1960s/1970s/1980s Japanese Genre Cinema – From Books and Magazine Articles

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Re: 1960s/1970s/1980s Japanese Genre Cinema – From Books and Magazine Articles

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Highlights from “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (Sugisaku & Uechi, 1999) – Part 11

From “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (東映ピンキー・バイオレンス浪漫アルバム) (1999). I’ll try to summarize a few highlights. My translations may not be entirely accurate.

Norifumi Suzuki on Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto (Interview)

Sugisaku: “What were your impressions of Ike and Sugimoto?”
Suzuki: “Ike was like a flower. She had a beautiful skin and a body like a foreigner, but… the flower only bloomed for a short time. Sugimoto was gloomy and rebellious, like a delinquent girl. At first she was playing minor roles, but when she became a lead she gained self-confidence. She was the opposite of Ike, in good and bad.”

Sugisaku: “[regarding Ike’s 1972 declaration to quit Toei and refuse nude scenes] Did Ike complain that she didn’t want to be nude before?”
Suzuki: “Not in the first 2 or 3 films, but after that… It may have been the record company, or perhaps it was her own or her parents’ wish. “

Sugisaku: “Was there a sense of rivalry between the two of them?”
Suzuki: “There was. Ike left Toei and Sugimoto became the lead actress, then Ike came back again. So then we had two lead actresses. But [producer] Amao was really good with that stuff. We made them compete. When one played the lead, the other would be the supporting star, and we’d rotate this pattern [from film to film]. Well, I thought it would be good if they didn’t get along too well.”

Sugisaku: “It would’ve been terrible if they got along too well, and then decided to quit together!” (laughs)
Suzuki: “Not at all. I was confident I could make movies without them. Back then I was asked “why do you keep making porno films?”, and I replied “I can make a no-name girl into a star overnight… I can make legends like that. That’s why I work as a film director”. So, even if they’d quit, I’d go on and find a new girl.”

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Highlights from “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (Sugisaku & Uechi, 1999) – Part 12

From “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (東映ピンキー・バイオレンス浪漫アルバム) (1999). I’ll try to summarize a few highlights. My translations may not be entirely accurate.

About Hot Springs Geisha, Getting Angry at Sandra Julien, Miki Sugimoto’s Nude Rebellion (from Norifumi Suzuki Interview)

Sugisaku:” I wanted to ask you about the title of Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha (温泉みみず芸者) (1971).”
Suzuki: “The original title was Hot Springs Octopus Pot Geisha. I was shooting when producer Okada came to me and said “Octopus… that’s weak. Let’s make it Earthworm. So that’s why it’s called Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha but the film is full of octopuses. “

Sugisaku: “That was sloppy (laughing)”
Suzuki: “Asao Koike gave a great performance in the film. He played a man who had become impotent because of war, and recovered thanks to Ike.”

Sugisaku: “War and nationalism was addressed in the film.“
Suzuki: “It was an era when words like anti-authority and anti-establishment had a good ring to them. The student movement was amazing back then, too, and I think I was influenced by that.”

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Sugisaku: “The next film has an amazing title: Modern Porno Tale: Inherited Sex Mania (現代ポルノ伝 先天性淫婦) (1971).”
Suzuki: “That title can’t be matched! (laughs). This film was problematic to bring together. It features French porno actress Sandra Julien. But we didn’t know if she’d be available when we were making the scrip. So we composed the script in such a way, that we could make the film even without her and insert her part [if she was available]. As a result there are some things in the script that don’t really connect. In the end, we were able to use Julien for 2 or 3 days.”

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Sugisaku: “Were there any communication problems [with Sandra Julien]?”
Suzuki: “No, we had an interpreter. Well, there were some troublesome things, but after I got angry I apologized properly.”

Sugisaku: “What did you get angry about?”
Suzuki: “About doing the acting job right. She was perfectly fine showing pubic hair and things like that, but there were some things she’d refuse to do. I think it was subtle cultural difference about what is embarrassing and what is not. But you can’t make a film if you’re concerned about such subtle things.”

Sugisaku: “Because Sandra did not use crotch tape (maebari), your film became “Tokugawa Crotch Tape Ban”. (laughs)“
Suzuki: “She said “Why should I put it on? It’s perfectly natural [to be naked]”. I think Sugimoto was influenced by her because she stopped using maebari, too! “

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Sugisaku: “Bunta Sugawara appears in Hot Springs Suppon Geisha (温泉スッポン芸者) (1972)
Suzuki: “He came to meet director Sadao Nakajima for his role in the upcoming Cold Wind Monjiro (木枯し紋次郎) (1972). I saw them in a pub and asked if they could appear in my film next day. Nakajima is in the film, too.”

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Re: 1960s/1970s/1980s Japanese Genre Cinema – From Books and Magazine Articles

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In August 1974 Reiko Ike starred in her only Nikkatsu film, the mainstream (not Roman Porno) martial arts action film Black Panther Bitch M (黒い女豹M). The Japanese DVD comes with a very interesting booklet by Fujiki TDC detailing the film’s production background. Below is an abbreviated translation of the most interesting parts. My translation may not be 100% accurate.

Reiko Ike at Nikkatsu, Miki Sugimoto’s Nikkatsu offer

“In late 1973 there was a generation change going on in Toei Porno. Reiko Ike had turned 19 and was no longer perceived to have the aura for sukeban / high school girl roles. In January 1974 her final Sukeban film was released. Later in 1974 karate films became a huge hit. Toei Porno actresses started to became homeless. “

“Ike and fellow Toei Porno actress Miki Sugimoto both received offers from Nikkatsu. First Sugimoto was offered the film Sukeban Deka: Dirty Mary (すけばん刑事 ダーティ・マリー) (1974), but she refused and the role went to Hitomi Kozue. Then, Ike received an offer. That film was Black Panther Bitch M.”

“Black Panther Bitch M was originally developed under the title “The Kunoichi”. The film was released at the height of the martial arts film boom. At the time, Nikkatsu was also the Japanese distributor of The Chinese Boxer and The Big Fellow which came out as a double feature.“

“I was out of work and I wanted to take this opportunity for a fresh start. I feel lucky to be able to star in a Nikkatsu film. I don’t really mind being called a porno actress, but I also wanted to make a film that isn’t a porno. This film isn’t going to be an adult film, and the role I’ve been given is a departure from what I’ve played before” Ike said in May 1, 1974 issue of Sports Nippon. “

“Filming started at the end of May under a new title “Red Scorpion” and seemed to proceed smoothly until an article appeared in Nikkan Sports on July 5. “The Queen of Porno goes to Nikkatsu Porno Studio, fans expect a full-on porno film, but she won’t take her clothes off in this action film. What are we paying her for, some people at Nikkatsu are thinking. A Reiko Ike who won’t strip! How about that?”

“Indeed, Ike does not strip in the film; however, there is a scene where Ike’s breast is exposed during a hand to hand flight when her blouse is torn. This scene had been added to the script and was to be filmed in a hotel room on a bed, according to information from Nikkatsu. Ike got all upset, saying “you promised there would be no fuck scene [sic]” and demanded the scene to be re-located on a rooftop.”

“Nikkan Sports reported Ike saying “I agreed to be in this film on the condition that it would be a general film [not an adult release]. If not, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I’m doing what I promised, but Nikkatsu isn’t communicating their intentions properly.” So, there was an evident conflict of intentions between the parties, but what exactly is the truth remains unclear.”

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Highlights from “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (Sugisaku & Uechi, 1999) – Part 13

From “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (東映ピンキー・バイオレンス浪漫アルバム) (1999). I’ll try to summarize a few highlights. My translations may not be entirely accurate.

A few info bits about from Takeshi Uechi’s Sugimoto & Ike Chapter

Miki Sugimoto

Sugimoto was born 1953 in Kanagawa prefecture. Her real name is Nobuko Abe (安部信子).

She had a big crush on sumo wrestler Daigoro Takamiyama (髙見山 大五郎). “I love a fat person (*). I can die if I can marry Takamiyama” Sugimoto said. A women’s magazine eventually arranged them to meet, but Takamiyama was so shy they ended sitting silently most of the time. It’s said even the article written about their encounter made the readers feel just awkward.

Sugimoto married a former classmate gone trading company employee in 1978 and disappeared from publicity.

* the grammar is bit unclear. I don’t know if she loved all fat people or just one fat Daigoro. Probably the latter…

Reiko Ike

Ike was born in 1954 in Tokyo. Her real name is Reiko Ikeda (池田玲子).

Ike was arrested for the violation of the Stimulant Drugs Control Law in May 1977, and although she was not charged, she was soon arrested again for gambling. Although she managed to make a comeback to the entertainment industry, her career eventually faded out.

She appeared on NTV’s TV series Yooi Don! (ヨーイ・ドン!!) [1972/6/1 – 1972/6/29] after she had left Toei and was pursuing an idol career. The attached bikini photo is from that time [I’m not sure if it’s from the series or just from that time].

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Re: 1960s/1970s/1980s Japanese Genre Cinema – From Books and Magazine Articles

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“You should not praise me alone. If it wasn’t for that great rebellious producer Amao whom I teamed up with, and the power of cheap restaurants, which characterized Toei filmmaking of the time, these films would not have been born”. – Norifumi Suzuki (1999).

I think I’m done with Sugisaku and Uechi’s book for a while, and shall be moving on to Suzuki’s book next. The quote above shall serve as closing words for now.

I’ll get back to the cheap diner filmmaking later since Suzuki brings it up multiple times in his book.

So this was Highlights from “Pinky Violence: Toei’s Bad Girl Films” (Sugisaku & Uechi, 1999) – Part 14

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How Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto Were Discovered

Norifumi Suzuki recalls the casting of Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha (温泉みみず芸者) (1971) in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p. 11-14). My translation may not be entirely accurate.

In spring 1971 Toei Kyoto producers Shigeru Okada and Kanji Amao assigned Norifumi Suzuki to direct Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha. The biggest problem turned out to be the casting. They had decided to look for fresh faces, but weren’t finding anyone. Suzuki even went to a model club to interviewed applicants who would agree to appear nude in film, but none of them were quite what he was looking for. The release date was already set to July 3 and they were running out of time.

“We had finished casting all the supporting roles, leaving only the heroine and her little sister. We then went location hunting around Toi Hot Springs [in Izu, Shizuoka] with the Kyoto staff. While the others were having a meal, I went to a book store with producer Amao to check out the latest gravure magazines. Back then the stores were full of magazines featuring semi-nude images of young women. Reiko Ike was in one of those magazines. “Hey, Elizabeth Taylor is here” [refers to Ike] I said. Amao replied “this girl looks pretty good, she’s got sex appeal, and boobs too. Go to Tokyo right away to meet the publisher and find this girl! She’s our goddess who appeared in this desperate time”.”

“Ike was found soon enough. Producer Amao found another model, Miki Sugimoto, for the little sister role and brought them both to Kyoto. They were both complete amateurs who had been doing modelling as part time job and didn’t belong to any agency. Miki Sugimoto’s name was a stage name she had created by combining the names of models Miki Irie (入江美樹) and Ema Sugimoto (杉本エマ). Ike’s real name was Reiko Ikeda. In her gravure photos the cameraman had always chosen an appropriate name for her, so she had been credited under a different name each time.”

“Producer Amao immediately invented a story [for marketing purposes]. [According to this made-up story] Ike and Sugimoto were good friends hanging out at crime novel writer Masako Togawa’s famous Aoi Heya club in Tokyo where they met producer Amao and director Suzuki, expressed their wish to become actresses, and got scouted. This story sounded like a fun idea, so I thought we could try this approach just this time.”


Attached photo: Hot Springs Earthworm completion photo with cast and crew. June 28, 1971.
Front middle from the left: Shin Furuya, Kanji Amao, Reiko Ike, Norifumi Suzuki, Miki Sugimoto.

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Happy (real) birthday, Reiko Ike!

A mini-story from Norifumi Suzuki’s book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p.27)

“Ike had her birthday on June 25. She was turning 17, but everyone at the filming site thought she was turning 19”.

[This story refers to Suzuki and producer Amao discovering Ike was 16, but choosing to tell everyone she was 18, when they started production on Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha (温泉みみず芸者) (1971)].

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Director Suzuki recalls the casting of Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Counterattack (女番長ブルース 牝蜂の逆襲) (1971) in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p.29). My translation may not be entirely accurate.

“I could see why producer Amao cast Yukie Kagawa as Reiko’s rival in the film. In a way, Reiko was what Kagawa had been 4 years earlier. Kagawa had debuted in the Teruo Ishii gang. Then now came Ike, a complete amateur who had become a leading actress overnight at the age of 16. We wanted to create a rivalry between this ecstatic newcomer and an older actress who knew the world wasn’t such a sweet place after all.”

“Ike had the kind of vanity and self-love that it was obvious she wouldn’t let go of her leading actress status once she had obtained it. But she would feel nervous because of Kagawa being there. That tension lasted till the end of the filming.”


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Reiko Ike Quits Toei: The Aftermath

Director Suzuki explains in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p. 58-60) what happened after Reiko Ike suddenly quit Toei in spring 1972, which left their next movie Tokugawa Sex Ban: Lustful Lord (徳川セックス禁止令 色情大名) without a star. The following story took places in late March, 1972. Tokugawa Sex Ban was set to open at the end of April. I’ve abbreviated / omitted parts in the translation because the full story goes on for several pages. For background, please see my older ‘Reiko Ike quits / Humphrey Bogart stood in silence’ post.

“Reiko Ike did not have a contract with Toei. We only had a verbal agreement with her parents, and she had been under “producer Amao’s custody”, so she was free to leave. We were informed by her record company that it was not only her own, but especially her parents’ wish that she would not appear nude anymore.”

“But who should replace Ike in Tokugawa Sex Ban? There was no time to scout a new actress. We got together with producer Amao and screenwriter Kakefuda and narrowed it down to two candidates: Yayoi Watanabe and Miki Sugimoto. “

“I was pretty much decided on Watanabe. She could act and she had a bright personality and a beautiful smile. I had always thought I’d use her for a big role some day. She was a small, typical Japanese girl with transistor glamour - such a word existed back then - [note: 1959 buzzword referring to a woman with a small body build] and would make a great contrast with the tall Sandra Julien. Watanabe was sweet, unlike the dark delinquent girl like Sugimoto.”

“Then I asked Kakefuda, who had sat silently all this time, what he thought?”.

”I really want to see Sugimoto in the role” Kakefuda said. Kakefuda continued “I’m ok with either one, but favouring safe over a sense of adventure? That’s unlike you, director Suzuki…”

”That’s right, director Suzuki without an adventurous spirit has no charm…” producer Amao added.”

“… and the stream just kept flowing towards Sugimoto.”

“Let’s show some professional spirit and get this film done” producer Amao said. “Let’s promote Miki to a new leading lady. Runaway Ike will be surprised, too! “


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[Watanabe still via Fuck Yeah! Meiko Kaji! https://fuckyeahmeikokaji.tumblr.com/image/185684532421]
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How Soft-Shell Turtle Geisha (温泉スッポン芸者) (1972) came to be?

Director Norifumi Suzuki recalls in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p. 65) that Miki Sugimoto’s debut as leading lady in Tokugawa Sex Ban: Lustful Lord (徳川セックス禁止令 色情大名) was a success, but Toei execs were not entirely sold on her yet. The plan was to make a new Girl Boss movie next. However, after completing the work on Tokugawa Sex Ban, Suzuki, producer Amao and a Toei dude called Watanabe went for dinner. In this small restaurant they were served such delicious soft-shelled turtle, that they decided to postpone the Girl Boss film and make a movie called Soft-Shell Turtle Geisha (Hot Springs Geisha 5) instead. The film was complete and in theatres a couple of months later.

LOL!

On a more serious note, Suzuki notes that this kind of overnight changes in plans were necessary in commercial cinema back then, when a filmmaker needed to know what is in right now. “Rough and ready” and “swift decisions” were the key to his way of guerrilla filmmaking, he says.

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A while back I added Kenji Fukuma’s Teruo Ishii book 石井輝男映画魂 (1991) (on the left in the image above... the Hotwax book on the right is unrelated) to my bookshelf. While I haven't had time to start reading it, I can say it's basically Fukushima interviewing Ishii for 250 pages by going through his career film by film, followed by an 80 page filmography (!) and finally a chronological list that not only shows which movie each Ishii film premiered with as a double feature, but also the competing double features released by other studios on the same day! And there’s a lot of amazing stills and photos! I wanted to share a few below.

Ishii filming his debut movie King of the Ring: The World of Glory (リングの王者 栄光の世界) (1957) at Shintoho.
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Ken Takakura, Teruo Ishii and Toru Abe making Abashiri Prison: Northern Seacoast Story (網走番外地 北海篇) (1965)
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Ken Takakura and Teruo Ishii (front, smoking) filming Abashiri Prison: Duel in the Snow Country (網走番外地 大雪原の対決) (1966).
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Teruo Ishii at the sets of Season of Violence (暴走の季節) (1976). I think that’s Koichi Iwaki and Yutaka Nakajima in the back.
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Note: there's a new 2012 version of the book that is smaller size and reportedly lacks many of the photos. Go for the original 1991 release (or its further pressings, I've got the 2nd pressing from 1992) with the Takakura / Abashiri Prison 3 cover. It's long OOP but used copies are dirt cheap.
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How Girl Boss Guerilla (女番長ゲリラ) (1972) found its form

Director Norifumi Suzuki explains in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p. 75-77) that Girl Boss Guerilla was actually based on a popular pop song. “A young man from Toei’s advertising department came to Kyoto for a business trip and gave me a tape. He said this song was really popular with young people in Tokyo, and should suit director Suzuki’s style”.

It was a song called Red Elegy (赤色エレジー) by singer Morio Agata (あがた森魚). The lyrics were about a man and a woman called Ichiro and Sachiko. Suzuki then played the song to Girl Boss series screenwriter and assistant director Takayuki Minagawa and said “Let’s make a Showa melodrama this time. Miki’s character should be Sachiko and her lover a boxer called Ichiro.”

The film’s concept was finalized between Suzuki, Amao and Minagawa as “motorcycles, sex and action”.

To add to Sugimoto’s charm, Suzuki wanted her to wear a similar jumpsuit as the heroine of the movie The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).

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Re: 1960s/1970s/1980s Japanese Genre Cinema – From Books and Magazine Articles

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Man, I wish this whole book was translated. Some great stuff, thank you!
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Roman Porno meets Truck Yaro

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Yuka Asagiri, Norifumi Suzuki, Asami Ogawa, Bunta Sugawara and Natsuko Yashiro in a behind the scenes still from Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls (堕靡泥の星 美少女狩り) (1979). The original working title was, btw, 堕魔泥の星・美少女コレクシ ョン (Star of David: Beautiful Girl Collection).

There is a funny story about how Suzuki (more or less) made this film because he loved the Nikkatsu studio logo. Studios were identified by their opening logos that played before the film. And Nikkatsu had that classic N and K inside a circle.

Films like Ko Nakahira’s Kurenai no tsubasa (紅の翼) (1958), Buichi Saito’s Back South to Tosa (南国土佐を後にして) and Toshio Masuda’s Red Handkerchief (赤いハンカチ) (1964) were among the many Nikkatsu films Suzuki used to go see as a young man and even when he was an assistant director at Toei Kyoto. And those all started with the classic Nikkatsu logo! “Nikkatsu films were my youth”, Suzuki says.

So, when Suzuki was asked to make a film with a Nikkatsu logo, the answer was an ecstatic yes. Before starting the work on the film, he went to see Nikkatsu’s new double feature Eighteen Years, to the Sea (十八歳、海へ) and Super Gun Lady: Police Branch 82 (ワニ分署). But the classic logo was not there! It turned out Nikkatsu had just changed their logo to a new one. It was a crushing disappointment that left Suzuki dumbfounded.

From Suzuki’s book 下品こそ、この世の花: 映画・堕落論 (2014)

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Reiko Ike Returns to Toei

[for background, please see my older posts “Humphrey Bogart Stood in Silence” and “Reiko Ike Quits Toei: The Aftermath”]

Director Norifumi Suzuki explains in his book Toei guerilla senki (東映ゲリラ戦記) (2013) (p. 78-79, 82) that he was in the middle of Girl Boss Guerilla (女番長ゲリラ)’s pre-production when producer Amao returned from Tokyo with two pieces of big news.

The 1st one was that their new leading lady Miki Sugimoto had been well received by both the media and the [Toei] Tokyo head office.

The 2nd piece of news was that Reiko Ike wanted to make a comeback to Toei Porno. Amao said:

“Ike had come with her mother to apologize for their rudeness [for suddenly quitting Toei earlier in 1972], and pleaded me to use her again in a Toei film. I intended to reject her right away. I’m a producer and have my pride and stubbornness. I was about to tell her that I have no use for her at all.”

“However, as I thought about it more carefully, I realized wouldn’t it be better to have two stars instead of one? I decided to put aside my personal feelings as I recalled the words of a veteran Kyoto reporter, who had said “Toei’s enduring success in the film industry was due to the studio’s adoption of a ‘Two Top Star System” [this is a reference to Koji Tsuruta and Ken Takakura, whose rivalry in the ninkyo genre had electrified yakuza films and excited the audiences by providing not one, but two rival superstars]. Ike had not lost her market value yet. Her name should have a tremendous positive impact in the advertising of Sugimoto’s third starring film.”


Hence, screenwriter and assistant director Takayuki Minagawa was told to quickly type Girl Boss Guerilla into a co-starring vehicle for Sugimoto and Ike.

Toei’s advertising department took full advantage of the new two-star situation, placing a “Are you a Reiko Ike man or are you are Miki Sugimoto man?” article in a men’s magazine.

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