Archive for May 7th, 2012

Two Japanese men help a Vietnam war deserter escape from Japan for Sweden. They plan to fund the escape by selling 500 LSD pills in Yokohama. The Alleycats led by Meiko Kaji initially harass and attempt to steal from the trio, but the girls become more sympathetic once they realize what they’re actually trying to do. Things get into trouble when a rival male motorcycle gang called The Dragons tries to steal the LSD. Then begins a series of double crosses, kidnapping, hostage exchanges, and motorcycle chases. Will the trio manage to sell their stuff, get enough money to leave Japan before the military police get their hands on the war deserter?

The 4th Stray Cat Rock movie is yet another solid entry in the series. Whilst it doesn’t change that much plot-wise from the other three, it is still an entertaining and exciting movie for those that have followed them. The trademarks from previous movies (great funky music, colourful 70’s fashion and more singing inside a groovy nightclub) all appear once again and we even get to hear Meiko Kaji’s dulcet tones. By now Kaji had established herself as the star of the series and pulls in another fine performance although her role isn’t as strong as the previous movie (Sex Hunter) as the plot doesn’t directly concern her character. She still looks great in her white dress and black hat though. The supporting cast contribute hugely to the enjoyment of this movie especially Bunjaku Han, Eiji Go and Tatsuya Fuji who plays a nicer character to the one he played in Sex Hunter. So far the series has been rather tragic in it’s plotlines and that continues here. You didn’t expect a happy ending did you!!! One of the highlights is a rather cool sequence as the Alleycats head off to a Honda motorbike dealer and come back out in their mopeds and give chase to the Dragons’ leader Sakura in his side-car through various outdoor and inside locations.

You’d have thought that perhaps by the 4th movie, there would be a slight dip in the series especially as the first 4 Stray Cat Rock movies were all released in 1970 one after another and shot very quickly in succession but the quality in the scripts and stories stayed consistent and this one is definitely worth watching.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Ohyaku Dayu is raised as an orphan when her mother dies by throwing herself off a bridge. Growing up, she makes a living as a tightrope artist where her beauty wins her a legion of perverted fans. She is sold off to the highest bidder after each performance. Ohyaku is rescued from more male lusting by a common thief Shinkuro after a man who works at the Japanese mint called Sengoku wants her all to himself. Shinkuro and Ohyaku find out that they share a common bond in that they wish to take down any greedy bureaucrats who only give a shit about furthering their own career and don’t really care about the poor people. Shinkuro works out a plan to rob the mint and recruits several people to do this. He is warned from going ahead with this plan by the boss of the Otawa clan but nevertheless Shinkuro goes ahead regardless. The plan goes awry when one of Shinkuro’s trusted friend Hyoe Sakaki betrays him and he is captured along with Ohyaku but not before hiding the gold he stole. Both are tortured which can only be stopped if Shinkuro reveals where the gold is hidden. Not being able to watch Ohyaku getting tortured persuades Shinkuro to reveal the hiding place but the only thanks he gets is getting his head chopped off by the guillotine. Ohyaku herself is raped and humiliated by Sengoku and then shipped off to the prison island of Sado where the inmates are frothing at the mouth at getting their hands on a beautiful woman. Ohyaku makes a friend in a man nicknamed The Iron Barbarian who promises to look after her. Ohyaku is made to work in the poisonous gold mines but this is not enough to break her spirit. All the while Ohyaku is planning and scheming a way to escape back to Edo and extract her revenge on those that killed her beloved Shinkuro.

This movie has been named in some quarters as being the very first Pinky Violence movie that came to prominence and popularity in Japan during the early 70’s. It’s certainly got many of the exploitation elements required to be a classic pinku movie. The movie doesn’t contain as much blood and nudity as some of the later entries in the genre but there’s still more than enough here to satisfy the average Pinky Violence fan. Shot in excellent black & white photography and with many attributes one would associate with a typical Japanese period drama, this movie is nevertheless filled with over the top exploitative scenes. While no nudity is on display, the rapes and rape threats are frequent. The torture scenes are pretty disturbing, particularly when Ohayku’s scalp begins bleeding down her forehead as she hangs helplessly above the hot plate-like torture device threatening to grill her alive. Ohyaku’s revenge is slow and her victims don’t go quickly as she wants to torment them first. The movie moves at a steady pace throughout and is always entertaining but things really pick up in the last half hour of the movie. Director Yoshihiro Ishikawa implements a range of interesting and diverse characters into the mix; our central character is a fine balance of good looks and athletic ability and certainly fits the bill for this sort of movie.

Junko Miyazono is superb as Ohyaku. Beautiful but also tough and deadly as well. If this movie was indeed the birth of the Pinky Violence genre, you can definitely see the influence it would have in later Pinku movie characters played by Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto and Meiko Kaji. The concept of an empowered women taking revenge on the male-dominant society was unknown until this movie came along.

If you’re a fan of Pinky Violence movies then watching this should be high on your list to see where it all began. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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First Option (1996)

An operation to capture a bunch of drug dealers led by the “Ice Queen” by the Customs Department and the SDU unit goes awry when officer Minnie lets the drugs leader pass her in the corridor during the raid and the rest escape through a back entrance. The SDU Captain – Don wants Minnie and her Customs team out of the operation in order for the more skilled Narcotics Unit to help them instead but Minnie won’t allow that to happen. The HK Police hire a couple of Americans to help them out. Don knows one of them very well from his time in the army. The drug dealers are eventually found to be hiding away in an old abandoned warehouse complex and 3 SDU teams move in to capture them but there’s a hitch as they come under attack from another SDU-like team who kill the drug dealers and the “Ice Queen” before making their escape and injuring 6 members of the SDU team. It is discovered that Don’s friend Rick and his mercenary Navy Seal associates are the brains behind the operation with a huge stash of drugs hidden offshore ready to be shipped to the US. The gang are traced to a small island and the stage is set for Don, the SDU and Customs teams to gather together and head over there to capture the villains.

This is a slightly below average action movie. I must admit to expecting wall-to-wall action but all we get is 3 big gun fights in which the final one on the island is the best. It’s one big testerone fuelled movie which will appeal more to the male action junkie than anybody else. The amount of firepower on display is impressive. The story and script come off as quite weak – it focuses more on departmental squabbles within the HK police. There are several twists along the way which you can see coming a way off – I sort of guessed that Don’s friend Rick was the big villain a long time before it was revealed. What most people will remember from watching this movie is that Mike Wong’s character Don actually quotes one of Yoda’s lines from The Empire Strikes Back – now what was the point of that? The line was ‘seduced by the dark side he was’. I started to laugh when I heard it!

The acting isn’t that good at all with Gigi Leung as Minnie one of the worst. The Americans actors playing the Navy Seals didn’t fare that better. Mike Wong as Don delivers his dialogue in a mixture of English and Cantonese. Apparently this was done as his Cantonese wasn’t up to scratch. Whilst Wong has a pretty good on-screen presence, the truth is the guy just can’t act at all. It’s only the action scenes that keep this movie from sinking without a trace.

Don’t come into this movie expecting a coherent plot or to see acting of any worth as you’re not going to get it here. Worth taking a punt only if you’re really bored on a rainy afternoon.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5.

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