British director Ken Russell has brought some outrageous and ecclectic films to the screen including Altered States, The Devils, Women in Love, Tommy and Billion Dollar Brain. He now shares with The Times of London the greatest professioal mistakes he's made as a director. It's as amusing as it is candid and honest. To check it out click here
Cinema Retro's Dean Brierly takes a look at an offbeat Japanese film series new to DVD.
As film attendance in the United States declined dramatically
in the 1950s due to television’s increasing popularity, the Hollywood Empire
struck back with a wave of widescreen Technicolor spectaculars to lure
audiences back into theaters. When a similar small vs. big screen scenario
played out in Japan in the late sixties and early seventies, major studios like
Nikkatsu, Daiei and Toei staved off financial disaster by co-opting the “pink
film,” a type of softcore porn previously the domain of small, independent
studios. The big outfits raised the pink film into the mainstream via higher
production values, compelling narratives and superior direction, a formula that
proved potent both from a commercial and critical perspective.
Original Japanese poster for Quick Draw Okatsu (Photo: Dean Brierly collection)
From the pink film was spawned a wild subgenre that came to
be known as “pinky violence,” in which studios amped up the sex and violence
quotient of the female swordplay, women in prison and girl gang film. All
featured tough, independent heroines equally comfortable wielding their
sexuality as meting out lethal retribution. These highly stylized films
brilliantly walked a mind-bending tightrope between sleazy exploitation and
female empowerment. There are few equivalents to these kinds of films in
Western cinema, outside of such early seventies Pam Grier vehicles like Coffy
and Foxy Brown. The pinky violence influence also lives on in such
Quentin Tarantino epics as Kill Bill and Death Proof.
Toei’s late-sixties “Legends of the Poisonous Seductress”
trilogy, recently brought to DVD by Synapse Films (in association with Panik
House Entertainment), was in the vanguard of the pinky violence movement.
Although not as sexually explicit as later films in the genre, they did boast a
more intense eroticism than Japanese audiences were used to, along with
head-turning doses of ultra-gory violence. And while most pinky violence films
were set in contemporary Japan, the Poisonous Seductress trilogy unfolds during
the Sengoku, or warring states period (between the 15th to 17th centuries),
familiar to viewers of such Kurosawa epics as Seven Samurai. The period
setting, with its political context of intrigue and upheaval, contributes to
the films’ unique atmosphere and provides a down-to-earth contrast to their
over-the-top visual aesthetic.