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 leastnot 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 many were liberal feminist allies satirizing conservative patriarchs/patriots. Their sexualization of women was spurred in part by studio demands, but there's also no doubt many thought of themselves as modernist trailblazers smashing social barriers through the use of sexual symbolism. The path their output has taken through the decades is parallel to that of Hugh Hefner, hailed as a 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 changes 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.
Calvet proves red warms up any room.
Corinne Calvet, née Corinne Dibos, was born in Paris and tried a few different careers before migrating to Hollywood. She studied criminal law at the Sorbonne, then became an interior designer, where we assume all she did was walk into a room to redecorate it. When she made the move to Hollywood in 1940 she generally played French characters, appearing in On the Riviera, Rope of Sand, The Far Country and numerous other films. This is really a stunning shot of an especially beautiful star but we aren't positive of the date. Best guess—1950.
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 often embedded in the former versus the sexist subjugation usually present within the latter feel like a corporate level political divide writ large. In this one, though, the sadistic photographer gets his—spoiler alert!—head deservedly bashed in. So lines were occasionally crossed. Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
Likes include fine saki, sunset walks, and light humiliation.
Above, five promo posters featuring Naomi Oka, who appeared in dozens of pinku and roman porno films between 1972 and 1987, with 1979 being her banner year as twelve films hit Japanese screens. As you might imagine based on the above evidence, she was one of the queens of bondage. The posters above are for, top to bottom, Onna keimusho shikei, aka Women's Prison: The Lynching, Hentai shikijô nawa fujin, aka Abnormal Rope Wife, Hitozuma hentai, aka Abnormal Bride, Nihon no rinchi, aka Japanese Lynching, and Kinbalu ijo-ma, aka Distributing agency: Shin-Toho, also sometimes referred to as Disturbing: Rope Master. It's always important to note that restraint and bondage have a special place in Japanese culture, where it's considered—if not quite normal—not outstandingly weird either. Below you see Oka mercifully freed from bondage.
Liars and tigers and bloodspray—oh mai!
Beautiful and very rare, the two posters above were made to promote Toei Company’s Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko, aka Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope, a rollicking thriller that premiered in Japan today in 1975 and starred Shin’ichi Chiba, better known in the West as Sonny Chiba. Based on a manga series by Kazumasa Hirai, the movie involves a vicious invisible tiger that’s killing the members of a Tokyo rock band who gang-raped a woman named Miki and infected her with syphilis because a powerful politician wanted her relationship with his son sabotaged. The tiger is the manifestation of Miki’s curse. You may be saying to yourself, “But none of that has anything to do with lycanthropy.” You’d be right, but there is in fact lycanthropy here—Chiba the tough reporter is a werewolf. He can’t yet harness his power, but try telling that to J-CIA, a secret organization that will stop at nothing until they obtain Chiba’s vital fluids and create human-wolf hybrids. Hero and heroine’s paths and genitals eventually cross, and from this union Chiba realizes how to control his wolfly abilities. But there’s more, oh so much more, to this film. Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko is gory good fun, low budget, but well worth a viewing thanks to Nami Etsuko as Miki and, of course, the legendary Chiba. Good luck tracking down a copy. Ours was a cable television rip with all the crazy Japanese commercials intact.
Hello Pulp International readers! I'm Commercial Girl. The Pulp guys have asked me to introduce five screenshots from Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko. Please enjoy and have a wonderful Tuesday!
The enraged lycanthrope acquits himself admirably in a fight as none other than Steve McQueen the King of Cool looks on with studied approval.
Some girls don’t like wolf blood so when you find one who digs it this much she’s a keeper. Napkins? Nonsense! This blood is finger licking good.
Wild thing you make my heart sing… and squirt like a lawn sprinkler. It’s just give give give with this girl.
Hey, douche nozzles, why the fuck did I hire you? Look at my mouth. That thing hanging there? That's called a cigarette. What does it need? Here’s a hint—why does it emphysema like you never fuckin' listen?
Shhh…I can hear her spirit speaking to me through her portrait. She says KFC bucket meals are 30% off for a limited time only. Um, Wolfguy, you turned off the tv in the other room, right?
Hi! Commercial Girl here again. The Pulp guys say Tuesday sucks especially hard. Even more so when your fantasy baseball team goes 2 for 39 and you lose seventeen points! So here’s one more screenshot because you need extra cheering up! All of us in Kiss want every one of you out there to remember to rock 'n' roll all night and party EVERY DAY! Geishas RULE! Sushi and blow FOREVER! So long Tokyo! Or as you say here, Sayonara!
Woof woof. Arf arf. I must be barking mad.
High priestess of bondage Naomi Tani is at it again in Shôgorô Nishimura’s roman porno Dan Oniroku: Nawa-geshô aka Rope Cosmetology, aka Rope Makeover. Based on yet another Oniroku Dan story, Tani plays Kanako, a frustrated housewife whose best friend puts her together with a bondage artist keen to introduce her to the fine arts of humiliation and subjugation. It’s all pretty basic stuff that he’s into at first. He lets her watch another woman being disciplined. Then he ties her up and gives her intro level treatment. He tickles her. He makes her pee in a bucket. He makes her crawl around his apartment while wearing a leash. Then this happens:
And that’s pretty hard to get past. At least it is for us. Sometimes we encounter pretty weird shit maintaining this website, and this is one of those times. Most assessments of Shôgorô Nishimura’s oeuvre mention that this film was about as far out as he got, and we suppose the world should be thankful for that. Dan Oniroku: Nawa-geshô premiered in Japan today in 1978.
Well, I use that part of my body so much I decided it was pointless to cover it.
West German born Ursula Buchfellner got her start in Playboy and was one of those models who actually got into the magazine before her eighteenth birthday, with a shot featured in the West German edition in December 1977, when she was sixteen, and a photo appearing in the U.S. edition in February 1978, when she was seventeen. Her eventual Playmate of the Month layout was in 1979, and from there she went on to star in films such as El Caníbal, aka Devil Hunter, the humorous Hot Dogs auf Ibiza, aka Hot Dogs on Ibiza, and 3 Lederhosen in Saint Tropez. This shot is from 1979.
The makers of Female Teacher: Rope Hell needed to learn a lesson or two.
Based on a bdsm novel written by the acclaimed Oniroku Dan, Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku, aka Female Teacher: Rope Hell, is yet another Japanese exploration of the pleasures, pains, and limits of sexual obsession and bondage. Frankly, this one is a bit tedious. There’s a razor thin line between thoughtful and dangerous when dealing with this kind of material. When Japanese films, in particular, end up on the wrong side of that line, you really have a mess on your hands. We understand, yes, that bad men aren’t always punished in real life. But this isn’t real life. It's just a movie, and punishment is key. In fact, for us it’s the entire point. It’s the only thing that makes these films watchable. But in this case, the abusive male ties up the two objects of his obsession and is tormenting them when one of his candles sets an accidental fire. He and the bound women burn to death. His obsession destroyed them all. That’s the end. Roll credits. Hope we didn’t ruin it for you.
The fixation Japanese film has with sexual abuse is curious. It often occurs for pretty straightforward narrative reasons—rape, or perhaps the murder of husbands and children, or often all three, are the triggers that transform women into terrifying revenants. The mostly thirty-something writers and directors who conceived pinku plots were taking swipes at Japan’s patriarchal social structure by first explicitly revealing a sexist status quo, then allowing feminine power to demolish it. Or so it seems to us. In that way pinku does not differ from blaxploitation. In those, it’s a racist status quo that is revealed and demolished. However revenge movies represent only a slice of the Japanese whole. Many films in the roman porno sub-genre feature degradation without revenge, in which case we think it needs to be very carefully done to avoid endorsing such behavior. Major fail on that account here. All respect to Oniroku Dan, but excesses such as a forced enema and subsequent sloppy evacuation are not things we can get behind, so to speak. Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
Passant le temps à Saint-Tropez.
An idyllic scene on the French Riviera is revealed in these three photos, as Danish actress Mirette Stroyberg and her sister Annette Vadim—who was married to director Roger Vadim and had starred in his film Les liaisons dangereuses, aka Dangerous Liaisons—walk on Pampelonne Beach one afternoon in 1959. Remember—the good life is as near as the next sunny day.
Hiroyuki Nakano’s sword opera Samurai Fiction challenges festival audience but ultimately leaves it satisfied.
San Sebastian in general and Cinema Caravan in particular are keeping us busy, but we have time for a quick post, so here we go. Last night we attended a screening of Hiroyuki Nakano’s 1998 adventure/comedy SF: Episode One, also known as Samurai Fiction. It’s a quirky movie, imaginatively shot mostly in black and white, and involves a young samurai on a mission to both avenge a friend’s death and retrieve a priceless sword. He encounters an ex-samurai who tries to teach him the wisdom of non-violence, with limited success. The movie is set in 1689 and looks a bit like Kurosawa’s great period pieces, but subverts that similarity with its humor and modern rock 'n’ roll soundtrack. Since it was in Japanese with English subtitles, the mostly Basque audience was perhaps a bit baffled, but even those with language difficulties could enjoy the film’s visual creativity, and ultimately everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Watching Samurai Fiction got us thinking about our many Japanese posters, and because we actually have access to that stuff wherever we go, we decided to share five of the nicer pieces in our collection. In terms of information on these, time is a little tight to research them carefully, but here’s what we know: poster one—nothing; poster two—Nawa Hada Jigoku: Rope Skin Hell, with Naomi Tani, 1979; poster three—we’re unsure on that one, but that’s definitely Kayoko Honoo in the art; poster four—Kapone no shatei, yamato damashi, aka A Boss with the Samurai Spirit, with Tomisaburô Wakayama, 1971; poster five—nothing. But we'll see if we can find something about that one. See ya soon.
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