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.
Single fatherhood can be a real challenge.
Below is a collection of Japanese posters for the amazingly entertaining film series Kozure Ōkami, aka Lone Wolf and Cub, starring Tomisaburô Wakayama as a warrior who has to single-handedly care for his child as legions of assassins try to murder him. More info below.
Two posters for Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance.
Two posters for Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx.
Kozure Ōkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades.
This is the only poster we don't have the panel length for: Kozure Ōkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril. To complete the collection we snagged this image off the internet.
Kozure Ōkami: Meifumado, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons.
Kozure Ōkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell.
There's one more movie, 1980's Kozure Ōkami, aka Shogun Assassin, mainly put together using footage from the previous films, none of which had really been seen in the West to that point. Shogun Assassin, though not properly part of the series, is easy to find and as a one-off it's fine and entertaining, but we recommend you do yourself a favor and watch the canonical films.
If you love somebody pin them to a corkboard.
You know by now that roman porno is a Japanese softcore film genre, and that the “roman” stands for “romantic.” So it's fitting that the poster for the roman porno flick Seishojo: hitontasu no keiken has a romantic image. That isn't usually the case, but this one, with the colors and flowers, is pretty. The English title of this was One Summer Experience: Sexy Virgin, or sometimes Sex Virginity Hito: Natsu's Experience, and what happens is a man named Nobuyuki who collects butterflies meets a girl named Ruri who thinks she's the incarnation of a butterfly. Turns out she's a mental patient, but nuts never looked as good as Terumi Azuma, so Nobuyuki has to be be forgiven for violating the tenets of the hot/crazy matrix. This one gets pretty weird. There's a scene where Ruri experiences sexual pleasure from being stabbed with insect pins, and all we can say is, you know, it's roman porno. The movie has immense importance, at least to us, because it was Azuma's first lead role, and she gave the cinema world plenty of enjoyable material over the years. Below you see a beautiful promo shot—reversed by the lithographer, which we know because in real life Azuma's torso mole is actually on her left—and a nice alternate poster. Seishojo: hitontasu no keiken premiered today in 1976.
Nikktasu's revitalized roman porno screens for NYC audiences.
Today in New York City at the New York Asian Film Festival, two productions from Nikkatsu Studios' ballyhooed Roman Porno Reboot Project will screen for audiences. The Reboot Project was announced last year, and includes major directors such as Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame, Sion Sono of Cold Fish and Tokyo Tribe, and Kazuya Shiraishi, who made The Devil’s Path. Three films will be included in the New York fest, which began several days ago—Kazuya Shiraishi's Mesunekotachi, aka Dawn of the Felines, and Akihiko Shiota's Kaze ni nureta onna, aka Wet Woman in the Wind, will screen today. Isao Yukisada's Gymnopedies ni Midareru, aka Aroused by Gymnopédies premieres on July 14.
Will these be as edgy as Nikkatsu's vintage roman porno offerings? We have our doubts—some of those movies indugle in excesses so extreme we're amazed they're even available on DVD. We expect the new roman porno to be milder but perhaps contain a modern feminist twist, a shift in point-of-view that would be welcome, at least to us. All three of the movies playing in NYC have already seen release in Japan and gotten decent reviews, which means festival audiences should find something enjoyable in them. If you're in the Big Apple area you now have a potential plan for the next ten days. As for us folks who live far across the ocean, hopefully we'll get a chance to see some of the films soon as well, and if we do we'll certainly report back.
Lovers in a dangerous time.
Above are two posters for Nikutai no mon, aka Gate of Flesh, one of the most famous films to come out of Japan during the post-war period. We talked about the pinku remake of this, which appeared in 1977. The original was directed by Seijun Suzuki and stars Joe Shishido, Satoko Kasai, and Yumiko Nogawa. It closely follows the plot of Tajiro Tamura's novel, in which a group of tough prostitutes survive in bombed out post-World War II Tokyo thanks to camaraderie and a strict code of conduct, of which the most important rule is never to have sex for free. When a wounded ex-soldier takes shelter with them, some of the women find emotional distance difficult to keep, while one finds maintaining physical distance even harder. The novel is a tragedy, and since the film tracks the fiction closely, don't expect to walk away from this one with a smile on your face. It premiered in Japan today in 1964.
Ready for some stimulating reading?
Above, a beautiful pin-up style cover painted by Jef de Wulf for Tania et le démon by Yvan Nikitine, published by Brussels based Éditions Aphrodite. This is a collection of romantic verse from the Russian poet Yvan Nikitine, not to be confused with the famous 19th century Russian poet Ivan Nikitine, nor the 17th century Russian painter and author Ivan Nikitin. We had trouble figuring all this out, because apparently Nikitine/Nikitin is like Johnson or Jones in Russia, but we think our Nikitine wrote eighteen volumes of poetry over the years, was made a knight of L'Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and is alive and retired in Agen, France. Maybe we should just just focus on the art. Nice, yeah? 1959 copyright.
She may get pushed around but eventually she always pushes back.
Rashamen Oman: higanbana wa chitta, for which you see he promo here, is known in English as Foreigner’s Mistress Oman: Falling Autumn Flower. The movie starred Sally Mei, aka Sally May, an enigmatic half Anglo half Japanese actress who appeared in a handful of movies and had a short singing career, here playing the character Oman in a sequel to Rashamen Oman: ame no Oranda-zaka (poster here). She'd do one more film in this series called Enzetsu jokyo-den: Oman midarehada, and all of them premiered between March and August of the same year, which shows you how fast Nikkatsu churned these Krispy Kremes out.
The plot of the first movie saw Mei travel from Shanghai to Japan in search of her mother, only to be betrayed by her companion and sold to a brothel, where she becomes a geisha and gambler. Luckily, Mei had picked up some sword skills along the way and put those to good use julienning her captors. The sequel, then, picks up after she's served a prison sentence only to find that her sister is in the clutches of a group of yakuza lowlifes. Mei is up the challenge once again. Starring as her sister, by the way, is Yuri Yamashina, who we've looked at before. Rashamen Oman: higanbana wa chitta premiered in Japan today in 1972.
Jo Shishido is too cruel to be schooled.
By now you've noticed this year's Noir City slate concerns heists—all the films so far have involved foolproof plans to make a big score. 1964's Kenjû zankoku monogatari, aka Cruel Gun Story is about a crew that wants to rob a race track, same as in Kubrick's The Killing. Japanese superstar Jo Shishido leads his minions on a caper that goes wrong almost immediately and eventually erupts into pyrotechnic violence. If there's a lesson here it's don't get on Shishido's bad side. Though he's preternaturally cool (really, we can't think of another star who could make exchanging close quarters gunfire while smoking a cigarette look believable), restraint in the face of aggression isn't his strong trait. When he has something serious to say, it's going to come from the muzzle of a gun. This is another Noir City offering that most sites don't label as film noir, but the influences are certainly there, and in fact the film is part of The Criterion Collection's five film Nikkatsu Noir DVD box set. We've seen Kenjû zankoku monogatari described as Nikkatsu Studios' crown jewel. We don't know about that. We'd call it an imperfect but entertaining effort.
You can't keep a good girl down.
This dramatic poster was made for Nikutai no mon, aka Gate of Flesh, a movie based on a 1947 novel by Japanese author Taijirô Tamura. The book has been filmed five times. The most famous version was made in 1968 with Jo Shishido and Yumiko Nogawa earning acclaim for their lead roles in what was a serious and artistic film, but the above promo is for the 1977 roman porno version starring Reiko Kayama, Izumi Shima, and Junko Miyahsita. Needless to say, the two films diverge rather sharply. However, we need to point out, as we do periodically, that roman porno isn't porno—it's softcore. The “roman” in roman porno is short for “romantic,” and though the movies aren't typically romantic in the normal sense, they aren't explicit. Such depictions were illegal in Japan back then, and remain so today (though filmmakers use pixilation of sexual organs to skirt the law).
When the novel Nikutai no mon appeared in 1947 a different censorship regime existed called the Civil Censorship Detachment, which was under the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, aka Douglas MacArthur. Under SCAP CCD censorship, explicit accounts of fraternization between Japanese and whites were forbidden, as were detailed accounts of the atomic bombings, or anything that could generate distrust toward the American occupiers. Most Japanese authors obeyed. A few wrote obliquely about the forbidden subjects. And a very few broke the rules entirely to describe war horrors—e.g. flashburned nuclear victims walking naked and blind amongst the ruins, their hairless bodies so swollen their sex could not be determined. Tamura's novel falls in the middle. It tells the story of a group of Japanese women trying to survive in the rubble of Tokyo via prostitution.
Where the 1968 movie stuck pretty close to Tamura's fiction, the roman porno focuses more on the sexploitation angle, though it keeps the action set in 1947. A criminal syndicate known as Black Rose provides Japanese girls as prostitutes to the American military, and any who resist the various examinations, training, and indignities are punished with torture and death. When Reiko Kayama arrives on the scene, she eventually inspires the others to follow her as she leads a revolt against her enslavers. You get sex, girlfights, killings, and blood. If you're looking for standard roman porno fare—with perhaps a bit more visual piazazz than usual thanks to director Shôgorô Nishimura and cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki—you've picked the right film. Nikutai no mon premiered in Japan today in 1977.
Miyai's indoor escapades continue in installment eighteen of Nikkatsu's popular series.
This poster was made to promote the roman porno flick Danchizuma: Okasareta hada, known in English as Apartment Wife: Violated Skin, eighteenth entry in the Apartment Wife series launched by Nikkatsu Corporation in 1971. Erina Miyai stars again, and we can't imagine there are many surprises eighteen entries into the series, but we couldn't find a copy so all you get is the poster. And the promo photo below. Danchizuma: Okasareta hada premiered in Japan today in 1977.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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