The shot heard 'round Japan.
This unusual poster was made to promote a film called Teppôdama no bigaku, known in English by the cool title Aesthetics of a Bullet. The movie came from Art Theatre Guild, or ATG, producers of films in the loose category known as Japanese New Wave, meaning to take a new approach to filmmaking by rejecting traditional ideas and techniques. This one was directed by Sadao Nakajima and stars Tsunehiko Watase as a hot-headed two-bit hustler named Kiyoshi who tries numerous schemes to get ahead, including being a chef, gambling, and breeding rabbits. He fails at all of them, and he's desperate for a break.
When he's given a job by a local yakuza cartel known as Tenyu Group, he quickly learns about the power of a gun. With it he can command others, make them fear and respect him, make them literally kneel. With this gun his sense of self worth is first restored, then inflated. He caresses it, brandishes it, polishes it, treats it better than even the women he lusts for, and the gun confirms that he's superior to others. And once he feels superior he becomes—not to put too fine a point on it—a total asshole. He's actually an abusive chump even before the gun, but the weapon fully unleashes his destructive, hyper-masculine impulses.
The things he does are too ridiculously stupid to get into. Suffice it to say that even for a regular guy these would lead to trouble, but he's Tenyu Group's thug-at-large, which means his erratic behavior and explosive anger offends the other crime bosses. Pretty soon he discovers that he's torn a dangerous rift in the yakuza network. But what Kiyoshi doesn't know—which the audience does from the beginning—is that Tenyu Group hired him in the first place precisely because he's a disruptive fuck-up. Their theory was always that he would spark a gang war. All he has to do is fire that beloved gun once and Tenyu Group will have the excuse it needs.
Aesthetics of a Bullet is obscure, so we knew nothing about it, but we liked it. It's concise, has a strong point of view, and a good supporting cast that includes Miki Sugimoto and Mitsuru Mori. Its only flaw—perhaps unavoidable—is that the lead character is such a misanthropic troublemaker that we could barely tolerate watching him. But we guess that's where the whole rejecting traditional filmmaking comes in. Who needs a likeable or even sympathetic lead? Real life is more complicated than that, and Kiyoshi's fictional life gets plenty complicated too. Even if you can't root for him, at least he won't bore you, and neither will the movie. Aesthetics of a Bullet premiered in Japan today in 1973.
Seems like she gets tougher to work for every year.
The internet is all about change. When we first wrote about Miki Sugimoto’s 1973 pinku flick Sukeban–Kankain Dasso, aka Girl Boss: Escape from Reform School, we shared a rare tateken sized promo poster and mentioned that it was the first of its kind to appear online, while the standard sized promo could be found anywhere. Six years later it's the tateken poster that's everywhere online, while good scans of the standard promo seem to have disappeared. So here's a good scan of the standard promo. Sukeban–Kankain Dasso premiered in Japan today in 1973.
You have the right to remain dead.
We already showed you a rare hand-painted poster for the pinky violence actioner Zeroka no onna: Akai wappa, aka Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs. Today we're showing you the tateken poster, which is rare too, so much so that this may be the best scan you'll of it see online. The kind of washed out look is part of the design. If you haven't seen the movie, it's about a vigilante cop played by Miki Sugimoto who is released from prison by a government agency in order to take down the kidnappers of a powerful politician's daughter.
Like most pinku movies, there's some sexual violence, and many reviewers excoriate this admittedly overused plot device. We don't claim those reviewers are wrong, but it should be noted that rape in pinku is often symbolic, serving both to advance the immediate plot and implant a deeper message. In this case the main perpetrator in the sexual assault of a young Japanese woman is wearing U.S. Navy coveralls. The depth of negative feeling about the U.S. occupation of Japan is made clear. All that said, the constant use of sexual assault in Japanese film—if it was ever artistically justified at all—definitely jumped the shark with the arrival of Nikkatsu Studios' roman porno offerings. We've talked about that before.
One interesting part of assessing vintage art is that at the time it was created the artists often thought they were making a certain statement, but decades later their art is perceived as sending the exact opposite message. Such is the case with pinky violence movies, in which maverick male filmmakers—in this case Yukio Noda—showed Japanese women taking on and usually destroying an entrenched male power structure, but only after being driven to it through degradation and violence. Which in screen terms meant rape. Were there other ways to show women driven to the point where they would kill? No doubt, but in patriarchal 1970s Japan the shock of these films was not how women were driven to kill men, but that they did—and often got away with it.
Miki Sugimoto deals with with some very bad men in Zero Woman, but her focus never wavers. She's to rescue the kidnapped daughter and dispose of the abductors in such a way that no news coverage or police investigation points back toward the father. Wrapped in a crimson raincoat she dispatches villain after villain, but learns that not even the presumed good guys are redeemable—not the politician, not the cops, nobody. It's grim, cynical, nihilistic stuff—and a classic of the genre. Zeroka no onna: Akai wappa opened in Japan today in 1974.
Japanese society is very formal, but around here I keep things pretty laid back.
Above, a provocative promo photo of Japanese pinku icon Miki Sugimoto, one of dozens she made, all of which are rare. If you don't know her work we suggest adding it to your life. You can start with this film, this one, and this one.
Two of pinku's biggest stars headline a rare film festival in Tokyo.
If you find yourself in Tokyo today, Cinema Laputa Asagaya is hosting a retrospective of films featuring two of the biggest pinku stars of the 1970s—Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, who are not only big stars but also Pulp Intl. faves who we've discussed many times. A new film will be featured every weekend until April 1, with all the pair's most legendary efforts appearing on the program, including Yasagure anego den: sôkatsu rinchi, aka Female Yakuza Tale (discussed here and here), Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi, aka Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, for which you can see the badass promo poster here, and of course Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô, aka Sex & Fury, which we talked about way back in 2009. There will be thirteen films in all, and the festival represents the best chance to see all these movies on a big screen in many years, and in a pretty cool location too. If you're in the vicinity, don't miss it.
Reiko Ike’s pelvic floor exercises pay off big time.
Onsen mimizu geisha, which premiered today in 1971, stars an eighteen-year-old Reiko Ike, along with Miki Sugimoto and Junkô Tôda, in yet another tale centered on a Japanese hot spring—Toi Onsen on the Izu Peninsula. So what is this about specifically? Basically, in order to avoid losing the family’s ancestral burial plot to debt collectors, Ike is forced to become a geisha, which turns out to be a natural choice because of the muscle control she has over her vagina. The extraordinarily pleasurable sensation she creates in there is akin to that of worms writhing. Yes, you read that right—worms. Warm ones, of course. And this is where the title of the movie comes from—Onsen mimizu geisha, or “hot springs earthworm geisha.” Do you need to know more? This is a classic, with a lot of goofy humor, plenty of bare skin and bikinis, a strong visual style from director Noribumi Suzuki, and some bizarrely aggressive octopi. And most importantly it has Ike, who’s radiant throughout, never more so than when flashing the viewer during the naughty opening credit montage. Maybe not for everybody, this one, but it certainly worked for us.
Reiko Ike and Sandra Julien get together and sparks fly.
Gendai poruno-den: Sentensei inpu, aka Modern Porno Tale: Inherited Sex Mania, aka The Insatiable is a Noribumi Suzuki-directed tale of sexual awakening, but we bet most viewers don't awaken until co-stars Reiko Ike and Sandra Julien end up in the shower together. Pretty steamy stuff, and as a bonus the two migrate into bed, which you see in the photo below. Prefacing that agreeable sequence are less agreeable but standard pinku elements, including legions of slimy horndogs, shameful voyeurism, forced de-virginization, a drugging, and an alcohol fueled orgy. The only good thing that happens is that Ike falls into bed with Pulp Intl. fave Miki Sugimoto. Actually, that's nearly the opening sequence, which is nice because it lets you know exactly where the movie plans to take you. But that interlude aside, other aspects of Reiko's life really suck, and her escalating problems eventually lead to a brawl which she escapes by hiding in a parked car. The man who owns that car seems to bethe person destined to save her from the sordid club girl life she's made for herself. Or is he? He slaps her within minutes of their initial meeting, but can you blame the guy? She was trying to kiss him. We can't pretend to truly understand these movies, and since there are no real reviews of this one online we're flying blind with our interpretation, but the message seems to be that sluttiness is genetic. In any case, we love the two posters at top. We also love the two promo images below of Ike and Julien. Gendai poruno-den: Sentensei inpu opened in Japan today in 1971.
Just when you thought it was safe.
We already shared the two-piece panel length poster for Sukeban berûsu: mesubachi no chosen, aka Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Challenge, but today we have two alternate versions. At top you see the standard poster, and below is the bo-ekibari, or horizontal two-piece. We already told you everything you need to know about the movie—in short, it has Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, and strategic soap foam. A perfect night’s entertainment.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon.
Above you see an alternate version of the promo poster for Sukeban gerira, aka Girl Boss Guerilla, Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike’s classic biker-girl revenge pinku flick. The previous versions, including a rare bo-ekibari style, are here. We also have a couple of rare promo images of Sugimoto and Ike below for your enjoyment, so you can appreciate them when they aren't trying to kill people. We have other promos that are even more rare, and we’ll see about sharing those later. Sukeban gerira premiered in Japan today in 1972.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
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