Sex & Fury

Japan, 1973
Original title: Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô

Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Starring: Reiko Ike, Tadashi Naruse, Christina Lindberg
IMDB: 7.1

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.

Rating: 6/10



Annono said...

I don't really get your points, I am used to most other whites being racist (so many I just assume you are).

So you feel the western character wasn't good because she was just there to be nude for the Japanese audience? So how is that any different to all the nude Japanese women in these films? Are you attempting to claim that Japanese men don't care for nude Japanese women and that only a nude western woman is something good?

I also don't get what you mean by saying the nude western woman balances out the nude Japanese woman. What do you mean by that? How does adding more nude people balance it out? It's just adding more nude people, lol.

Not even many of these movies have western women in them, plus I don't think you should make a big deal out of her being western. Just as there are a tiny percentage of JAV movies that have a western woman in them, but they never are as popular as the top Japanese women, it's a niche to like western women in Japan (just as in the west it's a niche to like Asian women).

I am just unsure about some of your points. I am a white man myself, but personally I am the only objective and non racist white man I have ever known. Most other whites I come across are just racist.

You may not be racist, it's possible I misunderstood your points.


Welcome.Your comment brings up some interesting points. However, you seem to have misunderstood a few things ...

[quote]So you feel the western character wasn't good because she was just there to be nude for the Japanese audience?[/quote]
No, that's not what I said. I said the problem was the acting seemed wooden and the character uninteresting. That's why her character wasn't good.

Was her nudity a draw for the Japanese audience? Absolutely! Lindberg is an ex Penthouse Pet, Playboy and Mayfair model, and popular in Europe at the time as a soft-core/exploitation actress - her sex appeal is not in question.

But is it racist to suggest there may have been a "western chick factor"? I don't think so. And I'm not suggesting it is a negative thing either. It's just human nature, people love the exotic. There are many examples in western culture ... cool swedish blonde, passionate italian men, exotic asian women. They're all fetishized to a point, by some people. And Japanese are no different. If you've ever been to Japan (I have, many times) then you would understand that western women can be seen as "exotic" to Japanese men too. It's not racist, it's reality.

[quote]Are you attempting to claim that Japanese men don't care for nude Japanese women and that only a nude western woman is something good?[/quote]
Of course not, that would be ridiculous. It's possible to be excited by the exotic, while also appreciating the familiar. They're not mutually exclusive ... especially where naked women are concerned! While the exotic is regularly used as a draw for the movie-going public, that doesn't at all take away from the large number of amazing, beautiful Japanese actresses who are beloved by Japanese movie lovers (myself included)

[quote]I also don't get what you mean by saying the nude western woman balances out the nude Japanese woman. What do you mean by that?[/quote]
I explained that in more detail above. I simply meant that western women can be seen as exotic to the Japanese, in the same way Japanese women can be seen as exotic to westerners. Same deal. Not saying every guy in Japan, or the West, feels this way. Not even most ... just that it is a thing. And it's a thing that can be exploited to sell movies.

Now that we've cleared that up. What did you think of the movie?

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