DVD: She Cat / Female Cat / Meneko (1983)

February 11, 2015 | By

 

SheCat1983Film: Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Standard

Label: Impulse Pictures / Synapse Films

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 7, 2013

Genre:  Japanese Pink / Adult

Synopsis: A sudden murder and a mysterious woman with a bag pulls a gynecologist into a dark world of secrets, lies, and mean gangsters.

Special Features:  4-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jasper Sharp / Theatrical Trailer.

 

 


 

Review:

 

“Sometimes as lovely as chipmunk, sometimes as fierce as cougar… A beauty called Cat… You must have a sexy woman while hot!”

 

As Jasper Sharp writes in the DVD’s liner notes, as long as some sexual action occurred roughly (and sometimes, quite literally, roughly) every 10 mins., filmmakers were pretty much left on their own to make their little weird Roman Porno films for studio Nikkatsu, but the question that perhaps even studio brass contemplated near the end of the series’ line was whether a Roman Porno film could succeed as a full-length feature-length film.

Would it actually work?

Most Roman Porno films run about 63 mins., and with rare exceptions – Office Love: Behind Closed Doors (1985) clocks in at 71 mins. – anything more seems, well epic, and that’s certainly the expectation of She Cat, which pushed the running time to an unheard-of 87 mins. Naturally, the expectations for genre fans will run high since many Roman Porno entries could’ve benefitted from a longer running time to expand on the genuine efforts by screenwriters and directors to flesh out (so to speak) characters with back(side)stories.

It’s not unusual to get a sense that filmmakers and writers tried to use Nikkatsu’s adult format to prove they could in fact handle the demands of a dramatic narrative. In some cases, if the sex scenes where whittled down to mere titillation (and maybe if the mandatory assault scenes could be reduced to inaugural sounds heard by audiences from far off), what emerges may be just a weird, marginally wrong drama with odd fetishistic elements.

She Cat could’ve and should’ve benefited from the generous running time with deeper certain characters, so it’s a little shocking to see that in this rare feature length effort the end result is, well, meh. Neither bad nor excellent, Shingo Yamashiro’s directorial debut is a little schizophrenic, with a script (co-written by House’s Chiho Katsura) that has fleeting moments of decent dialogue but often clunky character motivations, and awfully dated humour.

Yamashiro’s career actually evolved from acting in period action dramas to gangster films, but the amalgam of buffoonery, mystery, gangsterism, malpractice, abortion and rape (in that order), wacky gay characters, sweet romance, revenge, and tragedy in She Cat is quite a stew.

In a nutshell: Gynecologists Mineko (Ai Saotome, making her lone Roman Porno entry), nicknamed “Cat”, and a colleague with whom she’s romantically involved (Sachiko Ito) attempt to find a mysterious patient whose appearance at a gay wedding may have resulted in a terrible case of mistaken identity + the murder of the bride. Hot on their tails are three gangsters sent by the owner of their clinic, which also doubles as a women’s shelter.

Ai eventually finds refuge with a dude named Shirley (actor / racing car driver Koichi Iwaki), and an innocent romance blossoms, while Ai’s lesbian lover soon double-crosses her when the clinic’s owner threatens to expose her shady past.

Also involved in this potboiler is the mysterious woman, Eiko (Yoshie Ohtsuka), a forensic facial reconstruction technician (!) who used her skills to rebuild the face of her murdered sister using the skull found on a beach. Seems years before, the sister (Yoshie Otsuka), in an act of jealousy (?) had tried to kill Ai because she was involved with clinic’s son, a twerp now set to marry an airhead whose father owns a medical conglomerate. Now Eiko also wants an abortion, because she’s carrying the child of the groom.

Got all that?

It’s an unusually elaborate story that sometimes works, but by attempting to focus on intricate plotting, the characters get lost, and the film’s tempo often stops cold because of the sex scenes, or meanders due to generic chases. The integration of flashbacks of Ai with prior lovers and being shunned by the son feel disjointed, and several generic connective scenes suffer from lethargic pacing when not draped with Taro Morimoto’s dated and quite awful bubble-headed score.

Yamashiro’s direction is fine – apparently he’d also appeared in a few Roman Porno entries, so he knew the formula quite well – but the real draw is Yonezo Maeda’s cinematography, boasting beautiful compositions, fluid camera movements, kinetic handheld footage in a street chase, and some really lovely lighting. (The shootout in a ruined warehouse is especially well done.)

The gangster elements never transcend their cartoonish origins, except in a patently revolting assault scene where Eiko and the clinic’s receptionist (Kotomi Aoki) are brutalized by the goons. Yamashiro went for realism, and its wrong tone is contrasted by intercutting scenes from the genuinely tender courting between Shirley and Ai that just manages to avoid being cloying because of Iwaki’s natural performance. Unlike Ai’s prior hardcore unions, her tussle with Shirley is staged like erotic portraiture, which is either Yamashiro’s attempt to stay true to the couple’s pure attraction, or actor Iwaki not wanting to engage on camera in overtly softcore scenes.

Impulse Picture’s transfer is sourced from a very nice print with clean sound, and the trailer is filled with plenty of teaser lines that are probably just as ridiculous in Japanese (see top of review). The trailer is a curious promo piece that moves from staged behind-the-scenes footage of Saotome and director Yamashiro on a camera crane to straight montages. (Incidentally, it’s easy to recognize Yamashiro, because his visage is briefly visible on the chrome plating in a scene at the clinic!)

Yamashiro directed just three films – She Cat / Meneko (1983), Futago-za no onna (1984), and The School / Sensei (1989) – whereas co-writer Chiho Katsura wrote other wrong Roman Porno entries, Zoom Up: Rape Site (1979), and the revenge / micturating tale Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl (1981).

Cinematographer Yonezo Maeda eventually graduated to mainstream [non-smut] films, lensing Juzo Itami’s The Funeral Osôshiki (1984) and A Taxing Woman’s Return / Marusa no onna 2 (1988).

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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