Since I love exploitation in general, women in prison
films in particular, and all films that give me a glimpse into another
culture, I am excited to discover Pinky Violence films, a major
sub-genre of Japanese exploitation films from the 1970s, basically
consisting of ultraviolent delinquent girl films. Most start as "women
in prison" films to set up the characters, then jump ahead into the
story. Since the big screen staple at the time consisted of Yakuza
films, the gangs were usually the next stop after prison.
These films came about when the Japanese studios were
in sharp decline because of the increasing popularity of television.
The studio bosses decided to give the public some things they couldn't
see on TV, namely sex and violence. These films were produced quickly
and cheaply, but professionally, and all are all shot on 35 mm and
presented in widescreen aspect ratios. Since costs were low and ticket
sales brisk, the concept worked as a commercial venture. Since the
films were ground out by experienced filmmakers through established
studios, the films sported solid production values and were of
reasonable artistic quality as well.
They even included a strong subtext of social
commentary, although it was buried inside the exploitation format.
The films often portray political corruption, as well
as the conflict between the traditional Japanese conception of
womanhood and the reality of these street girls' lives. The women are
shown as anything but demure and subservient. They are often much smarter
and tougher than the Yakuza, which is contrary to the politically
correct notions of the contemporary Japanese culture. In a way, these
films are to working class Japanese women what the blacksploitation
films of the same era were to American blacks, because the women are
Most analysts feel that these films aren't nearly as dated as American exploitation
the era, perhaps because the lives on the lower rungs of Japanese society
have not changed much in the intervening decades.
Criminal Woman Killing Melody (1973)
This film is directed by Atsushi
Criminal Woman Killing Melody opens with Reiko Ike walking into a
club, and trying to massacre a Yakuza gang single-handed with a
sword. She is, of course, arrested, and is morose in prison. Her
unwillingness to tell her story ends in a catfight with Miki
Sugimoto, who is more or less the cell boss, and is the girl of a
Yakuza leader. This long battle was the first of two major catfights
between the two women, whose scraps were a staple of the genre.
Reiko Ike leapt to stardom with Toei studios, then was advised by
her managers that all the nude work was hurting her singing career,
so she left acting, and Sugimoto became the genre superstar. When
Ike, regretting her choice, returned to films, the studio made much
of the rivalry between Ike and Sugimoto, casting them as opposing
characters, and alternating the lead roles between them. They have a
catfight in most of these films. This particular one is like the famous fight in Cool Hand Luke,
in that the less
experienced Ike is not very effective, but never quits, and the fight
ends in a draw.
Cut to several years into the future. Ike is out, and is after
revenge on the entire Yakuza mob that killed her father, a minor
drug peddler, and then raped her. Three former classmates join in,
and they plot to give the Yakuza a financial screwing, and then do
them in. Naturally, her former cellmate Miki Sugimoto is the moll of
the very Yakuza leader that Ike wants to take down. The plan is to convince her target gang to fight against a rival
The director knew how to dress a
set, choreograph a scene, and pick color palettes. Even his worst
scenes are well done, and the best ones are beautifully executed. He frequently shifts rapidly from violence to sex to suspense
to comic relief, but the transitions were less jarring than
because you will rarely be able to predict
what is coming next.
Nudity Report: In addition to two
catfights between Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, both women show
breasts in several scenes and the film is generally filled with
nudity, sex, BD/SM, and tattoos. (In all of these films, the girl
gang members have intimate tattoos identifying them as gang members.
In this case, they are breast tattoos.)
Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973)
This one was directed by Norifumi Suzuki, who is to Pinky
Violence films as Sergio Leone is to Spaghetti Westerns. His Sex
and Fury was the inspiration for Tarantino's Kill Bill movies.
The DVD's accompanying booklet summarizes his
attitude toward filmmaking: Suzuki offers up "long stretches of
inspired visual brilliance, shocking juxtapositions, and
outrageously original variations on standard action formulas. Just
as often, we get juvenile, clumsily-inserted comic relief and
haphazard transitions. Suzuki could be a truly great filmmaker when
he was in the mood, but ... he didn't really give a damn and was
apparently not interested in art, only in having a few laughs and an
undisciplined good time while sporadically throwing in startling
situations and mind-blowing visual pyrotechnics - just to remind us
he could be great when he wanted."
We open in a school for wayward girls, where a group of girls in
sailor uniforms, identified as the discipline committee, tortures
another girl to death. We soon learn that the discipline committee
was established by the vice principal to torture any students who
cause him trouble. He assigns them to orientate the new girls.
Although he is engaged to his assistant, Jun Midorikawa, he is
clearly having sex with the girls in the discipline team.
Miki Sugimoto soon enrolls in the school with two other new
girls. It becomes clear that Miki has come to the school to revenge
the death of the girl from the opening scene, who was the
second-in-command of her girl gang. (Reiko Ike has a cameo role in
this one as a rival gang leader who wants her customary catfight
with Miki, but will wait until Miki has her revenge.)
To complicate things further, a young paparazzi/journalist is
hatching schemes to blackmail local politicians, all of whom are
connected to the school. His scheme is chiefly to get photos of them
in compromising positions with the school girls. As the powers that
be begin their rapid descent, Jun Midorikawa has sex with "The
Chairman" to "clean up her husband's mess." She is wearing all
white, and he uses a vibrator with a red center on her, making fun
of the Japanese flag. I mention this as a key to what these films
are all about. Director Suzuki is demonstrating that the formal
respectability in Japanese society is a thin veneer, and one need
not look far below the surface to see that members of the
establishment are often perverted. Suzuki championed the
marginalized in society, most especially wayward girls. You can
imagine how this was received by the young Japanese audiences who
saw these films.
Nudity Report: Miki Sugimoto shows
only breasts this time, but Jun Midorikawa shows breasts and buns.
All of Suzuki's films contain as much nudity and sex as the Japanese
censors would allow, and a liberal dose of BD/SM as well. In
this one, a girl is forced to drink water, then kept from using the
bathroom, until she finally pees all over her school desk in class.
The baddies also tie girls up, and connect electricity to their
nipples and vaginas. As usual, there are plenty of catfights as
Girl Boss Guerilla (1973)
This was also directed by Norifumi Suzuki, and had more comic
relief than most of the other Pinky Violence films. Unexpected
comedy was a staple of Suzuki's films.
Girl Boss Guerilla stars Miki Sugimoto as the leader of the "Red
Helmets," a Tokyo gang of four motorcycle girls who decide to visit
Kyoto. They immediately run afoul of the Kyoto girl mob, leading to
the first major catfight. Then Reiko Ike, the former leader of the
Kyoto bunch, arrives for her obligatory one-on-one fight with Miki
Sugimoto. Miki wins the catfight this time, and takes
over control of the local girl gangs. Most of the girls' schemes
involve sex and blackmail, and they even corrupt a nun into joining
them to blackmail a priest, who ends up giving them the clap. Miki
is a little too greedy and independent for the Yakuza, and is
constantly being tortured by them. For anyone who has seen more than
one of these films, it is clear that there will be a final bloody
showdown between the girl gang and the Yakuza.
Nudity Report: Nude scenes provide
breasts from Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike, and a host of unknowns, and
include bondage, and whipping. There is also an homage to the beach
scene in From Here to Eternity with Sugimoto.
Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971)
This one was directed by Kazuhiko
In this case, Reiko Oshida, who starred in all four Delinquent
Girl Boss films, is a loveable reform school girl. Upon her release,
she starts meeting friends from school, most of whom work as bar
girls. When she stops at the business of a former classmate to
return something to her, she finds that the classmate is living with
a no-good gambler and Yakuza thug, and that the Yakuza are trying to
put the woman's father out of business by using gambling debts run
up by her husband. The beleaguered father offers Reiko a job and a
place to stay. The former classmates become closer, and then decide
to help the old man. This means going after the Yakuza.
Nudity Report: Reiko Oshida is seen
here in a bra and panties. Yumiko Katayama shows breasts in a shower
and buns in a hot bath.