Modern Pulp Jan 22 2018
THE OLD BALL AND CHAIN
Need a little help around the house?


Above is a poster for Dorei keiyakushu, yet another entry in Nikkatsu's roman porno pantheon, and one that gets viewers to the usual place by a slightly different route. The film opens with Nami Matsukawa having her pubic hair shaved off by a man. She isn't too thrilled about it. Then he gives her an enema, and it's us who aren't too thrilled. Then he binds her in rope kinbaku-bi style, basically wrapping her like a gift, carefully places her in a crate with some packing material, closes it up and has some delivery guys take the container away. The parcel ends up in the house of Hidekazu Mikami, who's surprised as hell when he opens it, as is his wife, played by Izumi Shima. Imagine explaining that. A sheaf of legal documents around Nami's neck says that she's a slave and will serve as payment of a debt. And just like that it's straight to the kinky sex and domination. You can always count on Nikkatsu—they never fail to get you to bondage land, if indeed that's where you want to go. Us, we can take or leave it. Even though we have many more roman porno posters we'd like to share, we may shift more toward Toei's pinky violence action movies for a while. They're harder to find, but worth the effort—and we can only watch so many enemas. Dorei keiyakushu premiered in Japan today in 1982.

It says she'll do anything you ask. Laundry, dishes, handjobs, whatever.

Baby, I swear I didn't order a slave.

But as long as we have one...

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Femmes Fatales Jan 10 2018
RED RIDER
What can I say? It's my favorite color.


Hidemi Aoki gained early fame via the beauty contest route, winning a major pageant at sixteen. She modeled, made commercials, then moved into cinema, with her second credited role being 1976's British-produced comedy Seven Nights in Japan, in which she co-starred with major star Michael York. But the expected international film career didn't happen, and today Aoki is best known for appearing on Japanese television. The above shot of her trying to pull off the tricky red-leather-head-to-toe look was made in 1970, when she was still a model.

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Modern Pulp Jan 7 2018
GIRLS NIGHT IN
When we get together we do the usual stuff—chat, drink wine, endure whippings, have a forced enema or two.


We don't share pinku and roman porno posters just because we're interested in the films. We also share them because, first, the art is always great, and second, it's easy to get. Its availability is a reflection of how many productions of the type were made—in a word, many hundreds. That's two words. Let's go with thousands—which is not an exaggeration. These were incredibly popular films is the point, made by multiple studios trying to place double features into vertically integrated, wholly dependent cinemas every weekend. Many of the movies have fallen prey to the ravages of time, which occasionally leads to us sharing art from movies that no longer exist, but today's offering, Nawa to chibusa, aka Rope and Breasts, starring Nami Matsukawa and Izumi Shima, is one we did in fact find and watch.

The movie premiered in Japan today in 1983, and it involves a couple running a traveling bdsm show who arrive in Kyoto and are hired for a private performance that turns into something more. The woman is planning to retire, but now learns what bondage and discipline really are as she and her man are teased and tortured to within an inch of their sanity. When all is said and done the woman forgets retirement, not because she loves torture, but because she realizes her life is hell anyway and if she has to live in hell she'd like to at least make money from it. Very upbeat stuff. An interesting aspect of the copy we saw is its use of pixelation to obscure the private parts of the actors (see below). Since roman pornos are softcore the masking is purely directorial flourish, designed, we suppose, to give the action a veneer of the forbidden.

For those who've missed our previous discussions about the roman porno genre, the filmmakers generally contend that the sexual abuse depicted is symbolic of patriarchal Japan's subjugation to occupying Americans, or to modern life, or to a burgeoning counterculture, etc. As a smart man once said, when something is symbolic of everything, it's symbolic of nothing. In other words, we don't buy the boilerplate on roman porno, at least not fully. We think it was primarily money driven, and the more intellectual aspects were secondary, distantly. But the main thing we try to remember as outsiders looking in is that cultural judgement is a slippery slope, and while in this particular 2018 moment of discussion about the all too prevalent dangers men present to women, it's easy to dismiss roman porno films as masculine horror fantasies sprung from the brows of unrepentant misogynists.

But times change, and there are layers to the issue that make such assessments a bit too facile. It's possible to be on one side of a cultural issue during a certain moment in time, but be judged as on the exact opposite side a generation or two later. Today's observers could easily conclude that roman porno filmmakers were conservative nationalists, but in reality they were mainly liberal feminist allies satirizing conservative patriarchs/patriots. Their sexualization of women was spurred in part by box office need, but they believed in their own symbolism and there's no doubt most of them thought of themselves as modernist trailblazers smashing social barriers. The path their output has taken through the decades is parallel to that of Hugh Hefner, hailed as women's rights hero in 1967, reviled as a cog in a destructive porno machine half a century later. Times change.

If Japanese viewers of 1980s American horror movies had demanded to know why so many productions featured people being lured into the woods to be slaughtered it would have led to some uncomfortable conversations about apocalyptic American attitudes toward sex, as well as the eternal American worship of violence. These discussions would have been much more needed than any concerning 1970s Japanese mores. But as for modern observers, they get to judge earlier filmmakers only up to a point. They weren't there. They forget that work incommercial media has its demands, if the work is to be secured at all. Old targets are no longer fully relevant, as well as being way too easy to criticize in hindsight. Subversive messages are often slipped into popular art and those messages matter. They wink at us. They say, “You and I both know this is just entertainment, but this other thing—if you are detecting it—is what we're really about here.” But modern viewers of old films often miss these important messages. As culture changes receptivity to these small signals change too.

So, okay, Nawa to chibusa is a weird movie. It's a weird movie hailing from a weird genre. The genre was meant to both make money and provoke people, and all these years later the films remain as artifacts of an industry embarked upon a radical social discussion, spearheaded by filmmakers who hadn't yet realized that images also carry weight apart from their alleged political intent. In other words, the question becomes whether the same goals could have been achieved by other means—i.e. other means of provocation, other types of imagery. We can't answer that. We weren't there. We don't know of anyone who has tallied the social gains and losses, if any, brought about by all this shocking cinema. All we have is an inadequate twenty-first century perspective, an inadequate Western perspective, an incomplete male perspective, and a whole lot of crazy posters.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 2 2018
HAPPY MIYAI
Here's hoping for a very good year.


Well, it's official now. We've reached a place we did not even imagine existed when we were children. Remember? You'd be like, “Wow I'd be (insert age) in 2018.” And then you'd turn your thoughts to something else because the idea was so bizarre it didn't even warrant further reflection. Well, we're there now. We have, shockingly, reached the far off year 2018. And there are no flying cars. That's the part that really kills. So to soothe our frazzled nerves, above is a photo of Japanese actress Erina Miyai on a January calendar page circa 1975, and her hint of a smile tells us everything will be fine this year, and hopefully beyond. More Miyai? Click here.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 15 2017
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
Don't you want to be one of the cruel kids?


Above, a poster for Kokosei bancho: zubeko seito-ha, aka High School Boss 4: Bad Girl Group, which was the fourth film in a series after:

Kokosei Bancho, aka High School Gang Leader.

Kokosei bancho: botate asobi
, aka High School Boss 2: The All-Out Game.

Kôkôsei banchô: Shin'ya hôsô
, aka High School Boss 3: Midnight Broadcasting.

All these films came out in the second half of 1970, which is impressive but not unusual—that's just how quickly pinku filmmakers worked. We couldn't locate this one, so we can't summarize it, but you know what to expect. Kokosei bancho: zubeko seito-ha premiered today in 1970.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 8 2017
CHIEFLY INEPT
The film stars a Barker—and that's also a good description of this dog.


This poster, which you will see when you scroll down is two sided, folded into four panels, was made for Battles of Chief Pontiac, a film starring Lex Barker in a story of war between the French and British over what is now the vicinity of Detroit, Michigan. Within this larger fight, Ottawa tribes mount a resistance against the occupying British and their German, or Hessian, mercenaries. This resistance is seriously hampered after the Ottawa are suckered into a peace parlay, then deliberately given blankets infected with smallpox. Treachery much, paleface? Why, yes, all the time.

Throughout all the battles and betrayals hero Lex Barker—the only noble white character—speaks in a neutral American accent that didn't exist 200 years ago, while the supporting white players do their best evil nazi and pompous Brit dialects. This is a nice little trick, portraying all the bad guys as essentially foreign. Never mind that the U.S. is made up of descendents of those colonists, and Barker's character is a colonist too. In cinematic terms i
t's a deft, almost subliminal job of blame shifting. That the film also showed overseas, where accents would have been lost on audiences, thus making it play more like a broad indictment of colonial expansionism, is an irony.
 
Until we shared today's poster there was never any indication anywhere online that Battles of Chief Pontiac played in Japan, but the evidence is clear in this butterscotch promo—which is far more artistic than the film. Yes, this Barker vehicle is a total dog. Avoid it, except for its comedy potential—that is, if watching pasty white guys in brown shoe polish is funny. Battles of Chief Pontiac premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, and according to the poster, hit Japan in 1956. You see the right half of the front side, and the entire rear just below.
 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 6 2017
ROPE BURN
Fifty shades of Tani.


It's roman porno's runaway mainstream success that keeps us watching the movies. We seek to understand them from the point of view of the millions of Japanese filmgoers that made them box office gold, and we try to do it without being squeamish about the content, which is softcore, yet far beyond the pale by American standards. Made half a decade earlier than the second wave bondage flicks we've been featuring lately, Niizuma Jigoku, aka Newlywed Hell, aka New Wife's Hell stars undisputed bdsm queen Naomi Tani in a hit roman porno made with considerably more artistry than second wave films. It's still the same basic idea though—woman has no idea she's into kinky bondage until forced into it. But a more restrained approach than would be prevalent later elevates the material a bit. It's still weird as hell, but you won't feel permanently filthy after watching it. As a bonus, the amazing Terumi Azuma co-stars. Niizuma Jigoku premiered today in 1975.

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Modern Pulp Dec 5 2017
NO BED OF ROSES
Junko Mabuki gets deflowered.


We just saw Junko Mabuki last week, and here she is again in the roman porno vehicle Dan Oniroku bara jigoku, which is known in English as Hell of Roses. Oniroku Dan was Japan's perv laureate of erotic bondage literature, and he became so famous that his name often appeared on the front of movies adapted from his material. And his material was pretty fringy stuff, at least by our standards. Last week's Oniroku Dan movie was centered around a slimy photographer's bondage obsession. This time there are two photographers, working in tandem to produce bdsm shots of young women who don't have any real idea what they've signed up for. Junko plays a famous singer who gets into their crosshairs. She'd never submit voluntarily, so the two predators subdue her with chloroform and spirit her away to an isolated house. Once she awakens she puts up a real fight and even manages to bloody one of her captors, but she still ends up caged, roped, dildoed, etc., and then there's that roman porno pee thing again. And a snake. And a kinky blood fixation. But you know what this movie doesn't have? Roses. Go figure. Dan Oniroku bara jigoku premiered today in 1980.

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Modern Pulp Nov 27 2017
WEAK LINKS
Junko Mabuki starts a chain reaction.


Junko Mabuki is an important actress of second generation Japanese S&M movies, and that's her above on a poster for Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku, aka Female Beautician Rope Discipline. What you see is what you get here. Junko meets a photographer who shoots bondage and discipline. At first she's repulsed, but, this being a roman porno flick, the thought of it grows in her mind. Meanwhile we meet Izumi Shima, one of the photog's bondage subjects. Junko soon crosses paths with Izumi and is attracted to her—and who wouldn't be?—but it's just the beginning of a descent into degradation, jealousy, and serious male-driven pee-version.

We're still trying wrap our heads around the various forms of Japanese cinema. Toei's pinky violence films usually had cool ’70s street action and ass kicking gang girls, whereas Nikkatsu's roman porno had submissive women and sexual subjugation. They're all generally considered to be pink films, along with output from OP Eiga and other studios, but to us they're night and day. Pinky violence and roman porno represent two big studios in competition with each other, but more and more the patriarchy smashing ethos of the former feels like a rebuttal to the latter. In this one, though, the sadistic photographer gets his—spoiler alert!—head deservedly bashed in. Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku premiered in Japan today in 1981.


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Vintage Pulp Nov 22 2017
MAKING MARI
Everybody wants a piece of Mari Atsumi.

The movie Hadaka de Dakko, aka Be Naked premiered in Japan today in 1970, and as you can see from the promo poster, it starred the prolific Mari Atsumi. She made twenty-six films by our count, which means we've talked about her a lot. Here she plays a snack bar employee who dreams of bigger things, and who, along with her friends, try to accumulate 3 million yen they can use to buy a yacht. The reason it's called Be Naked is because every moneymaking scheme hinges on using Atsumi's body. The beauty shop needs her face to draw customers, the gambling house needs her sex appeal for the same reason, and when she becomes an artist's nude model, well, ditto. And in fact, the same can be said of the movie itself, and we're pretty sure its makers knew it too. Want to see more Atsumi? Start here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 23
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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