadist and gets off on torturing women, and when he sees Kimiko – he can not help himself. He searches for any potential reason to imprison the young homemaker. Eventually, he does find a link between Kimiko and a student who has produced anti-government propaganda, and faster than you can say “misogyny,” Judge Murayama has Kimiko stripped nude and hanging upside down in his basement. What follows is a degrading trip into psychosis. Kimiko’s only hope for survival is the end of the war, or a break in rank within this tight-knit family of military leaders.

The Review
Fairy in a Cage is probably one of the most hyped up films from the Roman Porno era within Japan. Although forgotten for many years, the movie has endured a recent resurgence in popularity due to its recent release by Synapse Films and their Impulse label. The movie, so far, has been the only Nikkatsu title within their library to feature a Blu-ray release. Whether this choice of releasing this particular movie on Blu-ray was done out of an expectation that it would sell better, or whether it was simply due to some technical reason, I am not sure. However, this additional characteristic certainly makes it among the most important Roman Porno releases in the West. So, how does Koyu Ohara’s classic Naomi Tani S&M flick stand up? Well, the answer is rather complicated. While this is a title that certainly shows many of the most vital attributes to Nikkatsu’s famous line of erotic films, it is not top-of-the-food-chain. However, it’s a suitably strong step forward for Ohara, and certainly a title that is worth checking out.

Whereas some roman porno films try to hide their sadomasochistic qualities, usually by focusing only on the sadism and little on the masochism, Fairy in a Cage is blatant in its intentions. For the most part, this is an exploration of this sexual niche. Although sadism is the dominant attribute (no pun intended) in the film, some of the ladies in the movie go absolutely wild over the horrible treatment that they received. This should not come as a shock, being that the film is based upon another S&M story from Oniroku Dan, writer of Flower & Snake among many others. This is certainly a title that is very open about its sexual themes early on, but it discombobulates the viewer with exploitation and themes of class warfare. In a world where opulent citizens are capable of doing whatever they want for pleasure, it’s only a matter of time before they begin to consume one another. Light themes of class segregation are peppered throughout the film, and sprinkled on top is a very unpleasant depiction of the Japanese military during the second World War. Surprisingly, this is something that is fairly irregular for the genre.

Fairy in a Cage does follow many conventions within the pinku genre, that is to be sure. There’s plenty of rope play, plenty of degradation, male characters who are led by pure lust instead of logic, a distrust of the male establishment, and plenty of things you probably wouldn’t want to watch with your mom. Fairy in a Cage does occasionally try to step out on a limb and differentiate itself from the rest of the pack though. The film, despite being relatively conventional in its storytelling and not too surreal, does manage to become one of the more harrowing ventures into this genre. There’s a sadness that is present in the movie. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert, but this isn’t the type of movie that will have a guaranteed happy ending. No one walks away setting this adventure behind them. This is the story of a woman who is essentially kidnapped and raped by the government numerous times. It’s a hard story to sugarcoat, but in the hands of some other filmmakers, they may have attempted to do just that. Instead, Oharu presents this story in very matter-of-fact fashion. It deviates into humor on occasion, but overall, the lasting impression that the film gives off is something disturbed and melancholy.

As one might expect from any Nikkatsu film of this period, the movie looks absolutely phenomenal. It doesn’t take long for the movie to jump directly into the torture dungeon, but when it does, our characters find themselves surrounding by a strange aura of green walls and bizarre colorization. The reds and greens that are used during these sequences can be absolutely gorgeous. Although this isn’t a very surreal movie, it does occasionally dip into some very atmospheric areas. Yet, with all of this beauty comes the less-than-beautiful content of the film. Of course, this is a film based around torture, so very little of it is going to be date-friendly. Indeed, although I don’t get to say it often, when in the right company I am prone to say, “It ain’t a roman porno without some urine play.” Things do get fairly vicious during the movie, and the various tortures used are above and beyond the call of good taste. Inevitably, all humanity is lost during the degradation and horrors unleashed in this one hour movie. In one of the standout moments of the film, that line of degradation is crossed as we see Naomi Tani being forced to urinate in a fancy dish. In other pleasant scenes, we get to see a woman forced to sit on top of a very sharp blade (it sits snugly into her cameltoe region), we see beatings, murder, and of course plenty of rape/molestation.

The Conclusion
Much of what I have said so far might sound fairly positive for this genre. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen enough films made by Nikkatsu during this era, the WWII subtext isn’t enough to save this one or make it very interesting. Naomi Tani’s character is severely underdeveloped, and the plot ultimately seems very by-the-numbers. The characters are never fully fleshed out and some of their decisions seem to come from nowhere. Still, this is a solid title and I would recommend it, but mostly to those who are already familiar with the genre.