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?
As you may well realize by now, The Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection is a mixed bag of adult film that proudly borrows its influences from all manner of film genre, whether from action film, love story to wacky sex comedy. According to the box copy, “SEX HUNTER: 1980” is an erotic attempt at Dario Arento’s SUSPIRIA, the story of a prestigious ballet academy that is actually a secret coven of murderous witches. This must be a nice comparison (as I have seen it repeated time and time again in the reviews of other critics) but also one that I feel is an incorrect assessment. While it is indeed the story of a ballet academy that conceals a whole different type of cultish behavior, the things that take place behind the closed doors of this stone castle are primarily of a sexual nature and yet somehow more graphic, vicious and lurid than any Giallo film. To put it simply, this is inarguably the most unspeakable, sexually degrading and shamelessly graphic film in the entire twenty volume “Pink Cinema” series thus far and easily one of the top twenty most sexually graphic unrated films I have ever seen in my life. I would personally compare it not to the work of Argento as others have done but to say it is more akin to a bizarre mix of the adult film BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR and BLACK SWAN, only somehow more darkly psychedelic.
Miki Maekawa is an aspiring ballet dancer who does such a good job at performing the Ballet “SWAN LAKE” that she is invited to a private ballet school run by the mysterious Aikiko Kaibara, a former ballet dancer of some fame and renown. From there she is immediately kidnapped, conscripted and sexually brutalized in every possible fashion until she too becomes a ballet star and unrepentant sex fiend, trained to be the unthinking protégé of her mistress Miss Kaibara. I don’t want to give away what type of training techniques Miki must endure, (because I hate writing reviews of erotic films that sound like a collection of porn database keywords) but in this film there are depictions of incest, forced lesbianism, enemas, countless rapes and all manner of extreme emotional cruelty and conditioning under the guise of forced S+M discipline. While most previous Nikkatsu films often expressed a cavalier, silly (JAPANESE) view of rape and minimized its true effect on the human soul, this film uses sexual assault as the driving force behind all other developments in its running time. Case in point, even the usual sad love triangle between the three principals is drenched in violence and wrongness. So be careful all of you out there who said that these “pink cinema” films never showed the true emotional toll of rape and sexual assault, this film not only depicts the sad aftermath of the continued violation of a young innocent virgin aspiring dancer, it charts the progression of young Miki as she goes from becoming the star of the production to a merely a piece of equipment that other “dancers” practice upon for sport. Seriously, folks I am warning you about this one. And how often do I do that?
Aside from the harsh depictions of unrated sex, Sex Hunter: 1980 has a haunting, disjointedly dreamlike quality to it. The various ballet studios all had one way mirrored glass and, throughout the film, various characters were forced to secretly watch disturbing performances; often a live sex show in the next room starring someone they loved servicing multiple partners. Additionally, the soundtrack is filled with classical music, crudely synthesized and sounding appropriately discordant for it. The ending was absolutely meaningless but perhaps expected. I rate this one highly not because I think it is an enjoyable film, but because it was so uniquely nasty in its unrelenting mix of pornographic and psychological attacks to the senses that I had to give it some props. If you buy just one film from this infamous series, this tragic tale of a ballet girl gone bad gives new meaning to the “dark arts”.
Extras include a trailer, film liner notes by Jasper Sharp.