Two disclaimers to open this post on the Pinky Violence film genre:
- I haven’t seen every movie that could be classified within the category. Depending on which list you’re looking at, I’ve watched between a half and two-thirds of the titles. I’ve also read several articles and one book on the subject, and have viewed trailers for most of the films I haven’t seen. So, while I’m not ready to call myself a Pinky Violence authority, I feel comfortable writing this rundown.
- In my Five Essential Pinky Violence films list below, I excluded relevant titles that star Meiko Kaji, since I have already written an appreciation of her acting that includes write-ups on some of the applicable movies in which she played. But, for the record, if I were considering those films, I would feel compelled to make the list a top 10, and among those singled out would certainly be Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (1970), Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970), and Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972).
So what is a Pinky Violence film? I’m not sure who first dubbed the collection of movies as such, but I can tell you what unites the titles: softcore sexuality, hard-edged violence, tough girls, and Japan.
Think of Russ Meyer’s cinematic vision being mashed up with Quentin Tarantino’s and then channeled through the mindsets of Japanese filmmakers creating sexy and savage bad-girl celluloid stories and you’ll have an idea of what’s at hand here. Pinky Violence films have certainly been an influence on Tarantino’s work. I don’t know if Meyer ever watched these movies, but if he did, my guess is that he would have appreciated them.
Different people who have written about this class of cinematic fare have different ideas about exactly which titles should be thought of as belonging under the umbrella. Regardless of whose version you take as the final word, these things are generally universally agreed upon: the phenomenon formed its roots in the late 1960s, peaked in the early ‘70s, and petered out by ’75; and the majority of the most significant films within the group were parts of a series, a la the Stray Cat Rock and Female Prisoner Scorpion groups I wrote about in the Kaji post. But, there are also a few standalone Pinky Violence films that should be viewed by anyone with an interest in the movement.
Besides Kaji, there are two other actresses who are the Pinky Violence queens: Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto. All three are physically attractive women, who are more than convincing in portraying rugged chicks, don’t take any shit, kick a lot of ass, and generally don’t allow themselves to get bogged down by sentimentality.
Many of the same character actors keep popping up in the various titles, playing different roles, but usually portraying people of the same type; so that, after watching a bunch of the films, you start to feel like you know all of them, and you get the sense of there having been a Pinky Violence acting family.
Ok, that’s enough of a preface. Let’s get on to that list:
Five Essential Pinky Violence Films
Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)
Not to be confused with the Stray Cat Rock movie featuring Delinquent Girl Boss as its subtitle, and not to be confused with the Girl Boss series discussed next, this was the first of a four-part run of Delinquent Girl Boss films. Neither Ike nor Sugimoto star in this one. The lead role is handled by Reiko Oshida, who plays Rika—a 20-year-old orphan and reform school graduate seeking to make a life for herself as a young adult around the mean streets of the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo.
After walking out on a job at a cleaners run by a lecherous man and his mean-spirited wife, Rika lands what seems to be a much better gig: she is hired to work in a nightclub run by a kindly woman who is sympathetic to girls with troubled pasts.
Rika could be content to pull her shifts at the bar, hang around town in the groovy clothes she spends her earnings on, and be with her boyfriend, but life just never seems to be that easy for girls like her. She lets herself get drawn into a longstanding conflict between her boss and some yakuza members who are always making trouble for the woman. The gangsters are as slimy as they are vicious, and as a full-scale war is declared between them and the club owner and her crew, Rika finds herself in a battle more deadly than anything she’s experienced, even in the reform schools.
If I rated the five films on this list in terms of overall quality, this one would come in last among the group. But, still, it’s a compelling story that contains the requisite Pinky Violence edginess, and it seems to have been a kind of tone-setter for the related titles and series that followed.
Girl Boss Guerilla (1972)
Part of the Girl Boss series of films that includes about seven titles, this is a standout feature within the group.
Sugimoto is Sachiko, leader of a girl motorcycle gang. Sachiko and her crew like to buzz around on their bikes and raise hell, and when they need money to fund their kicks, they do things like pick pockets, mug strangers, and lure prominent religious figures into sexual situations and then blackmail them.
Sachiko’s pack leaves Tokyo and rides into Kyoto, where they seize control of the local girl gangdom. Ike is Nami, former leader of the Kyoto girl gangs, who has now become a lone-wolf operator. In the way of Sachiko’s troupe, as they seek to lord over Kyoto’s turf, is the male-dominated yakuza outfit that sees itself as the real ruler of the underground scene in the area and looks to push the girls around.
The story’s focal point takes shape when Sachiko becomes romantically involved with a male boxer, who has his own reasons for being at odds with the Kyoto yakuza. Edgy dialogue, hardass street fights, sex that comes with a sting, and a peculiar lovers’ lament performed on the beach by an oddball hippie troubadour make this a Pinky Violence classic.
Sex and Fury (1973)
Some think of this title as the signature Pinky Violence film, while others aver that it doesn’t even fit into the genre.
Sex and Fury has a plot with so many layers that to try and summarize all of it would take up too much space. Ike is the primary star of this violent and sexy historical thriller, which is set in 1905. She is Ocho, a pickpocket and gambler in her 20s that is seeking revenge on the team of former yakuza members who murdered her detective father when she was a little girl.
Ocho has another agenda item on her plate, as well: she comes to Tokyo from Kanazawa in hopes of saving an innocent young woman from being sold to a brothel—this quest the result of a promise she made to the girl’s brother on his deathbed. Threatening her aim to save the girl are corrupt politicians and unsavory business people seeking to take advantage of the changing times during the Meiji Restoration/post Russo-Japanese War modernization era; and those same people may very well number those who killed Ocho’s dad.
This movie is edgy from the opening scene to the climax, contains a few of the most sensational scenes in any of the films discussed here, and is highlighted by both Ike’s commanding performance and the presence of sultry Swedish porn star Christina Lindberg.
Unfortunately, the sequel, Female Yakuza Tale, is inferior in my opinion.
Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973)
This is one of a quartet of titles involving troubled schoolgirls. The “School of Hope for Lost Girls” states that its aim is to bring in delinquent young women and transform them into future “good wives and mothers” who can benefit society. Ahem.
To help maintain order in the institution, and to enforce the unscrupulous administrators’ agenda, a group of students dubbed the Disciplinary Committee are paid by the bosses to terrorize and torture any schoolmates who try to make trouble inside the facility.
Sugimoto is “Noriko the Cross,” an especially hardened girl who is remanded to the institution. Noriko is none too enamored with the Disciplinary Committee, particularly since they recently murdered an accomplice of hers. Noriko becomes the leader of a rebellious gang of reform school pupils who aim to fight the Disciplinary Committee and the school itself.
They’re up against it, but going for them is the aid of a mysterious man from the outside who wants to bring the school’s officials down—Ike’s character Maki, who begins as an adversary of Noriko’s, but who gets drawn into the resistance cause and the girls’ own feminine wiles. This film contains every essential element of Pinky Violence cinema.
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)
A standalone title that’s often cited as a favorite within the genre by Pinky Violence aficionados, this one is unusual for the group of films in that its star, Sugimoto, plays a cop. But “Zero Woman” is not an ordinary law enforcement officer. She’s a solitary, fierce, no-bullshit lady officer who is thrown into jail at the beginning of the story, for responding too violently to a threat from a baddie.
But then, the police higher-ups need Zero Woman for an important case. The daughter of an influential politician is kidnapped by a pack of ransom-seeking thugs, and the politician not only wants the police to get his daughter back, but he would like this to be accomplished without him having to pay the abductors and without the story leaking to the press. Hmm. About the only way to pull all of that off is to find the kidnappers and kill them without allowing harm to come to the young woman, right?
That’s what Zero Woman’s bosses ask of her. She doesn’t feel beholden to them, and she could give a fuck about the politician’s wishes to not have his career threatened with a scandal; but then, she’s unlikely to be sympathetic to a pack of creeps who would victimize a faultless girl for their personal kicks and monetary gain.
So what will Zero Woman do?
My DVD copy of the movie bears the banner “90 minutes of stylish mayhem and ultra-violence” across the top of its cover. I question the “stylish” description, as there’s nothing much stylized in the razor-sharp, no-nonsense film—unless you think of Zero Woman’s signature blood-red handcuffs and matching trench coat as chic accessories.
Just as Sex and Fury is Ike’s top Pinky Violence performance, this is Sugimoto’s signature role from the genre.
Brian Greene writes short stories, personal essays, and reviews and articles of/on books, music, and film. His work has appeared in 25+ publications since 2008. His pieces on crime fiction have also been published by Noir Originals, Crime Time, Paperback Parade, The Life Sentence, Stark House Press, and Mulholland Books. Brian lives in Durham, North Carolina. His writing blog can be found at: http://briangreenewriter.blogspot.com/