During the 1970’s while American cult film lovers were frequenting the Grindhouse and drive-in scenes, in Japan, Nikkatsu was making a name for itself with its “Roman Porno” erotic line. Between 1971 and 1989 the studio released over a thousand “Pink Cinema” films, and now thanks to Impulse pictures, those of us in America are finally going to get to see (at least 25 of) them for the first time. Subtitled, chock full of half-naked Asian cuties and filled with all manner of bizarre Japanese fetishism, let us examine this collection in order of release and see if American audiences have a “yen” for this sort of thing?
Fans of classic sexploitation are well versed with a subgenre known as Nazisploitation; Though it is hard to explain what all of these films have in common, they usually share some of the same basic elements. They take place somewhere during the early years of the war when Germany had a chance for total Victory, usually in a secret experimental facility where hapless women prisoners are subjected to a litany of the most admittedly senseless medical experimentation (even by Nazi standards) disguised as more crude, sexual groping from a women’s prison flick. Admittedly a common feature of these films is an almost complete disregard for the history of actual German concentration camps as well as the Geneva convention, it seems these films are a staunch bit of sleaze that glorifies how morally hardcore in concept that a simple soft-core film could ever be in presentation, yet they will always remain a favorite for folks whose “taste in flesh films” are almost surely a contradiction in terms. With the constant naked breasts on parade suggesting usual B movie sexuality and the ugliest fucking flag in history looming ubiquitously in the background of every scene as an avatar of hate incarnate, these are a popular bit of cult sleaze for people who simply want to see how wrong a cult film can be…
Amidst a veritable bunker full of such films that is my private stash I have to admit that I have yet to see a single cult film describing the sexual sins of Japan, (the other Axis power), which is odd because it is a well-known fact by any historian that the Japanese were hardly gentle camp masters during the war. While most every sane, decent fellow is acquainted with the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the second World War, it seems that far fewer people know about the unthinkable acts committed by the Japanese during that era such incidents as the Bataan Death march, The Rape of Nanking nor their special covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of The Japanese Army known as UNIT 731 who performed senseless experiments on men, women and children prisoners that were too gross and depressing to discuss in any sort of detail, even here.
This is why when I got the chance to see a movie detailing the sexualized crimes of Japan during wartime. I knew I simply had to watch it. Not because I particularly like graphic, actual war atrocities or because have run out of Nazi-sploitation movies long ago (I have, by the way), but merely because as I have already seen 11 previous Volumes of The Nikkatsu Roman Porno Collection it seems likely that they want me to continue to continue to share my strange smut sensibilities.
Taking place during the war, FAIRY IN A CAGE is the story of an evil corrupt old judge named Judge Muryama who uses his unlimited power and deep, secret perversion to torture innocent people in his secret S+M den hidden below his office. In the opening credits he spies Namiji Kikushima, a beautiful oriental woman whose husband is a merchant of some renown. It only takes a few minutes of actual film time to cobble together a plan which warrants her wrongful arrest along with an innocent Kobuki actor named Toaka who is tortured until he falsely implicates her.
From there, this film seems to be similar to every Nazisploitation film ever made except for some uniquely Asian influences. For one thing, the evil Japanese torture masters seem to delight in much S+M play including long, extended scenes of rope bondage; (Kinbaku) a crude form of sensory deprivation/erotic bondage where a person is trussed upside down until lack of circulation causes them to feel disorientated and hopefully submissive. As they actually achieve these visual effects onscreen without the use of close ups, cut-to’s or visible harnesses the effect was very awe striking and artsy even if I personally found it to be as erotic as the hanging of a piñata. Another uniquely Japanese fetish suffered by the women in this film seemed to have a focus on some elimination of bodily wastes. At one point it is suggested that a woman is given an enema to encourage her compliance and in yet another scene Namji is led to pee in a special toilet. When the lid is lifted there are three people below in a large hidden chamber, staring up at her; waiting to catch her urine in an ornate sliver bowl, each and every one of them smiling expectantly; somehow triumphantly as a contestant on NINJA WARRIOR who just successfully climbed Mt. Midoriyama. As much as I loathe “water sports” in a film as well as all toilet play packaged as sexual acts, I did have to admit I did laugh aloud at the simple spectacle of this scene. As laughter at absurd; impossible yet extremely perverted premises is the prime reason I watch sexploitation films, I almost felt that I had found a kindred spirit to another famous work of wacky wartime sexploitation, a film that was arguably at least as bodaciously badass as ILSA SHE WOLF OH THE SS. But then things got kind of depressing…
At one point there is an escape attempt, as in every dramatic film about people being held for whatever trumped up reason in a terrible place they do not belong. Yet the ultimate resolution of this film (while shocking) was simply not to my liking. For the first time in a Nikkatsu film the young, comely, Asian female protagonist who endured every form of onscreen mental, physical and sexual abuse for seventy seven minutes has something happen to her at the conclusion; something that has never happened before in the eleven previous volumes of this varied series and it really ruined the mood. For collectors of this series it should be stated that this film is perhaps one of the most well-known, harder films in the whole collection thus far. At best I can say it is visually stimulating yet ultimately sad and a little off putting at its conclusion.
Admittedly, the full-frontal action is acceptably censored according to the ironclad laws of Japan using scenes of painstakingly intricate obstructions and masterful (maddening) camera handling in every scene. I can notice only one moment where a frame of the film is removed and there was no fogging or pixilation.
Extras include the booklet by Jasper Sharp who lends much historical reference to the film (as usual).