Nikkatsu Naughties, Part 8: For the Love of Dance!

September 15, 2014 | By

Note metaphoric hairdo: left represents prim & proper prima ballerina; right denotes domineering, vengeful bully.

When Japan’s Nikkatsu studios directed their production output to adult material in the early seventies, the resulting films benefitted from sets, props, and budgets which, in the early films, include ‘scope ratios (2.35:1) and original scores / songs, but just because over-sexed men & women could be transposed to the gymnasium and ballet school, it didn’t mean the actors & actresses could actually dance.

The dance numbers in the two films spotlighted here in Part 8 may have been choreographed, but only to get a routine or ballet extract over and done with, since Nikkatsu’s 68 minute running time limited the amount of character backstories, expository dialogue, plot machinations, and coherent endings. The reasons these films were made was to titillate, or in certain cases, shock and perhaps appall.

Female Gym Coach: Jump and Straddle / Onna taiiku kyôshi: Tonde hiraite (1981) is an all-out comedy with minor moments of wrongness, whereas Sex Hunter / Sekkusu hantâ – sei kariudo (1980) is all wrong; one uses rhythmic gymnastics within a corporate environment to show barely clothed and bare bodkins, while the other mish-mashes some aspects of Dario Argento’s Suspiria by setting the story and mounting debauchery within the remote locale of a dance studio.

Some directors managed to ‘escape’ the adult film world of Nikkatsu through fortuitous opportunities, or perhaps after the studio shuttered its smut production, but Toshiharu Ikeda (Evil Dead Trap) managed to push the boundaries of acceptable wrongness too far, making his parting from the studio after four films seemingly mutual; if Jasper Sharp’s liner notes are spot-on, Nikkatsu was glad to be rid of their enfant terrible for repeatedly testing immutable censor rules.

Female Gym Teacher’s director, Koyu Ohara, is a bit baffling, because while he could handle comedy, he could also stretch the level of good taste by similarly obsessing on cruelties. More so than Ikdea, Ohara was quite artful with the ‘scope ratio, framing vulgarity and grotty details with extra care.

That is the great conundrum of Nikkatsu’s adult line: should adult fodder be stylish, boast performances and stories with real dialogue, or should they resemble rough tussles shot in hotel rooms, or cobbled sequences shot at the estate of a sleazy producer?

As former assistant director Hideo Nakata (Ringu) explained in his personal Nikkatsu documentary, Sadistic and Masochistic (2000), many films were shot on real locations, regardless of how ridiculous or offensive the material could be, and one suspects the massive body of adult films produced by the studio also offer rare glimpses into the cities, towns, coasts, industrial and residential tracks which either no longer exist, or were heavily built up in Japan (not to mention glaring product ‘placements’ which would never be sanctioned today by their multinational owners).

Coming next: from Zeitgeist Films the intriguing documentary The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013), followed by a podcast interview with composer / orchestrator Timothy (Tim) Williams.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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