Saturday, 28 February 2009

Sex and Fury (1974)

Norifumi Suzuki was one of the most interesting of 1970s Japanese exploitation directors, helming such pinky violence classics as Girl Boss Guerilla, School of the Holy Beast and the truly stupendously wonderful Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom. Sex and Fury (Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô) is a little different, being a period piece set during the Meiji Restoration, although it’s still very much in the pinky violence sub-genre.

It opens in 1885 with the murder of a detective. His young daughter finds him clutching three cards, with pictures of a butterfly, a boar and a deer. These are the clues to the identity of his killers. Cut to 1905, and the daughter, Ocho Inoshika, is a successful gambler and thief, still bent on avenging her father’s murder. The incredibly byzantine plot encompasses various internal Japanese political conspiracies as well as British government plots involving the beautiful British spy Christina (played by Swedish actress Christina Lindberg). Christina is also a famous gambler, and she and Ocho face off cross the gambling table in a memorable scene. Christina, who’s rather handy with a pistol, is in love with a Japanese revolutionary. Ocho’s preferred weapon is the sword.

Th many sub-plots are tied together reasonably well, but the plotting isn’t the reason for watching this film. This is a movie to watch for some superlative and inventive visuals, including some spectacular set-pieces that demonstrate Norifumi Suzuki’s main strengths as a film-maker. The nude sword fighting scene (the sort of thing you’re only going to see in a Japanese movie), the confrontation on the train involving a gang of swithblade-wielding Japanese Catholic nuns and the staircase fight scene are especially notable. The sex scenes (of which there are many) are exceptionally well done, with flair and originality.

Sex and violence are what pinky violence films are all about, and Sex and Fury doesn’t stint in either of these areas. But in a good pinky violence movie the sex and violence is done with style, and this one really excels here. This is sex and violence done with baroque splendour, and with a superb use of colour and light. Being a pinky violence movie, be warned that there are some uncomfortable scenes of sexual violence.

Reiko Ike, one of the the three great female stars of 1970s Japanese exploitation cinema, plays Ocho, and it’s an energetic and impressive performance. Christina Lindberg is odd but strangely effective, with a definite presence.

This is trash art at its best, succeeding equally well as both trash and art. A movie that looks gorgeous and delivers non-stop entertainment. And for a low-budget movie the period detail looks very impressive as well.


venoms5 said...

This one was most interesting. I liked the film a lot more than I thought I would when I first saw it recently. A very good review as usual, D.

dfordoom said...

venoms5, I think Sex and Fury is one of the very best Japanese exploitation movies of the 70s. It has everything, and all done with style. And it even manages some serious moments quite effectively.