Sex And Fury (DVD)

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Sex And Fury (DVD)

From the creator of the sukeban, or delinquency, genre of Japanese sexploitation films, comes this explosion of violence, sex, and just plain fun. Cul...

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70% positive

2 reviews from the community

Review of "Sex And Fury (DVD)"

published 22/10/2014 | GenerallyInterested
Member since : 15/07/2013
Reviews : 223
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About me :
Still snoozing.
Good
Pro The plot is good for a while; visual
Cons Gets lost in sex, nudity and yee gods some terrible performances
exceptional
Did you enjoy it?
Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"Sex and Fury Signifying Not A Great Deal"

Sex And Fury (DVD)

Sex And Fury (DVD)

Paraphrasing Shakespeare is so lazy


Probably, but the title of the review does in many way reflect the film. Not that it was bad rather it was something of a tale of two halves. But before we look at that, I’ll be honest Japanese cinema of the 70s is not exactly my forte, but recently I’ve been – mainly thanks to Meiko Kaji – exploring it little more. This means a certain amount of guilt, because by the 70s a lot of the main Japanese studios were making films that were somewhere between yakuza and samurai movies and European softcore exploitation movies. Sex and Fury, falls into the category known as Pinky violence. Pink movies in Japan at the time meaning you’re going to get, yes, sex. So from a Western perspective you think of it as being an exploitation film, though this it seems this is wholly inappropriate because the idea of an exploitation film somehow being something that you should step into a cinema feeling guilty, and perhaps be surrounded by men in an unclean mac, hasn’t the same connotations in Japan. The idea of exploitation cinema simply doesn’t exist. This is rather intriguing but the end result is certainly something that as Westerners would consider exploitation.

So the film is a bit of a funny beast because it is both rather good and so very bad; it’s a very story driven narrative that occasionally gets lost in sex and forgets the fury. But nevertheless, it’s a film that I quite enjoyed, even if ultimately a little guiltily. The film is not a paragon of artistry but it has its moments, even if some of them are quite ludicrous and sometimes perhaps not always in the best possible taste.


So shall we segue into the story before we get into the meat of our Sex and Fury


That’s acceptable to me, and to pick out our main cast I would include:


Reiko Ike, as Ocho Inoshika; our protagonist
Seizaburo Kawazu as Kurokawa; a yakuza risen high
Hiroshi Nawa as Iwakura; another yakuza risen high
Christina Lindberg as Christina; an English spy and a dancer
Tadashi Naruse as Shinsuke; a radical; a revolutionary; wanted by the police
Mark Darling as Guinness; an English diplomat; also a spy

As a girl, Ocho witnesses the murder of her father, a policeman. Taken under the wing of petty criminals, as she grows to adulthood, she looks to avenge her father’s death.


Wow, you really are in succinct form


In many ways the plot really is that simple, though of course there is more going on, even if sometimes you can’t quite work out why. You have to say the film opens as it means to go on, with the murder of Ocho’s father and then quite soon: grown to womanhood, Ocho is attacked whilst in the bath. Immediately she defends herself, which requires her – because there are rather a lot of people attacking her – to leap outside, take up a blade, and in her birthday suit protect herself through bloody violence. You could make the argument that trying to kill somebody in the bath makes perfect sense, as you’re vulnerable and then if needing to protect yourself against a large body of attackers one is hardly about to pause and say: “one moment please whilst I put on some clothes”. But that would be disingenuous, because let’s face it the whole scene exists to have our star Reiko Ike have the opportunity to wield the sword rather stylishly and of course throw in a large helping of gratuitous nudity. At this point I think you either continue to watch the film, knowing that it will be ludicrous and you’re probably going to get similar moments later on, or you’re going to turn it off and chalk it up to experience, and watch a different film instead. Arguably you be rather justified, but if we accept the nature of the film then we can just get on with it. Plus with so many Japanese films of this period, there are limits to the type of nudity that’s acceptable, so it’s all arguably rather soft.

Actually, just getting on watching the film immediately becomes quite an easy experience. This is where the film really exists as two different entities. It immediately starts to set up the story. We began to understand how Ocho is planning revenge. We learn of how Shinsuke is a wanted man and fighting the powers that be in the form of the two yakuza, who have gained respectability: Kurokawa and Iwakura. We’re also introduced to a dancer and a gambler – and it seems Ocho is actually a renowned gambler – in the form of an English spy, Christina, played by Christina Lindberg. The story really rattles along at a decent pace, and suddenly though there is some violence it seems mostly in passing, like Christina suddenly showing that she’s a crack shot, and protecting our two respectable yakuza. So within the first 30 or 40 minutes you can be forgiven for thinking that maybe the introduction, with Reiko Ike leaping to and fro, nude as the day she was born, killing rather a lot of men with a sword, is just something of a blip. The film is rather enjoyable during these early times, because even though the story is rather cliché it’s still rather well told and the film frequently is quite stylish. It’s fun, entertaining, even if it has some very obvious weaknesses. Then as we tip over into the second half of the film – which is just over 90 minutes long – suddenly we find ourselves rather lost in sex and nudity that doesn’t really add much to the film, and just really feels like a whole lot of padding and obviously exists just to titillate the audience. Frustrating? Certainly, and yet at the same time despite all the gratuitousness that we are suddenly faced with I certainly never felt in any way disgusted or the like, if anything at times I felt more the desire to laugh. I suppose much of this sex and/or nudity is meant to be sexually exciting in some way shape or form, but it’s not really and if anything is just so artificial that it almost just washes over you, you practically ignore it and wait for the rest of the story to continue.

Either that or you are laughing like a drain.

And so the story does continue, though of course it is suddenly slower and interlaced with all the sex and nudity. Much of it doesn’t really make sense, or at the very least is unexplained. It’s pretty common in a lot of Japanese revenge films, a least that I have seen, for our protagonists to know their enemy only by a tattoo. Yakuza, of course, notorious for their tattooed limbs, this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how Ocho knows this. We witness her seeing her father killed, and she’s a girl, and she watches these men do so when they are entirely fully clothed and standing in the street. So how, just how, does she know that one of them has a butterfly tattooed, another a boar? Did I miss something, did I blink and something vital appear on screen? No, it just throws in a cliché, and hopes that we don’t realise there is no reason whatsoever that she should be to recognise the assailants of her father. It then manages to throw some other clichés in, which I won’t spoil for you, and you see a mile off. Sometimes the sex is actually rather amusing, though I’m not sure if it’s meant to be, including one slightly S&M scene with somebody standing in what seems to be the back of the cinema and dressed like Calamity Jane. It’s all rather surreal and quite psychedelic. But hang on a minute, this takes place in the Meiji period, in approximately 1906. Yes they had cinema, but it certainly wasn’t in psychedelic colour, it wouldn’t have been projected on a huge screen, and the projector would have been hang cranked and you wouldn’t have had that smooth projector sound as the film reels on and on. So just where, just where are we? It’s almost as if the director doesn’t give a toss, because he’s after mood and visual effect. To be fair the direction by Norifumi Suzuki is effective, from a visual perspective anyway. He conjures up some interesting camera angles, and frequently fills the frame with colour and sometimes even when being quite formal – such as when we witness Ocho’s father being killed – he’s capable of creating images that wouldn’t be out of place in a quite sedate art house film. Where he lacks completely though is his inability to corral his actors and get great performances from them. Or much in the way of any performance from them, for that matter.

This is not to say that they are all bad, but there are some utterly terrible performances. Christina Lindberg is pretty appalling. Swedish, but playing in English spy, just doesn’t work. Her English accent, and her intonation, sounds every bit as bad as the rare occasions where she speaks Japanese. She has so clearly been chosen because of her physical assets, and her lack of concern in displaying them for all and sundry. Also, she seems chosen for not being too concerned whether or not that is men or women. No better is Mark Darling as her boss, and fellow spy. Admittedly, his Japanese seems to be excellent and if anything is spoken far more fluently than his English, that though he is clearly au fait with the language, his words seem broken up, like somebody talking through broken glass. He’s an absolutely ridiculous pantomime villain in so many ways. He’s manipulative, apparently respectable and yet duplicitous. But hang on a moment, what’s his purpose? He seems to be involved with our two yakuza from some form of… Just what? This something going on in the background about some legitimate business deal or the other, which is frankly pretty lost as the film progresses, if ever it is really explained much at all. Or I forgot. Or I just didn’t care. But is Guinness involved in it? No idea. Nevertheless he has Christina infiltrate them, by using her greatest weapon: her body! And yes, that’s almost a direct quote from the film. Such then for the most part is the quality of the dialogue. But then I suppose the audience wasn’t expecting a beautifully written, subtly nuanced film full of performances that blaze from the screen. They were after their meaty chunk of pinky violence.

Though the film is set in the Meiji period, as is apparent above, it has absolutely no interest in being particularly true to the period in terms of the music. Frequently the music is just as psychedelic as the occasional image, and for the most part is that type of film music that is influenced by 70s rock, but not really something you’d say was good enough to ever actually be released on an album. In a way it does complement the action when we see it, but I think I would have liked to have heard something more traditional, and oddly enough I think the film would have handled it well. Talking of handling it well, Reiko Ike as our protagonist is one of the saving graces of the film. She carries it well, and though she doesn’t quite have the charm of someone like Meiko Kaji, she does have that star presence. It’s intriguing, because it seems most of the films that brought her to stardom were made just like Sex and Fury, in 1973. It seems not unusual the major female stars of the 70s to be massive stars for just a handful of years. What seems odd about this is despite their fame being ephemeral their careers in retrospect were not. Their films are still shown, and have not been forgotten. Nevertheless, their stardom was brief. In a way I can see why that might be true that somebody like Reiko Ike, because though her performance is quite good it’s clear that her greatest asset, like Christina Lindberg, is not entirely in her acting. As I say, she carries the film well, she is believable in terms of wanting revenge against those that have killed her father, and you get the feeling that she is formidable enough to wield a sword and protect herself against occasional hordes of attackers. She’s not flimsy, but again she doesn’t have the presence of somebody like Meiko Kaji, who could do things with her eyes that Reiko Ike simply couldn’t hope to do.

I’m not sure I’m fully convinced by Tadashi Naruse as Shinsuke, as the revolutionary, radical, for-whatever-reason-he doesn’t-like-our-two-near-respectable-yakuza, though he does rather look the part. Still, he is far better than Christina Lindberg and so in their scenes together you could argue that he shines, because she falls so utterly flat. Still, as our villains, Seizaburo Kawazu, as Kurokawa and Hiroshi Nawa as Iwakura, in one sense were a bit of a breath of fresh air, because they were never quite the pantomime villains that I was expecting. Unlike a lot of men in the 70s Japanese films that I’ve seen they’re not horribly leering and generally vile. They do seem quite respectable, even if they are clearly capable of violence, though normally that violence is enacted by other people, even if by somebody looking like calamity Jane with a whip. Sorry, I just had to repeat that. Of our two villains, Seizaburo Kawazu as Kurokawa, really is the villain with the most screen time, and you’re glad of it, because after Reiko Ike, he’s the best actor in the film. Admittedly, he’s not exactly Laurence Olivier. But…


I think perhaps I’ve had as much Sex and Fury as I can stand in one review; play us out please


I feel like I’ve struggled with Sex and Fury, because in part I’m rather ambivalent towards it. For all the rather gratuitous nudity and rather unconvincing sex, it’s still in many ways a lot better than perhaps the review and the three stars suggest. Certainly the opening of the film shows a level of skill that somewhat deteriorates later on, which as I say is a real shame because there is perhaps a pretty decent film in here somewhere waiting to be discovered. As part of the Pinky violence genre, Sex and Fury is actually considered to be one of the best films, so you would be interested to see others because it would give you an intriguing frame of reference. Perhaps because I don’t have as good a frame of reference as perhaps I do some of Japan’s 60s cinema, I’m doing the film a disservice. Or maybe not.

Either way, for anybody interested in cinema history – assuming you want to be quite holistic about it – then you have to recommend it. Anyone who likes exploitation cinema would probably also get something from the film. One assumes if you’re into your Pinky violence that in all likelihood you will have seen the film anyway. If not, then certainly you’d recommend it. In my somewhat limited experience, you will have to say though if you’re looking at early to mid-70s Japanese cinema, you’re much better off watching something like Lady Snowblood, which is both more stylish and just generally better made. So for most folk, it would be hard to recommend the film.

If you’re looking for exciting extras, then you won’t really get much more than the original trailer and a one-page biography of Reiko Ike, which was vaguely interesting but hardly enlightening. You’ll currently get the film for about 9 pounds new, if you’re buying it straight from Amazon, but other sellers will give it to you for about £5. Having watched it once, even though I sort of enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’d watch it a second time.

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Comments on this review

  • shellyjaneo published 30/10/2014
    Excellent review x
  • danielalong published 28/10/2014
    E x
  • euphie published 26/10/2014
    e :o)
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Product Information : Sex And Fury (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

From the creator of the sukeban, or delinquency, genre of Japanese sexploitation films, comes this explosion of violence, sex, and just plain fun. Cult icon Reiko Ike stars as Ocho Inoshika, a pickpocket and gambler who gets into a heap of trouble when she meets the three villains responsible for her father's death. After providing refuge for an anarchist on the run, Inoshika gets on the wrong side of some Yakuza baddies who want her dead, and she is forced to fight for her life. Meanwhile, a beautiful European spy sets about implementing the evil plot of her diplomat boss. A milestone of pop culture madness that influenced Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL series, legendary director Norifumi Suzuki's (FEMALE YAKUZA TALE: INQUISITION AND TORTURE) bloodbath is beautifully photographed in a number of stunning locations.

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