Nikkatsu Naughties, Part 4: Caged Fairies & the Dewey Fetishes of Koyu Ohara

April 18, 2013 | By

Being a wholesome family site, this is as teasing as we can get. Of course, what lies below the matte line isn't exactly politically correct.

In Part of of this ongoing examination of Nikkatsu Naughties – the adult-themed and sometimes outright adult films of Japan’s Nikkatsu studio – we look at three films by director and sometime writer Koyu Ohara, a fairly prolific filmmaker responsible for some of the nastiest films in the studio’s Roman Porno series.

Impulse Pictures / Synapse Films have released 15+ films on DVD, and the infamous S&M twisty-sickie Fairy in a Cage / Ori no naka no yôsei [M] (1977), starring Japan’s “rope queen Naomi Tani (previously seen in fetters and engaged in much voiding in Wife to be Sacrificed)  marks the first RP production to get a new HD transfer and separate DVD and Blu-ray release. The DVD review’s up, with details as to whether the film is indeed as twisted as its cover art suggests, or winds down to a fairly standard doom-laded erotic drama where no one is happy, humanity is dead, and only the sick of mind shall inherit the Earth.

Ohara also directed a quartet of RP’s women in prison films, and not unlike Fairy in a Cage, they too follow the standard template of arrival, hazing, humiliation, ego battles, and escape inherent to the genre that was a fixture of the seventies and early eighties. (Even Charlie’s Angels jumped into the genre with their “Angels in Chains” episode because, well it was three angels in chains running cross-country with a posse in hot pursuit.)

True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell / Jitsuroku onna kanbetsusho: sei-jigoku [M] (1975) focuses on the survival of three ‘juvies’, whereas the immediate sequel, True Story of a Woman in Jail: Continues / Zoku jitsuroku onna kanbetsusho [M] (1975), pretty much sticks to one inmate and retreads material from the prior film.

The WIP genre is not in any way innovative, and mixing adult material merely pushes the level of detail and the weird directorial fixations up front in ‘scope and colour, but the two entries released by Impulse / Synapse feel strangely contemporary, and if you read the reviews, you’ll which specific director I’m specifically referring.

Ohara wasn’t a master craftsman who escape from the RP stream to make real dramas for mainstream audiences – he seemed to be happy directing essentially exploitive B-movies with erotic and adult content, and after a roughly 15 year period in RP, Ohara reportedly shifted to pop music videos for the younger set – which sounds insane, except in each of the three naughty films above, there are no badly composed shots, no clumsy mis-en-scene, and no inept dramatoc structure.

The films – especially Fairy – were designed to shock, titillate, and perhaps appall for the sake of generating interest through controversy, but they’re extremely well-made, and arguably ambitious for satisfying connoisseurs of the WIP and S&M genres, if not for maintaining reputations which have returned them to circulation.

Just as the U.K. began to release uncut versions of their banned Video Nasties on video years ago, and previously banned films in Canada are widely available uncut on video today with no hint of their notoriety, it’s perhaps natural the only realm left to mine is the forbidden ‘extreme’ adult material, and for all of its twisted elements and moments of outright Wrongness, they’re the equivalent of studio tentpole pictures – beautifully filmed, edited, and often well-scored, and boasting a cast capable of emoting needed gravitas.

The main quirk with Japan’s erotic and adult feature films is also rather surreal: because pickles & beavers could not be shown in detail (fogging often blocked out any teasing or accidental details), the only way the films could remain potent was to pack in as much wrongness as possible, and Nikkatsu managed to produce a massive catalogue of films before the gloss was dumbed down to video, and the whole genre was shuttered.

Coming next:  Borgen: Season 2, another quartet of soundtrack reviews, and some George Romero on DVD and Blu. And coming soon in the Eros series, Sexcula (1974), the previously lost CanCon classique, and lurid fodder from Hershell Gordon Lewis on Blu.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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