Spanking Love

Japan, 1995
Director: Shoji Tanaka
Starring: Toshio Kakei, Yoshiko Yura, Kumi Shiraishi, Renji Ishibashi
IMDB: 4.3

Japan seems to crank out a fair few BDSM-themed movies which is perhaps a reflection of a less repressed sexual culture. While I've never been tempted to explore this lifestyle myself, I love the visuals of it all ... the leather, the heels, the fishnets. Simply put, the dominatrix archetype is sexy!

Which is why I initially picked this one up without really knowing what to expect. The cover features an artfully photographed leather-clad vixen, with the effect spoiled by a terribly amateur choice of font for the film's title. This one could go either way...

Previous forays into Japanese exploitation have revealed not a small amount of artistry mixed with their erotica (See School of the Holy Beast, Tokyo Decadence), and so it is here.

The story is in effect a drama, set within the Japanese BDSM underworld. Mr Okunogi (Renji Ishibashi) is a rich businessman with masochistic desires - Ie: he gets off on being dominated into submission by sexy young women. However, he utilises his wealth and power in a sadistic manner to force his "Queens" to stay around. This is an irony he recognises, noting that sadism and masochism are two sides of the same coin.

And so it is that we meet Ryo (Toshio Kakei), an S&M movie director and his girlfriend Mayumi (Kumi Shiraishi) who also happens to be Okunogi's current Queen. Mayumi is desperate to escape Okunogi's control after seeing another girl driven to commit suicide after being raped at the club.

Ryo and Mayumi hatch a plan to make some money and escape to Hawaii, after Okunogi develops an obsession with Ryo's newest starlet Yumie (Yoshiko Yura). He had filmed her taking a vicious spanking, all the while retaining an enigmatic twinkle in her eye, and enjoying the experience immensely. Okunogi saw something in those eyes, and had to have her as his new Queen. What's more, he was prepared to pay top dollar if Ryo could get her down to the club.

What follows is a character-driven drama with some artistic set-pieces livening up proceedings. Much of the action takes place in an S&M themed club populated with various chains/ restraints, a fat guy in a cage, naked dancers, a bunch of half naked male submissives, and of course the dominatrixes strutting about with their whips.

The dancers were a highlight and do a few expressionistic dances, but overall the club felt more like a cheaply-staged set.

On the plus side, Yoshiko Yura is gorgeous and Renji Ishibashi puts in a fine performance. Extra points are awarded for the attempt to raise the film from cheap exploitation, with some very stylish visuals and a storyline that aims for more deeply realised characters. But ultimately the lack of budget lets it down.

Spanking Love may be of slight interest to BDSM enthusiasts, but everyone else should skip it.

Rating: 5/10 (but nice try)

Note: Wikipedia mentions that Issei Sagawa (Japan's notorious cannibal) features in this movie in what seems a dubious casting decision, to say the least.

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