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May 07, 2013

She Cat

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Shingo Yamashiro - 1983
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Between the shootings and the general sense of nihilism, She Cat strikes me as being closer in spirit to the kind of movies Japan's Nikkatsu company produced in the late Fifties and early Sixties. With the exception of one of the minor characters, there's a bleak ending for everyone involved here. At the same time that the film may seem to look to the past with its story involving gangsters and corruption among the corporate elite, the sexual elements are relatively more adventurous than what is found on most Roman Porno.

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There are scenes of lesbian sex involving the three female doctors, two of whom are a couple running an Ob/Gyn clinic. The opening scene is of a man bringing his female impersonating wife, Tomiko, to the clinic to verify her pregnancy. The happy couple invites Dr. "Cat" Kagami to Tomiko's birthday party. Things take a turn for the worse for everyone when shots are fired into the crowded party, and the birthday girl is killed.

How much Shingo Yamashino and his writers Chiho Katsura and Makoto Naito deliberately cribbed from other outre filmmakers is unknown, but I just can't dismiss some things as coincidence. The sapphic scenes as well as uses of quick flashbacks made me think of Radley Metzger at his most self-consciously arty, while Tomiko's birthday party seemed like a nod to Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. There's even a vaginal point of view shot, something that I associate with Jess Franco. There's also some conventional heterosexual coupling for those who get off on that sort of thing.

What also makes She Cat unusual is that, with the exception of a Cat's friend in need, Charlie, the straight guys here are scum or just plain sleazeballs. Even without the rape and murder, these men are one unsavory bunch. The various strands of perversity make for one of the more unique films in Nakkatsu's Roman Porno series. Perhaps I am reading more than intended, but it could well be that in its idiosyncratic way, the film might be understood as criticism of the worst excesses of self-entitled male heterosexual privilege.

The only real misstep here is a synth driven score so cheesy I was afraid my lactose intolerance would flare up again. The worst of it is during a chase scene in Yokohama's Chinatown district with music more fitting for a no-budget kung fu movie by some fly by night company.

Ai Saotome displays her ample breasts, but for me is more electrifyingly sexy wearing a fur coat when out for revenge. Seeing her handle a gun or a scalpel, it's no surprise that Saotome was often cast as a villain. Writer Chiho Katsura's most famous credit is probably that masterpiece of nuttiness, House. Shingo Yamashiro directed a handful of films, but spent most of his forty-plus year career in front of the camera with roles in Thirteen Assassins and Graveyard of Honor among his more notable credits.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 7, 2013 07:03 AM