Cover Art and Menu: 9/10
Like some other HVE titles the cover is a pretty exciting introduction to the film. In the same style as other Japanese films from that have been brought to this new fangled medium, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter is presented with a psychedelic cover and menu that scream 70’s style. Along with the all white box this is a striking package, something I appreciate in a time when DVD covers are often just an after thought with the movie poster shrunk down to size slapped on the front.
Extras and Features: 3/10
- Director & Actor Filmographies – As you read through the names of the movies Yasuharu Hasebe has made you will find a lot of titles that include the word “rape” in some form or another. I’m not sure if this was just a trend in Japan at the time, or if this director simply wanted to explore the topic for personal reasons. It was a big movement in cinema back in those days to include a rape scene and then the consequential quest of someone to avenge the crime. I guess that the titles of Hasebe’s films is just a reflection of that era.
- Liner Notes – An interesting thing to add to any DVD package is a brief but informative printed essay about the film. I would like to see more content most of the time, since the essays are so short, but I won’t be greedy. This tid bit of writing does offer a lot of history behind the film such as the racial tension in the movie and how the all female singing group who appears in the movie is significant because they are all of mixed ethnic backgrounds. This just shows that when a Japanese film maker wants to explore a topic, such as racism, they use every tool at their disposal to add layered meaning and depth to their films. We might never know the background of the singing group if not for the printed material included with the DVD, so I totally appreciate the effort and thank them for added to the overall experience of seeing the film.
- Original Japanese Trailer – I have the same reaction to most trailers from the sixties and seventies, they were simply abridged versions of the films they were meant to tease us about. I swear that marketing people have always been obsessed with, and determined to ruin the content of movies for us by showing every key scene, including the ending, in their trailers. The technology was less sophisticated, yes, so they had little to work with in terms of how creative they could be, however, just chopping out shot after shot of the most important moments of the film and gluing them together with some horrible graphics seems primitive even for those days.
The Movie: 7/10:
I’m not an expert at reviewing Japanese films. That being said, you have to account for my Western sensibilities and forgive me if I under score a film because I simply don’t properly appreciate the full history and impact of Japanese cinema. I won’t apologize for not knowing every film and every director and how each film relates to each other, but I will say that I know there are people out there who devote a lot more time to the pursuit of studying this very topic and for those folks, well, don’t hate me because I’m uninformed. 🙂
Ok, on with it. The story is not subtle one. In this, the third of five installments of the Stray Cat Rock series the all female street gang becomes involved in a gang war with their male counterparts, the Eagles. At the heart of the story is racial tensions between the pure blooded Eagles and their hatred for “half breeds”, Japanese folks who are of mixed ethnic background. The racism wasn’t born from the civil rights movement, as was the case in may films of those days, but instead from a personal vendetta by one of the Eagles. He had seen his sister raped and murdered by a gang of “half breeds” years before and has devoted his life to his hatred of them all.
To spark an already deep hatred, the woman he, the Baron, is in love with chooses to fall for a half breed herself. This brings on a wrath not only to her female gang, but to anyone with mixed blood who might be in the Eagles’ path. Kazuma, the man Mako falls in love with is on a search for his long lost sister, who of course rejects him because of his mixed heritage, and he consequently gets the living daylights beat out of him several times. Kazuma and the Baron face of a few times and even toss around dialogue that boldly professes the parallels of the story to an old American Western film. Kazuma even says it will end up like a real western, which is classic and bold foreshadowing for what’s to come.
Along the way we endure many sexually charged scenes where impotence, rape, and lost innocence are key elements to the characters’ struggles. The Baron is a cruel man, and as we get to know his relationship with Mako we discover that he can’t perform sexually, which adds to why he has turned to violence in his life. His battle with the rest of the world stems from more than his superficial hatred for half breeds, he’s troubled beyond what we see, which makes him more intriguing, but not any more forgivable.
The action is fast paced and the fights are brutal, well, as brutal as they can be with some B acting and over choreographed scenes. That is always one thing in Japanese films that kind of distracts me. The over acting and almost Keystone Cop kind of action at times. In the middle of a serious film you get to a fight scene and either the actors turn into Jerry Lewis wannabes or the fight itself is just too over the top. I suppose this is my own lack of experience and knowledge in the Japanese film department. It just tends to add a comical element that I know does not belong in this type of film.
The cinematography of this film is something I really do appreciate. The director of photography/director do their best to set up shots that are beautiful and visually interesting. There are many times when I see a glimmer of modern day film makers like Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) who design shots using the full spectrum of the screen like it is a canvas for a painting. Hasebe is a director ahead of his time if you ask me with his artist sense and use of design in his shots.
Let’s not forget to mention that the women in this film rock! I’m talking all balls out fighting, brawling, tough talking, in your face kind of gals who take no crap from anyone. When they do get into trouble, they rescue themselves, no big tough guys to save them, which I love.
Overall I really like this movie, it’s just that it has some of those things Japanese films have that I haven’t learned to love yet. The male actors who over act, over fight, and over dramatize are the main thing that draws me out of the story. Other than that I really enjoyed Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter. I hope to see the other four installments in the series soon.
For only 12 bucks this is a must have for anyone who loves Japanese films. It’s a very reasonable price for the DVD, and I don’t say that very often. Heck, just buy it to expand your horizons a bit if you have never seen a Japanese film, this is a good place to start. It’s got action and drama to keep you entertained and it looks great for an older movie.
Overall Score 6/10