Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Girl Boss Guerilla (1972)

Directed by Norifumi Suzuki
Starring Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike

"I'm better than Jesus, right?"

Starting in the 60's and charging ahead full-tilt until the 80's - when fuzzy-genital hardcore started showing up in vending machines - "Pink film" was the dominant form of Japanese erotic cinema. Pink films were softcore, at least in sexual content, but balls-out in every other respect. Comedy, drama, action, horror, all of it was slathered with bonus tits and ass and covered in bright splashes of Pink. Around the dawn of the 70's, the "Pinky Violence" wave hit Japan's shores. Like their predecessors, these films relied heavily on heaving bosoms and naked girl-ass, but in-between the fumbling sexual trysts, Pinky Violence films were packed with bloodshed, explosions, and mayhem. Women were often the protagonists in this cycle, which provided double the thrills for your movie-going buck. Topless swordfights? That's sex and violence at the same time, Jack!

Perhaps the most memorable films in the Pinky Violence cycle were the "Girl Boss" flicks that flourished in the early 1970's. These similar but unrelated exploitation sagas followed various girl-gangs as they drank, fought, and fucked their way through the Tokyo underground, often matching wits and fists with the Yakuza when they weren't embroiled in internal power-struggles or turf wars. Scenes of brutal gang violence were juxtaposed with scenes of (sometimes equally brutal) sex, and slapstick humor was liberally sprinkled in-between. The films happened to be produced during a particularly groovy period in Japanese pop culture, so the fashions and music were respectively eye-popping and swinging, as well.

Norifumi Suzuki directed the first four films in the cycle; a grindhouse master, Suzuki is also responsible for jaw-dropping nunsploitation (Convent of the Sacred Beast, 1974), proto-torture porn (Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls, 1979), and Sonny Chiba ninja-fu (Death of a Ninja, 1984), among many others. Many of the Girl Boss films, including this one, starred Toei Studio's biggest sex stars, Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. Ike was an especially apt choice for these juvenile delinquent roles, since the young starlet was a real-life bad girl who was arrested several times on drugs and gambling charges as her fame grew.

Like any successful cinematic subgenre, the Girl Boss films got more outrageous and gimmicky as they went along. Girl Boss Guerilla was the third in the series, so it's not as bloody and weird as some of the films that came after (1974's Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is particularly bananas), but since the entire run was churned out between 1970 and 1974, they all share stylistic similarities.

Girl Boss Guerilla tells the story of the Red Helmet Gang. Led by mirror-shaded bad-ass Sachiko (Miki Sugimoto) these leather-clad Tokyo she-demons invade Kyoto looking for rich dudes and cheap thrills. Naturally they end up tangling with the local gangs, and Sachiko has a bloody standoff with the leader of the Kyoto clan. She summarily thrashes the girl, but the Kyoto Kids decide to ignore proper protocol and just stab Sachiko to death.

They are stopped at the last moment by Nami (Reiko Ike), the former leader of the Kyoto gang, who dropped by to see the old neighborhood. Nami and Sachiko become unlikely allies as the rest of the girls head out to town to hustle rubes with various schemes, at least one of which involves spreading VD to a bunch of sweaty old hornballs.

Sachiko ends up getting hassled by some Yakuza dicks for encroaching on their territory. She is helped out by a handsome young boxer, Ichiro (Michitaro Mizushima). They dig each other, so they retreat to a motel room where they act out mutual rape fantasies.

Then they make sweet late 70's Japanese love on the rocks. Ouch!

And then...well, you can guess what happens next, right? The Yakuza puts the squeeze on Ichiro for meddling in their affairs. They also kidnap Sachiko. And then all hell breaks loose.

The red Helmet gang - including a just-visiting Nami - hop on their bikes and chase down the Yakuza kidnappers. By the way, the gender of the male stunt drivers employed for this scene is screamingly obvious. Perhaps they refused to pad their bras.

The rescue attempt goes wrong, and the girls end up getting beaten with sticks. And then they cut off Shikuri's arm with a bandsaw. And then she bleeds to death. The end.

No, just kidding. Ichi saves her at the last minute. And then stab him in the guts, and he bleeds to death. For real, this time.
Naturally, this means war. The girls get on their bikes and head out, looking for some Yakuza heads to chop. They run into some of their girl-gang rivals, beat them with sticks, and then drag them from the backs of their bikes. This effect is achieved, as you might expect, by tying a dummy to the back of the motorcycle.

Shikiru is captured, chained, tortured and whipped. They even set her vagina on fire!

Can anybody save the leader of the pack?

Yep. Well, maybe. It's complicated.

Filled with iconic, pop-art imagery, way-out fashions, bludgeoning violence, copious nudity, and the most adorable all-girl biker gang imaginable, Girl Boss Guerilla succeeds on nearly every level. The sudden leaps from ass-grabbing sex comedy to slow-burning melodrama are jarring, and some of the effects - the bike drag, some very clumsily staged slap-fights - are decidedly dodgy, but those are very minor quibbles, given all the payoffs. One the penultimate examples of the 70's pinky violence films, Girl Boss Guerilla is everything you could possibly want in an exploitation flick - gratuitous everything, delivered in heaping fistfuls.

Highly recommended.

- Ken McIntyre

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