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Usually I don’t review ‘adult’ or ‘erotic’ features, but really, DVDActive only has rules against me reviewing hardcore material, not ‘70s/’80s softcore sexploitation, which I get a lot of via our friends and Impulse. For the most part, these films arrive in the middle of very busy periods and I just run out of time, but recently they (along with a bunch of other stuff from Severin and Synapse) have gone missing altogether. Turns out that the distributor had the wrong address and this stuff was going to some guy down the road…which means some guy down the road has been quietly collecting sexploitation DVDs, instead of returning them to the post office. Fortunately, the people at Impulse/Synapse got the address thing corrected and then went out of their way to send me everything I’d missed over the last few months. I feel guilty enough about the effort it took to fix the issue that I’m grouping all of their four latest entries in the ongoing Nikkatsu Erotic Films collection (known less classily and more officially as the Nikkatsu Roman Porno movies) into one super-review.

Impulse Nikkatsu Wrap-Up

Fairy in a Cage

(1977, Nikkatsu spine #11)
Directed by Kôyû Ohara
Quote: During World War II, the tyrannical Judge Murayama uses his military power to imprison and torture innocent people. Suspected of helping an anti-government movement, the lovely Namiji Kikushima (Naomi Tani) is captured, along with a local kabuki actor. Helpless and unable to escape, the two are subjected to a grueling series of tortures, including rope bondage and physical assault. As the Judge and his evil assistant, Kayo, revel in their perverse fetishes, a new military recruit they’ve hired named Taoka may be the key to their prisoners’ freedom. He loves Namiji and will do what he can to help her, even if it means betrayal to organize an escape!
Fairy in a Cage follows the lead set by just about every other softcore torture porn production I’ve ever seen (which is, admittedly, very few). It’s not the best place to start for viewers uninitiated in this kind of material (that would probably be Teruo Ishii’s Shogun’s Joys of Torture), but has more story than I expect from type (much of it expressing some pretty subversive ideas about government authority and the upper class) and is a little more equal opportunity with the gender of the torturees, if that’s the type of thing that will make you feel better about watching this brand of entertainment. What sets Fairy in a Cage apart is that it’s unmistakably well-made. It’s not unusual for late ‘70s Japanese exploitation to be so gorgeously shot and professionally acted (there was less of a cultural divide between the arthouse and the grindhouse in Japan), but not many are, sex and violence aside, otherwise indiscernible from more ‘prestige’ war-period set films. For the record, the bulk of the rough stuff is left just outside of frame or behind some kind of obstruction. The hyper-bleak ending is more depressing than the sexual violence is disturbing. This disc is presented in colourful and crisp anamorphic 2.35:1 video and with muddied, but discernable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Japanese audio. Fairy in a Cage is ‘special’ enough to have also garnered a Blu-ray release – the first and, so far, only one ever released under the Impulse heading.

Impulse Nikkatsu Wrap-Up

Female Teacher: Hunting

(1982, Nikkatsu spine #13)
Directed by Junichi Suzuki
Quote: A moonlight skinny-dipping session between two carefree high schoolers leads to a young boy being accused of a violent assault on his female classmate. After throwing a teacher to the ground, he stomps out of the school gates and spends his summer break roaming a beachside town. Falling down a rabbit hole into a dark, oppressive world of sex and violence, he is taken in by a bar-owner and his libidinous mistress. Meanwhile, the teacher he assaulted hunkers down in a rented villa in the same coastal resort, awaiting a secret tryst with her married lover. What will happen when the student and teacher meet again?
The first of this collection’s Female Teacher entries (four of which Impulse has released on DVD) is an extremely melodramatic and bleak little film (emphasis on little – it’s only 66 minutes long) that reminds me of similar softcore (and hardcore) stuff that was coming out of Italy around the same time. It has a very limited plot outside of further excuses to show sex acts, but also acts as an effectively disturbing portrait of fringe behavior. It’s practically a horror film, just without the level of violence usually associated with similar films. Director Suzuki emphasizes the audience’s voyeurism with his handheld camerawork to a ‘nice’ effect during the sex scenes and is very good at capturing the genuine dread of many of the film’s dank locations. This is a thoroughly unenjoyable film and yet, a surprisingly effective one. This disc is presented in grimy, grainy, anamorphic 1.85:1 video (weak black levels) and relatively well-rounded Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack that suffers minor issues with high volume distortion. The extras include a trailer.

Impulse Nikkatsu Wrap-Up

Female Teacher: In Front of the Students

(1982, Nikkatsu spine #12)
Directed by Yasurou Uegaki
Quote: The lovely Reiko has taken a new teaching job at a creepy old high school.  She is an extremely attractive woman and the young students in her class have fallen for her.  One night, after tennis practice, she is brutally assaulted in the locker room shower by a man with a stocking over his face. Left on the floor naked and in shock, she discovers a single puzzle piece left behind by the crazed man. A few days later, a pair of students enact a perverted sexual revenge on Reiko for kicking someone off the tennis team. Could one of these students be the man who brutalized her in the locker room? Who owns the strange puzzle piece? As the mystery unfolds, Reiko must come to terms with her own sexual urges and fate.
The second Female Teacher movie (which I probably should’ve watched first based on spine number, but who cares since there’s really no relation between these films outside of their titles) is more about teacher and student relations than Hunting and not quite as relentlessly bleak. It’s still rape-filled and overall disconcerting, though, and is perhaps the most categorically offensive film in this collection (perhaps a better title would be Female Teacher: Everybody Wants to Rape Me). Female Teacher: In Front of the Students is something of an exploitation grab bag. It starts with a giallo-esque slant on the rape/revenge thriller (minus the revenge, unfortunately) by having the victim double as her own investigator. Then, the entire middle is devoted to a captive victim/BDSM plot that has almost nothing to do with the first of three acts in an effort to explore some very un-PC moral conclusions at the end of the film. Director Uegaki balances the warring elements well (even when the screenplay expresses no interest in any sort of tradition structure) and does some interesting things with his camera, such as shooting POVs through tennis rackets and into showerheads (there are a lot of gialli-inspired POVs in this movie). He also gets a lot of mileage out of the grimy locations. This 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is hit and miss; sometimes it’s the most damaged of all the films in this review, but other times looks plenty clean. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack is well-rounded.

Impulse Nikkatsu Wrap-Up

She Cat

(1983, Nikkatsu spine #14)
Directed by Shingo Yamashiro
Quote:  Dr. ‘Cat’ Kagami was hoping to leave her torrid past behind, but a failed assassination attempt has now put her square in the crosshairs of a team of brutal killers.  Now, no one is safe, including her lesbian co-worker and a mysterious woman with a terrible secret that could bring down an entire Japanese company. Cat must take the law into her own hands and enact her own special kind of revenge!
She Cat (aka: Female Cats) is easily my favourite film in this particular collection of Nikkatsu flicks, mostly because of the simple fact that it’s a sex-fueled action movie – not a seriously bleak softcore porno. Actor-turned-director Yamashiro has a joyful sense of humour and a cast that appears to be enjoying the ridiculous premise. It’s not an outstandingly professional-looking film, but does feature plenty of arty angles and attractive production design (the climatic shoot-out is really well-orchestrated too). The screenplay, credited to Makoto Naito and Kochiho Katsura, is delightfully busy with overlapping subplots and then further confused by its flashback structure, but it’s this unnecessary ambition that makes the film so entertaining. The sex scenes are enjoyably dopey in their earnest romanticism (excepting a tone-deaf, irreverently mean-spirited rape scene at the top of the third act) and all the ‘offensive’ parts are not-so-cleverly-concealed with big, blobby blurs. Sadly, though, I found myself impatiently waiting out the softcore shtupping in hopes of more wacky plotting and surprisingly clever twists. This disc features a grainy, soft, yet colourful anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack that is a bit fuzzy, but does a fine job reproducing Taro Morimoto’s wonderful (and often wildly inappropriate) electronic score. Extras include a trailer.