Stray Cat Rock -
aka Nora-neko rokku -
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
Nikkatsu/Arrow Blu Ray Zone B
As part of Arrow’s Stray Cat Rock Dual Edition Set
Warning: More damn spoilerage!
Fresh off his truly brilliant first entry into what became the loose series of Stray Cat Rock movies, Delinquent Girl Boss (reviewed here), director Yasuharu Hasebe returns with his third entry in the series, Stray Cat Rock - Sex Hunter. This film once again toplines Meiko Kaji, who was, apparently, simultaneously shooting the second movie in the series, Wild Jumbo (reviewed here). Now, it has to be said that the film certainly isn’t as stylistically aggressive as the first movie and, that’s actually to this films detriment. Hasebe does do some interesting stuff in it, though, which puts the film making on display here head and shoulders against the first follow up and, I’ll talk about a few of those things soon.
This time around, Meiko Kaji plays Mako, the boss of another all-female, delinquent gang and she has a wonderful entrance shot which kicks off the movie and acts as a nice bookend moment to the film. Basically, she has her head down to the camera so all we can see is the top of her hat, before bringing her head up so we get her face in close up and see that she’s wearing one of those big floppy hats (if not the exact same floppy hat) that is almost iconic to her early roles and which she would also wear again for her next big series running character, Female Prisoner Scorpion. She also, in combination with this, wears a big, loose, white shirt, black waistcoat and carries this awkward looking cane around with her for most of the movie (one year before Malcolm McDowell was using a big cane as the head of his gang of droogs in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange).
Right away, we know this particular gang are edgier and dirtier than the pseudo-gang in Wild Jumbo. After relinquishing an alleged pervert of his wallet, Mako gets into a night time duel with one of her girls and we are soon treated to a ‘knives and flashlights’ fight. After this, Mako meets and falls for a drifter called Kazuma, played by Rikiya Yasuoka. In another scene, a local ‘friendly’ male gang called The Eagles, lead by The Baron (played by Tatsuya Fuji) have an orgiastic ‘drug party’ with Mako’s gang. Here, the main crux of the film is explored as one of the Baron’s men is jealous of one of the girls, who is dating a ‘half-breed’ (in their words). They go to beat the guy to within an inch of his life and force him out of town. We then get treated to a bizarre, sepia tinted flashback with blood splashed over the frame, to an incident from when The Baron was a little boy and his sister (or someone close to him) was raped by black soldiers. A switch goes off in The Baron’s brain and his race hate comes to the fore... which is later coupled with his impotence and love of hunting black people and hence, therefore, but I admit it’s a bit of a stretch, we get the title Sex Hunter (well, that’s as good an explanation as I’ve found anyway).
And then we get shenanigans of a much more hard hitting kind as various ‘half breeds’ are beaten up and thrown out of town and The Baron wants the one who has stolen the heart of his gal, the drifter Kazuma who is looking for his long lost sister. His sister is, in fact, one of Mako’s gang but she doesn’t want to acknowledge him because, that reveals her as a notorious ‘half breed’. Indeed, when The Baron’s men do find out, they gang rape her... apart from one of The Baron’s men. In another proof of his underlying psychotic nature, The Baron guns down his right hand man, mostly for not taking part in the raping but also because he reveals his own, problematic (to The Baron), parental heritage.
The whole thing ends in tragedy after Mako rides a stolen motorbike to the rescue and breaks up The Baron’s special ‘rape party’ for the girls with a bunch of Molotov cocktails fashioned from Coke bottles. Yes folks, ‘it’s the real thing’ alright, in the most explosive way. This all leads up to Mako and Kazuma holing up in a little watch tower with a rifle and The Baron’s men surrounding them. When The Baron enters the tower, he and Kazuma fill each other with a gazillion bullets and die... but not before Kazuma also manages to shoot his own sister dead for some strange reason known only to himself. The last shot of the film is of Meiko Kaji, who has astonishingly had a character survive the end of a Stray Cat Rock film for the first time, looking into camera with the disappointment and heartbreak etched into her hardening face, putting on her big floppy hat and then looking down, in an exact reverse of the opening scene.
And it’s quite entertaining... although the racial discrimination elements seem a little less subtle and more disturbing as the world has moved on since 1970. The director doesn’t use as many fast flowing, energetic camera movements or short edits as in Delinquent Girl Boss but he does go in this direction on occasion. For example, the knife fight at the start of the film is put together with long shots of either very smooth camera movements or static shots... however, intercut with these are the close ups of the fight with the camera getting in close with the girls and those shots are used in the more traditional shorthand of chaotic, hand held camera takes.
Something he does do to pull it back to the style of the first film in, presumably, an attempt to hold the interest of the teen market, is to have the psychedelic nightclub, the Go Go Spot... with various bands performing in multiple, cross-cut primary colour palettes... something the girls are always coming back to (I actually have the soundtrack CD for this one and it’s a fun spin, for sure).
Another thing he does is change the shape of the aspect ratio when he wants to. The technique is nowhere near as varied or interesting (it has to be said) as the stuff in his first Stray Cat Rock movie but, on a number of occasions in this one, he will pull a whole sequence into a 4:3 ratio in the middle of a frame to focus the audience attention in on just what he wants them to notice... which also serves to give those highlighted sequences a more intimate feel.
There’s also a moment of nice experimentation a lot more reminiscent of what the director was doing in his previous, more ground breaking movie in the scene when The Baron guns down one of his own men. When he pulls the trigger way more times than he would normally have bullet capacity for in his automatic, the editor goes crazy and we flash to and from The Baron and his victim on different parts of the screen like a rapid firing, 'almost too fast for the eye to follow' art collage. It certainly hammers home the tonal weight the director is trying for with the scene and sets it up as an event which, should you incredibly have any doubts by this point anyway, will leave you in no difficulties understanding who the real villain of the piece here is.
And that’s me done on Stray Cat Rock - Sex Hunter, I think. This was the only one of the Stray Cat Rock pictures which I’ve managed to see at a cinema (when the BFI did a ‘one off’ screening a decade or two ago) and the only one I also already had on DVD. Although it isn’t as impactful as Delinquent Girl Boss, this film is still very entertaining and Meiko Kaji certainly lives up to her rising star... with the iconic look I always think of her in, pretty much complete here. Curiously, although her character actually survives to the end of this film, she’s once again playing a totally different character in the next Stray Cat Rock movie, which is the next thing I’ll review here.