Sex and Fury (1973)
Release Date: February 17th, 1973 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Norifumi Suzuki Actors: Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Ryoko Ema, Yoko Hori, Kurisuchina Rindobaagu
ne of the most notorious and impactful Japanese exploitation films of the ‘70s, “Sex and Fury” helped usher in a new era of “Pinky Violence” (a Japanese pop slang term for ultra-violent movies with women protagonists and varying degrees of controversial sexuality) and reinvented the female gambler heroine. Energetically stylized bloodletting, surreal imagery, and, of course, unabashed sex and nudity are staples of this over-the-top, sensationalized entertainment. Decades later, the influence of the genre (and “Sex and Fury” in particular) can still be witnessed by directors paying homage to these cult classics (most recently in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies, the manifestations of his samurai infatuation).
The opening prologue proclaims that it is a time of peace in Japan, a civilized era of enlightenment. But the audience knows better, and the sarcastic proclamation instead foreshadows looming, horrendous bodily destruction. After witnessing her father’s murder at the hands of gangsters, Ocho Inoshika (Reiko Ike) has given her life to avenging his death. Left with only three clues as to the murderers’ identities, she uses every means available to her – including her skills in gambling, thievery, swordplay, and seduction – to accomplish her unrelenting mission of revenge. Upon receiving a friend’s dying request to save his sister, Ocho travels to Tokyo and encounters sadistic brothel owners, a reckless samurai revolutionary, and a beautiful foreign spy (Christina Lindberg). This rescue mission unwittingly draws her nearer to her prey and the extreme dangers surrounding that ultimate confrontation.
After several female gambler films became exceptionally popular in Japan, director Norifumi Suzuki reinvigorated the subgenre with a tantalizing journey through a graphically berserk revenge scenario, complete with nonstop sex, nudity, torture, and savagery. Adding to the visceral intensity are several unique cinematography and editing techniques, including rapid camera cuts, jerky handheld shots, and skewed angles zoomed in on the action. But the real highlight of “Sex and Fury’s” creative ambition lies in its frequent scenes of carnage. These vivid moments prominently display geysers of overly red blood spraying against white skin, with one standout sequence featuring Ocho fighting a dozen samurai in a wintery teahouse setting, as snow gently falls around them. Of course, this is true exploitation cinema, so the ferocious heroine fights in the nude, and she’s far from defenseless even without her sword. Mesmerizing imagery is created by juxtaposing baldly contrasting elements, engaging the audience with everything from balletic battles paired with upbeat music to knife-wielding nuns on a train.
Concluding with a fantastically aggressive showdown against Ocho’s nemesis, Suzuki’s film admirably showcases the essential elements of Pinky Violence with its abundance of hyperkinetic brutality, general perversion, and softcore sexuality. It also offers a refined visual sensibility and daring editing that set it above the competition. “Sex and Fury” was followed up the same year by a sequel, confusingly known as “Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture” or “Story of a Wild Elder Sister: Widespread Lynch Law,” directed by Teruo Ishii, another veteran of the Ero guro nansensu (erotic-grotesque-nonsense) artistic movement.
– Joel Massie