Female Slave Ship

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“Could have lived more fully up to its promise later, when the Japanese taste for pinku films had really awakened.”

It isn’t terribly ahead of its time, but one senses this could have done better later in the career of leading lady Mihara – she’d go on to movies such as the unforgettably-titled School of the Holy Beast. Here, however, exploitation largely stops at the title, with no sex to speak off [a cutaway to a gramophone needle is as salacious as it gets], female flesh is strictly limited to underwear, and the violence consists of bloodless gun-battles and a plethora of backhand slaps. With admirable equality, these are administered both to the square-jawed Japanese office hero, Lt. Suguwa (Sugawara), and the dozen women on whose ship he ends up, as World War II winds towards its end.

He was carrying crucial radar plans, when his plane is shot down. He gets picked up by a white-slaving vessel, taking a dozen women to Shanghai for sale – most are hookers, but there’s also Rumi (Mitsuya), who thought she was signing up as a combat nurse. Oops. Operations are overseen by the “queen” (Mihara), who is clearly a bad girl, since she smokes and sits with her legs crossed. However, the plan is derailed when the boat is hijacked by pirates: the girls, under Sugawa, mount a rebellion, but they are, frankly, a bit crap at it, and the pirates reverse the coup inside two minutes. It turns out the Americans wants Sugawa and the plans, so the pirates head for an island, to cut a deal with a Chinese spy for the officer, and auction away the curvier cargo. Can Sugawa and his bevy of beauties escape, despite the queen’s efforts to play both sides?

While not unentertaining, as noted above, it’s a film that would likely have been more successful made in 1970 rather than a decade previously. That said, Mihara is an excellent villainess, right from the first time we encounter her, as Sugawa tries to stop Rumi from getting a whipping for having the temerity to go on deck. She’s far more fun that the bland hero, and the film’s needle moves appreciably toward “Interesting” whenever she’s on screen. Unfortunately, that’s not often enough.

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