Color, 1979, 67m.
Directed by Katsuhiko Fujii
Starring Minako Mizushima, Yûko Asuka, Noriaki Abe, Hiroshi Unayama
Impulse Pictures (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
The actual title of this sleazy, nihilistic look at the entertainment business is Rape Shot: Momoe's Lips, but you don't have to be a marketing whiz to figure out why that isn't splashed across the cover of the DVD box. The Impulse Pictures line of astonishing Nikkatsu erotic releases tends to bounce between lightweight but extreme comedies and sordid melodramas, and this one definitely falls at the darker end of that latter category.
The very nominal hero of our story is Toru (Abe), a tabloid reporter whose bosses will only accept stories loaded with sensationalism and scandal. He thinks he's found a lead in the form of Hoshino (Unayama), a high-powered music kingpin whose current pop goddess is Yoko (Mizushima). Toru suspects the honcho is doping up his singers with uppers and other nasty concoctions to keep them performing under his thumb, and he aims to prove it by cornering Yoko in a bathroom stall to extract a urine sample in the most unorthodox fashion possible. However, things take a gritty turn when Yoko gets abducted by some sex-crazed criminals and held for ransom at a house outside of town where she's subjected to a number of carnal indignities. Toru uses his reporting skills to track her down, though of course his true motivations are a bit questionable and only become apparent in the surprisingly downbeat, haunting (but not particularly violent) finale.
Made at the tail end of Nikkatsu's trend of shooting its roman porno films in scope, Momoe's Lips is a great-looking production with its pop angle used effectively in sparing doses throughout the narrative. Prolific pink film director Katsuhiko Fujii displays a few visual flourishes that separate this from its ilk, such as a striking opening sequence depicting a love scene only through disorienting extreme close ups of random body parts, and the actors do a solid job considering the fact that there are very few even remotely sympathetic characters to be found anywhere. As the handy liner notes by Jasper Sharp explain, the title refers not to a character but to real-life pop star Momoe Yamaguchi, whose saturated public persona was considered fair game for softcore films using look alike actresses. (The second film in this series, Love Beast: Momoe's Lips, has no direct narrative connection.) Those excellent notes also lay out the connections between pop singers and roman porno films while also mentioning the Momoe connection outside of Nikkatsu; another one entitled Molester Train: Momoe's Butt deserves a North American DVD releases on the basis of that name alone.
By now we all know the drill with Impulse's Nikkatsu titles, which feature fine anamorphic transfers from the studio's vaults with sometimes eye-popping color schemes. This one looks as good as its predecessors with solid detail and about as fine a transfer as you could expect in standard def. The Japanese mono audio sounds fine, especially with the pop songs and sometimes Italian-inspired music score, and the optional English subtitles are as outrageous as usual. Apart from the liner notes, the sole extra is the theatrical trailer, which focuses far more on the showbiz angle than the kidnapping one.
Reviewed on February 28, 2015