Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sex, Drugs and Reiko Ike Roll


Reiko Ike (or Ike Reiko) was only seventeen when she released an album and starred in her first Japanese Pinky film. For most of the 1970s she was one of Japan's top sex stars but by the end of the decade her career was over; she was busted for drugs and gambling and never acted in a film after 1979. It seems her bad girl on screen persona had seeped into her real life.

Ike's cult following in the west has been growing in recent years, partly due to Pinky Violence films coming out on DVD and her album reissued on CD, and partly because she's virtually naked all the time, even on her record covers and especially when she's in a sword fight.

The immensely popular genre Pinky film flourished in 1970s Japan, just as Grindhouse movies did in the States at the same time. The two share a lot in common; both are low budget, exploitation films with oodles of sex, nudity and violence. Pinky films are distinguished – slightly – by being quite stylised and visually striking. And although they contained much nudity, due to strict Japanese censorship laws there wasn't allowed to be any penetration, genitals or pubic hair on view, leading some critics to applaud the films imaginative eroticism whilst seemingly overlooking the copious scenes of female rape and torture (the Japanese are a funny lot).

With the growing popularity of the films, the 1970s saw Pinky films with bigger budgets and even have studios such as Toei coin a sub-genre, called Pinky Violence. 1973's Sex and Fury (pictured above), directed by Noribumi Suzuki and starring Reiko Ike, is one of the most famous examples. A political revenge thriller set in turn of the (last) century Japan, it has Ike revenge the death of her detective father. Highlights include a bunch of switchblade-welding nuns on a train; a lesbian scene; the appearance of Christina Lindberg, apparently a well-known Swedish softcore actress; death by oral sex (don't ask) and best of all, Ike, naked (her bath had been rudely interrupted) with sword, massacring a gang of useless Yakuza, in the snow, in slow motion. Snow, blood, slow motion, female nudity: almost my recipe for the perfect scene, if it wasn't so ludicrous and self-conscious (and the sword fights aren't actually that good, and the acting, dreadful).

The whole film leaves a sour taste, really: it's all very well and good having a strong female lead in a film, but if said film is a softcore porno with torture, S&M and rape then it's slightly problematic. Anyway, for an exploitation film, it's visual flair can't be denied and presumably Quentin Tarentino studied the film frame by frame before making Kill Bill (and presumably Suzaki had watched Sergio Leone before making Sex and Fury).

It seems Reiko Ike has two types of fan: those who like her films and those who like her music (it goes without saying that all like her body). Her album Kokotsu no Sekai was released in 1971. Ostensibly a convention selection of standard cover versions, Ike transformed the record into a Serge Gainsbourg circa. Je t'aime... moi non plus (1969) and Histoire de Melody Nelson (released the same year as Kokotsu no Sekai) collection of erotic moans, groans, wails and shrieks, resulting in a classic of Japanese psychedelic porn music. If you don't believe me, read what Mutant Sounds has to say about it.

No comments :