Vintage Pulp Jan 3 2015
CRAZY FOR YOU
Meiko Kaji takes the Stray Cat Rock franchise out for a final spin.


Even Nikkatsu serials eventually end, and this entry in the Stray Cat Rock series, entitled Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shudan ’71, aka Stray Cat Rock: Crazy Rider, was the final outing for Meiko Kaji in the franchise. That’s her, of course, looking exceptionally badass on an exceedingly rare promo poster, and below we have even rarer distributor sheets. Plotwise, Kaji has a boyfriend named Ryumei who has spurned the mainstream lifestyle for hippie freedom. When bikers attack Ryumei and Kaji the altercation leads to Ryumei killing one of the thugs. Unluckily for Kaji, he’s whisked away, leaving her to take the murder rap, in turn leading to her being tossed in jail. Turns out Ryumei’s father wants him to give up hippiedom and join the family business, and sent the bikers to kidnap him and bring him home.

Kaji escapes from jail a while later, seeks out Ryumei, finds him transformed into a cold-hearted suit, and is imprisoned again, this time by the father’s evil thugs. The main problem with this movie for Kaji fans is she doesn’t get much screen time. Instead much of the tale is told from the other end, as Kaji’s friends, led by Yoshio Harada, plot to free her. This isn’t fatal to the movie, though. If you can embrace the other protagonists you’ll find plenty to enjoy. The sentiment of hippies-versus-power may seem quaint, and indeed the film handles certain elements of their lifestyle comedically, but all these years later, with Japan’s rich getting richer while its poverty rate is among the highest for developed nations, is anyone still laughing? Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shudan ’71 premiered in Japan today in 1971, and you can see more posters for the series here and here.


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Vintage Pulp Dec 30 2014
STRIPED SCORPION
The smaller the animal the deadlier the poison.


This excellent Japanese poster promotes the film Joshuu sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bô, aka Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, starring Meiko Kaji as the female convict of the title. This is second of ten movies dealing with the character of Scorpion, but Kaji played the role only four times before passing it off to Yumi Takagawa in 1976. We shared posters for Kaji’s four excursions back in 2010 and mentioned there was alternate art we didn’t possess. Well, we do now. This was painted by Toru Shinohara, who also created the manga the movies are based upon. It’s a rare piece.

The movie itself is sinister, psychedelic, and extraordinarily stylish thanks to director Shunya Itô’s clever set-ups and shot-framing. For most fans, Kaji is the only Scorpion that matters, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. She’s about five-feet-four and probably didn’t hit triple digits on a scale back then, but with eyes and posture she radiates lethal menace. As far as plot, this fits end-to-end with the previous movie, so consider watching that one first. Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 premiered in Japan today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2014
REVENGE SERVED COLD
Meiko Kaji takes vengeance to a whole new level.

The action drama Shurayuki-hime, aka Lady Snowblood, is considered classic cinema for good reasons—it’s bold, lyirical, and stylish, with an unusual narrative structure and a great star in Meiko Kaji. Every piece of art we have on this game-changing movie appears below, and as far as we can discern much of it has never before been shared online. Shurayuki-hime premiered in Japan today in 1973. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 22 2014
STRAY CAT STRUT
She slinks down the alley looking for a fight, howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night.


Since we featured Reiko Ike yesterday it seems only right to have Meiko Kaji today. Which of them is the real queen of 70s Japanese action cinema? It’s up for debate. Maybe it’s even someone else entirely. Anyway, you see above and below two posters for Nora-neko rokku: Mashin animaru, known in English as Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal. It was the fourth of five Stray Cat Rock films, and Kaji starred in all, though as different characters in each.

The series is about juvenile delinquency and takes place against a backdrop of industrial cityscapes and inside the sorts of groovy nightclubs you might associate with Austin Powers. The plot involves Kaji and her cohorts planning to sell stolen LSD in order to help a soldier escape the Vietnam War, but getting entangled with rival gangsters who want to horn in on the deal. It’s very much worth a viewing, and stacks up well against the previous entries. Wild stray cat—you’re a real gone girl. Nora-neko okku: Mashin animaru premiered in Japan today in 1970.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2014
THE SCORPION'S STING
Someone’s going to pay for what happened—in full, plus interest.

This poster for Shin joshuu sasori: 701-gô, aka New Female Prisoner Scorpion: 701 promotes the first film in what today might be called a franchise reboot. Meiko Kaji established the character of Prisoner 701 in four hit films, and a few years after she left Toei Company decided to resurrect the series with Yumi Takigawa in the lead. Framed for murder, she ends up in a women’s prison where she’s harassed, sexually assaulted, and marked for death. A prison riot finally gives her the chance at revenge, and lets just say she takes full advantage.

She feels even less forgiving once she escapes, meaning she has a score to settle with the men who railroaded her in the first place. You know what to expect, so we don’t really need to go into detail. The poster above is an ekibari, which we gather means it was made for subway walls, and it’s in bo style, which seemingly means two pieces. Below we have the bo-ekibari in its separate, very cool sections, with Takigawa giving the stare of death that’s usually the last sight of her enemies’ lives. Shin joshuu sasori: 701-gô premiered in Japan today in 1976. 

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Femmes Fatales Sep 28 2013
MEIKO YOUR DAY
This old thing? I call it the peacemaker, because once you’re in pieces you’ll be no more trouble.

When pondering which femme fatale to post today, looking toward Japan seemed fitting. Japan’s Cinema Caravan will have its finale in San Sebastian tonight with several short films, plus live music from Cro-Magnon, DJ Mitsu the Beats, and more. The above image has never appeared on the internet before, as far as we can tell, and shows legendary actress Meiko Kaji. The year on this is 1969, back when she was still quite well known as Masako Ôta, having acted in four movies using that name. We’ll tell you all about Cinema Caravan’s finale tomorrow, and next week we’ll get back to our usual books, tabloids, and general pulp weirdness.

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Musiquarium Mar 1 2013
GEISHA SONGS
She doesn’t just hack people to death—there's a sensitive side.

When we saw this 7-inch gatefold over at Harakiri Chamber scanned and posted in two pieces we couldn’t resist Photoshopping it into one. It’s got Meiko Kaji, and if you’ve watched her movies you know it was her enemies who wound up in two pieces, not her. Anyway, Kaji is attired here for her role as Akemi Tachibana in Kaidan nobori ryu, aka The Tattooed Swordswoman. We took a close look at that movie back in October. You get two Kaji songs here—the a-side “Jingi Komoriuta,” which was featured on the soundtracks of Kaidan nobori ryu as well as 1971’s Ginchô wataridori, and the b-side, which is entitled “Koi ni Inochi wo.” This 1970 pressing is very rare and costs the equivalent of $100, which is quite a sum to drop on two tunes. But if you’re curious you can listen to the first one here and the second one here.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 19 2013
THE AMAZING GINZA BLADE
Slices a tomato so thin you can almost see through it! But wait! There’s more! It also works great on Yakuza!

It’s been a while since we had any Meiko Kaji on the site, so today we have four posters—two normal sized and two panel length—for 1971’s Ginchô wataridori, aka Wandering Ginza Butterfly, and 1972’s Ginchô nagaremono mesuneko bakuchi, aka Wandering Ginza: She-Cat Gambler. Haven’t seen them? Well, in our opinion, part two is vastly better than the first installment, but neither is up to the standard of Lady Snowblood. Still though, there are Yakuza and she kills them. What more could you want? You also get Meg Flower in part one, and Sonny Chiba in part two—both good additions. Kaji is still going strong in show business, by the way, having appeared in nine episodes of the Japanese television series Kekkon Shinai in 2012. We have some extremely rare posters of hers we’ll get to shortly.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 8 2012
MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE
She wasn’t really a blind woman—she only played one in the movies.


Last week we watched Meiko Kaji’s Kaidan nobori ryu, aka Blind Woman’s Curse, and were too busy being cute with our summary of the film to mention that the blind woman was played by Hiroko (Hoki) Tokuda, who is better known to many people as author Henry Miller’s last wife. When they met she was working as a lounge pianist in L.A. and Miller, who had established himself as one of the most important American writers ever, was living in Pacific Palisades. Tokuda told the New York Times in 2011: “Henry started asking every week to meet me. I realized he just wanted a Japanese woman to add to his collection, and I would always ask myself, ‘Why me?’ Soon after we met, he started telling people he was going to marry me.” And marry her he did in September 1967. She was twenty-nine and Miller, who had been born in 1891, was on the verge of turning seventy-six.

By early 1970 Tokuda had left Miller and was back in Japan, where that year she filmed Blind Woman’s Curse. Miller died in 1980, and Tokuda is in Japan today, running a piano bar called Tropic of Cancer, after her ex-husband’s most famous book. She says her marriage with Miller was never consummated, which may or may not be true—Miller isn’t around to contradict her. She also says she only married him for a green card,and has even joked about him being a bad kisser. "Terrible," she describes it. "Wet." It strikes us as a bit cynical for her to pretend the marriage was an inconvenient mistake when she’s borrowing the name of his most famous book in order to brand her bar, but that’s just our opinion. In any case, being a pulp site, we just thought we should offer a little background info, since Tokuda was married to a guy who changed English language literature forever. The above photos both date from September 1967, when their love—if it ever existed—was new.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 4 2012
BLACK CAT RUN
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting Meiko Kaji.


We thought the last Meiko Kaji poster we found featured the creepiest black cat of all time. We stand corrected. The above poster is for Teruo Ishii’s 1970 blood splatterer Kaidan nobori ryu, aka The Tattooed Swordswoman, aka Black Cat’s Revenge, aka Blind Woman’s Curse, aka Strange Tales of Dragon Tattoo, aka we’ll just stop there and tell you what it’s about. It’s about… well, we aren’t completely sure what it’s about, because we had to watch it without subtitles. Sometimes that doesn’t matter, but this movie is a bit abstract so the plot was hard to follow. Actually, even the actors seemed confused at times. But even if we can’t tell you exactly what it’s about, we can tell you what it has.

It has Meiko Kaji in the starring role. So that’s good.
 
She’s the leader of a gang that has a dragon collectively tattooed on its back. Which is visually interesting and a nice symbol of togetherness in these divisive times.
 
But she's a bit divisive herself, especially when it comes to dividing people from their body parts. She kills lots of people who deserve it, but accidentally blinds a little girl who doesn’t. That’s the girl in the second panel on the right, being blinded. We didn't need subtitles there. Pretty sure she shrieked, "My eyes!"
 
And then there's the cat. It's on the poster, so we were expecting it. What we didn't expect is that it eats blood. Which is weird, because cats are normally quite finicky.
 
There might be more than one black cat, now that we think about it, because it keeps popping up. Near as we can tell, Kaji thinks she’s cursed by this creature, and that it was sent by the little girl she blinded.

 
There’s something for the ladies here—ass. Prime male ass. That’s only fair, considering how much female skin is usually on display in these old Japanese flicks, but apparently he smells really bad. Leave it to male filmmakers to slip a little beefcake into a movie but then put some passive aggressive twist on it. The women in the movie don’t smell bad. You can be sure of that. But the one guy who shows his ass smells bad. Pretty good ass, though.
 
But ironically, from the front he’s butt ugly. Double disappointment for female viewers, and doubly passive aggressive from the filmmakers.
 
There’s a lot of horror movie stuff going on as well, including a guy wokking some severed body parts. Did they ever do hands on the original Iron Chef? They definitely did sea cucumber, but hands, can't be sure. Probably should have, though.

 
The black cat inevitably returns, but disturbingly, it’s hanging from a wire. We’re not supposed to notice the wire, but thanks to the wonders of pause technology, we got a clear shot of it. Apparently, the filmmakers couldn’t get a live cat to jump at the camera on cue, so they used this dead one hanging from piano wire. It isn’t a puppet, as far as we can tell. Best not to think about it.
 
There are some flayings. Members of Kaji’s gang have the dragon tattoos forcibly removed from their backs. It’s fatal, in case you’re wondering. One of the flayed victims ends up pressed against a pane of glass like a Delta Zeta kissing her jock boyfriend. No idea what that was about.

 
All of this leads to a climactic bloodbath. And we really mean bloodbath. Bad guys end up snorkeling in their own bodily fluids as Kaji pretty much juliennes everyone that crosses her path.

 
Such massacres are often the prelude to a final showdown in these movies. No exception here. Kaji has to fight the girl she blinded, who’s all grown up now and not in a forgiving mood at all. At all. Teruo Ishii uses an amazing matte backdrop to frame this scene and impart a sense of both turbulence and being sucked into an unavoidable conclusion.

 
How can the blind swordswoman fight, being blind and all? We missed that explanation, if there was one, but she can definitely hear really well. So that helps. Also, we haven't seen the last of that cat. Somehow kitty seems to have something to do with helping the blind chick, but this time Kaji is intent on fixing its little red wagon for good.

And that’s all we’ve got, because with a command of Japanese so weak it isn’t a command so much as a friendly suggestion, the plot nuances are beyond us, especially the whole haunting and evil spirit thing. But when a movie looks this good, it’s easy to enjoy even without total (or even partial) comprehension. Hopefully we’ll find a subtitled version somewhere and get a chance to screen this epic again. But even if we don’t, it was time well spent. Check out poster number two below.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 29
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".

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