Girl Boss: Revenge Review
Self-confessed homeless wanderer Komasa Kanto (Miki Sugimoto) and Maya (Reiko Ike), head of the Umeda gang in Osaka, are on their way to a juvenile detention centre via bus, upon which they try to outdo each other’s sukeban-ness. But when a road block halts the bus, the officers in charge stupidly let the girls out and they run away without having to put up much of a struggle. Their destination is now Tokyo. Maya soon disappears, while Komasa is followed by three other girls: Momoko, Suzue and Ranko, each of whom beg Komasa to take them with her. She eventually agrees with the girls swearing their loyalty to her, and thus The Gypsies are formed. The gang find themselves struggling to make ends meet as they retaliate against the system and scrounge whatever they can off the streets, but soon they’re drawn into the world of the yakuza when they find out that local girls, some from their own gangs, are being forced into Turkish bath houses. Luckily for Komasa, she’s saved by a yakuza named Tatsuo (Hiroshi Miyauchi) who learns that he’s been betrayed by his boos, who is currently involved in a tax evasion scheme. But Tatsuo also happens to be Maya’s fella. Bribery, murder and a love triangle ensues…
Girl Boss: Revenge was Norifumi Suzuki’s fourth and final entry into the seven-part Sukeban series, which for the curious out there consists of Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counter Attack (’71); Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Challenge (’72); Girl Boss Guerrilla (’72); Girl Boss: Revenge (’73); Escape from Reform School (’73 - Sadao Nakajima); Diamond Showdown (’74 - Ikuo Sekimoto) and Crazy Ball Game (’74 - Ikuo Sekimoto). It was also the last film in the series to feature Miki Sugimoto (who entered in the third) and Reiko Ike, who had originally been plucked from obscurity at the ripe age of sixteen to star in the series’ opener. Much of the cast from the previous instalment return this time around as well, which paves the way for a similar, though still enjoyable experience.
Essentially this fourth entry re-shuffles the basic storyline of former rivals, who by fate tag together and fight against not only the system, but so too their often incompetent male oppressors, the latter of which makes Suzuki an admirable force, for while his females are exploited and victimised, he never lets them wallow in pity or use them purely for the sake of titillation. It’s simple by nature, and above all it works so very well in light of the popularity that these anti-establishment flicks gained. The film is predictable, but that’s not to say it isn’t well structured; it’s par for the course that we know exactly where our heroines are headed and what the villainous yakuza stand for. But it’s in picking out Suzuki’s small details and obvious satirical jabs that most of the fun can be had from Girl Boss: Revenge, because as great as our leads are to watch, they’re amongst the most serious additions on show and stay completely straight-faced throughout. It’s worth noting again that here Ike takes something of a back seat, not really entering the fray until past the half way mark, much of which was down to the studio at the time and a certain amount of uncertainty as to where the actress would go next, which leaves Sugimoto to run the show with her small band of friends, and like before, she proves to be more than up to the task.
As Suzuki says in the accompanying interview on this disc, he never considers his films as high art, but simple entertainment, and while he’s certainly on the ball he somewhat short-changes himself with regards as to how his films look and feel. He’s perhaps all the more a subconscious experimentalist, as again we see art nouveau influences and other European styles seep through into his work. While Girl Boss: Revenge might not be the most outwardly striking film in the series, it does nonetheless compliment the director’s rebellious temperament and stand out due some fine technical achievements. Moreover, seeing the director lean toward sado-masochistic horror echoes some of the darker material he’d later bring to the screen in his Ike vehicle Sex & Fury, not to mention his revered School of the Holy Beast. He cunningly employs off-screen torture sequences involving nail torture and rope bondage, a testament to his skill that he achieves such an uncomfortable atmosphere in light of the fact that we see so very little; a trait that so many directors fail to have, and in this day and age of violent cinema it seems that many film makers still have a lot to learn about unnerving their audience via the most basic principles. But aside from that the most lively aspect of this feature is once again the utterly over-the-top and explosive final ten minutes. You’ve gotta love seeing all these directors trying to outdo each other with hugely ridiculous endings.
Good lord, I’m sorry, but I can’t not mention the truly awful art work for this DVD release, which I can categorically state is the worst packaging of the year, and will probably remain so for the duration. Exploitation Digital churn out a horribly blatant Photoshop effort (with lens flare no less!) depicting Reiko Ike in a far from flattering light. It’s ugly, lazy and feels as if they gave it to an intern as a side project. This image is also used for the menus. A shame when we’ve been given some very nice covers for these films from other distributors, and even this company’s Delinquent Girl Boss had an air of its original artwork. Anyways…
This is another nice transfer from Exploitation Digital, again proving that when given the right materials anyone can put out a solid looking release. Girl Boss: Revenge is presented in progressive anamorphic 2.35:1 and looks very well for its age. The colours are vibrant, detail is better than my previously reviewed Delinquent Girl Boss and there are no ugly signs of compression. There is a spot of aliasing, but it’s minimal enough to not have to worry too much. The only reason I’m marking this down is because of the right and left sides of the image. A very slight purple line appears to the left, while to right I can only explain it as some kind of sawing. Those whose television displays fail to overscan may be disappointed. I never noticed it on my LCD TV, but it became apparent when taking screen grabs. I’ve included it as an example in my shots, though I don’t suspect it to be through any fault of Exploitation Digital/Media Blasters.
The Japanese mono track shows faint signs of deterioration, some cracks and hisses, but it wouldn’t make it any worse than most of the films similar to this. I don’t often find myself worrying too much over it, as dialogue is still fully presentable and the soundtrack on the whole is just about as lively as the image. A perfectly acceptable track for the purists amongst us.
Optional English subtitles are included. Again the company fails to translate the opening credits, I hope in future they can rectify that. Otherwise the translation is fine, though we do get the garish yellow font.
It’s unfortunate that we miss out on the original trailer once more, in favour of a US promo reel put together by the company, and the photo gallery is pretty small, although it has some nice lobby cards. But the saviour is a nice interview with Norifumi Suzuki, which runs for approximately 15 minutes. It’s rather brief all round, but it offers enough titbits as the director hurriedly goes from one question to the next. He discusses finding Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto and how the term Sukeban came to be. He also acknowledges the Sukeban films’ antisocial undertones and satirical nature, along with how these films were a counterpoint to the male dominated Yakuza offerings. Controversy on set is very briefly touched upon, as is the careers of both leads. The director is pleasant to listen to, and he comes across quite charming, obviously proud of how well his films have been received in the west, even if he himself doesn’t quite see them as much more than quickly put together silly entertainment.
Though not quite reaching the dizzier heights of some of his later pictures, Girl Boss: Revenge is another solid outing from Norifumi Suzuki, and one filled with plenty of eye candy, both in terms of female beauty and attention to detail and composition. Quite literally a blast from start to finish.
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
3 out of 10