“Because ‘Topless killers’ wouldn’t sell quite as well, I guess.”
Not to be confused with the Hong Kong exploitation classic Naked Killer, this 1977 Spanish film is set mostly on a Pacific island inhabited solely by a veteran Japanese soldier, Yamato, who thinks World War 2 is still going on, and three women, whom he rescued from a plane crash when they were small children. He has raised them in military style, to defend the island against any “invaders”, and it’s not long before these show up. They come in the form of a boatload of treasure-hunters, who have heard that a Japanese freighter carrying gold wrecked itself on the island’s shoals. Adding an additional layer of complexity, the crew, a collection of ne’er-do-wells apparently chosen at random from the dockside, are planning a mutiny, unhappy with captain Paul, and old salt Walter, who knows the island’s location. This leads to a rather unusual alliance between Yamato and his adopted daughters with Paul and Walter, as they fight for survival against the latter’s former employees.
It’s more than a little bizarre, not least because the actor playing the soldier is very obviously not Japanese at all. I was thoroughly confused when he called himself a Japanese officer, until I realized this was made not long after the last Imperial Army holdout. Teruo Nakamura, having surrendered in December 1974. The other unusual aspect is making him more than somewhat sympathetic: perhaps this is due to Spain’s position in the war, which leaned toward the Germany-Japan Axis under General Franco, who had died not long before this was made. He’s shown very much as a father figure, loyal to a fault (which is why he stuck to his post for 30 years after everyone else gave up) and utterly honourable. Witness his face as one of the mutineers tells him the Japanese emperor is now shining the shoes of the American president every morning, or his embarrassment as he tries to breach the subject of s-e-x with his nubile foster family. It’s kinda endearing, despite this still being the worst case of yellow-face I’ve seen since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The film’s original title translates as The Island of Burning Virgins, which is one of the most awesome titles in exploitation history. Naturally, they spend an impressively hygienic amount of time frolicking in natural pools – though I do have to wonder, where the hell did they get their thoroughly modern bikini costumes? And they’re naturally delighted when the handsome captain shows up, happy to demonstrate to them what this s-e-x thing is actually about. However, they are not mere puppets, laying some rather nasty jungle traps for the “invaders”, and with hand-to-hand skills that are occasionally surprising. It is, of course, extremely silly, very dated and questionable in a whole number of ways. However, it certainly isn’t boring, and compared to certain jungle girl films I’ve seen, can only be appreciated for that.
Dir: Miguel Iglesias
Star: Sita Sadafi, Roxana Dupre, Inca Maris, Alejandro del Enciso