Original title: Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô
Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Starring: Reiko Ike, Tadashi Naruse, Christina Lindberg
From Japan's illustrious Toei Studios comes this early-70s pinku revenge flick based in Meiji era Tokyo (early 20th century). I've seen one other Norifumi Suzuki film so far, the very impressive School of the Holy Beast, and if I can generalise based on just two of his works, he has a penchant for nuns, whipping, rape, and naked women - combined with an eye for stunning visuals. This makes for a sleazy exploitation flick with style.
As a young girl, Ocho (Reiko Ike) witnesses her father's murder while they're visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine. His last act is to pull 3 blood-splattered Hanafuda cards into his hand bearing the designs of boar, stag and butterfly - clues to those responsible for his murder.
Cut to 20 years later. Ocho is grown up and determined to get revenge for her father's death. The convoluted story follows her as she tracks down each of them one by one, her quest getting her involved with prostitution, gambling, and even a British ploy to start another opium war. This last plot point allowing the introduction of Euro exploitation star Christina Lindberg to the mix.
Despite its rather intricate plot, make no mistake - this is a pinky film after all, and as such there is rather too much exploitative material, which unfortunately hinders the flow of the film. There are a few forced sex scenes, a lesbian scene, and even a scene of Lindberg whipping our bound heroine in a church while nuns look on!
This film is about as misogynistic as it gets in all honesty. The women here are generally treated as little more than slaves or sex objects, although it does redeem itself in some sense by portraying the two female leads as rather powerful women who nonetheless manage to get their own way.
Personally, I found the western characters, especially Lindberg, to be wooden and uninteresting. It felt like Lindberg was there solely to provide the 'naked western chick' titillation factor for Japanese viewers, evidenced further by the fact that she had a Japanese lover, and at one point is seduced by a Japanese maid for her master's enjoyment. But fair is fair, this does counter-balance the 'naked Japanese chick' titillation factor that I have no problem with at all.
Her performance is eclipsed by the nuanced and expressive Reiko Ike, who almost single-handedly saves the film. One standout scene involves her taking on a group of enemies in the snow, armed with just a sword while completely naked. Tarantino has made no secret that this scene influenced his work on Kill Bill, and it informs my favourite scene of that movie, where the Bride kills Oren Ishii in a similarly snow covered garden.
Our heroine, often naked and covered in blood, provides much of the iconic imagery of the film. There's even some squirty arterial blood geysers, later to be used and amplified to great effect by Japanese directors such as Takashi Miike and Yoshihiro Nishimura, and of course the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino.
As an early and influential progenitor of exploitation classics to come, Sex and Fury undoubtedly deserves its status as a cult classic of the genre. However as a film I found it a little dated and marred by some sub-standard acting.
On the plus side, there's some excellent early 70s rock music to beef up the score, and its interesting to see a few sights of Tokyo in the early 70's, especially of the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. Fans of Japanese exploitation should track this one down, if only to see an early example of the genre, and to enjoy Suzuki's iconic imagery. For anyone else, it would best be avoided.