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Vengeance is Mine

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 20 - 2010
The Plot: Vengeance is Mine tells the story of Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata), a psychotic killer who commits several murders while on the run from the law. Raised by Christian parents in Japan during the great war, Iwao rebelled from his parents early on. Deciding that to turn the other cheek was the wrong way of handling nearly any situation. As he grew into a man he found himself getting in trouble with the law more and more.

When finally released from his first prison sentence he found himself with no real direction and soon takes to murdering and bamboozling women for their money. Traveling from town to town pretending to be other people, we watch the final 78 days of Iwao Enokizu as a free man and we try to figure out this unrepentant and dreadfully evil man.

The Review
Shohei Imamura is a filmmaker that I unfortunately have very little personal experience with. His work has been well documented within various Japanese cinema circles, but he has also been acknowledged amongst various other accredited arthouse masters. I can’t even pretend at this point to fully understand his style or even what to expect from further works, having only seen this one feature, but I will say that something like Vengeance is Mine would speak volumes within any directors oeuvre. Although not a perfect feature in my opinion, it is a brutal and discomforting look at a serial killer (based upon real life murderer Akira Nishiguchi) who essentially has no real reason for the things that he does. He is man’s greed multiplied by his own selfishness, with no ultimate goal or sense of reality.

Clocking in at two hours in length, it is an epic look at the latter part of this man’s life from the point of his first killings on through the 78 day manhunt that would lead to his capture. Although it is not an exploitative film by its nature, it is a gripping and powerful look at a world that is unforgiving in its societal depravity. With that focus on social perversity, it does step into waters that will challenge viewers. Although the violence is brutal, especially one particularly sordid murder sequence that turns into a bloodbath, much of the killing takes place off camera. When giving showcase to what little violence there is in the movie, and showing its tremendous impact, that feeling of extreme violence carries on throughout the feature.

Imamura takes a step back from the story and reserves judgment. We are never sure just what his intentions are nor what he thinks about this utterly despicable man. In the same way that we never get inside the mind of Iwao Enokizu, we can never fully gather where the filmmaker looks to take us. Keeping the film in a very documentary-like format, not surprising as the filmmaker was working in the documentary field for several years previous to this feature, Imamura keeps us grounded in reality. Shaky cameras are the tool of the day as well as subtitles that read across the screen, often callously reading off the police report on various victims.

The film offers no melodrama in dealing with this situation but instead offers us intrigue as we take a brooding look at an unrepentant man. This is essentially the crux of the story, as the character of Enokizu is what holds the entire film together and provides us the most insight into society at large. He is a man who offers no monologue as to why he did what he did, he gives us no detailed portrait inside of the world that lies within his mind, he simply is who he is.

The character of Iwao Enokizu is what holds the entire film together, both on a obviously structural level (he is the lead character after all…) and also on a entertainment level. Perhaps entertainment isn’t precisely the word I am looking for here, but it will have to suffice. He is an enigmatic character that we watch and try to figure out along the way. We try to see at what point he will crumble, show his fear of death or divulge his secrets. Aside from being raised in a Catholic household within a country that is predominately Buddhist, we are never given the idea that he had a childhood any different from the ordinary. When we do see glances of his childhood, we see the violence had already built up inside of him even as a young boy. So, in that regard this character comes off as quite contrarian to what we know of the common serial killer, which gives the film an air of unpredictability.

Aside from his base motivations (his extreme selfishness does fit the general profile) the character does fall in line with other serial killers in the fact that his killing does not come from a sexual need. Although most killers are often sociopaths, which is what Enokizu is a text-book version of, there is usually that added edge of childhood drama or sexual repression. This proves not to be the situation with Enokizu, making the character all the more allusive. Dealing with one of Japan’s earlier documented serial killers, the story may not have been familiar to Japanese audiences at the time but the story is certainly familiar for US audiences. Iwao Enokizu himself has all of the blatant familiarities physically that we have come to know from various serial killers. He’s not a physically impressive specimen, is very mundane and has no visual qualities that differentiate him from your average businessman. With his glasses on, he gives the appearance of your average nerdy father. When people expect to find a monster, they do not turn to the average salaryman. This was how he was able to allude the law for as long as he did, but he just couldn’t hide the psychosis so prevalent in his personality.

The performance of Ken Ogata in the lead is quite simply spectacular. It is an out of control personality that really only requires him to either play things up with anger or in silence, but he makes this horrible man seem real. Through his booming laughter and his fast-talking charisma, which allows him to scam the women that ultimately give him money, he gives this heartless character traces of humanity. Through his portrayal of the physical violence and his remorseless confessions in jail however, which we cut to throughout the film, we see the real serpent that lies beneath the skin and Ogata nails the role down perfectly. A physical and mental role for the actor, he delivered a performance that ultimately holds the entire film on its shoulders but never tilts for nary a moment. Without question, one of the most intriguing portrayals of a serial killer ever committed to film.

The Trivia
  • During the scene where Rentarô Mikuni spits in the face of Ken Ogata, the sequence was improvised and not scripted at all.

  • Although following the novel, which was told in a documentary style as well, director Shohei Imamura flew to Kyushu in order to get his own feel for the story and do his own investigation during pre-production.

  • The Conclusion
    I did say however that it wasn’t a perfect film, and I stick by that statement. I think that at a few ticks past the two hour mark it perhaps goes on a bit long for the point that it intends to drive home. The subplots dealing with Enokizu’s family and the love triangle that blossoms there could be much of the reason for the length. I suppose I understand the reasoning, as without it we would be watching this man kill and abuse humans for the entire length of the movie. However, the movie does start to lose a bit of steam at points because of the length. The documentary style of filming also becomes a bit tiresome over the long haul, but once again that could just be because of the length of time we wade around in the format. Still, with those things said, Vengeance is Mine is a masterful look at some incredibly dark material. It is something that all film fans should search out and appreciate at some point. Released through the Criterion Collection, it’s available and beautiful to look at. Hopefully you’ll find some time to give it a spin if you haven’t at this point. I give it a four out of five.

    God of Gamblers: Returns

    Posted by Josh Samford On May - 5 - 2010
    The Plot: Ko Chun (AKA: The God of Gamblers) is a veritable one man wrecking machine when it comes to the art of of high stakes gambling. His skills are unmatched in any game of cards, or in any other form of gambling actually. Ko Chun however has decided to settle down with his beautiful wife and finally enjoy life as he anticipates the birth of his first son. When Ko Chun’s friend arrives, The God of Guns, the two decide to go out for some target practice behind the house. While the two are out having fun, a new challenger arrives for Ko Chun. He is The Devil of Gamblers, a talented man of vice who doesn’t share the gentile and nice qualities that have made Ko Chun so popular. He is an evil man who will do anything for the love of money. When Ko Chun’s wife informs The Devil of Gamblers that under no circumstances will her husband play him in a game of cards, things get ugly. The Devil of Gamblers takes over the mansion with his armed guards and disembowles Ko Chun’s wife so that he can remove the child from her belly and place it in a specimen jar. She is still alive when Ko Chun (after a massive shootout) finds her, but her final words pre-emptively shut down any quick shot at vengeance that Ko Chun might have had planned. She makes him promise that he will not gamble nor admit that he is The God of Gamblers for one whole year. With some time to waste, Ko Chun then sets off to travel across Asia in order to explore his own mind. During this time he finds a young boy and his father, who is a gentile old gangster, who are assaulted by forces working alongside The Devil of Gamblers. The father is killed during a battle between factions leaving the young boy in Ko Chun’s hands to look after. Ko Chun’s group of friends gets larger as he takes this boy and eventually finds a group of gambling swindlers who may not be the brightest con-artists of all time, but they have their hearts in the right place. With his new array of friends, the days pass and it is almost time for The God of Gamblers to make his return!

    The Review
    Chow Yun-Fat is about as iconic an actor as one can find in all of cult cinema. He is an actor that carries a presence that few others can pull off. The same on-screen presence is found in actors such as Bruce Campbell or maybe Kurt Russells. Chow Yun-Fat, through his work with legends such as John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam, managed to plaster his face as the new breed of Hong Kong hero and cinematic legend throughout the eighties and nineties. The most notable of his films have been well covered throughout the blogosphere and websites dedicated to cult cinema. Films such as Hard Boiled, The Killer and the A Better Tomorrow series have deservedly been well documented through various outlets, but the God of Gamblers series remains one of the few talked about major hits in Chow Yun-Fat’s massive Hong Kong library. The series, unlike his other more well known films, would feature Chow hamming it up onscreen in a much more comedic fashion than some might expect. The first film in particular is well known for this fact, as it features Chow essentially playing a child trapped in the body of a grown man. This second (or fourth, or sixth depending on who you ask) film in the series returns Chow to his more charming and debonair self… for about thirty minutes of its running time. At the very least it beats the original film in that regard, as Chow was only seen in his tuxedo for maybe five minutes in that film. The most shocking addition to the series however isn’t Chow dressing in plain clothes and acting silly, it is the film’s propensity to violence and heroic bloodshed in the same vein as his work with John Woo!

    Although far from being the pinnacle of Chow Yun-Fat’s career, the God of Gamblers series certainly has its fair share of fans. That fanbase has mostly lied in the constituency of hardcore Hong Kong film fanatics, but their loyalty has helped the series catch on here in North America. Likely edging out some of Chow’s more obscure (but very solid) work such as Prison on Fire or Peace Hotel in terms of fan appreciation. Personally, as a film fan, I have to say that Hong Kong comedies are universally hit or miss with me. More often than not I find them striking out in a big way, but every now and then you’ll find a gem that actually makes the search worthwhile. I won’t say that the original God of Gamblers was THAT movie for me, it was interesting enough to warrant my exploration further into the series. This second entry, due to my familiarity with it from a highlight video of Chow Yun-Fat’s greatest gunfights, actually held the most interest for me. The original God of Gamblers was not an action film in any regard, which fit in line with everything I had already heard about the series up until this point, but this sequel actually manages to mix the comedy of that first film with the wild action that has made Chow Yun-Fat such a notable and historic actor in the eyes of cult film fans everywhere. Director Wong Jing has never been one to shy away from mixing up a strange brew with his films, but I think he actually managed to create something interesting here.

    Packing along two very solid gunfights during its run-time, it would be unfair to lead you the reader on and say that God of Gamblers: Returns is a tremendous piece of action cinema. It is not. It is, with no hesitation, an action-comedy. You can believe me as well, there is a heavy emphasis on the comedy in that allocation of words. Your personal preference as far as Hong Kong comedy will go a long way in determining your level of entertainment here. For those of you who are inexperienced in Hong Kong comedies and what to expect, just imagine a very weaselly looking gentleman in your head. Now imagine this gentleman crossing both of his eyes. Then, when you have that ready, imagine this gentleman half-shouting all of his lines and making very silly faces in your direction. These comedies are usually very over the top and broad in their attempts at humor, so if you set your goals low you will either have fun while ignoring the silliest parts or you will find yourself rolling your eyes. Thankfully God of Gamblers doesn’t take the easiest route to its comedy, and while it does most certainly pack a very goofy sense of humor (a guy gets a nosebleed while looking at a pretty girl, characters instantly dress/undress in a moment’s notice, etc.) the film manages to mix in some very dark and violent moments that punctuate the overall aura of friendliness.

    The introduction to the film features two very interesting elements that perfectly define these darker moments that I speak of. First, we get our introductory shootout sequence. The character ‘The God of Guns’ brings the same level of uncanny knowledge (or magic) that The God of Gamblers seems to have with cards, but instead translates his magic in the world of firearms instead. This shootout features Ko Chun and the God of Guns running rampant through a mansion shooting anyone and anything that gets in their way. Shotguns and dual handguns are the tools of choice as this scene establishes Ko Chun’s ability to dish out violence. However, the scene takes a bizarre twist as it comes to a close with The God of Gamblers finding his dying wife in her bed, with her stomach sliced open and his fetal son placed in a jar on a dresser across the room. The wind is taken out of our sails as Chow ultimately finds himself wandering around for the next few scenes, only to inevitably wind up in a few wacky situations where he can use his gambling skills and still remain secretive about who he really is. It is a 180 degree turn that we take after this violent opening, and inevitably other bloody sequences pop up throughout, but not before we can have some very silly fun along the way. Throughout much of the film, since the God of Gamblers isn’t actually allowed to gamble, we see Ko Chun instead use his friends as figurative puppets. This is very kin to the traditional martial arts ‘grand master’ who would use those who didn’t know Kung Fu in order to beat their opponents by simply kicking the back of their leg and forcing them to throw their own foot in the face of an opponent. This could be seen in various martial art films including Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow as well as various other Kung Fu comedies. The effect is well done and the comedy, in the face of the bloodshed, actually seems fairly subdued in spite of all the wackiness.

    The Trivia
  • One of Chow Yun-Fat’s last films made in Hong Kong (along with the classic Peace Hotel) before his jump to the Hollywood film system.

  • Although it is often considered the first true sequel to the original God of Gamblers, because it is the first film to continue with Ko Chun’s character, there were roughly five other films made between the release of the first film and this feature. The official sequels were God of Gamblers II and God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai. Unofficial continuations come from Stephen Chow’s popular Saint of Gamblers series which spawned All For the Winner and the spinoff (of the spinoff) The Top bet

  • The Conclusion
    Overall, God of Gamblers: Returns is a pretty fun action comedy. It has its problems, such as the pacing which is pretty drawn out, and the various oddball elements (a telekinetic gambler, references to Dragonball, etc.) make the movie seem goofier than it probably deserved to be. Still, if you’re a fan of Chow Yun-Fat and you’ve exhausted your search for his greatest action roles – then this might be the ticket for you. It’s an obscure but fun piece of fluff that solidifies itself as a partial entry into the Heroic Bloodshed film genre. I give the movie a three out of five, as it was fun but certainly nothing that you would kick yourself for missing out on.


    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2010
    The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.

    The Review
    Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite directors from the laundry list of Italian exploitation filmmakers that never made it huge over here in the United States. Even though his father is easily one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the history of Italian film, that popularity hasn’t really been passed on to his son. The reason for this fact is pretty easy and as much as it pains me to say it… Lamberto has had a relatively spotty career. Aside from a hand full of relatively great genre pictures, the majority of his output can be pretty contrived. Despite this fact, even the worst of these titles for me holds at least some interest or entertainment value. Blastfighter, made in the mid-eighties, is Bava trying his hand at the action genre. Not just any particular kind of action title either, this is a hillbilly action caper! Made by Italians! If at this point you’re thinking that this sounds like it’ll end up being a hot mess, you would be correct! Now, there are two vantage points that you can look from when approaching a film such as this one. You can either look at it as you would any other movie, approaching with analytical reason and attention to detail, or you can simply admit that this is going to be a bad movie so why not try and enjoy yourself? I generally do not favor the “check your brain at the door” type of review, even though I am excessively guilty of it, but a film such as Blastfighter deserves at least some sympathy from its audience as well as myself as a “critic”.

    If you’ve heard my voice on the VCinema Podcast, then you probably already know that I’m a proud southerner. Although you may think this means I’ll be particularly hard on Blastfighter due to its brazen inaccuracies in southern culture and the disregard for any kind of actual authenticity, you would be wrong. Let’s be honest here, southerners being shown as rednecks sharing an IQ with the same amount of digits that they can find on their left hand, isn’t exactly new. We’re all fully aware of the stereotypes and this is a film made by those fed on a strict diet of Hollywood archetypes. So when I see a group of guys walk up to a singular man in the forest and tell him “ya’ll get your ass off this hill”, I don’t let it bug me. In fact, I tend to love stuff like that because it becomes something of an injoke for me. How anyone could think the word ya’ll could be used in a singular form is outside of my realm of understanding, but it produces a chuckle every time I hear it in a cheap low budget exploitation movie. The cultural carelessness is certainly a factor in why I tend to enjoy the movie myself, but for the rest of the world what little entertainment is going to be derived from a film like Blasfighter is going to likely be based off of the ridiculous action set pieces.

    For a movie that was likely shot on a shoestring budget to say the least, I have to commend Lamberto for plugging as many vehicular explosions into this film as could logically be tolerated. Although the movie is slow to start, once the first truck initially goes up in flames; all of its brothers are just around the bend. Where most low budget titles from this time and era were lucky to get one vehicle to blow up in their movie, Blastfighter must have at least nine or ten. Each one going off in different scenes, one after the other. For a movie of this caliber, I have to admit it’s very effective in the action department. However, that doesn’t excuse it enough nor offer enough salvation for me to tell you the audience that this is a good movie. Truthfully, it’s not a great bad movie either. Starting off as a Deliverance style “normal man at odds with the psychotic hillbilly locals” genre picture, it morphs into a First Blood Rambo knockoff with a strange focus on conservationism. The last thirty minutes really does morph into First Blood, down to the sequence with Rambo stealth-killing all of the police officers. One reason the two sequences are too different to work is that in one film you have the police and the national guard all willing to risk their lives to hunt down one man, because that is their job. In Blastfighter, you have an endless number of hunters running head first into the forest looking to commit murder for apparently no reason in particular. The ultimate problem with Blastfighter comes from the fact that it’s too dumb to be taken serious and it’s not broad or dumb enough to be lumped in there with low budget action classics like Lady Terminator or The Stabilizer.

    Unfortunately Blastfighter is an overall bland mix that reaches certain levels of greatness, but then drops the ball just as things are getting interesting. Such is the case in almost all facets of the feature. For example, look at the electronic synth score that starts the movie off: it’s absolutely great. It brings up memories of delirious eighties cheese and gets your fist pumping. Then in short order the film dumps a cover of the Kenny Rogers tune “Evening Star” over our head, which is belted out by some wannabe starlet. Then it is repeated, over and over again! Our leading man, Jake “Tiger” Sharp (GREAT name) has some really interesting heroic qualities to him such as being an ex-cop who was placed in jail for seeking revenge. That’s a great backstory for a tough guy, and then we find out he is now a hitman as well? You can’t go wrong with this guy! Wait, no, I take that back, yes you can. Tiger might be the girliest tough guy to ever grace the screen. He fights back against hunters… because they kill dear. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to ecological friendly people or those who have a great love for animals; but eighties action heroes usually fight for loftier goals in my book. They fight against nuclear devastation, life or death situations and not in order to save deers. It doesn’t stop there however, when his daughter first shows up on the scene he stumbles upon her after she breaks into his cabin. Tiger questions the girl and is quickly shouted down by the young woman who refuses to explain who she actually is. So what does Tiger do? Slap her? Kick her out? CALL THE POLICE? No, he takes his pillow and blanket so he can sleep on his own porch. Puzzling that this tough guy wouldn’t even be curious who this woman is that is kicking him our of his own home, much less take some kind of action in order to stop the situation. Then there’s the much ballyhooed SPAS shotgun that we get, which Tiger (what a great name for a leading man, did I mention that?) is given for an assassination job, which unfortunately gets about as much use as the script supervisor likely did on the picture.

    The Conclusion
    It’s a film where the sum of its parts are actually greater than it on a whole. There are moments of sheer over the top bliss, but it’s not enough to take away from the utterly bland moments that tie everything together. Not even George Eastman can save this picture, entertainment wise. I give the film a two out of five, which is possibly lower than it might seem to deserve but keep in mind that for every really great bit the movie throws at you – there’s something equally as bad right around the corner. I would save this one for fans of Lamberto Bava and Italian cult film enthusiasts only.

    Girl Boss Guerilla Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 4 - 2010
    Hey everybody! I’m a little late updating the site, the job has been getting in the way but I didn’t forget about you! Today we have a review for the Pinky Violence classic Girl Boss Guerilla. Although immediately upon watching, I felt kind of wishy-washy about it but after really going over it again I found a lot more to enjoy. This one could use two watches!

    The Plot: The Red Helmet Gang is a all female biker gang from Shinjuku, lead by the tough yet beautiful Sachiko (Miki Sugimoto). When the group hits the road and lands in Kyoto, they start their hustling campaign. Their scams start off small but they quickly garner the attention of another all female gang in the territory, the Kyogoku group. After Sachiko dispatches of their girl boss, it turns out that this gang isn’t as respectable as the Red Helmet Gang and they almost turn our girls into pin-cushions. Fortunately for the Red Helmet Gang, Rika (Reiko Ike) the former boss intervenes and acknowledges Sachiko as the new boss of the group. Rika and Sachiko begin a friendship that will carry them to great success, but Rika’s brother who is a yakuza may stand in the way of their riches. This Yakuza gang wants the girls to slack off and leave the territory to them, but the Red Helmet Gang won’t go without a fight. Meanwhile, Sachiko is finding love in the form of a young boxer who knows how to treat a woman. So while the group is committing acts of blackmail and threatening violence, the Red Helmet Gang will have to keep the Yakuza off of their back, Sachiko will have to look after her man and Rika will have to confront her very own brother and force him to pick sides between blood and the gang.


    Girl Boss Guerilla

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 4 - 2010
    The Plot: The Red Helmet Gang is a all female biker gang from Shinjuku, lead by the tough yet beautiful Sachiko (Miki Sugimoto). When the group hits the road and lands in Kyoto, they start their hustling campaign. Their scams start off small but they quickly garner the attention of another all female gang in the territory, the Kyogoku group. After Sachiko dispatches of their girl boss, it turns out that this gang isn’t as respectable as the Red Helmet Gang and they almost turn our girls into pin-cushions. Fortunately for the Red Helmet Gang, Rika (Reiko Ike) the former boss intervenes and acknowledges Sachiko as the new boss of the group. Rika and Sachiko begin a friendship that will carry them to great success, but Rika’s brother who is a yakuza may stand in the way of their riches. This Yakuza gang wants the girls to slack off and leave the territory to them, but the Red Helmet Gang won’t go without a fight. Meanwhile, Sachiko is finding love in the form of a young boxer who knows how to treat a woman. So while the group is committing acts of blackmail and threatening violence, the Red Helmet Gang will have to keep the Yakuza off of their back, Sachiko will have to look after her man and Rika will have to confront her very own brother and force him to pick sides between blood and the gang.

    The Review
    The Pinky Violence genre of Japanese cinema has quickly become a personal favorite of mine. They can in many ways be obscure and hard to define, but I think what makes these films so special is the strange concoction of genre types that they deliver. They are films that mix social commentary with strong doses of action, but they are also universally appealing due to their love of common exploitation themes. Coming from a society that is generally male dominated, certainly in the sixties and seventies, these girl power movies that showed women standing up proud and powerful right next to the men who are supposed to be authority figures; these were very unique and daring movies. Ahead of their time by decades, really. Yet, as I type this, my mind wanders to the plethora of excessive sex scenes and the four tons of nudity that are usually jam packed in every other title that fits the definition. There’s a dichotomy at work that I personally find intriguing as a viewer and I doubt I’m the first to have picked up on it. Unlike most American exploitation at the time, most of which were shot on miniscule budgets with very little thought put into the visual presentation of the films, the technical merit of these films were all top notch. To go with the beautiful ladies, the cinematography in Japanese films of this era were all so gorgeous. All of these things I have said so far are true in the case of Girl Boss guerilla. In almost every sense of the word this is an atypical example of the genre in question, which is not necessarily a bad thing. That just means all of those good things are at play in this one, but unfortunately there seems to be less truly stand-out moments.

    Norifumi Suzuki, as a filmmaker, is quite the interesting character. He crafted the delinquent girl formula with his many notable entries into the genre, but his focus on class systems and defiance of social norms made him an auteur of the exploitation film world. Girl Boss guerilla jumps out of the gate with an axe to grind, taking on any authority or moral figure that it can possibly think to shake a finger at. Staking its story on this group of delinquent girls, Suzuki is actually very clever in his purposes behind the film and the shots that he takes at social taboos and etiquette are delivered in such succession and in such quick order that its easy to look over a lot of this stuff. His poking fun at religious leaders in particular, which I am assured is a continuing theme throughout his work, is just one aspect of this utter defiance he has with any single person atop the totem pole. These stories about women inside of the underworld surely appealed to his love of the societal misfit and the girl biker gang in Girl Boss guerilla are the perfect marionettes for him to play with. The all girl gang is an interesting concept for Japanese society, especially in the time that these films were made. Inside of the underworld, where the Yakuza are king, women are relegated to wives and at-home support. Yet, here in Suzuki’s world – these girls assault, hurt and win against these dominating tough guys. They are the misfits within a society of outcasts. A veritable sub-subculture.

    The girl power angle is something that is given a certain amount of mileage in these films, but the aspect that might turn off some modern film-goers would be the exploitation aspects that originally packed the theaters. For diehards and film geeks, especially those who understand the context or at least try to keep up with the culture, it’s easy to look past the over-abundance of sexuality. Modern viewers might be thrown off by the sexual domination and the obviously exploitative moments that were only meant to draw in the male audience. You have to give films like this credit however, despite their confines of having to deliver the sex and violence expected of them they still managed to pack in their message and empowered women within a world where men were expected to be those in total control. It’s a strange mix where you have these very pro-women films that will inevitably have a sequence at some point where one of the girls will be stripped topless, find herself in ropes or chains and have her breasts either lashed, burned or beaten. The breast is treated as a truly sacred body part in these films, their importance is best displayed in the sequence where our girls induct a member and give her their matching tattoo: which unlike the yakuza, who have giant murals on the back, is instead placed over the left breast. It’s a predictable ploy in these films that if anything is to happen to any body part on these girls, the breast will receive the punishment.

    Yet, for all of the sleaze a film like Girl Boss guerilla seems to ring out more for me as a celebration of beauty more than anything else. The sex isn’t what I would personally consider explicit and it seems as if the majority of focus on these girls is placed mainly on their use of sexuality in their characters. Their sexuality for the most part is used to intimidate the male characters that surround them. These girls are the antithesis of what Japanese society considered to be ‘good’ girls and they display that with vigor. The use of wardrobe is another expression of this attitude, but ultimately all who live within the ‘underworld’ of Kyoto dress so incredibly fashionable. Girl Boss guerilla delivers all of the giant sunshades and bright colors you could ever expect from a Japanese film of the era, and the style of it all is simply amazing. Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike have never looked more beautiful than in this film, with Sugimoto wearing a tight-fitting green shirt which she is all too ready to pull up to display her petite and well tuned mid-section. I don’t find myself drooling over actresses often, but Sugimoto could ask me to commit murder and I’d probably consider it.

    The Trivia
  • The film originally opened as the B-Picture on a double feature with Kinju Fukasaku’s original Battles Without Honor & Humanity.

  • Although not the first pairing of Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike (their first film was 1971’s Onsen Mimizu geisha (1971)), it is the most widely available of their first films together.

  • Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike shared screen time together on nine separate films (Onsen Mimizu geisha (1971), Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack (1971), Terrifying Girls’ High School: Women’s Violent Classroom (1972), Lustful Shogun and His Twentyone Mistresses (1972), Girl Boss guerilla (1972), Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Challenge (1972), Sukeban (1973), Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973) and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)), eight of which were directed by Norifumi Suzuki. Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, their last appearance together, was directed by Atsushi Mihori.

  • The Conclusion
    Although immediately after watching the film, I had mixed feelings about it, I find myself liking it more and more. Some of the things that draw me to it aren’t so direct and it takes some time to think about it. It isn’t an overly complex film and I don’t want people to drag that from my review, but it does put on a snarling face to authority figures and I enjoy that aspect of it. The previously mentioned stylish look of the film, from wardrobes to set decoration and beyond, is another really great aspect of it. All in all, I won’t say it’s my favorite Pinky Violence film that I have seen but it is a good deal of fun and absolutely worth searching out. I must warn, you may just fall in love with these girls.





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