Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970)
Tatsuya Fuji, Takeo Chii, Yûsuke Natsu and Meiko Kaji
||The Plot: Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is not a film that follows a very intricate sort of plot, however, at its most basic it is a movie that follows the adventures of a “gang” of teens. The group is made up of several fellas and one lady (the lady is played by Meiko Kaji, who acts as the only returning performer in this sequel). They spend their days rolling around in a dunebuggy on the beach or in the midst of the city. Although this group of hipsters seem rather nice, they aren’t averse to a bit of violence to get what they want. Scams are their forte, and they have acquired a variety of ways to supply all of their needs. When the leader of this group runs into a interesting young woman riding a horse near their headquarters, their lives all take a twist for the more interesting. As we are introduced to these characters, we are also introduced to the Seikyou Society who are a cult that is garnering a great deal of money from Japanese believers. It also becomes apparent that this group will be collecting a huge sum of money at a large meeting that is expected to happen soon. With the help of this new young woman, our gang plans to rob the Seikyou Society of their money and help this new friend acquire some form of hidden vengeance against this cult.
Ever since viewing Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl boss
, I have had a wider definition of the pinky violence
genre than many of the diehards would persuade you. Although the strictest definition of the genre should exclude all films made outside of Toei studios, I found within the original Stray Cat Rock
film a lively and eclectic feature that, despite being a movie made under the Nikkatsu film studio, still delivered everything that made this genre the wild world that it was. Youthful teens rebelling against the society around them, wearing the most fashionable clothes possible and frequently delving into the criminal world, this is the pinky violence genre through-and-through! Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo
is the second entry into the series and it at first looks to continue on in the traditions that the first film instigated. However, this time out veteran director Yasuhara Hasebe is not leading the project and director Toshiya Fujita steps up to the plate. Does the film change drastically because of this switch? Yes. Yes, it does. However, let us not be hasty. Sometimes change can be for the better, right? After all, the worst thing a filmmaker can do is try to replicate what has already been done. So, is Wild Jumbo
a step in a progressive direction that adds something positive to the pinky violence
genre? No, it isn’t. Sorry, I can’t drag it out any further. I have to be honest on this, as it seems that director Toshiya Fujita’s ideas clashed in heavy opposition with everything else that Hasebe did do and would later do with his precious girl-gang series.
Although discussion on Wild Jumbo
has been very minimal, the few mentions that I have ever read for the film have called it the “lightest” movie in the Stray Cat Rock
series, and I am obliged to agree. In almost all manners the film deviates from the set path of the original film. For starters, while I have always felt that titles like Girl Boss
and Sex Hunter
(the first and third movie in the Stray Cat Rock
series, respectively) were perfectly fit for the pinky violence
genre, Wild Jumbo
can only really earn this distinction because of its association with these previously mentioned films. For starters, the movie breaks the most basic cardinal rule of any pinky violence
title: it doesn’t focus on women. The only female characters in the film are secondary characters with very few lines. Although Meiko Kaji is a very large presence within the movie, she is still only a part of a predominately male gang. Our story essentially focuses on the inner turmoil of this group and the inevitable “big job” that they stumble upon. Why the filmmakers decided to take this polar opposite approach with the first sequel, I am not sure, but it deflates a lot of the great drama that was established in the first film. The second main deviation from the genre comes in the atmosphere of the movie. Gone is the urban grit and rebellion found in the original movie, and instead this sequel comes across as more of a beach-blanket party movie than it does a slice of life within the inner city.
The movie is rather bizarre, there is simply no getting past it. A mix of sixties era psychedelic imagery and seventies era rebellion, the movie is conflicted in the aesthetics that it wishes to follow. The “gang” that we follow within this film differentiates itself from both cultures, it seems. The group certainly resembles the commune mentality of the sixties-era hippie movement, upon a cursory first glance at least, due to their willingness to help each other and their general fun loving attitudes. However, they quickly separate themselves from the sixties by displaying their overwhelming sense of greed as well as their attraction to scams and violence. While most of the time their rebellion generally makes them seem like a nuisance to all of the “straights” around them, they occasionally delve into some truly questionable antics. When the time comes, and the film makes its transition into a serious “heist” movie, they finally progress into having a yakuza-esque edge. This “edge” is surprisingly gone throughout the majority of the movie, and seems very out of place when the movie finally attempts to present a harsher tone during the final half hour. Viewers can never really know what to expect from Wild Jumbo
, to be honest. It is a mix and match sort of movie that seems as if it may have been put together on the fly. The introduction for the movie seems to hint at it being a more direct sequel to the original Delinquent Girl Boss
, as it actually features a very tiny cameo by Akiko Wada (sultry soul singer who was a star in the original movie). Wada is soon completely abandoned, however, and we find that Meiko Kaji has been transformed into an entirely different character. In the cinematic “crime of the century,” Kaji is actually left in one of the smallest parts of her career.
Although the real facts behind the production of Wild Jumbo
are unfortunately lost in translation, much of the blame will inevitably fall upon director Tatsuya Fujita. Although Fujita would go on to direct the more-popular Lady Snowblood
movies, his work here is incredibly disjointed and most assuredly rushed. No doubt, Nikkatsu was likely looking to capitalize on the popularity of the original Delinquent Girl Boss
and they probably wanted to get a movie made as quick as possible. This explains why Wada makes her strange cameo during the introduction, and why she actually makes it onto both the poster art and the soundtrack for the film. So, with producers looking to cash in, they turned to Fujita to crank something out. The end results were not another girl-gang crime film starring Meiko Kaji, but a Kinji Fukasaku clone with a near-voiceless female cast and a wildly meandering plot that only seems to pick up steam during a third act that seems incredibly tacked on. Indeed, the “heist” section of the movie is the most interesting aspect of the entire movie, but up until this point I have developed no affection for any character throughout the duration of the movie. When characters inevitably start to die off, the viewer is left with no sentimental feelings. Instead, we have a movie that comes across as all style, but very little else.
may have received a lashing from me during the course of this review, but it isn’t the worst movie on the market. It has some interesting aspects to it. It really is a stylish movie with a lot of great photography and fashion. It is simply a case where the bad often overshadows what good elements the movie may have. I give it a two out of five. Not terrible, but certainly worth skipping.