Female Yakuza Tale: Follow-up To Sex And Fury Is Somewhat Sleazier And Less Arty, But Still Has Some Great MomentsPosted on 10.11.05 by David @ 11:10 pm
AKA: Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture; Yasagure Anego-den – Sokatsu Rinchi; Story of a Wild Elder Sister – Widespread Lynch Law
Review By: David Austin
Female Yakuza Tale, the sequel to Sex and Fury, is fun but rarely rises to the level of its predecessor (click here for my review of Sex and Fury). Director Teruo Ishii, working with a lower budget, includes all the sex and violence of the earlier release, but focuses more on the mystery plot and includes considerably more slapstick and sexual ugliness (as befits one of the great ero-guro directors). The result is more straight exploitation than artsploitation, and worse for it. Nonetheless, Ishii made the most of his small budget, Reiko Ike is great, and bizarre and imaginative sequences abound.
Teruo Ishii, brought in to replace Sex and Fury’s Norifumi Suzuki, was no stranger to the bizarre. He was a practitioner of the long-standing Japanese style known as “ero-guro” (erotic-grotesque). Ishii was a great admirer of the Japanese mystery/thriller writer Edogawa Rampo (say it fast), with movies like Yakuza Punishment: Lynch and Horror of Malformed Men to his credit. I got the impression that, as with his Sonny Chiba-starrer, The Executioner, Ishii was not entirely engaged in the material at hand here. Still, Teruo Ishii at ½ strength had more imagination and lunacy than any five normal directors. Ishii was still working until very recently, when he died at the age of 81 (my obituary of Ishii can be found here).
In Female Yakuza Tale, Reiko Ike reprises her role as tough female gambler Inoshika Ocho. Right off the bat, Ishii tries to match the earlier film’s nude fight in the snow by having an increasingly scantily-clad Ocho fights off an army of attackers in the rain (and eventually in the buff). Soon after, Ocho stumbles onto a plot masterminded by the Ogi yakuza clan to smuggle heroin by hiding it in the private parts of drug-addicted prostitutes, when she is mistaken for a courier by the vicious go-betweens who supervise the trade.
Ocho, who has a history with the Ogi clan’s former boss, uses her connections, and the attentions of the comically lascivious new boss Goda (Tatsuo Endo) to investigate the smuggling ring. She is joined in her mission by Joji (Ryohei Uchida), a former member of the Ogi clan (and wearer of some of the ugliest sunglasses I have ever seen). The two are also assisted by a mysterious woman done up in full Meiko Kaji/Female Convict Scorpion in an obvious parody/homage. Unsurprisingly, the mystery of the smuggling ring is not to be solved without a lot of fighting, card-playing, slapstick, and extremely gratuitous nudity.
Unfortunately the early scene where Ocho is mistaken for a drug mule, captured, and “examined” for concealed heroin is so distasteful that it distorts the tone of the film from the beginning. This overly graphic sequence is not only unpleasant, but also establishes Ike’s character as a victim in the minds of the audience at an early stage. This could have been used if the assault was made a focus of the film, but by introducing and then downplaying it, the character of Ocho is weakened. Certainly the earlier film contained a scene where the heroine was captured and abused, but coming later in the film and followed immediately by righteous vengeance, it felt more like the type of beating Clint Eastwood would routinely take at the end of a Sergio Leone film. This sequence, and similar “examinations” later in the film, left a nasty taste in my mouth that lingered through the remainder of the movie.
Teruo Ishii was a cinematic madman, and it shows here. Female Yakuza Tale is plotted, but it’s clear that the plot is at the mercy of Ishii’s whims. Meiko Kaji impersonator? Sure, why not. Giant nude brawl? What the hell. Insane asylum populated by demonic mimes who look like they escaped from the Evil Dead series? Naturally. At one point, the film even takes a completely straight excursion into classic ninkyo yakuza chivalry films, as Ocho flashes back to the old boss of the Ogi clan helping her when she was younger.
Ishii may not have had a tremendous amount of resources to make this movie, but he did have what Roger Corman famously called the cheapest special effect of all – nudity. The final battle may be staged in a no-frills warehouse set, but it features a positive army of naked knife-wielding women fighting it out with yakuza baddies. The sheer gonzo spectacle of it all makes up for the lack of finesse, logic, or production values.
One area where Toei did not stiff Ishii was cast and crew. Ike is excellent, and ably backed by Uchida (Meiko Kaji/Female Convict Scorpion ). Sou Tsuguki turns in a solid, funk-inflected score, and Reiko Ike even performs her own theme song.
Honestly, it is not the lack of money that keeps this film from being better. The real problems are its disorganized slap-happy nature, and a level of nasty sexual violence that goes beyond that of Sex and Fury.
Recommended? Yes, with caveats. I did not really like this movie as a whole, but there are a enough truly brilliant or wild scenes (the opening and closing fights, the Meiko Kaji-impression, the bullet-attack) to make it well worth watching. Obviously, the copious sex and violence make this movie not for everyone.
If you like this, you might like: Sex and Fury, Female Convict Scorpion 1 and 2, Zatoichi and the Festival of Fire, Lady Snowblood 1, Hanzo the Razor 2, Lone Wolf and Cub 1-3, The Streetfighter, The Sexy Killer, Coffy, Kiss of Death (Shaw Bros.)
DVD Production Company: Panik House (www.panikhouse.com)
Panik House’s Region 1 DVD of Female Yakuza Tale is up to the same high level of quality as their release of Sex and Fury. The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and beautifully restored. Sound is also good, and English subtitles are optional. The case is the same somewhat unorthodox translucent snapper case with superimposed images on a sleeve as that of Sex and Fury. Panik House has also provided a nifty Reiko Ike sticker.
Chris D. of American Cinematheque again supplies excellent background information and extras. The original theatrical trailer is included, as well as poster and still galleries. There are detailed Director and Star Bios, covering Teruo Ishii and Reiko Ike. Chris D. has also written interesting Production Notes, mostly detailing the differences between this film and its predecessor, Sex and Fury. His essay on Toei’s Bad Girl Cinema (the same one as on the Sex and Fury DVD) is also included, which discusses Meiko Kaji, and the Sukeban and Female Gambler films. Finally, he has recorded a slightly dry but informative feature-length audio commentary for the film.
© David Austin
Filed under: DVD News and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD News: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and DVD Companies: Panik House and Contributors: David and Rating: Good ★★★ and People: Teruo Ishii