Female Yakuza Tale Review
Made the same year as Sex and Fury, this sequel was taken on by the thoroughly odd Teruo Ishii. A director given to finding beauty in cruelty and humour in things not usually associated with good taste, Ishii worked with several of the cast of Sex and Fury and retained many of the elements of the original. The revenge motivation of Reiko Ike as Ocho is refreshed with a new set up, but the use of swordplay, nudity, and Christian images is repeated and to some degree exceeds the rather high expectations set by the original in these areas. Where the first instalment has one amazing scene with a naked Ocho taken on hordes of yakuza, this sequel has a naked female yakuza army take on their male enemies. Ishii's style proves quite different to Norifumi Suzukis, but the impact is just as impressive.
The story of the sequel continues on with no reference to the first film. With her vengeance complete from the first instalment, Ocho travels to make a new home and pay her respects to a recently deceased yakuza boss who saved her from ignominy when she was a teenager. Just off the boat, she finds herself sped down a dark alley by a dishonest pedicab driver. There she is kidnapped by a gang and has her nether regions searched before the gang realise their mistake and dump her. She awakes in another dark alley beside the mutilated body of a young women and with Yjoji(Uchida) advising her that she has been framed for one of the "crotch-gouge" murders. She escapes the scene unsure of Yjoji's intentions and hunts down the woman who met her at the harbour, a member of a female prostitution gang. She tortures the truth out of her and locates the gang's whereabouts where she again meets Yjoji coming out of the now deserted lodgings. He then follows her as she goes to pay her respects to the former boss but once there Yjoji causes a scene by threatening the new boss, Goda. Ocho learns what the truth behind the gang who abducted her when she eavesdrops at their new hideout and follows the girls they are using for their importing racket where Yjoji, like a bad penny, turns up yet again. She learns boss Goda and an old enemy are behind the killings, and the forces of the women yakuza attempt to ambush and avenge themselves on their male conspirators. In the second movie, there is the same excess of intrigue and plot as the original instalment which helps to paper over any cracks in the logic of the screenplay or any lulls in action.
There are many chases with the multifarious characters and rarely a moments' peace for Ocho who is on her toes from moment one, and Ishii manages to find an even more twisted and darker tone than Suzuki before him. Within five minutes, Ocho has been tied up and molested, we have seen the mutilated corpse and been introdcued to tghe lovingly titled "crotch gouge murders". Ishii spends a little more time on Yjoji's character than any of the men in the first film, and Uchida plays second banana to Ike like he did a number of times to Chiba in the Yakuza Deka films. There is also a great deal more humour in this second film, a lot of it coarse - there is a masturbating beggar, some peeing gags, and the propositioning of a priest. This works well as Ishii's world is a much darker, grittier place than Suzuki's, there is no gorgeous snow set duels or romantic sub-plot. The film is unrelenting in terms of pace and accompanied by a much jazzier score than the lush tones of the first. Ishii's lighting is darker and moodier and chivalry is absent in a world where men become dominant by making women nude. And by god is there nudity, it's almost as if Ishii wanted to bring the virtues of Busby Berkeley to this exploitation piece - there is synchronised mass stripping and fights choreographed like huge dance pieces complete with aerial shots on the patterns of the action. Female Yakuza Tale
has tremendous energy and imagination in finding goodies of flesh or fight for the audience, and providing fundamentally nonsensical entertainment.
Like the first film, we have style to burn and an overall sleazy, bawdy tone that your granny may not enjoy. It is very much a Teruo Ishii film like the original bore the hallmarks of Suzuki. Ishii finds himself at home in the squalor of the slums and enjoys the studio bound sets and the opportunity the setting gives for wackiness or perversion. The oddest moment in the film is the visit to the insane asylum which is populated by idiosyncratic loonies with exaggerated make-up doing crazy alongside mad mimes. It is a scene that could only have been imagined by one film-maker. Ishii's film is striking but I wouldn't call it beautiful as it has little sense of morality, a particularly troubling moment is the camera angles Ishii uses for the extractions of the drug bottles from their "private" hiding places.
Cult fans will find themselves overwhelmed by Female Yakuza Tale
, but the quality doesn't quite reach the same heights as the first film. Still it is a recommended watch but the law of diminishing marginal returns has set in.
The quality of the transfer is again heartening for the main film and it does seem to be another NTSC transfer rather than a conversion as the running time is the same as the R1 disc and the frame rate is NTSC. The colours are warm and bright, the contrast is good and the detail all around is impressive. The print has a few more marks than the Sex and Fury
release but is still excellent for such a cult film. Panik House released this film in the US and I offer a frame comparison below:
Panik House (R1)
The two transfers display very little in the way of difference and like the Sex and Fury release, there is stronger contrast in the R1 disc when you watch the two alongside each other. Still this is an excellent transfer by UK standards. The audio has rare imperfections and crackle, and little in the way of distortion. the English subtitles are perfectly grammatical but they are in the same irritating white font that disturbed me about the other Fabulous Films release.
The menu is static poster art accompanied with soundtrack music and the extras replicate the Sex and Fury disc in the way of a stills gallery in black and white, the same inadequate Reiko Ike biography and original posters of this film. There is also an original cinema trailer for the film. The r1 release has an essay which is not ported over here.
Fabulous films give Female Yakuza Tale a fine transfer with few extras. The advantages of the R1 disc are the better size subtitles and extra essay, but this is a worthwhile purchase for those new to the film or with region locked players.