'Stray Cat Rock: The Collection'
(Meiko Kaji, Bunjaku Han, Tatsuya Fuji, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / NR / 2015 / MVD)
Overview: The 'Stray Cat Rock' series stars Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood, Blind Woman's Curse) who with these five films began her reign as the badass action queen of the era. In these five tales of rebellious youth she stars alongside the gorgeous Bunjaku Han (Love Letter) and Tatsuya Fuji (In the Realm of the Senses).
Blu ray Verdict: In the first of what would become a successful five-film series, 'Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss' is a passable and sporadically entertaining introduction to the 'girl gang' genre and one of the key entries in a series of films known as 'pinky violence'.
Anchored by a performance of undeniable presence by Akiko Wada, who plays a no-nonsense biker and who surprisingly didn't appear in any of the sequels, the film gets bogged down by a plodding series of events and set-pieces that are too free-spirited for it's own good, and lingers far too long on various pop performances from flavor-of-the-week bands. Storyline wise, a girl gang go up against criminal organization the Seiyu Group, where following a fixed boxing match blood is shed and friendships are tested.
After the popularity of the first Stray Cat Rock movie, Nikkatsu Studios were quick to cash in on the hype and produced several sequels that were all released in the same year as the original, except for the last one which came out next year in early 1971. The second movie in the series is called Wild Jumbo (don't ask me why) and remains a very entertaining entry in the rocking franchise.
Basically, 'Wild Jumbo' is a heist film: a group of five friends, also known as the Pelican Gang, spends time hanging out in the city, driving around in their all-terrain buggy car and listening to psychedelic jazz fusion when one of them is approached by a mysterious horse-riding girl named Asako (Bunjaku Han) who suggests they rob 30 million yen from a religious movement called Seikyo Gakkei. The Pelicans – C-ko, Taki, Ganishin, Jiro and Debo – accept the challenge, but things are not as easy as they may initially seem.
Funnily enough, even though 'Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter' was only released third in the Nora-neko rokku series, it was actually filmed back to back with the second entry' Wild Jumbo' - and marks Yasuharu Hasebe's return as director in the franchise after Toshiya Fujita who would also make the fifth and final movie besides the second one. After the light, even comedic 'Wild Jumbo,' 'Sex Hunter' is a step toward the darker mood of the original film and carries a strong anti-racism message despite the lurid title that makes the film seem sleazier than it really is.
As already mentioned, the mood is significantly darker than in Wild Jumbo. There is more nudity, blood, drug use and sexualized violence (even an outright "rape party"), even though in general the title "Sex Hunter" can be called exaggerated. Nevertheless, the film is still a recognizable Stray Cat Rock movie as all the trademark elements are there: extremely groovy psychedelic rock and jazz music, lots of aggressive driving in roofless Jeeps and some camera trickery to heighten the intensity of certain scenes.
Releasing a movie and three sequels all within one year may sound a little exaggerated but I guess you have to strike while the iron is hot, right? In any case, the Japanese Stray Cat Rock franchise saw four entries in 1970, Machine Animal being the last one of the four although one more sequel came out the next year. While not as fresh as the first movies, the film is still watchable and can be enjoyed by anyone who has liked the other films.
The plot premise hasn't changed much since the last film: a girl gang led by Maya (Meiko Kaji, of course) hangs out around the city of Yokohama while being on friendly terms with Dragon, a tough biker gang led by Sakura (Eiji Gô, I think). The latter gang is responsible for a drug dealing business in the city's bars and is not happy when the girls decide to help three new guys (one of them played by the series' regular actor Tatsuya Fuji) to sell 500 pills of LSD. Since one of the guys is a Vietnam War deserter under constant risk of capture, the situation soon starts developing very dangerously.
All good things must come to an end, including the Stray Cat Rock series with five entries in total in the franchise. After four movies all released in 1970 (three of them directed by Yasuharu Hasebe), the final part was helmed by Toshiya Fujita who had also made the second film 'Wild Jumbo.' By this time the differences between Hasebe and Fujita's directing styles have become clearer than before but in the end I think both did a good job with the series.
The series swansong, 'Beat '71,' sees Kaji framed and sent to prison by her boyfriend's father and with the help of some hippies she strives to be re-united. Directed by genre veterans Yasuharu Hasebe (Massacre Gun, Retaliation) and Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood) the films feature a psychedelic mix of girl gangs, bikers, sex, drugs and rock and roll with plenty of ass-kicking to boot, all captured in a delirious mash-up of pop aesthetics including split screens, freeze frames, injections of color, frenetic editing and dizzying angles, making these films a riotous joy from beginning to end! These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Limited Edition Blu-ray (3000 copies only)
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of all five films in the Stray Cat Rock series
Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
New English subtitle translation of all five films
Interview with Yasuharu Hasebe director of Delinquent Girl Boss, Sex Hunter and Machine Animal
Interview with actor Tatsuya Fuji, star of all five films
Interview with actor Yoshio Harada, star of Beat '71
Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the films by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp