The first film featured in Panik House's sensational Japanese 1970's exploitation film collection, Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess, opens appropriately enough with a bunch of rough-looking delinquent girls watching a movie inside the less-than-cozy confines of their reformatory. Within minutes a requisite girl riot ensues after the principal has the screening stopped, and the aforementioned authoritarian soon finds himself the target of a roomful of unfocused adolescent anger, in addition to a well-aimed pair of pink panties. This type of unruly behavior requires a proper chastening of course, so before you can say Marco Polo, the giggling gals are sent off to avail themselves of all inhibitions and clothing, before frolicking in a hot, steamy bath.
The following day the film's heroine, Rika, encounters an old man wandering outside the reformatory's chain-linked perimeter. Rather than being a pervert on the prowl for some of that sweet delinquent girl loving, he turns out to be the worried father of a girl named Midori, who refuses to see him. The old man hands Rika a childhood keepsake to give to his daughter, but when Rika attempts to fulfill the old man's request, Midori angrily and mysteriously refuses to accept her father's gift.
Months later, after being released from the reformatory, Rika struts her stuff (like only a delinquent fresh from the stir can), and wards off a group of gangsters with her patented dose of tough talk and sass, before finally arriving at Midori's father's house to say hi and return the keepsake. The old man learns that Rika is without a place to stay, so he kindly offers her a vacant room in his humble home, as well as a job in his busy auto repair shop.
After this everything is all lug nuts and laughter until Rika learns Midori, who was also released from the reformatory some time ago, is continuing to run slipshod on her poor old father's lonesome heart. It turns out that his absentee daughter's boyfriend is accruing some pretty substantial gambling debts, and out of love for Midori, the old man is paying off the gangsters who are keen on collecting. Having become something of a surrogate daughter, Rika wants to help the old feller, but as she becomes more involved, danger steadily escalates until it's only a matter of time before Rika trades in her tire-iron for a samurai sword, and we find out why exactly it's worthless for a delinquent girl boss to confess.
Japan's notorious Toei studios released a series of four Delinquent Girl Boss films (which fall into a genre known as Sukeban) at the dawn of the 1970's directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi and starring Reiko Oshida. Worthless to Confess is the final, and according to the DVD, finest film in the series. Although the film features more melodrama than mayhem, it is an entertaining film capped off by a violent, nicely "executed" climax that should satiate those ravenous for some bright red bloodletting. In contrast to this, Worthless to Confess is sturdily anchored by a familial kindness and sentimentality that juxtaposes and complements the violence inherent to the genre, making the eventual eruption of onscreen violence even more potent. The film features a fairly large cast of characters, but apart from a few exceptions, most remain memorable, and there is little confusion to be had for viewers who pay attention, and who are not prone to unscheduled lapses in consciousness (if you've made it this far, pardon the redundancy). The story and its plot are cohesive, if at times slightly unbalanced, and while by no means overly sophisticated, the narrative is interesting and amusing enough to amuse and interest.
Like the violence, the film, on the whole, is also more restrained in its visual approach, again letting loose during the denouement. However, at points in the film, especially in the cabaret sequences, a Pop art influence is evident in the bright primary colors that are employed and which grab, or depending on sensibilities, possibly repel, the viewer's eye. There is a garishness that, while not as pervasive in Worthless to Confess, is a staple to the visual scheme found in Japanese exploitation films from the 70's, and while terms like garish and melodramatic are often connotatively stigmatic, these are the very cinematic attributes which distinguish and elevate many of these films, and make for a comparatively sublime viewing experience. So in short, while DGB: Worthless to Confess didn't knock my metaphorical socks off, it is a good film, well worth a look, and is a good, if atypical, introduction to The Pinky Violence Collection.
The second film in the collection, Girl Boss Guerilla stars Miki Sugimoto as Sachiko, the sexy but severe boss of an all-girl motorcycle gang. Sporting matching red helmets and red scarves, the group of girls, who call themselves the Red Helmet Gang (possibly because the much tougher sounding Red Scarf Gang was already spoken for) travel from their hometown to the nearby city of Kyoto, making only one brief stop along the way to give a pack of easy riders the thorough drubbing they deserve. Shortly after arriving and realizing they're hurting for money, the girls waste no time in shaking down the Kyoto citizenry, whether it be luring lonely men in for sex, stealing from fundraisers, or overcharging bewildered young couples for having their pictures taken. When the Red Helmet Gang notices a local girl gang with a yen for yen rivaling their own stealing from a group of high schoolers, Sachiko confronts the local gang's leader and demands they hand over the money. This confrontation sets off a fingernail-splintering series of fights between the ladies full of flying fists, torn tops, and bared breasts.
After the dust has settled, and the makeup is reapplied, Sachiko and her Red Helmet hellions emerge victorious. Usurping her nemesis, Sachiko becomes the new Kyoto girl boss, combines the local gang with her own, but in the process also takes on the unfortunate responsibility of answering to a powerful and greedy local chapter of yakuza. Being hot-tempered, headstrong and unwilling to share her gang's spoils, Sachiko finds herself in a constant struggle against the demanding yakuza. During one such struggle in an alley, a burgeoning boxer steps in to lend a fist or two in Sachiko's defense. In no time a love-struck Sachiko is down for the count, and mixing it up beneath the sheets with her deadly but dashing pugilistic paramour. The next day
Sachiko and her girl gang escape to a seaside resort where Sachiko's boxing beau is training. However rain clouds in the form of vengeful yakuza soon gather over the idyllic locale, and Sachiko and her gang of ferocious femmes are forced to employ both toughness and trickery in attempt to stay alive by at last destroying their meddlesome male oppressors. Despite its many fine qualities, Girl Boss Guerilla flirts with being an excellent exploitation film, but upon its conclusion reveals itself to be merely a very good one. There are several sequences deranged enough to leave rabid exploitation film viewers rapturous, but a few snags in the plotting equal lags in the film, and a somewhat mediocre conclusion pales when compared to the trail of exploitative audacity leading up to it. This aspect is all the more disappointing since oftentimes films of this ilk steadily whip themselves towards a frenzy-filled finale. Nevertheless, Girl Boss Guerilla is still a very entertaining entry in the realm of 70's crackpot cinema and is definitely worth watching.
Director Norifumi Suzuki (School of the Holy Beast, Sex and Fury) again proves that his reputation as one of Toei's most provocative talents is not unwarranted. In addition to the delirium of sex and violence, Suzuki peppers the film with his familiar prescription of blasphemous portraitures, which in Girl Boss Guerilla are more along the lines of humorous high-jinks than inflammatory religious indictments. Comedy is a primary ingredient in this film, and more often than not it works, inducing chuckles instead of groans - which is something that does not hold true for a lot of Japanese exploitation films from this period. The cast is again quite good featuring familiar faces to the genre, including Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike and Toru Abe. As with the other Toei films that I've seen, Girl Boss Gorilla belies its relatively small budget with a film that is also visually captivating thanks to some topnotch filmmaking.
The next film, Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom, gets things off to a rollicking start with a torture sequence inside the science lab at an all girls school. Clad in bright red surgical masks and gloves to match, a group of schoolgirls tie up a fellow classmate, who now struggles with more than just her grades as her assailants lacerate her exposed breasts with a glinting scalpel, and then begin slowly draining blood from her arm, into a bulbous glass tube. Believing she is on the brink of certain death, the captive girl breaks free of her restraints and flees to the roof, only to learn that death is indeed certain, and comes dressed in a cute Japanese schoolgirl uniform.
Officials at The School of Hope (an institute that prides itself on turning wayward girls into good wives and daughters) pad the pockets of local authorities who in return report that the death of the girl, whose name was Michiyo, was an unfortunate accident. Following this, three new delinquents are transferred to the school: a swinging sexpot named Kyoko Kubo, a toughie named Razor-blade Remi, and a crucifix-carrying girl boss named Noriko Kazama, aka The Boss with the Cross. Immediately this troublesome trio is butting heads and exchanging bitch slaps with the school's disciplinary squad -a clique of schoolgirls who are paid to terrorize and torture anyone who crosses them, or is foolhardy enough to run afoul of the school. When Noriko discovers that her chum, and once lovable lieutenant in her girl gang, Michiyo was murdered, she makes it her mission, however perilously torture-filled it may be, to destroy the kill-happy cuties and fiendish faculty members responsible for Michiyo's death.
Again, Norifumi Suzuki was at the helm on this picture, leaving one to speculate on the number of cinematic treasures littered amid his filmography that have yet to be experienced by Western audiences. The film boasts some indelible, nightmarish imagery and arresting compositions, elevating its stature to that of a formidable work of exploitative art. In this regard, it's interesting to note that the trailer for the film features some eye-catching moments (for example, over fifty schoolgirls wielding clubs and charging at each other in a dirt lot) that are absent from the film itself. While these expurgations are a mystery, the already over-the-top film has plenty of maniacal material to feast upon however, and should leave most viewers more than satisfied.
In addition to Suzuki, the regular suspects are present, most notably the seemingly ubiquitous Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto. Both inhabit roles similar to those they've already played in other films, however, both are a lot of fun to watch, bringing with them a couple of tough, charismatic screen presences that benefit the film. In all, Terrifying Girls' School: Lynch Law Classroom is brimming with the kind of eroticism, unbridled sleaziness and demented violence that will leave some mouths agape, and have exploitation fans all agog. Mix political overtones amidst a schoolgirl riot into this already heady concoction, (not to mention the funky 70's score) and I believe it's fair to say the film approaches exploitation nirvana.
The final film in this glorious girls-run-amuck collection is titled Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. The film stars Reiko Ike as Maki, a tough girl with a revenge-fueled grudge against a pack of local gangsters who kill her drunken, drug addict dad. As unnecessary as adding salt to a margarita made out of tears, the pack of hyenas then gang rape poor grief-ridden Maki, thus stoking the white-hot embers of her fiery vengeance. Unfortunately, when Maki, armed with a her aforementioned vengeance and a big knife, tries to eviscerate one of the gangsters at a strip club, she is outnumbered and winds up getting tossed into the slammer.
Now behind bars and with her thirst for revenge unquenched, Mika quietly bides her time, waiting for her release and retribution. Perhaps too quiet, several of Mika's fellow prisoners question her, but when she remains mum, the other gals find this disrespectful, which results in Mika fighting the toughest of the bunch, Masayo (Miki Sugimoto). With a tether between their teeth and long, jagged shards of glass in their hands, Mika and Masayo are encircled by the prison populace who watch with glee as the two pummel each other mercilessly. Mika loses the fight, but wins the respect of everyone by not giving up and fighting till she passes out. Soon thereafter, Mika gives up her silence however, choosing to open up about her past. This results in some girl bonding behind bars, and when finally released, Mika and her comrades in tight pants go after the gangsters who did her wrong.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is a great one-two punch of Japanese girl power that rounds out the collection quite nicely. It combines elements of both the infamous women in prison genre with the somewhat lesser known (in the West anyway) Sukeban, to make for an enjoyable, action packed movie hybrid. Director Atsushi Mibori does a great job staging some compelling action sequences, and though his visual approach is less dynamic than Norifumi Suzuki's, his presentation of the material is not bereft of inventiveness and is rarely boring.
The only complaint I have is that the tough girl characters at the heart of the film are left out of many of the action sequences in the second half of the movie. This is due to a story element wherein the girls ignite a yakuza war between two rival gangs by tricking and fueling the paranoia of the unwitting gangsters. This inevitably puts the female characters on the periphery and makes it difficult for the girls to enter into the fray until later - which was slightly disappointing, even though the gang battles are a lot of fun. The film also features some funny moments, including a bizarre gangster who spits chewing gum with pin-point accuracy, and at a deadly velocity. The prerequisite torture sequences also run the gamut from using nipples as ashtrays, to the threat of a chain saw mastectomy. To put it simply, Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is yet another low-down and dirty high point in this superlative collection.
The four films come in a nifty and slick hot pink package that includes a twenty-four page booklet written by Chris D, author of Outlaw Master of Japanese film. The packaging is really nice, and I also liked the booklet - although some of the narrative details were incorrect. In addition, a CD entitled, Reiko Ike sings (which could be more aptly titled, Reiko Ike moans while someone in the band strangles balloons) is included, and is sure to have you shaking a tail feather (or raising your eyebrows).
Each of the films are presented in beautiful anamorphic Widescreen prints, with optional English subs. Informative commentaries are included with each film and feature the likes of Chris D., critics Andy Klein and Wade Major, Panik House president Matt Kennedy and columnist Wyatt Doyle. Additional features for each disc include, actress and director bios, original theatrical trailers (all of which have been re-mastered), poster and stills galleries, production notes, and the box set also comes with an insert sticker that is the same as the box set's cover. So with four films ranging from good to great, and a bounty of fine extras, this limited edition set is really a fantastic treasure chest of exploitation gold and I give it my highest recommendation!