FAIRY IN A CAGE
Color, 1977, 71m.
Directed by Kôyû Ohara
Starring Naomi Tani, Hirokazu Inoue, Rei Okamoto, Reika Maki, Kazuo Satake
Impulse (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA.R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
FEMALE TEACHER: IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS
Color, 1982, 69m.
Directed by Yasurou "Yasuaki" Uegaki
Starring Rushia Santô, Toru Nakane, Hiromichi Hori, Toshiyuki Kitami
Impulse (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Made at the height of the pink film's most lavish period, Nikkatsu's Fairy in a Cage is probably the closest thing to a Japanese variation on the ornate '70s arthouse fascist period pieces like Salo and Salon Kitty. All the ingredients are here: exquisite scope framing, vicious domination, twisted characters, and most importantly, fearless genre star Naomi Tani, the curvaceous star of 1974's notorious Wife To Be Sacrificed and other titles like Black Rose Ascension, Wet Vase, and Rope Cosmetology.
Here Tani stars as Namiji Kikushima, a married woman accused of helping insurrectionists in World War II Japan. The sadistic, power-hungry Judge Murayama decides to imprison her in a bleak prison along with one of her "accomplices" (Inoue), a terrified actor, and she's subjected to nasty experiments and bondage tests of will, starting off with an especially perverse use of a kettle filled with hot water. Eventually a ray of hope arrives with a new secret police arrival (Satake), whose more sympathetic attitude could get her out of this ropey nightmare.
Pink films had certainly experimented with other time periods before this one, including more than a few depicting the perversions of shoguns and their stables of women. However, the World War II setting gives this one a darker, nastier edge than usual, including a surprisingly grim final act that shifts locales a bit and steers events to a pretty bloody outcome. Tani is the real show stopper here as usual, putting up with far more than any current actress would probably accept and delivering such intensity in some scenes you have to wonder where it's all really coming from.
Presumably because of its dicey political context, Fairy in a Cage has been a film more often mentioned than seen thanks to its relative scarcity on home video. The Impulse release marks its first availability on home video in decades (following a brief Japanese VHS release), and it's the only Nikkatsu title in their collection blessed with a Blu-Ray option, too (which is not available for review as of this writing). Image quality is extremely good, as impressive as the best of the previous Impulse/Nikkatsu titles, and as usual it's in Japanese mono with English subtitles. No extras on the actual disc, but you do get some more excellent Jasper Sharp liner notes giving some more context to the film including more notes about its star and its director, Kôyû Ohara, who also directed Wet & Rope, Zoom Up: Rape Site, and the insane White Rose Campus, which really, really needs an Impulse release pronto.
In keeping with Impulse's release pattern, another Nikkatsu title was slated for the same release date but from a different pink era and with a somewhat different attitude. The companion title in this case is Female Teacher: In Front of the Students, another perverse high school yarn in the vein of the earlier Female Teacher: Dirty Afternoon. Here we have what must surely be a cinematic first: a roughie adolescent softcore tennis captivity film! That's right, this is all about the mayhem unleashed when new female teacher Reiko (Santô) starts her job and decides to make some cuts to the tennis team. One day while showering after practice, she's assaulted (at great length) by a stocking-masked assailant who leaves behind a white puzzle piece as the sole clue. Her students still call her "Sensei" and seem to respect her, but her efforts to ferret out the culprit wind up putting her in the clutches of two demented teens who decide to hold her against her will with handcuffs in an apartment and subject her to nonstop erotic torture along with exchanges like "Put me back on the tennis team!" "No, never! Never!" Of course her own feelings about being subjected to this treatment become more complicated as the ordeal goes on, with her investigations into the students still bound to take another unexpected twist or two.
An entertainingly twisted example of Nikkatsu's early '80s output, this Female Teacher entry once again veers away from the expansive scope look of the previous decade and wallows in a dark, depraved plot that becomes so breathlessly ridiculous you often can't believe what you're watching. Though not the most prolific of the studio's actresses, Santô makes for a fetching heroine (whose behavior still doesn't make complete sense by the final scene) and soldiers through the more demanding scenes like a champ. The de rigueur optical blurring of the more frisky sex scenes is still here, this time comically imposed over some rutting next to a bathtub so it actually looks more like a supernatural clump of steam.
Again the image quality here is quite solid and on par with other '80s Nikkatsu titles; it's not as colorful or visually ornate as some of the '70s films, but for what it is this is very attractively presented. The Japanese mono audio sounds fine as well, with optional English subtitles. The solo video extra is a wild theatrical trailer (also subtitled), while Sharp provides another set of liner notes that only touch on this film briefly and instead chart out the history of Nikkatsu from the '70s onward including comments about the evolution of the Violent Pink subgenre.
(You can catch up on the past Impulse Nikkatsu releases here, here, here, here, and here).
Buy Fairy in a Cage from Diabolik.
Buy Female Teacher: In Front of the Students from Diabolik.