Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
The third installment in the Stray Cat Rock series, Sex Hunter sees a female gang led by fedora donning Mako (Meiko Kaji) pitted against Baron (Tatsuya Fuji) and his cronies.
Sex Hunter examines the uneasy relationships Japanese have with Americans: Baron's generation enjoys American culture - cars, booze, cigarette & rock' n' roll - but wears the burden of feeling impotent and humiliation at the WWII defeat. Baron's misguided hatred for half-breeds 'taking our women' doesn't gibe well with Mako as she falls for Kazuma (Rikiya Yasuoka), a handsome half-breed drifter, looking for his long lost sister.
Kaji is just as charismatic in this as the no-nonsense gang leader who's not afraid of male intimidation and doesn't hesitate to throw molotov cocktails into the room full of men who wronged her sistas.
Saturday, February 11, 7 PM
Blind Woman's Curse (1970)
Wow, this movie is batshit crazy! Meiko Kaji plays Akemi, the head of the Tachibana clan, known for the dragon tattoos on their back. The rivaling clan wants to take over its territory by any means necessary- planting drugs in businesses in Tachibana controlled area, making alliances with shady and weird characters, hiring assassins, etc. One such assassin happens to be a vengeful blind swordwoman (Hoki Tokuda) who has a grudge against Akemi ever since she slew her husband and blinded her.
Director Ishii Teruo (Horrors of Malformed Men, The Joys of Torture series), known in Japan as the king of cult, pulls out all the stops here with macabre images - an underground opium den orgy, water torture chambers, grand guignol style theater, supernatural forces, a creepy hunchback, a red loincloth wearing creep, expressionistic matte painting... the list goes on and on.
Action-packed and super violent, not only is Blind Woman's Curse a showcase for Kaji's martial art skills but also with the raised eyebrows and deadly stare, her character is a prelude to what's to come.
Sunday, February 12, 4:30 PM
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)
Third in the Female Prisoner 701 series, Beast Stable finds Sasori (Scorpion, played by steely eyed Meiko Kaji) hacking off an arm of a pursuing detective with a kitchen knife in the subway even before the credits roll. It's not a chicks in prison movie as much as a girl on the run fugitive movie. The premise is lurid and way over melodramatic with a storyline involving Sasori's aide Yuki, a street walker with a retarded brother she regularly has sex with. But Toei studio director Shunya Ito (who has directed the first 3 Female Prisoner movies to critical acclaim) has enough flair for visuals to keep things interesting. Indeed, a nod to Yojimbo and the Third Man-esque sewer chase scenes have enough artistry to rise above its mere exploitation label the series is accustomed to.
Like a ninja, Sasori hunts down every man and woman who done her and Yuki and some other prostitute wrong and brings down a surgical scalpel to their necks. Feared by her enemies, she becomes a some kind of indestructible force, almost an imaginary bogey(wo)man by the end.
Kaji, in an almost silent, physically demanding role, lets her death-stare speak volumes as a dead-girl-incarnate for vengeance. She lets others do the baring - both body and soul. She fully becomes a persona, a symbol of vengeance, a kindred spirit of sisterhood to those who are abused. I vote Sasori for president!
Sunday, February 12, 7 PM
New Battles Without Humanity: The Boss's Head (1975) *US Premiere
Kinji Fukasaku pretty much invented jitsuroku-eiga, a gritty yakuza genre with his Battles Without Honor and Humanity series. He found his prototype yakuza tough guy in Bunta Sugawara with buzz cut hair and a booming voice. Continuing with the success of the series, he did three more standalone films starring Sugawara under the title, New Battles Without Honor and Humanity.
The second in the series, The Boss's Head, finds Kurota (Sugawara), a foot soldier for the Ogawa Clan who was promised rewards for taking a fall for the killing the boss of the rival gang, finds himself that he bet on the wrong benefactor after 7 years in jail- the one who was in line to succeed the big boss, of whom Kurota went to jail for, has fallen out of favor and became a junkie, only managing a cruddy bar with his wife Misako (Meiko Kaji) who happens to be the daughter of the big boss.
Kurota, wanting to be compensated, gets embroiled in power struggle between two lieutenants. Resilient in his resolve to kill who done him wrong, he brings terror to Ogawa Clan with ensuing street fights and car chases.
With documentary style handheld camera stuff, The Boss's Head has some good thrills. And no one can deny Sugawara's tough guy appeal. Kaji's role here is pretty minor though as a suffering wife of the drug addict.
Friday, February 10, 7 PM
Cruel Beauty: A Romantic Weekend with Meiko Kaji
February 10 - 12
@ Japan Society