Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack | Varied Celluloid

Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack

Posted by On December - 26 - 2011

Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack (1971)
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Writers: Norifumi Suzuki and Takayuki Minagawa
Starring: Reiko Ike, Keiko Yumi and Miki Sugimoto

The Plot: Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack begins with Reiko (Reiko Ike) setting up a salaryman in order to blackmail him. When the businessman isn’t looking, she places two girls in the trunk of his car while she proceeds to seduce him. She leads him to a love motel with the hopes of knocking him out and stealing all of his money. This introduces us to Reiko’s gang, known as the Athens gang, before they head out and try to steal another vehicle. Reiko’s group is then extorted by a motorbike gang who demand that the girls take a ride with them. These ruffians attack the girls, but they are soon rescued by a friendly yakuza named Jiro who knows Reiko very well. Afterward we meet young Yuko, a high school girl who wants to join Reiko’s gang. After her initiation, which involves popping her own cherry, Yuko is a full member of the group and is soon being taken care of by Reiko. However, when the group runs into trouble with a local yakuza syndicate, Jiro stands out as their only hope for survival. Unfortunately, both Yuko and Reiko have developed feelings for the young man.

The Review
The pinky violence genre can be a bit hard to decipher for many audiences. A lot of those who first come to the genre, including myself in the very beginning, assume that nearly any film from the 1970s featuring a group of Japanese females immediately constitutes its role as a pinky violence movie. Although there are numerous definitions for the genre, I believe that what separates these movies from the mainstream is a very-present attitude. It doesn’t hurt if the project features young female delinquents, or was produced by Toei studio, but those are not the only requisites by which my personal definition for the genre begins or ends. If you want to be as strict as possible, since the genre began as a part of the Toei film studio, films made outside of that studio should be out of bounds. However, if you do that, then you must limit titles like those in the Stray Cat Rock series which are considered definitive works within the genre. My broad definition for the genre may upset many, but it encompasses a larger spectrum of films that rightfully belong within this genre due to their purveying attitude. These are films that, in the midst of a very misogynist society, presented very strong female leads that defied the culture. Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack, the first film in the Girl Boss series (which features Girl Boss Guerilla), is a defining view of the attitude that really creates the title “pinky violence” in my mind. Produced by Toei, starring Miki Sugimoto/Reiko Ike, directed by Norifumi Suzuki, and featuring everything that makes this genre what it is, this is a movie to show anyone who has never seen a title from this genre. Afterward, they will know exactly how to define the pinky violence attitude.

The attitude is absolutely what sets these films apart in all ways. With Queen Bee’s Counterattack, a nonsensical subtitle that refers to nothing in this picture, we are given ample amounts of that reckless behavior that defined this genre. Straight from the start, the film is all about introducing us to the world that these girls live within. A man’s world where women are used only as objects, the Athens group stands out as a group who rebels against this very notion. They don’t act like the genteel or non-assertive “ideal” vision of Japanese women, but are instead brash and very willing to use their own sexuality as a weapon in defying male society. Sure, this is an exploitation film wrapped up in a package of violence, action and nudity, but there are also ideas working behind the scenes at all times. This is also one of the few pinky violence features, that I certainly can recall, that delves heavily into the background of this “delinquent” lifestyle. Although it seems like common knowledge that someone who participates in these criminal activities must surely have some baggage that has had to happen within their lives, few times is this mentioned throughout this genre. Queen Bee’s Counterattack differentiates itself in this regard. In the most potent scene in the film, where the character of Yuko and Reiko have a deep discussion, after their love triangle with the yakuza Jiro comes out into the open, we deal with these characters and their history. This is generally around the time where Reiko comes up with her “stray dog” analogy that defines their rebellious nature for the duration of the movie as well. Few times do these films deal with the prospect that their lead characters are “damaged” in a psychological sense, but this is one of those times, and we can more easily sympathize with the characters because of this.

Directed by Norifumi Suzuki, the film packs in everything that you would expect from this director. Easily one of the most visual filmmakers of the era, his movies often come across as technicolor dreamscapes. His films are usually dictated by genre ideals more than true experimentation in narrative devices, but the visual flourishes found in his movies can only be described as brilliant. This movie is no different in that regard. Featuring amazing use of color, where bright reds are almost so blazing that they damage your retinas, the creation of “style” within these movies is almost immediate. Suzuki, despite his style, remains married to his genre ideals. From the overcompensation of plot, to the overdose in exploitation, Queen Bee’s Counterattack brings both the positive and negative effects of genre-dedication. The pinky violence genre, if it has one negative attribute, it is that these films can often devolve into something purely episodic. Queen Bee’s Counterattack certainly falls into this category. Repeating itself many times over, at times the movie seems to be a series of “scams” pulled off by our leading ladies. These scams are then followed by antagonism from the local yakuza, wash, rinse and repeat. The film does try to compensate for this, however, by incorporating two or three continuous subplots that travel throughout the movie. It doesn’t work to the effect that Suzuki likely hoped, but if there is any glue within the narrative it is the love triangle that Reiko is involved in (between the biker and Jiro) as well as the small bits where we meet the former-yakuza who has recently been released from prison. This former-yakuza forms a sizable amount of screen time, but his story seems absent from the movie at times. As if his narrative were on a completely different plane than that of Reiko and her Athens gang.

Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto would star together in several films throughout their career, but in this early title it is Ike stepping up to the limelight while Sugimoto takes the back seat in a small supporting role. This was a bit surprising to me as a viewer, but being a fan of Ike it wasn’t a terrible thing. Ike, who is always lovely within her movies, is even more beautiful than normal in this early Girl Boss title. Reiko sports red curly hair, which sets her apart from the “look” that she would become well known for throughout her career. In fact, she has such a distinctly different look that it took some real focus just to recognize her in the role. Different from what she would do in any other role, this character that Reiko Ike slips into is both atypical for the genre but not exclusively typical for her as a actress. Usually portraying a “wise woman amongst a gaggle girls,” this time out we see Ike actually playing the youthful role of a girl still fooled by the wild world around her. She is a character that doesn’t believe in the same fashion of love that society has passed onto her, but she doesn’t completely deny it either. Her fascination with the yakuza Jiro allows her to stretch out and go into some fairly interesting areas as a actress. Her dialogue, “To love someone, is to trust someone. I can’t trust this adult society,” probably says more about both the maturity and immaturity of her character than I ever could.

The Conclusion
Stylish, exploitative and absolutely fun, Girl Boss Blues is certainly one worth recommending. It might not be the very first film I would recommend to someone who is new to the genre, but it wouldn’t be far off. I give it a high four out of five. It may not do a LOT of new things with the genre, but it does them with a enthusiasm that is rarely duplicated in any genre.




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