Female Yakuza Tale (1973)
By: M. Walsh on January 11, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Panik House (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2:35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD mono. English Subtitles. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Teruo Ishii
Starring: Reiko Ike, Ryohei Uchida, Akemi Negishi, Jun Midorikawa
Screenplay: Teruo Ishii, Masahiro Kakefuda
Country: Japan
There's a scene that occurs relatively early in Female Yakuza Tale that had me rubbing my chin in a quasi-academic manner. The scene involves a naked Reiko Ike (here reprising her role as Ocho from the first of the two Elder Sister films: Sex and Fury) dangling from her wrists while three revolting men look on and leer. Dialogue is exchanged, not a word of which I can recall, and then Ike is digitally penetrated by two of the men whose expressions change from glee to disappointment as they discover that Ike's vagina does not contain, as it were, what they're looking for. When I say that this scene occurs early, I mean within the first five minutes.

As an introduction to the tonality of the film, and as an indication of the almost jaw-dropping scatology that is to follow, this bondage and rape sequence is a brilliant device and one which immediately serves to set this film apart from its predecessor.

Ocho is eventually knocked unconscious and awakens to find herself dumped in an alley beside the corpse of woman who has had her, and I'll let the film describe this for me, "crotch gouged". It's a set-up, of course, and one which Ocho does not appreciate in the slightest. During her quest for revenge, Ocho becomes embroiled in a Yakuza drug smuggling scheme that shares some striking similarities to the, ahem, "examination" she received at the start of the film. Add to the mix an assassin dressed as a nun, a mysterious stranger who has an agenda of his own (I'm pretty sure that every Japanese exploitation film has an archetypal "brooding, cool guy whose machinations parallel those of the protagonist") and a bevy of sword-wielding prostitutes and you end up with the strange alchemy that is Female Yakuza Tale.

The narrative course that the film takes is reasonably streamlined (compared to other films in the Pinky Violence pantheon). There are, really, only two scenes of swordplay to be found in Female Yakuza Tale: a pre-credit tussle in the rain that, as a metaphor, serves the film's intentions wonderfully, and the climactic battle between a literal army of naked women and a sizeable gang of Yakuza. This sequence in particular serves as a microcosmic example of what Female Yakuza Tale is all about: it is a sloppy, poorly staged set-piece that is neither particularly bloody nor particularly cool. But the point is, I don't think it's supposed to be. Female Yakuza Tale is, in essence, the exploitation equivalent of a teen sex-comedy. Beautifully choreographed swordfights, the bathtub scene in Sex and Fury for example, really have no place in a film as obsessed with genitals and bodily fluids as this is. And if the only real scene of action in the film is a bizarre, slapstick free-for-all (with the added tang of sadism to help keep its credentials in check), then so be it.

I'm going to crawl out on a limb here and admit that I enjoyed this film almost exponentially more than Sex and Fury. Make no mistake, Sex and Fury is a work of brilliance, an illegal cock fight between artistic aspirations and grindhouse sensibilities. But Female Yakuza Tale has no such pretenses. It is what it is, which is perfectly fine with me when all it wants to be is a borderline juvenile sex-comedy in the poorest taste imaginable. Is it the better "film"? Absolutely not. But if I ever get the urge to see several naked women smack a guy down, kick him in the balls and then give him a golden shower while he's dying, I'll know where to go.
While the cinematography itself isn't quite on par with its predecessor, the transfer to DVD most certainly is. Minimal print damage aside, the image is literally popping and bursting with colour, deep velvet blacks and astonishing levels of detail. The subtitles are well placed, intelligently translated and removable. Keep 'em coming, Panik House.
A strangely "spatial" mono track. Dialogue is nice and clear, all of studio Toei's well loved sound effects make nice, crisp appearances and the porn-funk soundtrack is rich and dynamic.
Extra Features
A selection of extras similar to those found on Sex and Fury. Director and star biographies, the original theatrical trailer (16:9), poster and stills galleries, production notes and another commentary by author and American Cinematheque programmer Chris D. I do find Mr. D's commentary tracks to be somewhat arid, but he is certainly knowledgeable and his constant referencing of director's and films that have inspired (and, in turn, been inspired) by films like Female Yakuza Tale is both wonderfully educational and a serious strain on my credit card.
The Verdict
An ocean of irreverence separates Female Yakuza Tale from the altogether more restrained, and reserved, Sex and Fury. I heartily believe that both films, especially when viewed in succession, are the exploitation equivalent of a debauched evening in a Japanese Love Hotel. Both films are indispensable monuments to grindhouse excess and while I certainly regard Sex and Fury as the more accomplished of the two, in my heart of hearts I know which film put a broader smile on my face.
Movie Score
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