Young (wrestling) guns, go for it!

Things you won’t see in American wrestling, #29. This Japanese tag bout features Manami Toyota and Tsukasa Fujimoto. But their partners are aged eleven and fourteen years old respectively. And you thought Hit Girl was an invention of fiction…

Lady Sazen and the Drenched Shallow Sword

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“Depth perception? It’s vastly over-rated…”

A sequel to One-Eyed One-Armed Swordswoman, this stands more than well enough on its own merits, with an interesting and complex storyline and engaging characters. As a young girl, Lady Sazen (Ohkusu) lost both an arm and her eye to the devilish Lord Daizen-dayu, who coveted the titular sword owned by her father. Sazen barely escaped with it and her life, and is now a wandering swordswoman, roaming the countryside. She saves a girl being chased by some thugs, and it turns out that she knows all the inside dirt on a corrupt priest, and he won’t stop until she has been silenced. Meanwhile, Daizen-dayu hasn’t given up on the sword, and has hired another samurai to get it from Sazen, bu any means necessary.

Dating from the end of the sixties, this is rather more restrained in terms of arterial spray than the genre would become in a few years, with Lone Wolf. But there’s still a brisk efficiency here, with Sazen needing no more than two strokes to finish off almost any opponent. It actually took me some time – well past her first fight – to realize she only was supposed to have one arm. I thought the whole “taking the scabbard off with her teeth” was a stylistic choice, not a necessity caused by a shortage of limbs; really, the term “disabled” was never less appropriate. Ohkusu is a very good heroine, smart and kind, yet absolutely ruthless when necessary.

However, it’s probably the plot that’s the strongest element in this, with the two main threads kept moving forward independently, until they finally cross over, for the final, blood-drenched reel. There’s twists and turns, with setbacks for both sides, and the political intrigue and corruption proves as tricky an opponent for Sazen as a pack of sword-wielding henchmen. Many of these films I’ve seen find it difficult to strike a balance between the dramatic and action elements, usually falling on one side or other. That isn’t the case here, and the result here comfortably kicks the arse of, say, either Lady Snowblood movie, and is among the best examples of period female chanbara I’ve seen.

Dir: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Star: Michiyo Ohkusu
a.k.a. Lefty Fencer

La Mujer Murcielago (The Batwoman)

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” If Batman was a woman. And a Mexican wrestler. Who swam. A lot.”

Someone is abducting wrestlers, extracting serum from their pineal glands and dumping the bodies in the ocean, at various locations around the world. Most recently, Acapulco. Investigating the crime is Batwoman (Monti), a rich socialite who has a masked alter-ego that fight crime. Oh, and is also a pro wrestler. Which makes her ideal for this case, since she can hang around the gym and check out suspicious characters, while working on moves with her fellow luchadorettes [Not a real word, but I like it]. Who is involved? The blind lottery ticket salesman? The chief of police? Or Dr. Williams (Cañedo), who won’t let anyone on to his ship, which is called Reptilicus, by tha way, and who possesses a sidekick called Igor? Go on, take a wild stab in the dark…

Turn out Williams is attempting to create a race of man-fish hybrids. When sneaking around his ship. Batwoman is caught, and only escapes by flinging a flask of something noxious into his face. Now a disfigured mad scientist, naturally, he vows vengeance on our heroine, sending his scaly creation off to bring her back, so that she can become the first literal fish-wife. The sight of which immediately turns her into a screaming, fainting kind of girlie, and it is a kinda creepy creation, even it’s obviously a man in a rubber-suit. Though as we see at the end, if you want to turn Batwoman into real terror, you need a staple from sit-coms of the era.

This 1968 film came only three years after Thunderball, and shows much the same amazed fascination with underwater photography, which has not aged well. Sure it was amazing at the time: now, not at all. Indeed, that could be the theme of the entire movie: I’m sure it was pretty daring, especially in sixties Hispanic culture, which wasn’t exactly at the forefront of women’s liberation. Now, the main thought it provokes, is wonder at how they managed to avoid someone from DC Comics driving down to slap the makers with a massive law-suit, purely on the basis of the poster.

In the film’s defense, it’s probably not its fault that I came down with a nasty spot of indigestion while watching, which doesn’t exactly leave me with fond memories of it. Monti certainly looks the part, an Italian-born actress and model stepping up from supporting roles in Santo films, as part of a ferocious blitz where she appeared in 30 films over five years, before becoming a TV host. She spends most of the time running about in her blue bikini and mask, which certainly beats George Clooney’s nippled Batsuit. If falling some way short of the promise of the very cool poster, it’s not entirely unwatchable as B-movies go, especially given its age.

Dir: René Cardona
Star: Maura Monti, Roberto Cañedo, Héctor Godoy, David Silva