Monday, 11 August 2008

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)

Rei is a rogue cop. As the movie opens she has finally gone too far, killing a suspect in a sex murder case, and she lands herself in prison. Shortly after this the daughter of an immensely powerful politician is kidnapped. This politician has prime ministerial aspirations and is therefore anxious to avoid a public scandal. The case will have to be dealt with discreetly, with no publicity, which means the girl has to be retrieved and the kidnappers killed. This job is too dirty even for the police. What they need is someone who is desperate, unscrupulous, expendable and completely crazy. Rei qualifies on all counts, so she finds herself offered her freedom and reinstatement in the force if she agrees to deal with this little problem for them.

What follows is an orgy of murder and mayhem, several gang rapes, numerous brutal beatings, and non-stop action. Welcome to Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (Zeroka no onna: Akai wappa), and to the wild world of the Japanese pinky violence films of the 70s.

Rei is played by iconic Japanese exploitation movie star Miki Sugimoto. She plays Rei like a cute female Japanese Dirty Harry. She really does carry a pair of red handcuffs, and they come with a pretty little matching red gun. And she uses the handcuffs as a weapon. Her underplaying of the role contrasts with the completely over-the-top performances of most of the other actors. There’s not much room for subtlety in a pinky violence film. It’s possible that she underplays just a little too much. Those looking for a kickass heroine may find her not quite kickass enough, although once she gets going she delivers the goods. The violence is graphic and there’s a lot of it, and much (although by no means all) of it us directed at women, to an extent that is certainly troubling.

On the other hand the movie’s unflinching approach does allow it to shed some light on the attitudes of the rich and powerful towards anyone who inconveniences them, and in particular on some chilling attitudes displayed by powerful men towards women. It’s a cynical and vicious little movie. There are some interesting juxtapositions of images of rape and images of over-flying US military aircraft, which gives the film a surprising political edge.

The Region 1 DVD release is sadly lacking in extras, but there are no problems at all with the picture or sound quality. It’s undeniably an entertaining and stylish movie, but if you haven’t yet sampled the delights of the pinky violence genre I’d suggest Girl Boss Guerilla as a better place to start.

No comments: