“People are only truly happy when they’re doing what excites them.”
Shiro Shimomoto (“the roper” from Pink Eiga’s DVD release of S&M Hunter, and star of The Dream of Garuda) is not having a good day. Dumped on by his boss, badmouthed and exploited by his juniors, and mugged by chain wielding girl toughs…something’s got to give, and some major life changes are in store for our luckless, nameless hero.
Opening with the feel of a 70’s Japanese crime film, a client (Shimomoto) arrives at a dimly lit, cavernously echoing wood paneled club. After choosing the role of bottom from the “menu” of evening activities offered by sunglasses bedecked yakuza type (“Mr. Pink” Yutaka Ikejima, the “dungeon master” himself from the original S&M Hunter, star of Weather Girl, Blind Love and Sexy Timetrip Ninjas, and director of the two Japanese Wife Next Door films and Twilight Dinner), he’s given a slap and impassioned warning:
“See! Your Eyes! They way they gleam tells me you’re a sadist! (you) should never play masochist – you’ll never be satisfied!”
Shimomoto walks out in disgust and the entire community of “switches” out there groans in collective, if familiar disbelief at the narrowmindedness of their fellow scenesters…
Funky, strings oriented disco era title music kicks in to a montage of rather risque shibari stills focusing mainly on semiclothed induced cameltoe…we’ve entered the world of S&M Hunter Begins.
Cut to the same guy out for drinks with his coworkers after a hard day at the office. His attention is drawn to Ako, a fairly rough looking party girl type. While the mouthiest of his compatriots proceeds to attempt to spend his money for him (“we’re cheering him up. So everything is on him tonight!”), he feels moved to further lay into the guy while his back is turned about everything from what a crappy manager he is to his personal life (“he’s still single at 35…maybe he has some kind of STD!”). But Shimomoto is more interested in the lady in question, following her home and managing to pick her up in due course for a quick fling…
Far sexier (and sleazier) than what was released here as the first film in the series (but which was actually chronologically the second – like the reordering of the Japanese Wife Next Door films and the retitlings of some Molester Train entries, the world of Pink Eiga gets pretty confusing domestically speaking), S&M Hunter Begins conforms more closely to the standard pink film style than its progenitor, bearing less of an artificiality and manga feel…at least for the first few minutes.
Then the film takes a dramatic detour into sukeban territory, as our postcoital salaryman winds up getting held up and beaten semi-blind by the girl’s sailor suited yanki friends.
Returning to Ikejima’s club sporting a newly necessitated eyepatch, we are exposed to the philosophy of everyone’s favorite “dungeon master”, which coincidentally bears a measure of existential truth and has the ring of honesty to it:
“Sadism and masochism are not some kind of perverted lifestyle. There are only three kinds of people in the world – sadists, masochists, and people who lie about being either one. You have to live your life honestly from now on”.
And so begins the indoctrination of the titular character of the series, on his way to becoming “the ultimate sadist (and getting a little satisfying revenge along the way).”
Marked by a comic approach that most of the manga adaptations and films earlier bear as part and parcel of their intrinsic style and makeup, S&M Hunter Begins simultaneously goes harder than its predecessor into the sort of territory marked by such worthy efforts as Synapse Films’ Debauchery and Diskotek’s Star of Dave: Beauty Hunting (released domestically as “Beautiful Girl Hunter“).
The kinks are more pronounced, and in some ways the proceedings edge a bit closer towards the territory of very hard R if not nominally soft X film (there’s even an unusual for the period flash of pubic hair visible in long shot during the first bondage “training” sequence, and another sexy highlight sequence where he catches and gives similar treatment to a chain wielding shorthaired Seiko Matsuda type belonging to the gang responsible for his partial blinding).
Touching on the kogal prostitution and extortion racket and incorporating whippings, enema play and the uniquely Japanese bondage obsessions of kinbaki (so serious a matter as to incorporate a “bondage consultant” by the likely pseudonym of Ryan Hang C. Barry into the opening credits!) into a small scale but very much in the forefront pinky violence sukeban cinema milieu, S&M Hunter Begins will not be to everyone’s taste, being as personalized and unique as ones own sexual preferences and choice of fetish.
It’s becoming something of a regular occurrence to note that yes, I really enjoyed this release from Pink Eiga, and it’s a damn shame that it never made it to DVD (at least to date). For those who were expecting something different, I’m sorry to have to disappoint you – this is another great release, and comes well recommended to fans of Japanese pink film, particularly of the style and period to which it belongs, and for aficionados of the uniquely Japanese variations on S&M it presents the viewer with, as well as pinky violence accustomed fans of girl gangs kicking some serious ass.
The scene where the gang leader (Hiromi Saotome, who’s quite a looker) gets herself prepared for battle by wrapping herself yakuza style, complete with extra long skirt, long bosozuku trenchcoat, nunchaku, chains and even loading a pistol – much less the scene following where she smacks into some guy walking down the street, and when he accosts her, delivers a hard shot to the personal business before going on her way with a proud display of her gang colors is not the sort of thing you’d expect to see in your standard pink film.
OK, admittedly, Saotome is not exactly Miki Sugimoto, but she’s cute and believably tough by Japanese yat-chan standards, so it can be said with all due seriousness that the last 20m of the film heads straight into the same territory as films like Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, if not one of the Delinquent Girl Boss films or even a Meiko Kaji Female Prisoner Scorpion film.
Also starring Naomi Sugishita (of the original SM Hunter) and Jimmy Tsuchida (Whore Angels, Sexy Battle Girls), the film comes to us by way of director/writer Shuji Kataoka, who also cowrote several Oniroku Dan films and is responsible for direction on Prisoner Maria among others, additionally costarring in Groper Train: Search for the Black Pearl – a rather busy jack of all trades, all told!)
Like its predecessor in the series, S&M Hunter Begins stands among the top echelon of releases from the little company that could, Pink Eiga Inc. While I’ve enjoyed just about every DVD and streaming release I’ve been exposed to thus far from the company’s apparently quite large and impressive annals of Japanese pink film acquisitions, there’s something about these films, alongside Sukeban Deka ero-parody Sexy Battle Girls and the Molester Train series (which includes such titles as Search for the Black Pearl, Sexy Timetrip Ninjas and Wedding Capriccio) that makes them stand head and shoulders above the rest of the lot.
Hailing from the halcyon days of the 80’s (but with a look, feel and sense of daring that totally implies the heyday of cult film in the 1970’s), something indefinable is present here that has been irrevocably lost with the passage of time. As far removed from such similar and arguably likeminded fare as Semen Demon as today’s slasher sequels and homages are from their progenitors if not moreso, there’s a special magic to Japanese film of the period that appears to have vanished entirely with the dawn of a new decade.
Arguably I could toss the recently reviewed Sexy S.W.A.T. Team into this subcategory of Pink Eiga Inc. releases as well – the style and atmosphere of these films is so far removed from the more modern approach of, say, the typical Reiko Yamaguchi effort (whatever its merits) as to occupy two utterly distinct parallel universes.
While both sets of films certainly fall under the same umbrella and are marketed to the same audience, it’s practically apples and oranges. Viewers may prefer one style over the other, but the differences are marked and often blatant, if ultimately somewhat hard to pin down with specificity. Perhaps it’s a good naturedness, a more optimistic outlook, a brighter sense of humor – it’s certainly more than just changes in fashion and the general demeanor of the cast in persona.
So sure, this review may be more of the same in a certain sense (and all props due to Nadav Rechov for continuing to put out quality material meriting all this praise and enjoyment on my behalf). But I am nothing if not honest, and in the interest of existential authenticity, I’m not going to lie to you folks – if I like something, I’ll praise it. If I detest something, I’ll slam it, and that’s my final word on the matter.
In a world marked by absurd and undue virulence on one hand and fawning sycophancy on the other, I choose a third road, providing what I as a reviewer, author and interviewer know to be the truth, or at least the truth as I see it. I can offer no less.