Color, 1983, 87m.
Directed by Shingo Yamashiro
Starring Ai Saotome, Koichi Iwaki, Yoshie Otsuka
Impulse (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1982, 66m.
Directed by Junichi Suzuki
Starring Yuki Kazamatsuri, Yoko Azusa, Kyoko Ito, Hajime Ishigami
Impulse (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

She Cat

In an unusual move for their astounding string of Nikkatsu sexploitation She Catreleases from the beloved roman porno subgenre, this pairing features two titles released less than a year apart. Both hail from the studio's early '80s period when they shifted away from their signature lavish, outrageous scope concoctions to more visually grounded fare. Both of them also aspire to function as more than hyperactive sex films, with our first title, Sex Cat, turning out to be a sleek (albeit kinky) thriller that mixes its plentiful heaving breasts with some surprisingly weird, dark plot twists.

The late Ai Saotome, a former teen actress and and centerfold model (though not at the same time), stars as Dr. Kagami (whose friends call her Cat), a doctor at a women's clinic who works so hard she falls asleep at the office. That also means she gets to wake up for pregnant ladies to get dropped off by expecting dads who say things like "Don't open her thing so wide," which is how we all like to get started in the morning. She works there with another female doctor, Hiratsuka, who also happens to be her live-in lover. Both of them are invited to a party to celebrate the good pregnancy news of their latest client, Tommie, but the expecting mother is gunned down in the middle of the shindig by three thugs lurking atop a nearby building. In fact they were aiming for another mystery woman who showed up at the party looking for Kagami, leaving behind a package mixed up with the other presents. The two gynecologists naturally go back home and unwind by getting horizontal in the shower together all night long. She CatAt Tommie's funeral attended by scores of drag queens, it turns out the dead woman had undergone a sex change(!) and had dirt on some pretty powerful people, such as the head of the Public Safety Commission who liked to "nail young boys." The mystery woman turns up again carrying her sister's skull in a bag and begging for an abortion, but the circumstances go deeper into Cat's past and tie to a man who showed up at Tommie's funeral. Now the gun-toting bad guys are after Cat, who's about to get a major shock or two before the bullets start to fly in the big warehouse finale.

Despite the title and the plentiful gun imagery on the packaging, Cat herself isn't really an aggressive action heroine for the most part; that said, any movie featuring a bisexual OB/GYN dodging contract killers is automatically a must see, and this one certainly doesn't disappoint. Sporting a very '80s cropped hairdo and very little in the wardrobe department, Saotome makes for a compelling and unpredictable heroine with a bit of an icy edge, and the bizarre plot (which features some of most improbable gay characters in '80s Japanese cinema) manages to justify the longer-than-usual running time. The humorous visual fogging officially used to block out frontal nudity (but more often employed to suggest something She Catdepraved for the audience to imagine) is used a few times here to great effect, especially a bathroom encounter that turns vocal and athletic enough to wake up the neighbors. There's even a gang rape scene at the women's clinic, which has to be a movie first. Director Shingo Yamashiro was much better known as an actor at the time (with films including Graveyard of Honor and Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons), but he proves to be a proficient enough filmmaker here with a knack for staging outrageous set pieces with economical precision.

Our other title under consideration, Female Teacher Hunting, is another in the popular string of mostly unrelated "Female Teacher" titles focusing on sordid doings among the teen set in Japan. This one kicks off as a couple of high schoolers, Kuriyama (Ishigami) and Midori (Ito), decide to celebrate the oncoming summer vacation and go skinny dipping at night in a public swimming pool. Someone swipes the oblivious kids' clothes and leaves Midori's sailor blouse floating in the water the next morning. Sex assault charges are thrown at Kuriyama, who decides to drop out on the last day of the semester - much to the distress of his teacher, Miss Shimako (Female Teacher: Dirty Afternoon's Kazamatsuri), whom he tosses to the ground. She CatMeanwhile the creepy kid who's responsible for the mess by making nasty phone calls decides to cap off the school year by forcing himself on his nubile a/v club partner. While Miss Shimako heads off to the beach to hook up with her married lover (who promptly leaves her in the lurch after one roll in the sheets), Kuriyama lurks nearby among the vacationing kids (who like to play with sparklers and molest each other in their sleep) as everyone's libidos start to rage out of control.

Filled with angst, fist fights, She Catand a weird happy ending back in that swimming pool, this one also has more on its mind than the obligatory sex scenes, which pop up every few minutes but really seem subordinate to the hothouse drama unfolding between the characters. Kazamatsuri is a scene stealer as usual in her scenes, making a potentially unsympathetic character work thanks to her natural charisma and physical presence during her sex scenes. It's no wonder she went on to have a notable career outside of Nikkatsu, including a role in Kill Bill no less. Not surprisingly, the sexual politics are extremely strange and often difficult to untangle as viewer sympathies shift left and right throughout; pretty much all of the male characters turn out to be dysfunctional jerks in one form or another, but the women's motivations aren't exactly clear cut either. Director Junichi Suzuki (who went on to helm fare like Red Rope) keeps things moving at a fast clip, juggling plenty of characters and soapy plot turns in just over an hour and painting a convincing portrait of disaffected kids trying to find their place in a world where the adults are hardly the best role models.

Both titles are up to par with the label's previous Nikkatsu releases; color and detail are very good across the board, though you may want to dial down the black levels a notch or two for even better results. The optional English subtitles are, as usual, packed with quotable goodness you'll never repeat during a phone call with your parents. The respective theatrical trailers are also included (the one for She Cat is actually quite different than usual, emphasizing the surprising choice of director) along with excellent liner notes by the reliable Jasper Sharp, who lays the foundation for understanding the films in the context of the studio at the time. A fine continuation of one of the most essential ongoing DVD series around these days.

(Check out the past Impulse Nikkatsu releases here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Buy She Cat from Diabolik.
Buy Female Teacher Hunting from Diabolik.

Reviewed on May 10, 2013.