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Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971) July 11, 2009

Posted by Cal in : Action, 1970s films, Exploitation, Bad Films , 2 comments

Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi  Main cast: Reiko Oshida; Masumi Tachibana; Yukie Kagawa  Territory: Japan

vlcsnap-222644.jpgHow can you pass up the opportunity to see a film called Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess?  Apparently the fourth instalment in a series of quickly made Pinky Violence films, this one doesn’t have much “pink”, but has a fair bit of violence…

It also has a barely-there plot about a wayward daughter and her estranged father paying off her debts.  There’s a bit of a moral message in there too and a sizeable chunk of melodrama.  But mostly it’s about a bad good girl (or good bad girl, depending on your point of view) Rika (Reiko Oshida) and her former jailhouse chums kicking the ass of a Yakuza mob.

Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess is not a well made film.  It screams cheap and quick, and even has one shot along a street where a passer-by stops and looks straight into the camera and watches intently as the shot progresses.  But Reiko is cute with her long hair and short skirts, and is even better when she’s in mourning when she favours hot pants and knee boots.  If you’ve been following these pages for any amount of time you’ll know I have a particular soft spot for the style and kitsch of this era, and I loved the night club scene where an entire rock band start mining along with a piano-and-vocal-only song. 

As mentioned earlier, there isn’t a whole lot of nudity in the film, but there are a few laughably obvious scenes (a bath scene in a women’s prison springs to mind).  There are also a few really strange touches, like when a minor “sister” character appears to playfully fondle Rika’s breasts for no reason and the inclusion of a few mild allusions to underwear fetishism.  The standard revenge plot, when it kicks in, will not have anyone in suspense, but delivers a bucket or two of blood. 

All in all, Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess is enjoyable but light sexploitation/revenge flick fodder.  Quite good for a Sunday afternoon, but unlikely to be in anyone’s ‘classic’ list. 

Ichi the Killer (2001) May 16, 2009

Posted by Cal in : Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Exploitation, Wacko, 2000s films , add a comment

Director: Takashi Miike  Main cast: Tadanobu Asano; Nao Omori; Alien Sun; Shinya Tsukamoto  Territory: Japan

The head of the Anjo gang has disappeared, along with a substantial wad of cash.  Masochistic gang member Kakihara is charged with finding him and the money and to use any means necessary to recover what has been lost.  When it transpires that the boss is dead and that a sadistic hitman named Ichi carried out the killing, Kakihara has his own reasons for tracking the assassin down.

Ichi the Killer’s notoriety tends to overshadow the film itself, and it’s quite easy to dismiss the film as a sick exploitation flick with no merit at all.  It’s doubly easy seeing as how less than two minutes into the movie we see some truly nasty misogyny when a female character gets the living crap beaten out of her and raped while another character (Ichi himself, we later learn) gets his rocks off to the sight.

But is it a punishment if he WANTS to do it? 

All is not as it seems, however, and while Ichi the Killer is sickeningly brutal in its uncut form (which is the version reviewed here), there is social commentary here, albeit buried deeply under the gore. 

The characters are a bunch of lowlife junkies.  The king of them is Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), who enjoys pain and whose scarred, “modified” face will probably linger in your mind forever.  He’s actually quite a likable character, when he’s not torturing people for information.  He even has a philosophy on masochism, and imparts it while receiving a drubbing from trainee Dominatrix Karen: “when you’re hurting someone, don’t think of the pain that he feels.  Only concentrate on the pleasure of causing him pain.  That’s the only way to show true compassion for your partner”.

Ichi himself (Nao Omori) is a tragic character.  He’s had his sexual wiring so completely confused by his boss Jiji that he thinks he once wanted to participate in a gang rape.  In fact, no such event ever took place, but thanks to hypnotic suggestion Ichi has been wracked with guilt ever since and acts as a kind of screwed-up superhero, exacting revenge on bullies.  His conditioning leaves us quite sympathetic to him – a rare thing for such a character.

With the polylingual, conniving Karen (Alien Sun), this has the most gruesome cast of characters I’ve seen outside a Rob Zombie movie.  But Ichi the Killer also has moments of great black comedy (the scene where Kakihara is expelled from the gang via a video cam is truly hilarious), and a depth that is seldom acknowledged. 

I actually found this easier to watch than some films that showed infinitely less gore and violence.  And I have to admit I quite liked it, which came as a bit of a surprise.   Even the blatant misogyny didn’t seem so terribly offensive – although the nipple-slicing scene was the one moment I had to look away.  Let’s face it, no one in this film gets an easy ride.

I suspect that the somewhat convoluted plot will become clearer on repeated viewing (I did struggle to keep up at times) and yield further enjoyment.  Although not showing the better side of humanity, there was still a lot to enjoy in the film, and didn’t find it to be the rancid cesspit that some have claimed it to be.

Machine Girl (2008) October 28, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Uncategorized, Horror, Comedy, Action, Exploitation, Bad Films, 2000s films , add a comment

Director: Noboru Iguchi  Main cast: Minase Yashiro; Asami; Kentaro Shimazu; Nobuhiro Nishihara  Territory: Japan

After schoolgirl Ami’s (Minase Yashiro) younger brother gets killed by a gang of bullies, she stumbles on a list of his tormentors and goes on a rampage of vengeance.  Even after losing an arm, Ami hardly misses a beat – especially after a huband and wife team of mechanics fix her up with a replacement in the form of a high-calibur machine gun.  But the final revenge will not be easy – the head bully’s father is a Yakuza chief, expert in the use of a katana.  But even he is no match for his psychotic wife…

Machine Girl is the latest film from Noboru Iguchi, the man responsible for the ultra-mad Sukeban Boy.  As you would expect, it’s another blend of gore, bad acting and unconvincing fight scenes, but this time it looks like he had a budget for the film.  There are even a few bargain-basement CGI effects thrown in for good measure, and it’s got more of a cinematic feel to it. 

L-R: Asami Miyajima, Minase Yashiro 

With lines like: “Wash your hair in your son’s blood!”, random ninja attacks and a soundtrack that sounds like your typical 80’s straight-to-video action film, you know you’re talking major-league exploitation revenge-flick trash, and this is probably as good as it gets.  In fact, I’m really surprised not to see Tarantino’s name anywhere on the Region 1 release, and I imagine it’s already up there as one of his favourite films. 

It seems pointless to talk about characterisations, but there has been an effort to give mechanic Miki (Sukeban Boy’s Asami) some character developement from her initial hostillity towards Ami (she believed Ami’s parents were murderers) to being a strong friend when her son is killed alongside Ami’s brother.  Even bully Sho’s father is a more interesting character than at first appears due to his villainy being trumped at every turn by his demented wife. 

Athough the acting is generally poor, this guy really nailed the part. 

Which brings us back to the gore.  This really is a showcase for old-school effects, and like Sukeban Boy, it reminded me of the video nasties from the late 70’s or early 80’s.  Whether you think the gore effects are stupid or not probably depends on your fondness for those films, I suppose, but I thought they were a lot of fun.  I wasn’t quite sure whether the whole film is actually a satire on these kinds of films, and whether it was in fact a lot more intelligent than it appears at first glance.  It’s definitely possible.  But the important thing is that it’s a fun, mad little film that rips along at a breakneck speed ideal for those times when you want to see something completely over the top.

Oh, and that drill bra…!

The Return of the Sister Street Fighter (1975) October 16, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Action, 1970s films, Exploitation , add a comment

Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi  Main cast: Etsuko Shihomi; Yasuaki Kurata; Masashi Ishibashi  Territory: Japan  Production Company: Toei

Koryu (Etsuko Shihomi) investigates a criminal organisation headed by Oh, a wheelchair-bound crime lord who has kidnapped a young girl’s mother.  Koryu uncovers a den of the usual freaks in her search for justice.

Immediately upon putting this into the DVD player, I scrambled for the box – I had inadvertently put the previous film Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By a Thread on instead.  However, after a close look, it turns out I had put the right disc in after all.  The Return of the Sister Street Fighter is the worst case of movie deja vu I’ve ever experienced.

Starting in Hong Kong, just like the previous films, the action soon shifts to Japan – again, just like the previous two films.  Again, the whole plot of the film is explained in a few lines of dialogue right at the beginning and we’re then thrust in at the deep end.

Again, we get an evil crime lord who seems closely related to both Dr No and Han from Enter the Dragon, and again his henchmen are an utterly bizarre bunch of freaks.  The best includes a man who appears to be Bruce Lee’s evil twin and Masashi Ishibashi as a killer pimp.  One wonders how crime could have got a foothold in Japan in the seventies – if the police simply rounded up everyone who looked abnormal, crime would have been obliterated overnight.  Once again, Yasuaki Kurata shows up to audition for the bad guys and turns out to be quite a nice bloke in the end.

Yasuaki Kurata Vs Etsuko Shihomi - AGAIN.  *Yawn* 

There’s a bit about gold smuggling just to give some semblance of story, but most of the time it’s just a series of fights and outlandish characters.  The inclusion of a little girl for Koryu to look after while her mother’s being held by Oh is meant to lend some heart to the film, but it’s all too franticly paced you couldn’t connect on an emotional level even if you wanted to.

The evil Oh is quite funny, though, and so is his sideshow of freaks.  As an evil genius, he’s never going to make it to the big league though:  he sends six men to kidnap a small girl but only one man to kill Koryu.  As you might expect, he doesn’t live long enough to work on his people-management techniques.

The fight scenes are pretty typical for the series, although again Yasuaki Kurata’s presence improves the film considerably.  There’s also a nice wall-climbing stunt from Shihomi, who gives a fair account of herself again.

But on the whole, The Return of the Sister Street Fighter is just too familiar to be enjoyable, even though the brisk 77-minute running time means you’ll have plenty of time to fit another, more substantial movie into your evening should you wish to.  Maybe that’s the best way to serve this film: as an appetiser. 

Ebola Syndrome (1996) March 24, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Horror, Exploitation , 5 comments

Director: Herman Yau  Cast: Anthony Wong; Angel Wong; Lo Meng; Vincent Wan  Territory: Hong Kong  Production Company: Jing’s Production Ltd

There’s a good chance that the Ebola virus will wipe out humanity at some point.  It’s highly contagious, incurable and has a ridiculously high mortality rate.  Which makes for potentially shocking and inevitably sensationalistic movie material.  If the virus does break out on a large scale, though, it’s unlikely we will see the events of Herman Yau’s cult exploitation movie Ebola Syndrome played out for real.  At least, I hope not…

Anthony Wong plays Kai, a psychotic rapist and murderer from Hong Kong, who flees the police to make a new life for himself in South Africa working in a Chinese restaurant.  His boss (former Venom Lo Meng) has trouble finding merchants to sell him meat, so he does a deal with a local tribe suffering from an outbreak of the Ebola virus to seel him cheap pork.  Kai comes into contact with the virus when he casually rapes an infected tribeswoman and becomes a carrier for the disease, which he starts to spread – at first unwittingly, and then deliberately.

Ebola Syndrome is sleazy as hell and pretty much unforgivable on any level.  There’s always something nasty being done to someone or something either living or dead (there’s a shot of a dead mouse getting run over which is particularly gratuitous and pointless, and do we really need to see Wong slice up three frogs in one prolonged shot?).  All of the characters are inherently unlikeable – even Kai’s boss (the most “normal” of the bunch) only hires him because he’ll work for low wages as he’s a wanted criminal.  Oh, and let’s not forget Lily (Angel Wong), who very nearly became one of Kai’s victims in Hong Kong and who accidentally stumbles on him again in South Africa.  She can’t be near him without vomiting as she claims she can “really recognise his scent of smell”.  Yeah, all right…

No one is safe from Ah Kim 

With such a crew of amoral and unsympathetic characters, there is little drama.  There is, however, what appears like an attempt at gross-out humour throughout the film (Wong Jing is the producer, after all) which, if you like that sort of thing, might raise a few laughs.  And fans of Yau and Wong’s previous collaboration The Untold Story are treated to another “human flesh served to restaurant patrons” subplot. 

It has to be said that the depiction of the symptoms of the virus are fanciful at best and don’t seem to bear much resemblance to the real thing.  The sufferers have a tendency to be right as rain one minute then suddenly fall to the ground in spasms, making for some unintentional hilarity.  Later on in the movie things are taken in a more serious direction with the introduction of Sergeant Yeung (Vincent Wan) and his team as they try to track down Kim and evade the virus, and the focus shifts away from Kim for a while.

I can see why Ebola Syndrome has such a cult following, with its gross comedy, gore and so forth, but there is just too much nastiness in there that just put me off – and animal violence in movies is a complete taboo for me (live chickens are killed on screen).  I understand that the current Hong Kong version is as uncut as it’s likely to be, but it is clear that some scenes have been trimmed for violent content and the part where Kim slices off a woman’s tongue is quite obviously cut.  If a fully uncut version becomes available, I think I’ll pass…

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