I've finally updated my favourite Roman Porno films list. Top 30!
1. Female Delinquent: A Docu-Drama (Toshiya Fujita, 1977) (genre: violence / delinquent girl)
Ultra-realistic and ultra-violent bad girl drama. Imagine Kinji Fukasaku directing a Sukeban film with Toshiya Fujita ‘s usual youth film themes and social commentary. Fantastic performances, innovative cinematography and a stunning rock soundtrack.
2. Rape Ceremony (Kichitaro Negishi, 1980) (genre: youth drama / character study)
Despite the crude Nikkatsu title, this is a small masterpiece about two generations of violent young men. It follows a group of young men who is taking revenge against their former idols, who are biker gang members who disbanded under police pressure. A very Art Theatre Guild esque film with great characters, cast, music, and broken chronology.
3. Love Hotel (Shinji Somai, 1985) (genre: character drama)
The only Roman Porno by Shinji Somai, who was arguably the best Japanese director of the 1980s. This film features one of the best storylines I have ever seen, and all of the usual Somai trademarks from breathtaking tracking shots to great soundtrack. Yokohama (Mainstream) Film Fest winner: best film, best director, best screenplay (Takashi Ishii), best cinematography, best lead actor and best female newcomer of the year.
4. Rolling on the Road (aka Oh Women! A Dirty Song) (Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1981) (genre: rock sleaze)
Kumashiro’s jaw dropping sleaze fest and "true account" of the asshole rocker / movie star Yuya Uchida, played by Uchida himself! The most memorable scene: a sadomasochist nurse is strangling Uchida with a telephone cord during sex while his other girlfriend is crying at the other end of the line.
5. Crazed Fruit (Kichitaro Negishi, 1981) (genre: youth drama / character study)
Kichitaro Negishi was bar none one of the best directors who ever worked in Roman Porno. He basically re-invented the 1950s delinquent youth genre. This is a new and superior version of the 1950s classic Crazed Fruit. It's got all of Negishi's trademarks: complex characters, great performances, frequent use of exterior locations, and an energetic audio-visual style that mixes pop songs with hand-held cinematography.
6. Pink Hip Girl (Koyu Ohara, 1977) (genre: youth / pop art)
This is one of the cutest, most adorable youth films, and the movie that earned Ohara his reputation as “pop-art director”. It’s a highly entertaining road movie with snowy landscapes, cute girls, great soundtrack, and real chemistry between the two leads. This was a hit among female audiences as well.
7. Retreat through the Wet Wasteland (Yukihiro Sawada, 1973) (genre: cop thriller)
Ultra-nihilist police corruption film in which two beast-cops are hunting their former colleague who escaped from a mental institution and could reveal their crimes to the public. Produced as Roman Porno because no mainstream studio dared to touch it. Even Nikkatsu had second thoughts because they thought it was too political and tried to stop the production.
8. Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Chusei Sone, 1979) (genre: psychological drama)
Most of the Angel Guts movies are great, but this haunting psychological drama is probably my favourite. Keizo Kanie stars as a photographer who sees an underground rape film and becomes obsessed finding the girl and finding out of the crime was real or staged. Beautiful score, good performances and fine cinematography. The ending is unforgettable. I've excluded the other entries from the list, but High School Co-ed, Nami and Red Vertigo all come highly recommended.
9. Delicate Skilful Fingers (Tooru Murakawa, 1972) (genre: contemporary drama)
This film was praised by critics as a movie that turned Roman Porno into respectable youth cinema that captured Nikkatsu's past glory days. Indeed, it's a terrific, stylish film of an innocent young woman who falls in love with a professional pickpocket and discovers a new decadent life. Co-stars cult actor / rock star Ichiro Araki. Screenplay by Tatsumi Kumashiro.
10. Red Violation (Chusei Sone, 1980) (genre: rock / slice of life drama)
A great slice of life drama following real life rock-band Devils, played by the real members, including the gaijin member James Hunt in a pretty big role. It's a film that could've been produced by ATG. There's a bit of sex, quite good characters, and tons of great music. It also captures the spirit of the time really nicely. The film ends with a terrific 10 minute scene where the band is composing their new song. One of the best band movies ever made.
11. Beauty’s Exotic Dance: Torture (Noboru Tanaka, 1977) (genre: psychological drama)
A haunting psychological drama about the love affair between an artist and a woman who goes through endless physical tortures to make him happy. All set in beautiful snowy landscapes. Probably Tanaka’s best film.
12. Rape! 13th Hour (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1977) (genre: violent pink / thriller)
Hasebe’s most outrageous film even turns the violence against men when a serial rapist with a protégé is chased by a homosexual gang. It’s also his slickest thriller, and full of interesting social commentary, even if Hasebe denies such intentions for some reason. William Friedkin later made a film which has an identical ending!
13. Assault! Jack the Ripper (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1976) (genre: violent pink / thriller)
The coming of age story of a serial killer. A shy young man finds a passion for slaughtering women, and his girlfriend gets sexual kicks from it. Rarely have sex and death been so close other than in David Cronenberg films.
14. Zoom Up: Rape Apartments (Naosuke Kurosawa, 1980) (genre: pink giallo)
This is just about the last thing you'd expect to find in the Roman Porno genre: a pink-giallo. The cinematography and sound design are absolutely stunning and the film features one of the most WTF kills in movie history. Too bad about the excessive sex scenes that slow it down.
15. Midnight Fairy (Noboru Tanaka, 1973) (genre: arthouse)
A desperate young man ditched by his girlfriend hooks up with a mentally challenged prostitute. This is a superb arthouse Roman Porno. It's poignant, visually stylish, and features lots of great 1970s footage filmed on location on streets and in small bars. The film also never feels pretentious: it's fun, playful and relatively fast paced.
16. Woman of the Afternoon: Incite! (Nobuyuki Saito, 1979) (genre: genre cocktail)
This film is best watched without knowing anything about it. Director Nobuyuki Saito spent most of his career making mediocre and bad films. This one, however, is a fresh, breezy and energetic gem that will take you by a suprise.
17. Erotic Liaisons (Yasuharu Hasebe, 1978) (genre: neo-noir)
Here's a very stylish neo-noir based on a novel by the French author Raymond Marlot and produced during the late 1970s when a small amount of Roman Porno films attempted to bridge the gap between mainstream and pink cinema. The storyline and atmosphere are so strikingly European that you constantly forgets the film is set in Tokyo and not Paris.
18. Woman in the Box 2 (Masaru Konuma, 1986) (genre: horror/drama)
Generally speaking, I'm no fan of Masaru Konuma's SM films. He has, however, made some good films in other genres. This movie is a small gem: a beautiful, melancholic horror film set on a ski resort. It has a terrific score, too. It's such a unique film in the Roman Porno genre that you don't even realize the villain is actually a pretty standard SM psycho.
19. Wandering Lovers: Dizziness (Masaru Konuma, 1978) (genre: youth drama)
An energetic youth film follows two youngsters on the run. The film features superb performances from its two leads who make an adorable couple that you really care about - a real rarity in the genre. It's also stylishly shot, with numerous outdoor scenes set in the early morning add a fresh feel to the film. One of director Konuma's best films.
20. Painful Bliss! Final Twist (Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1977) (genre: WTF / pop art)
An absolutely insane mix of yakuzas, transvestites and all kinds of pop-art. If Takashi Miike, Pedro Almodovar and Noboru Tanaka had sex, and somehow gave birth, and the child become a movie director, his movie would probably look much like this...
21. Assault (Yukihiro Sawada, 1976) (genre: violent pink / thriller)
Another crime film by the director of Retreat through the Wet Wasteland. This one is a remarkably dark and bleak tale of a husband and wife taken as prisoner by a group criminals on the run. The film was very obviously influenced by Straw Dogs. Although most of it fall short of great, the eight minute climax is a melancholic ballad of violence that rivals the best scenes by Sam Peckinpah and John Woo.
22. Girl's Pleasure: Man Hunting (Toshiya Fujita, 1977) (genre: drama, youth, thriller)
Skilfully written and unpredictable character drama about a raped wife, her husband, little sister, and the sister's friend who falls in love with an African American soldier. The shifting focus and the use of unlikely encounters echoes 1990s Tarantino, and the violent ending turns gender roles upside down. The script, by a 25 year old female writer, was discovered via Nikkatsu screenwriting competition.
23. Secret Chronicle: Prostitution Market (Chusei Sone, 1972) (genre: comedy)
A very funny, frequently cute, and politically incorrect by modern standards, film about a mentally challenged girl who is sold to a brothel. Her virginity proves surprisingly difficult to steal as she doesn't understand what sex is, and always manages to misunderstand the customers' intentions. The best sequence involves a sumo wrestler trying to catch her – and destroying half of the brothel in the process before knocking himself out.
24. Zoom Up: Rape Site (Koyu Ohara, 1979) (genre: violent pink / thriller)
A notorious piece of mean spirited violent pink may not be quite as wild as its reputation, but it's well made smut with a solid thriller structure, some gruesome kills and a pitch black view on humanity. Also, the film's view on women can be summarized with the line "be so kind, rape me again".
25. Secret Honeymoon: Rape Train (genre: romance / thriller)
An utterly ridiculous but highly entertaining love story about two robbers and their female hostage on the run. Add “stunts sequences” on the train top, a ridiculous Texas country music soundtrack, and a very cute female lead, and you’ve got a nonsensical, but fun crime film romance.
26. Woman's Trail: Wet Path (Kazunari Takeda, 1980) (genre: drama)
Beautifully melancholic film about realistic, likeable and often middle aged characters wandering aimlessly in snowy coastal towns after being abandoned by their loved ones. Director Takeda rarely produced quality, but this is a mature, atypical film that beautifully depicts the passing of time.
27. Secret Chronicle: She-Beast Market (Noboru Tanaka, 1974) (genre: realistic drama)
Tanaka's ultra realistic film about a prostitute (Meika Seri) is one of the most exceptional films in the Roman Porno genre, and not only for its striking black & white cinematography.
28. From Orion's Testimony: Formula for Murder (Kichitaro Negishi, 1978) (genre: drama/youth/thriller)
Negishi's first film is a youth drama about a young man who writes fictional plans how to murder his father - until the father's new lover wishes to put the plan into action. Negishi's films are always character driven, often breezy, and feature exceptional approaches to sex. In this film the protagonist makes friends with a strange hippie-like girl (Ako) into African music - and their relationship is almost sex free.
29. Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture (Fumihiko Kato, 1982) (genre: noir / drama/ S&M)
There are not many S&M films that appeal to me, but this one is of interest. Director Kato helms a very good Takashi Ishii script about a high school girl who is obsessed with her teacher, who has been fired on false rape accusations. The highly visual and nightmarish film is both surprising and character driven. The final scenes may be hard to take for newcomers, but the film feels like an Angel Guts entry with an S&M theme.
30. Trap of Lust (Atsushi Yamatoya, 1973) (genre: action / thriller / WTF)
Atsushi Yamatoya, one of the screenwriters on Branded to Kill, and a cult figure on his own, directs this bizarre professional killer / spy film satire that is sometimes considered a remake of Branded to Kill. Entertaining, although sometimes a bit too confident of its own odd appeal.