Vintage Pulp Feb 7 2018
MOVING VIOLATIONS
Nikkatsu pushes the envelope of taste—and social responsibility—with Okasu!


Above, a poster for the roman porno flick Okasu!, which premiered in Japan today in 1976. The title here, in a rare occurrence and complete contrast to the above film, translates directly—Rape! Considering that hundreds of roman porno (short for “romantic porno”) movies were made by Nikkatsu Studios during the ’70s and ’80s we take them seriously and seek to understand them. So we watched this and... we don't understand. Starring Natsuko Yashiro, who you may remember from her female diver movies, and co-starring Naomi Tani and Yuri Yamashina, Okasu! is the story of a rape victim who develops an obsession for her attacker and searches the city for him, constantly exposing herself to similar dangers.
 
To be clear, we make no cultural judgments here—around the same time in the U.S. on the soap opera General Hospital, Luke raped Laura and became the number one hunk on daytime television. So we're not failing to understand Okasu! from a cultural vantage point, but from a generational vantage point. We don't find non-consensual anything sexy. From our perspective this dubious flick has only two plusses: there's a highly ironic, even grimly comical, ending; and Yashiro masturbates with a walnut, which we never knew was possible. Wanna try it? Follow her lead below. But when you're making your way through vintage Japanese movies give this one a pass.

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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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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 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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Modern Pulp Nov 20 2017
KAZ AND EFFECT
Another relationship goes sour for Yuki K.


Above is another promo poster with roman porno queen Yuki Kazamatsuri, this time for her film Chijoku no heya, aka Room of Shame. Yuki's cab driver hubby has an accident and becomes impotent, leading to infidelity spiced up with various kinky deviations. You can always count on Yuki to pick the wrong man. Audiences loved her serial predicaments. By the time this effort appeared she was a huge box office draw, as evidenced by the fact that during 1981 and 1982 she appeared on the screen in no fewer than twelve starring or co-starring roles. That's a lot of failed relationships. She later had small parts in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, and this year appeared in a mini-series. All-in-all a very nice run in show business, still ongoing. Chijoku no heya premiered in Japan today in 1982

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Vintage Pulp Oct 27 2017
NOCTURNAL PERMISSION
Three may be a crowd, but it's also a lot of fun.


We rarely see promo posters of Japanese films from other countries that are visually interesting, but this one from the former Yugoslavia breaks the trend. It's for a film called in Croatian Hiljadu i jedna noć u Tokiju. The title in Japanese was 东京厄洛斯一千零一夜. In both languages you get a translation along the lines of “Tokyo One Thousand and One Nights,” referencing the famed collection of folk and erotic tales from the Islamic Golden Age. In romanized Japanese the title was Tokyo eros senya ichiya, and in English it was Eros Nights in Tokyo, which omits the Arabian Nights reference for some reason. We haven't seen the film, but it starred three of our favorite Japanese actresses—Izumi Shima, Megi Ayako, and Erina Miyai—which means we'll be looking for it. If we find it we'll revisit this subject. Tokyo eros senya ichiya opened in Japan today in 1979.

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Modern Pulp Oct 22 2017
TSUMA THE POSITION
Kazamatsuri finds herself in another difficult spot.


We last saw Yuki Kazamatsuri in the 1982 roman porno flick Onna kyôshi-gari, starring with a cast of men behaving badly. With that in mind we took a look at Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima..., aka Wife's Sexual Fantasy Before Husband's Eyes, and basically the same thing happens. This time her husband becomes the victim of blackmail and a frame-up, and as part of his coercion the bad guys make him offer Kazamatsuri to them for depraved sex. She of course agrees because it's to save her husband's skin, and this being a roman porno flick, she discovers she likes it and wants more of the same. So there you go. Once again we need to point out that roman porno is not hardcore, but rather something just a bit more edgy than late night Cinemax, though the plots tend to be well outside accepted American norms. Well outside. But at least you can console yourself that it's all just acting. Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima... premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 19
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
December 18
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
December 17
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
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