I recently rewatched a whole bunch of Pinky Violence. Anyone who's been reading the other thread has already seen these, but I thought might put the new mini-reviews here as well.
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Counterattack (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 3/5
The first film in the series. This was a bit of a turning point for girl gang films, which had started out light and breezy (Stray Cat Rock, and Delinquent Girl Boss). From here on they would get darker little by little as they'd go down the same path with male yakuza films. A new generation of meaner, sexier and dirtier girls lead by Reiko Ike (still underage here) and Miki Sugimoto would take over the screens from the previous generation (here represented by Yukie Kagawa, who gets her ass kicked by Ike). For these girls survival mattered more than honour. This film contains a whole bunch of iconic genre scenes like malfunctioning clothes in girl fights that would be later seen in countless other films, as well as some unique ideas like the "sex on motorcycle" competition . Yet, the film is uneven. It still includes large doses of silly comedy and a frustratingly strong focus on male supporting characters - both influences of the 60s yakuza films. It seems the filmmakers were not yet entirely confident with the girl gang formula - something that would change soon enough.
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3/5
The second film in the series, with (the still underage) Reiko Ike continuing in the lead. Although the film lacks memorable scenes, it’s well made, with good looking visuals, decent characters and a milieu that feels surprisingly real despite some outlandish elements. There are also some quite funny scenes with the girls cheating horny men out of their money. The tone is still relatively light despite the genre already reaching towards the nihilism that would begin to dominate many Pinky Violence films from mid-1972. There are, however, a couple of harsh torture scenes, of which evil sister Chiyoko Kazama sticking shaken Coca Cola bottles to Sugimoto’s you-know-where leaves a bit of a nasty aftertaste. Tatsuo Umemiya makes a cameo as the “Delinquent Boss”, a character he played in his own film series that ran 17 instalments. Miki Sugimoto has a small supporting role again: she was playing second fiddle to Ike in all her early roles until Onsen Suppon Geisha (1972).
Girl Boss Guerilla (Japan, 1972) [DVD] – 3.5/5
Reiko Ike announced her retirement from film biz in 1972, which lead to Miki Sugimoto being cast in leading roles in this film and Onsen Suppon Geisha a month before. Ike's decision didn’t last more than a month or two, and she was back in time to land a “quest star” role in this film. Some say Ike regretted her decision when she saw Sugimoto crowned as the new queen of Toei Porno (yep, that’s how they were known back then). In any case, this film started Ike and Sugimoto’s silver screen rivalry. From here on Toei would often cast one of them as the heroine and the other as (friendly) nemesis. The film is one of the better ones in the series, a breezy biker girl flick shot in and around the beautiful Kyoto. There’s quite a bit of comedy, most of it funny, as well as some sadistic beatings. A better plot would have improved the film, which, it its current state, barely has any. Worth mentioning is the film has the best topless scenes in the series: these girls walk around with their tattooed breasts out if they feel like it cause they just don’t give a damn.
Girl Boss: Revenge (Japan, 1973) [DVD] – 2.5/5
The 4th and weakest entry in the series. Despite the usual genre charm, this one suffers from suffocating sexism that leaves a nasty aftertaste. Now, someone might point out that hasn't the genre always dwelled in gratuitous exploitation of the female beauty? Of course it has, that why they are called exploitation movies. What makes the difference, however, is how women are portrayed within that context: as weak, disposable pieces of meat, or as bare-breasted amazons kicking ass. This film too often falls to the former category, as best evidenced by the scene where Ike and Sugimoto’s brawl is brought to an end by the former’s boyfriend who slaps Sugimoto in the face and drags Ike into the car. So much about strong women. Throughout the film women are constantly slapped, beaten and raped by the wimpiest of yakuza because, apparently, the gender is at fault. This approach is not only unfortunate but also very anti-climatic. See the 7th film in the series for a prime example of exploitation, with just as much nudity and even all the rapes, done with a genuine sense of female empowerment and ass kicking.
Girl Boss: Escape from Reform School (Japan, 1973) [DVD] – 3.5/5
Sadao Nakajima took over the directorial duties here, which was probably for the best as Norifumi Suzuki seemed to be running out of steam with the series. This is one of the best films in the series; a fast moving entry with only cool girls and not much in terms of frustrating comic reliefs. It's also a stylish one with solid cinematography, some cool action and a badass score that is played on repeat. As the title suggests, Sugimoto and her pals escape from a reform school, which gives the film a slightly road movie kind of structure. Ike also hooks up with small time goon and relatively nice guy Tsunehiko Watase. The nasty sexism of the previous entry is thankfully absent here. However, there is something that keeps the film just short of excellence. It's well made and entertaining, but ultimately not quite as catchy, stylish and anarchic as the very best pinky violence films.
Girl Boss: Diamond Showdown (Japan, 1974) [DVD] - 3/5
Ikuo Sekimoto helmed the last two films in the series. This one, the 6th film in the series, plays it safe. Reiko Ike is a delinquent girl who once stabbed a gangster boss (Toru Abe) and is now being released from reform school. She’s soon back to her old habits. It’s an entertaining enough, but forgettable entry in the series. Occasional sadistic violence is mixed with comedy, and the soundtrack includes songs like “Funky Monkey Baby”. Bad girl Ryoko Ema, who gets a bit more characterization here than usual, seems to be wearing the same dress that Ike had in Lynch Law Classroom. Tsunehiko Watase plays a cool gangster always wearing sunglasses. This was the last film in the series with the original cast; neither Ike nor Sugimoto (absent here as well) returned for the final entry.
Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game (Japan, 1974) [DVD] – 3.5/5
The final film in the series, done without its original stars Ike and Sugimoto, is perhaps the best. Yuko Kano is the new sukeban and although she was not a star of Ike or Sugimoto's calibre, she still owns the film. She’s got enough looks and attitude to convince and charm. It’s also a well made film with an energetic supporting cast, a groovy score, and a fast-paced script largely void of silly comic reliefs. The film is also enjoyably pro-women within its exploitation context: girls kick ass, nudity is often cheerful (wait for the ridiculous and awesome topless beach scene) and rapes only happen when the girls are outnumbered by yakuza gorillas, rather than women being at the mercy of any male by default. Any wrong doings are of course brutally avenged in the over the top final massacre that might have felt out of place in a more realistic entry, but was a perfect way to retire this series.
Terrifying Girls' High School: Women's Violent Classroom (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 3.5/5
A surprisingly mean spirited first film in the series with Miki Sugimoto as a nasty school gang leader. This film was remarkable not so much for being a side product of the Girl Boss series, but for being one of the movies that brought the Pinky Violence genre to darker grounds in 1972. Although the film is not terribly graphic, it is genuinely disturbing, not least because the heroine herself is a ruthless bully. A naive new male teacher tries to calm this down, but his attempts are futile with students greeting new teachers with knives and dead cats. The audience has to wait a good while for supporting star Reiko Ike to appear to find anyone to side with. Over-the-top action scenes are mostly missing, except for an iconic scene with two small school girl armies facing each other. The film also ends with one of the genre's defining moments as the girls burn their school uniforms at the school gate. Occasional silly humour does little to soften things; in fact it only makes the film feel dirtier. Masao Yagi's groovy score, on the other hand, ups the kick-ass factor.
Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5
One of the finest films in the Pinky Violence genre, an anarchic, supremely stylish, erotic-grotesque end-of-the-world high school film. It is also, for its over-the-top nature, an easier movie to stomach than the first film in the series. Miki Sugimoto and her three pals (all brought into the film with ultra-cool introduction scenes) are bad girls coming to a new school to find who murdered Sugimoto's former gang boss. Turns out Ryoko Ema's gang is responsible; they've set up a torture lab in a classroom where they are draining poor victims out of their blood. The film's ending, where the entire school is demolished by the rioting students, is a dream come true to anyone who's ever felt frustration towards the educational system. However, the finest proof of director Norifumi Suzuki's talent is that he manages a handful of genuinely touching and beautiful scenes in the midst of all the chaos.
Terrifying Girls' High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 2.5/5
The 3rd film in the series is a letdown after the supremely anarchic Lynch Law Classroom. This film doesn't really know what it wants to be. There's a bit of serious mother-daughter drama with Reiko Ike and Yoko Mihara, silly perverted high school teachers, the usual sukeban fights between rival gangs, and as a new addition, lots of gaijin raping high school girls. It all works alright as modest exploitation entertainment, but none of it packs too much punch. Director Masahiro Shimura seems to be to blame. He took over the directorial duties from Norifumi Suzuki for this and the following film, which remain his only directorial efforts. He also worked for Toei as an assistant director and contributing screenwriter. As a director he lacked the style, energy and kick ass factor that Suzuki was able to vent into the first two films.
Terrifying Girls' High School: Animal Courage (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 2/5
The last and the least in the series. This one is a notch more realistic than some of the earlier films in the series, but in Masahiro Shimura's direction that only translates to increased dullness. The film lacks both the groove and the nastiness of the first two films, and adds very little of its own. Reiko Ike is a new student who enters a school where two girl gangs are fighting while the corrupt management enjoys exploiting the students. Old stuff. Minor genre charm aside, probably the most enjoyable thing about the movie is comedic relief Akira Oizumi as a horny English teacher. Oh, and Ryoko Ema is basically a good (bad) girl here for once. I guess that counts for something. The ending is rather good as well, but that comes too late and offers too little.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 4.5/5
This is the most feminist of all the Pinky Violence films, in addition to being one of the best. Reiko Ike is the daughter of a murdered man, sent to prison after she fails to kill the yakuza boss responsible. She makes friends with a miscellaneous bunch of girls (each given the coolest introduction scenes since Lynch Law Classroom) who team up with her after they're out of the slammer. It's a relatively simple story told with impeccable style, superb pacing, functional plot and likeable characters. Especially notable is how the heroines are handled by the filmmakers with worshipping rather than sleazy hands. That's not saying the film is lacking it in the nudity and sex department, even featuring the infamous chainsaw intimidation scene and the longest girl fight ever filmed (with malfunctioning garments, of course). However, the approach is quite different compared to some other films in the genre. These women are goddesses, and the sleazy guys are doomed from the start. The men ain't got nothing on these girls.
Sex & Fury (Japan, 1973) [DVD] - 4/5
Most foreign viewers fail to put this film into a context. As much as a Pinky Violence film, it was also a late descendant of Toei's 60s gambler/yakuza movies. Once a hugely popular genre, Toei was still trying to keep it alive in the early 70s. After their biggest female star Junko Fuji retired, Toei tried finding a substitute. All attempts failed, and each new female yakuza film came out sleazier than the previous. Sex & Fury was the film that essentially burned all the bridges as it wholeheartedly crossed to the exploitation side. No more straight female gamblers were to come. Reiko Ike stars as a female yakuza on a mission of vengeance, while Christina Lindberg (drafted by Toei during a flight from Paris to Stockholm!) is a British (!) spy whose boss is trying to start an opium war in Japan. The storyline is messy with political aspects that director Norifumi Suzuki has no patience to develop; however, the film is visually stunning. Nowhere is that better evidenced than in the scene where Ike, attacked by enemies while taking bath, takes out the whole gang with a sword while in the nude in a snowy garden. The hypnotically choreographed carnage makes that one of the greatest scenes in exploitation film history.
Female Yakuza Tale (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 3.5/5
Fun but hastily made sequel to Sex and Fury. Teruo Ishii directed the film, but it seems he didn't have much of a script to work with - more like a plot draft written in a hurry. There's a lot of incoherent nonsense between the opening and ending scenes. Ishii makes up for it with colourful images, a plot that revolves around a yakuza gang using girls who smuggle drugs in their vaginas, and a number of fantastic set pieces including the apocalyptic final massacre with two dozen naked ladies slaying yakuza with swords, nails, guns and hand grenades. There's a certain charm to seeing trash like this done with relatively amazing production values, something that would never happen in modern cinema.