Sunday, 25 September 2022

Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (1970)

At the beginning of the 1970s the Japanese film industry was on its knees as a result of competition from television. Drastic steps would have to be taken. The obvious solution was sex. Or, even better, sex and violence. It was a brutally realistic assessment of the situation. This resulted in the birth of two new exploitation film genres, roman porno and pinky violence. Nikkatsu’s roman porno series (a mixture of sex and violence movies and sex comedies) was prolific and immensely successful. Pinky violence films, which were also very successful, were made by various studios.

These movies were made in series, each series comprising from two to five loosely linked titles.

Which brings us to Nikkatsu’s Stray Cat Rock pinky violence series, and to the first movie in the series, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (released in 1970). And at this point I’m going to have to confront the rather confusing subject of Japanese exploitation movie titles. In 1970 Toei made the first film in a pinky violence series of its own, the Delinquent Girl Boss series (beginning with Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams). Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss has no connection with the Delinquent Girl Boss series. It’s a totally different movie belonging to a different series from a different studio. To add to the possible confusion Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss was also released under several alternative titles - Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Alleycat Rock, Wildcat Rock and Alleycat Rock: Female Boss.

The movie with which we are concerned today is Nikkatsu’s Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss and that’s the title we’ll stick with.

The pinky violence movies all had female protagonists. These movies launched the careers of some superb actresses. The most famous was Meiko Kaji. Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike should also be mentioned.

The female protagonists were invariably Bad Girls, but they were Good Bad Girls. They were Bad Girls in the sense of being outsiders and outcasts and often criminals but they were never evil (although they could be extremely vengeful). They always had a sense of honour. They were loyal to their friends and to fellow members of their gangs. They were loyal to their men, unless and until their men betrayed them. They were brave and resourceful. They could be ruthless and ultra-violent, but their violence was always (in their own minds and according to their own sense of honour) justified. They had no time for the forces of authority such as the police. If these girls had a problem they would solve it in their own ways.

They’re usually women who have rejected conventional society because it seems corrupt and seems to offer them nothing, or they have themselves been rejected by conventional society. These girls have tried to create their own little alternative societies, living by their own code of honour. It’s a brutal violent code of honour but they live by it and it offers them a self-respect that mainstream society denies to them.

Another thing that needs to be said is that these were not low-budget independent movies. These were big studio productions, made by film-makers with all the resources of a major studio behind them. They’re professionally made movies and production values are quite high.

The star of this movie is pop singer Akiko Wada. Meiko Kaji plays a supporting rôle but she had such obvious star potential that she became the lead in the remaining movies in the series.

Mei (Meiko Kaji) is a girl gang leader. There’s a major fight between her gang and a rival gang. The rival girl gang leader brings in men to help her. That’s contrary to the code of honour by which the girl gangs live. You don’t get men involved in a women’s fight. Mei gets some help from a girl biker named Ako (Akiko Wada). Ako isn’t a member of Mei’s gang, or at least she wasn’t a member, but she becomes a kind of unofficial member.

Mei has other problems. Her boyfriend Michio has become mixed up with the Seiyu Group. They’re kind of a mix between an organised crime gang and a right-wing political group. Mei thinks that Michio should have nothing to do with them. She mistrusts and fears the Seiyu Group. Michio isn’t bad but he’s weak and not too bright. Mei loves him anyway, because he’s her guy. Mei and Ako find themselves, rather reluctantly, having to take on the Seiyu Group. This comes about through Michio’s involvement in trying to fix a boxing match for the Seiyu Group.

Since Akiko Wada was the star it’s Ako who is the lead character although in some ways it’s a kind of female buddy movie with much of the focus being on the friendship between Ako and Mei. There’s also plenty of emphasis on loyalty, and the price of loyalty.

It can be tempting to see the pinky violence films as feminist films. You have to be careful about doing that. There are male characters who are evil, treacherous and vicious but there are female characters who are pretty damned nasty as well. There are good people and bad people in these movies and whether they’re male or female isn’t terribly important. In these movies the divide is between those who have honour and those who don’t.

It’s probably more useful to see them as anti-authoritarian movies, with a kind of nostalgia for a world in which honour mattered. Those who claim to stand for the establishment and tradition pretend to live by a code of honour, but they don’t. It’s the outcasts such as the girl gangs who truly live by a code of honour. Mei would cheerfully beat a rival girl gang leader to a pulp or even kill her, but she’d do it in a fair fight. She’d do it the way a samurai would do it. And like a true samurai, she would only do it if she felt it to be necessary, either for survival or for her honour.

There’s also a focus on youth culture, with lots of pop songs and with youth culture being portrayed as preferable to the greed and dishonour of groups such as the Seiyu Group.

This being a pinky violence film there’s torture and there’s some pretty graphic violence. This being a very early pinky violence film there’s very little nudity (in fact almost none). There’s no shortage of action. There’s a very cool very cleverly staged car/motorcycle chase.

Akiko Wada makes an interesting heroine. She’s a loner who finds friendship and a sense of belonging. It’s hinted that she may have some lesbian leanings but they’re really just vague hints.

Arrow’s Blu-Ray release offers all five Stray Cat Rock movies in very fine transfers.

Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss provides excellent entertainment with action and emotional involvement, and plenty of style. Highly recommended.

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