The Pinky Violence Collection gathers four films from Japanese cinema's golden age of the profane and funky. In the late 60's, just like in most of the major movie markets, Japanese relaxed censorship laws and allowed more extreme content in films. Thus, titillation, savagery, and general debauchery and exploitation began to pop up and proved to be a lucrative way to lure in an increasingly tv-entertained audience. "Pinky violence" was basically bad girl films, often filmed in a psychedelic haze, set in the grimiest urban locales, and filled to the brim with blatant nudity, too cool swagger, vicious violence, as well as some outlandishly gaudy outfits and dated hairstyles.
Terrifying Girls High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973)- The School of Hope is a reform school with the motto that they will turn female juvenille delinquents into "role model mothers and wives." The corrupt principal keeps the girls in line through the schools Disciplinary Committee, a group of sadistic students who relish in beating up and torturing any of the lot who get out of line. A trio of girls arrives who fight back at the punishment, Razor-blade Remi, bisexual sex-kitten Kyoko, and Noriko (Miki Sugamoto), who is, unbeknownst to the others, also known as the Boss with the Cross, a well-known gang leader from Yokohama.
A former gangmate of Noriko's died at the hands of the Disciplinary Committee and Noriko won't stand for it or being pushed around. Along with Remi, Kyoko, a rival turned ally (Reiko Ike), and two other girls, Junko the Jacker and Nobue the Pipe Basher, Noriko forms her own little gang intent on using whatever force and feminine wiles they have to ruin the principal, get revenge against the Disciplinary Committee, and bring down the very school itself.
Wow, the ladies of the Disciplinary Committee would make Tomas de Torquemada proud. They really have their torture techniques down pat, the least of which involves inserting a red hot light bulb in a subjects "hey now" and forcing the girl to do push-ups. This film, the second in the Terrifying... series, was directed by Norofumi Suzuki, who delivered quite a few good pinky violence films, from School of the Holy Beast to Sex and Fury. This one has a lot of fun, sleazy atmosphere, naughty blackmail, torture (naturally), and a great finale where it all comes to a head and the delinquent girls take over the school and engage in a revolutionary style school siege and battle with the cops. Also wins major, exploitation film cool points for when Reiko Ike's character only agrees to postpone her fight with Miki Sugamoto if Miki's character can do a motorcycle barrel jump. Personally I think this is how all disputes should be settled- via motorcycle barrel jump.
Criminal Melody: Killing Woman (1973)- Opens in a topless go-go disco, which is a perfect exploitation film intro, made all the better because the scene ends with Maki (Reiko Ike) sticking a butcher knife in a gangster named Oba (Ryoji Hayama- Bloody Territories) before his cronies wrestle her away. Put on the bus to prison, tight-lipped Maki doesn't make any new friends very fast. As a mater of fact, she quickly finds herself involved in glass shard fight with fellow inmate Masayo (Miki Sugamato). Though she is outclassed, a battered, bloodied, exhausted Maki wont quit fighting and wins simply through her refusal to give up. This first impression wins over fellow inmates Yukie, Natsuko, and Kaoru, who get Maki to reveal her story- her father was forced into dealing drugs on the warf front for the Oba Industries yakuza group and was killed when they decided they didn't need him anymore.
Cut to: A FEW YEARS LATER... Maki grows a spiffy beehive and gets released from prison. Yukie, Natsuko, and Kaoru are waiting outside the gate and join her in her quest to bring Oba Industries to its knees. While the other girls scope out the gang and collect information, Maki sells her body so they'll have the bankroll to start their war. They buy some guns and start offing the Oba hierarchy, making it look like their yakuza rivals are doing the dirty business. The girls soon find out that Masayo, who has also been released form prison, is actually Oba's girl, giving them both a reluctant, opportunistic insider and a begrudging rival.
Great little revenge piece. Frankly, I'm ashamed I hadn't tracked it down before, but I''ve always been a little cool on Reiko Ike and the films director, Atsushi Mohori, didn't have much of a resume in comparison to other pinky violence/Japanese exploitation notables. But, this one really delivers the goods, saucy vixens, despicable gangsters, a catfight rivalry, and decent amounts of flesh-bearing, fights, and even a little bondage torture which is a Reiko Ike pinky violence prerequisite.
The third film in the Girl Boss/Sukeban series, Girl Boss Guerilla (1972), is by far the best known film/series of this collection. The continuing adventures of Shinjuku bad girls, the Red Helmet Gang- "Sleepy" Yuki, horndog Ukko, Linda, and their tough leader Sachiko (Miki Sugamoto). The girls arrive in Kyoto and make a quick first impression by challenging the leader of the local girl gang. After their topless, parking lot scrap, Sachiko comes out with the win and secures control over the gang. She quickly finds out that they are on the low rung of the gangland ladder and must pay dues to the Tsutsui yakuza group.
Wanting a piece of the girl gangs increasing profits, the Tsutsui group starts harassing the girls more and instigates a takeover. During one nasty confrontation, Sachiko is rescued by a boxer, a champ in training, named Ichiro. Waiting for the heat in Kyoto to die down, Sachiko and the original members of the Red Helmet Gang follow Ichiro to his hot springs training camp. But, defending Sachiko has put Ichiro in bad standing with the yakuza, who arrive to pressure Ichiro and his trainer, eventually leading to tragic bloodshed and REVENGE!
Norofumi Suzuki helmed the first four, and most notable, entries into this series which cemented Reko Ike and Miki Sugimoto as Japanese cult film queens. Suzuki's exploitation films usually have a lean towards more comedy and sex, which tempered the expected violence, like his penchant for bondage and torture. Suzuki also liked to take stabs at religious figures. You'll find it all here: wacky comedy interludes at a gynecologist office, the girls blackmailing a monk who's sleeping with a nun, getting the clap from a seduced priest and passing it on to the yakuza, just to name a few of the instances that mark it as a Norofumi flick. Miki Sugamoto is best known for her lead role in Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs though, frankly, in that film, she's a bit of a blank character in an outrageous work. In this film, she actually shows some honest to god, emotional range and handles heartbreak and stone cold, bad assness with equal charm. Reiko Ike shows up again in this one, as an outsider and former gang girl who's bro is one the main yakuza henchmen.
Finally we come to Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1972), which was the fourth and last in the film in its series. Free-spirited Rika (Reiko Oshida) is released from the Akagi Reformatory and finds herself back on the streets of Shinjuku. She gets a job and a room in the garage of her ex-cellmate Midori's (Yumiko Katayama) mechanic father. Midori has put her father in a spot with the local yakuza, running up bills under her father's name, all so she can pay off her no good boyfriends's gambling debts. The yakuza are even threatening to take her fathers shop, but Midori is cold and uncaring for the father that largely abandoned her.
Rika finds out the rest of her juvenile slammer buddies aren't faring too well, especially Mari (Yuhie Kagawa), who is stuck posing for perverts so she can take care of her tuberculosis-ridden hubby. The rest of her friends try to get Mari a job as a nightclub hostess, the same club where Midori works, and again the yakuza are behind the scenes. It doesn't take a psychic to predict that pretty soon the girls will have to unite and don their red trenchcoat battle gear and brandish swords against the yakuza slimeballs that are making everyones life hell.
Now, I'd heard about this series but never really sought it out because I'd always read pretty lukewarm things or, at least, nothing glowing or raving about them being exceptional. I'm tempted to say this film doesn't even belong on this set. It fits the genre, but, in comparison to the other films, it is very tame. Yes, there is some lurid nudity and violence (though only at the films end) but in terms of tone, the film focuses so much on working class character melodrama, it might as well be a Toro-san flick. It feels strange to slag on it because as an actual movie, it is better thought out and realized than the other films. But as a work of exploitation, it is almost an utter failure simply by playing it way too safe.
I want my bad girls bad, and the Rika character is a total pushover, bubbly, cute, and kowtowing where other exploitation heroines would be fighting tooth and nail. I mean, Pam Grier or Meiko Kaji's characters would eat her alive. Putting the objectification aside for a moment, these kind of exploitation films are usually about the women who fight back and show resolve against men who are machismo louts. Delinquent Girl... spends more time with the girls being sheepish and subserviently running around trying to fend for the weak men in their lives. So, unfortunately, my viewing experience for this one was ruined by the context of watching it in this set. On its own, I might have enjoyed it more, but as part of my Pinky Violence boxset marathon viewing, it felt like an odd duck.
The DVD: Panik House.
Well, this is a great set. I tried to be concise in my descriptions, but I could go on an on about every film in the set, my favorites being Terrifying Girls high School and Criminal Woman. Girl Boss Guerrilla is a great entry into a cool series. Though I was lukewarm on Delinquent Girl Boss, that is only because it is a fine film that is a tad too classy for the wilder tastes the rest of the films serve.
It is a tad strange that the films are all part of different series but bundled here together. Sure, they stand alone and share some minor connections like stars Reiko Ike and Mimi Sugamoto, as well as director Norofumi Suzuki, who helms two of the four. One hopes the set will sell well and allow Panik House to, maybe, pick up the rest of the films, like a double feature of the first two Girl Boss/Sukeban films, or another box set with more Terrifying High School and Delinquent Girl flicks. And of course, if they really want to impress, they could grab up some Stray Cat Rock.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. No complaints here. Much the same as Panik House's Sex and Fury and Female Yakuza Tale, they have taken these 70's exploitation gems and given them excellent transfers. All of the films bear the marks of their era and budget- a spot or a line or two here and there, a soft focus bit, and a slightly high grain level, but they look fantastic thanks to some cleaned up, spiffy prints.
As a long time cult film fan, I am just amazed when I get to see such fine treatment of such fringe interest cinema. The colors pop with vibrant hues. Contrast denials are nice and deep. Sharpness is crisp. Technical details are admirable with minimal compression goofs.
Sound: Japanese Mono with optional English subtitles. Sure, there are some expected limitations given their age and the format, but there is very little wear and tear or distortions, muffle, or hiss. You can be sure the scores will have plenty of three things, jazzy drum beats, wah wah guitar, and bleeting sax. The subtitles are very good and provide excellent translations.
Extras: 24 page booklet with Pinky violence essay by Chris D.- Reiko Ike Sings music cd. *Note* I wont comment on these two since they were not included with my review screeners.— Each film has: Original Theatrical Trailer.— Poster and Still Galleries.— Production Notes— Director and Star Bios.— Commentary: Terrifying Girls High School and Delinquent Girl Boss by "Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film" author Chris D. Criminal Melody by film critics Andy Klein and Wade Major. Girl Boss Guerilla by "Asian Cult Cinema" columnist Wyatt Doyle and Panik House president Matt Kennedy.
The galleries are small but neat. The bios are quite good, my only compliant being that the photos for the stars are inconsequential, just background obscured by the text. You will find some good info, like how Delinquent... star Reiko Oshida was protected from doing nudity. Though probably not so engaging that they merit a repeat listen, the commentaries are all worthwhile and get into general film knowledge of the era, genre, and the stars. It's also pretty funny just to hear the commentators, from disc to disc, during different extreme scenes repeat the mantra- "You wont see that in an American film."
Conclusion: Panik House has been on the scene a very short time but they are already shining like a bright, brilliant star and making cult film fans (and hopefully rival labels) take notice. This is a quality presentation of great, fun, sexy, gangster, juvie, super bad girl cinema. Techically the discs and the films impress. You get more than b-quality flicks too. While these films are definitely for sinners, serving up a smorgasbord of nubile flesh, gritty violence, and general lewdness, they also have some great directorial flourishes and provocative stars. Get the Pinky Violence Collection and get bad.