Hooker With a Rocket Launcher

promo6Some titles conceal their meaning behind layers of depth. Needless to say, this is not one of those – but it is, instead, one that demands your attention, and I was not surprised to hear that, according to its Canadian creator, Chris Greenaway,”The title definitely came first.” However, inspiration for this short came from a number of sources. Most obvious among those is Hobo With a Shotgun, the fake trailer originally part of the Grindhouse double-bill, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, before eventually becoming a real (and wonderfully trashy) movie, starring Rutger Hauer.  But Chris says the project additionally “drew inspiration from 80s ‘hooker movies’ such as Angel and Vice Squad. As Misty’s weapon of choice indicates, we were also heavily influenced by the awesome Cannon Films action movies of the 80’s like the Death Wish sequels and Delta Force.” I’ll pause here, for anyone of a certain age to sigh nostalgically.

Lead actress Adrianne Winfield needed no convincing, having worked with Greenaway previously: “Adrianne enquired about the role when I posted a casting call so I didn’t actually have to pitch it to her at all. She really liked the premise.” The actual production was relatively quick, just 2-3 evenings – one of those a reshoot day – with between two and four hours of shooting each night. Perhaps surprisingly (or not, if you have experience of how tolerantly placid our Northern cousins tend to be!), the film-makers didn’t have any problem toting large weaponry round the streets. “We had no issues with the rocket launcher because up close it looks VERY fake,” laughs Greenaway. “We also shot at night when most people were out of the downtown area.”

Chris came relatively late to production. Originally a writer, of everything from comic strips to travel articles, he transitioned into making films after returning home in 2006, after teaching English in Japan. He recalls, “I went through a number of training workshops, and worked as a P/A on a number of sets while making the transition into writing screenplays.” He has been making web series since 2008, with six to his name so far, as well as a host of shorts, and directed his first full-length feature, Witchstalker, in 2013, which was released by Screamtime Films the following year. His IMDb filmography reads like a love-letter to pop culture and bad film, with titles such as Beach Blanket Lucha, Ninjas of the Caribbean and Escape From Ridgemont High.

But what of Misty, whose armaments would make the residents of Sin City‘s Old Town deeply envious? “The reactions have been very positive from the get go. We’ve had several very positive reviews and feedback from my existing fans on Youtube has also been great,” says Greenaway, who would like to see Hooker follow in the footsteps of its Hobo predecessor, and blossom from a trailer into a full-blown movie. “We’re hoping to do a crowdfunding campaign to make it into a feature film. Once I’m done with a few other projects I’m involved in at this time, we can go all in with this!” We certainly hope that’s a project which comes to fruition – some day, we will get to utter the immortal line, “Play Misty for me…” Here’s the film, in its glorious, full 132 seconds.

Brianna’s Reprisal, by David Wittlinger

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

reprisalAlthough this book was just published on Jan. 3, I actually had the privilege of beta reading it last month, so this review is based on that read. (The final text has some minor additions, and a slight re-working of one incident.) This sequel to The Strong One is set about six months after the events of the first book, and our principal setting is Vineland, New Jersey (which is a real city, population 54,800).

Author Wittlinger didn’t originally intend to create a series character in Brianna, but he found her so captivating that he had to explore her story further. That’s an understandable reaction; I noted in my review of the first book that I was invested in her myself, and eager to see more of her personal growth. She’s one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in modern fiction, and the author brings her to well-rounded life with impressive skill. Despite her potty mouth, misguided sexual attitudes, and the emotional baggage she carries from a childhood and young womanhood that no human being should have had to suffer through, she has a basic core of kindness and honor, with a gritty pluck and will to better herself, that makes you naturally tend to root for her. The woman she was at the end of the first book had grown significantly from the person she was at the beginning. Her journey will continue in this volume, and it will take her to a crossroads where she has to make a crucial moral choice. How readers will feel about her decision will depend on the person –it’s a thought-provoking dilemma that forces us to put ourselves in her shoes and ponder how we’d react, or how we should. But whether you agree or disagree with her choice, you’re apt to continue to care about her.

The strengths of the first volume ate present here, too: lifelike characterization, well-handled prose, suspense, plotting that’s credible but that has some serious twists and surprises, good handling of action scenes, and considerable evocation of real emotion. While there are still a couple of sex scenes, there’s less explicit sexual content here than in the previous book –though this tale also explores another facet of the slimy underbelly of America’s illicit sexual culture, this time the horrors of human trafficking in sex slaves. (And yes, this goes on in real life in the good ol’ U.S.A.)

IMO, the series should be read in order. This book makes reference to events of the previous one that you won’t really be familiar with without having read it, and to fully understand who Brianna is, you have to follow her development and story arc from the beginning. (Both books are quick, compulsive reads –I read this one in three days.) Neither book ends with anything like a cliffhanger –there’s resolution of the particular events depicted– but both set the stage for a succeeding volume; Brianna’s adventures will be at least a trilogy. I’m committed to following them for the long haul; and if you read this far, I think you will be, too!

Author: David Wittlinger
Publisher: Self-published, available through Amazon, currently only as an e-book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Kyoko vs. Yuki

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“Dead boring. Note: that is not just a critical opinion, it’s a statement of content…”

kyokovsyukiThe ultimate high school girl assassin Kyoko (code name 2029), who was raised by a mysterious underground organization finally became active. Meanwhile, the high school girl Yuki (born in 1983) with a reputation for being the strongest fighter in town, was living carefree every day with her girlfriend. And then, when the two met, a bloody battle for the title of “strongest high school girl” began…

Well, it sounded promising. Unfortunately, even though this lasts 52 minutes, the execution is so woefully inept, that you would be much better off watching half of Half Revenge Milly. The plot sees Kyoko (Fujikawa), having completed her training, sent on a mission to retrieve a suitcase of drugs which has been stolen from the organization that employs her. The Yakuza who stole it is currently living it up with what he thinks is a schoolgirl prostitute, but is actually Yuki (Satomi), who is intent on rolling her “compensated dating” boyfriend. She does so to help her lesbian lover, Miki (Satô), left deep in debt after acting as guarantor for a loan taken out by her sister, who has since vanished. However, when Kyoko finds out the pair now have her employer’s possessions, her revenge is swift and brutal, setting up a subsequent confrontation between her and Yuki.

Director Yamanouchi apparently has a bit of a “reputation” for sleaze, and that certainly seems justified here. Not so much for the lesbian sex, which pretty much par for the course: it’s the subsequent excursion into lesbian necrophilia for which this one will be remembered. It certainly won’t be for the fight scenes, which are feeble in the extreme, poorly-staged and possible even more badly edited. Sure, it’s clear that none of the actresses here were employed for their martial-arts abilities – even if, curiously, Fujikawa keeps her clothes on. Yet given the premise, you’d have thought those involved would at least have made some effort, albeit a token one. Nope. It’s wretched on just about every level, and even the splatter seem unenthusiastic, save for a mildly effective umbrella through the face. Oh, and I did laugh at Yuki taking her bra off and using it to try and choke Kyoko.

Maybe that’s really what this is: a parody of the genre, deliberately made to be piss-poor. However, from what I’ve read about Yamanouchi’s other work, it seems unlikely: satires doesn’t appear to be his bag, and this is described, in more than one place, as relatively restrained by the director’s own standards. That probably isn’t a good thing: if you don’t have production values… Or good actors… Or a script… Then at the very least, you should go full-throttle and embrace the madness, and it’s what the best of these J-film entries do. This one? Not so much.

Dir: Daisuke Yamanouchi
Star: Kyoko Fujikawa, Yôko Satomi, Kinako Satô

The Strong One, by David Wittlinger

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

Full disclosure at the outset: David Wittlinger and I are Goodreads friends, and in a couple of Goodreads groups together. Despite some off-putting aspects of the book description, I was impressed by his attitude toward his writing, as expressed in his comments in these groups; so I wound up accepting his offer of a free e-review copy. (As yet, there is no print edition.)

strongoneProtagonist Brianna is a young ex-stripper who’s now the live-in girlfriend of tough thug Wade, the shady bouncer at the mob-connected Cleveland strip club where she used to work. Brianna sees herself as pretty worthless, and doesn’t expect to be loved; but she doesn’t know that Wade is secretly video-recording their sexual encounters, and that he’s done this to other girls as well. When she accidentally makes that discovery and he finds out she knows, he chokes her half to death, and locks up her car keys so she can’t escape when he’s called away temporarily. But he’s underestimated her resourcefulness, and she manages to escape with her car, his laptop (and its sexual contents), a bag of his cash and his revolver, which she’s grabbed for her protection though she’s never held a gun before. Since he wants that computer back badly, and has a vengeful disposition and a long reach, she’s in for a dangerous time.

Readers definitely need to be warned here about sexual content and bad language. We get a look into the ugly world of the porn industry, with some graphic descriptions of porn videos. We also have a couple of explicit sex scenes outside the porn context. Brianna’s had a terrible upbringing that no child and teen should have to endure (but which huge numbers DO endure, in real life!), and her sexual attitudes are wildly misguided, at several levels, IMO –and I don’t think the author would disagree. (Related to her view of herself as worthless, for instance, she likes being spanked, having her hair pulled and being called a “slut” during sexual activity.) That kind of thing doesn’t make for pleasant reading. She also has, as another character observes, “a mouth like a sailor;” she uses the f-word a lot (as, she points out, everyone else in her world does as well) with some other bad language and occasional religious profanity, and we hear the same speaking style from Wade and his low-life associates..

None of this material, though, is gratuitous. The author has immersed us in Brianna’s world to provide a realistic picture of what it’s like –not to promote it, but to give us the motivation to change it. The immersion is graphic; more graphic than I’d have made it, but that doesn’t mean the author’s decision was wrong. He’s created Brianna as a fully-fleshed, realistic person and given her the freedom to be who she is, warts and all, as he shares with us the story of her personal growth, which is the core theme of this novel. (And like any baby learning to walk, she’s going to have to crawl first.) For me, this book earned its stars in the degree of artistic and moral integrity the author showed in handling difficult material; in the quality of his character development, in the strength of his message of growth and empowerment, and in the degree of complex emotional engagement with the characters that he was able to evoke. (A day after reading it, I was still sorting my emotions out!)

Wittlinger writes with a great deal of craftsmanship –not just for a first novelist, but for any novelist. His plot is tight and linear, ably constructed. Violent action doesn’t occupy relatively much of the text (though when it happens, it’s gripping, intense, and nail-biting); the stress is more on character development and human relationship. (I considered this a plus.) Nonetheless, there’s a high degree of suspense throughout; and the author’s particularly adept in heightning it by cliffhanger chapter divisions and changes of viewpoint character between chapters. His level of description and detail is, as Goldilocks might have said, “just right,” and he makes adroit use of symbolism in places. The western Pennsylvania Appalachian setting is brought to life very nicely (I passed through the region once, so have some personal acquaintance with it). Both Brianna and Brandon are living, breathing characters you like in spite of their faults. And the ending is one that’s particularly powerful, evocative and gut-wrenching –but no spoilers here!

Like many self-published novels, this one was only proofread by the author before being published (and most authors will agree that it’s hard to effectively proofread your own work). I promised him I’d proofread this one, and was able to identify a number of minor typos and editorial issues, which will be corrected later. But these didn’t interfere with my understanding of the text, or ability to read it easily.

The Strong One is the first novel of a projected series. I’m now invested in Brianna, and interested in watching her future growth!

Note: As mentioned above, readers should be STRONGLY warned about explicit sexual content and bad language issues. (The book earned its stars in spite of, not because of, these factors.)

Author: David Wittlinger
Publisher: Self-published, available through Amazon, currently only as an e-book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Werewolf Woman

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“Hungry like the wolf”

wolfwomanWhile there have been plenty of female vampires over the year, the number of female werewolves is a lot smaller. There’s the wonderful Ginger Snaps (and its not as wonderful sequels), the forgettable Cursed, TV series Bitten, and most infamously of all, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf.  However, perhaps the closest relative here is a little off to one side: the remake of Cat People, made by Paul Schrader in 1982. It is not dissimilar in tone and approach, both taking a firm, if somewhat hysterical psychosexual tone to proceedings, and Giorgio Moroder’s musical score sounds like the synthesized one here. Both have heroines whose transformations are triggered largely by sexual excitement, and who eventually find a man happy to love them for who they are – only for that happiness to be short-lived. Of course, this one being grindhouse, the reason for its abrupt termination is her boyfriend being stabbed to death while trying to stop her from being raped, which triggers a rampage of revenge that justifies its inclusion on this site.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s also a sexual assault which triggers the psychological problems for Daniela Neseri  (Borel). The psychological trauma and Daniela’s obsession with a family legend involving an ancestor who supposedly turned into a predatory animal, form a potent combination, and she develops a deeply-held belief that she also changes into a wolf at the full moon. That doesn’t appear to be the case, but it still brings tragedy down on the family, when Daniela gets all hot and bothered after seeing her sister (Lassander) making love to her husband. The resulting carnage get her committed to a psychiatric hospital by her aristocratic father (Carraro), only for Daniela to escape after an encounter with the facility’s local nymphomaniac. After some more brutal murders, which baffle the local police, she finally meets her soulmate, who works as a stuntman. And this takes us back to where this paragraph came in.

It’s pure exploitation cinema, not skimping at all on the nudity, and with a healthy amount of gore as well – what else would you expect from a director who, the same year, gave us Deported Women of the SS Special Section? This isn’t quite as sleazy, though certainly is not family viewing, and is well enough made to make for an interesting viewing experience for broad-minded spectators. Borel has a nicely lupine quality about her, and even if the transformation sequences [most notably the opening dream sequence] leaves a bit to be desired, the various elements – the heroine, her family, the cops who gradually realize the connection between the corpses – are tied together with a script that has had more effort put into it than you might think. They truly don’t make them like this any more.

Dir: Rino Di Silvestro
Star: Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander, Tino Carraro
a.k.a. La lupa Mannara or The Legend of the Wolf Woman

Blood Soaked

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“Zombie Women of the S.S.”

bloodsoakedIt’s nice to see a horror movie which has women on both sides: not just the “final girl” trope, but as the entirely deranged pair of antagonists. This is equality at work, folks! In this case, the villains are sisters Sadie (Grendle) and Katie (Derryberry), who were apparently left orphaned by the unexpected death of their father who was… Well, if I’d to guess, I’d say he was trying to continue the work of Nazi scientists, with the aim of creating an army of undead slaves through the use of a resurrection serum, who can then be used to bring about the Fourth Reich. I’m kinda assuming this, from the use of copious public-domain Nazi footage during the opening credits, and the swastikas hanging around their desert bunker. Meanwhile, peppy student Piper (Wilder) is starting at college, and before long is exploring her sexuality with fellow student, Ashley (Corona). The pair head out into the desert, but a roadside encounter with our psycho sisters kicks off the horror part of proceedings, with Piper in particular being stalked, captured and dragged into the Naziettes lair where even worse things await.

There are two main problems here: one stylistic, and the other an issue of pacing. The former is the decision to switch into high-contrast black and white, when it first becomes clear to Piper, the trouble she’s in. While it certainly adds impact to the that moment, the film-makers apparently forgot to flip the switch back on their camcorder, and any impact is lost. You give your film a title like Blood Soaked, and we expect to see… well, blood. Here, however, it might as well be chocolate sauce, as used by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. That’s when you can see it at all, as the high-contrast mentioned tends to wash everything into the two ends of the spectrum: all or nothing.

Equally problematic, is the film taking too long to get to a point where it is even attempting to justify the title. It barely runs an hour between opening and the end credits rolling, which should be an incentive to get cracking and have things moving on at a fast pace. We do not need to see Piper showing up to college with her mom. We do not need to see Piper and Ashley meeting and building their relationship. We do not care. I’d have been a lot more interested to see what Sadie and Katie were up to over the decade after their father died, though quite how such a pair of certifiable loony tunes were able, not just to survive but flourish, escapes me. In the end, it commits the single, unforgivable sin of both original grindhouse cinema and modern films which attempt to reproduce its philosophy: it’s mostly dull. By the time the mayhem eventually showed, I was already trying to figure out if I could do household chores, while leaving this on in the background. Never a good sign…

Dir: Peter Grendle
Star: Heather Wilder, Rachel Corona, Hayley Derryberry, Laina Grendle

Lady Ninja Kasumi, Volume 1

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“Godfrey Ho nods approvingly.”

LadninI’ve endured enough of these that I get the increasing feeling they are cranked out on a Japanese assembly-line somewhere, for they seem to have the same elements, right down to the title, which involves a random combination of words such as Assassin, Female, Geisha, Girl, Lady, Ninja and Woman. Get some porn actress, whose talents are neither in acting nor in martial arts, a few robes and some samurai swords, then have everyone run around some generic but potentially “historical” location, such as a forest. You’ll want a lot of sitting around chatting, since that’s particularly easy to film, and sprinkle lightly in mediocre sword-play. Intersperse the story with lengthy sex scenes every 15 minutes or so. Package in a non-descript sleeve that promises more than it can ever deliver. Release. Profit.

Because this kind of dubious excuse for a movie is incredibly cheap to make, and it seems there’s an endless appetite for them, both in the West and (presumably) in Japan – much like any old cack with a zombie in it will currently get a release here. I watch them so you don’t have to. Trust me, there are times when this site is a chore, not a pleasure. This theory isn’t inviolate: Geisha Assassin is actually pretty good. Lady Ninja Kasumi, on the other hand, possesses absolutely nothing to separate it from all the other sword-wielding soft-porn which has strayed across my disinterested eyeballs in the past.

The heroine is Kasumi (Young-mi), who became a ninja in order to protect her little brother, Kotaro. She’s sent on a mission to spy on a nearby clan, and defeats a member of their Hakuga squad, run by the Itagaki brothers. Injured in the process, she is nursed back to health by a friendly medicine-peddler. However, the other Itagaki brothers are keen to get their hands on the ninja responsible for their colleague’s death and… Well, let’s be honest, it was at roughly this point that my interest vanished over the event horizon, sucked in by this low-rent combination of clunky cinema, bad fight scenes and tedious humping. I think there was something about another, freelance female ninja, and an assassin who could disguise himself as a small child, which I guess deserves half a star for sheer novelty.  There are times I feel guilty about not giving a film my full attention. This is not one of those occasions. The first in a series which runs at least five volumes, possibly as many as eight – needless to say, I won’t bothering with the others.

Dir: Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Star: Young-mi, Saki Anz, Yui Mamiya, Hideki Satô

Tigresa

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“Tigresa, tigresa, burning bright…”

tigresaTIL there’s a genre of cinema – indeed, an entire culture – called “Nuyorican”, which is for and by the immigrants from Puerto Rico who now live in and around New York. del Mar made five such movies, mostly in the late sixties, but this 1969 production is the sole action heroine entry. It has a nice sense of local atmosphere, feeling a bit like the early work of Abel Ferrara, but also has it’s moments of berserk insanity, which one can only presume must have made sense at the time.

The heroine is Patricia (Faith), a young woman who is bullied by her schoolmates, and whose life reaches a low after she is assaulted by a bedroom intruder, an attack which also results in the death of her father. But, in a plot twist I defy anyone to see coming, she is left half a million dollars in the last will of a Jewish store-owner for whom she works, and this lets Patricia dye her hair blonde and sets her up as the owner of a nightclub, the ‘Chateau Caribe’. She has also developed a heck of a lot more self-confidence, allowing her to take revenge on her former tormentors, rescue other women from assault and continue looking for the man responsible for her assault and her father’s demise. However, her friend, Maria (Lee), has plans to rob Patricia, with the help of her boyfriend, Jimmy (H) – who, it turns out, was also the rapist. They concoct a scheme for Jimmy to seduce Patricia, providing a distraction which will allow them to break into her safe.

There are also subplots involving the local mafiosi, and a police detective (Crespo), who doggedly attempts to solve the crime by dressing as a transvestite hooker. I’m not quite sure hoe that’s intended to work: it might take a while, to say the very least, and my instinct is it probably says more about the cop’s personal proclivities than anything. Certainly puts a new spin on “to protect and serve”. I liked Faith’s performance, since she genuinely manages to get your sympathy, as the dysfunctional nature of her relationship with her father becomes apparent. He gets drunk because its the only way he says he can see his late wife; so she then gets drunk, wanting to see her dead mother too. This is accompanied by a tinkly, music-box like score that’s quite poignant – well, up until the point that the musical cue gets overused to death, anyway.

After her transition into the tigresa [incidentally, the “La” part of the title seen on the DVD sleeve appears to be entirely the distributor’s addition], she’s still quite a laudable character, taking no shit from the organized crime boss. She refuses to let him use her club as a front for drugs and prostitution, but does partner with him in exchange for his help finding her attacker. Though this just consists of wandering local gyms trying to find someone with the distinctive back scar which was her assailant’s sole distinguishing feature – I’d have expected better from the mob. It’s just a good thing absolutely no-one in these places ever wears a shirt. There’s another bizarre diversion where she meets a gangster, who then goes home to discover his wife in bed with another man. So he drowns her in the bathtub and decapitates her lover, before vanishing from the film entirely.

Yeah, it’s like that: nonsensical in many ways, and obviously cheaply made, with performances all over the place, from the monotone to the hysterical. Yet it’s strangely hypnotic, and you find yourself watching, just to see what will happen next and in what surreal way things will develop. For all its many faults, I can’t say I ever found Tigresa dull. There are GWG films which are so forgettable, I find myself struggling to write 300 words on them. This was certainly not one of those.

Dir: Glauco del Mar
Star: Perla Faith, Johnny H, Cindy Lee, Guillermo Crespo

The Bod Squad

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“Several virgins short of a six-pack.”

7seasIn the 1970’s legendary Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers sought to broaden their market with a series of co-productions. The results included the likes of Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, from a partnership with Britain’s Hammer Studios, plus Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. But perhaps the most bizarre such product is this, which crosses martial arts with the softcore sex films from the time, the best-known of which is probably Hofbauer’s Schulmadchen Report (Schoolgirl Report). The results are… Well, I’d be hard-pushed to call them great cinema, but I would have to confess to being rather more entertained than I expected.

Contrary to one of the alternate titles, Enter the Seven Virgins, there are actually only five women here, and some of those aren’t exactly virgins. They are captured by pirates, and brought to their island lair, where buccaneer boss Chao (Hsieh) leers at them and puts them through a training course designed to get them ready to be sold into white slavery. Except, he doesn’t know that one of his minions, Ko Mei Me (Liu), is actually working, along with her brother, to take him down, and trains the captives in martial arts, as well as the ancient Chinese art of spitting olive pits at such high-velocity, they can punch a hole through a vase. After copious amounts of gratuitous nudity, the women eventually break free, get recaptured, escape again, and take on Chao and the rest of his henchmen in a battle which makes up for in duration, what it may lack in quality.

Actually, that’s a little unfair: considering the Western cast were more used to films with titles such as Campus Pussycats, they perform credibly enough. There’s not as much stunt doubling as I expected, and they’re clearly giving it all they have, occasionally impressively. Bray stands out in particular – and I mean that literally, since it seems she’s taller than most of the men in the cast. Liu, however, clearly has the most experience, and its understandable why she gets given most of the action. In some ways, this can be seen as a primitive ancestor of Category III films such as Naked Killer: while lacking quite the same lurid insanity, and featuring a degree of casual racism that’s fairly off-putting [apparently, the sight of Western flesh is enough to send most Chinese men into drooling imbeciles], it’s still fun for the undemandingly open-minded. Admittedly, a fondness for Benny Hill may help, and providing you can get past hearing Chinese people dubbed into German, as well as subtitles that may have lost their way a bit in translation. I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of, “It’s a bank holiday, it’s Mothers’ Day in Africa.”

Dir: Kuei Chih-Hung + Ernst Hofbauer
Star: Liu Hui-Ling, Wang Hsieh, Sonja Jeannine, Gillian Bray
a.k.a. Virgins of the Seven Seas
a.k.a. Enter the Seven Virgins
a.k.a. Karate, Küsse, blonde Katze [Karate, kisses, blonde cats]

Girl’s Blood

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“All over the bloody place.”

girls blood2I’m very confused, at to who is the target audience here. It’s part earnest drama about serious social issues, including gender identity and spousal abuse. But it also depicts a hardcore underground fight-club, “Girl’s Blood” in which women battle it out for the gratification of spectators. However, don’t expect a Japanese version of Raze, for while the fights are well-staged [Sakamoto has a good track record, most recently having done 009-1: The End of the Beginning], it has all the class of WWE’s Divas division and amateur night at your local strip-club, combined. For it panders shamelessly to every sexist stereotype imaginable, from sexy nurse through sexy schoolgirl to sexy idol singer. And don’t even get me started on the mud wrestling, filmed with such prurient camerawork, I was genuinely embarrassed for the participants. Then there’s copious and lengthy lesbian sex scenes, which appear to have strayed in from another genre altogether, albeit filmed with a good deal more style and bigger budgets than usual for such fare.

The central character is Satsuki (Haga), the club’s best fighter, but who is estranged from her family and refuses to change with the other girls. Her position as top dog is challenged by the arrival of Chinatsu (Tada), well-versed in MMA techniques. After the two have become close, personal friends, if you know what I mean, and I think you do, it turns out that she’s working without the knowledge of her abusive husband (Hideo) , a karate master who is unimpressed by the unsanctioned nature of these bouts. He abducts Chinatsu and brainwashes her back into submission; worse, still, he threatens to have Girl’s Blood closed down. There’s only one way to settle things: that old chestnut of a school-vs-school battle, in which his top three students will face off against Satsuki two of her colleagues: if they win, Girl’s Blood becomes official, but if they lose, they will have to disband forever [because, apparently, this is how sanctioning martial-arts works in Japan]. You will be unsurprised to hear this contest all comes down to the final match, which sees Satsuki facing off against Chinatsu.

I watched the Director’s Cut version which runs 128 minutes, and wonder if this is perhaps part of the problem; maybe the regular edition has a better consistency of tone or genre. Personally, I dug the action (and, fortunately, there’s no shortage), was disinterested in the drama, and gave severe consideration to fast-forwarding through the soft-core porn, while giving thanks under my breath that my wife was out. Not that she minds: however, the stream of sarcastic comments which would surely have resulted, might well have sunk what chance the film had of any serious evaluation. I’d be hard-pushed to argue with her in this case. While this could truly be described as a film with something for everyone, there are equally significant elements which will be of no interest – or even actively off-putting – for just about anybody. If the creators had made their minds up what they wanted this to be, the end result would likely have been stronger.

Dir: Koichi Sakamoto
Star: Yuria Haga, Asami Tada, Ayame Misaki, Sakaki Hideo
a.k.a. Aka X Pinku