In 1968 Junko Fuji transcended the generally stereotypical male centric role of the lone wandering gambler portrayed heavily in Jitsuroku eiga or “chivalry films”, a derivative of the Yakuza eiga (film) genre.
With her renowned performance in the Red Peony series, Fuji paved the way for the eventual mergence of the female driven period pieces with the more exploitive elements of the then fully emerging Pinky Violence trend. Under the aforementioned influences came the appropriately titled Sex & Fury, starring pinky heavyweight Reiko Ike and directed by Norifumi Suzuki also a well seasoned pinky veteran.
Beginning in the Meiji period of 1886 a detective is brutally cut down in front of his young daughter by two unknown assailants, who before quickly scurrying away take with them concealed documents from the detective’s possession. Tragically, in what amounts to his last dying act the detective clutches on to three blood smeared hanafuda cards: noting the deer, the boar, and the butterfly in a desperate struggle to identify the murderous culprits to his confused and distraught daughter.
Moving forward to 1905 the young daughter has taken on the assumed name of Ochô Inoshika (Reiko Ike), and has now grown into a beautiful woman. Utilizing the techniques of the underworld Ochô has developed into a skilled pick-pocket, fierce fighter and a formidable gambler, all the while never losing site of her ultimate goal of discovering the identity of her father’s killers and exacting revenge. She has dedicated her sole existence to rectifying the wrong which was inflicted unto her father, her name in its very essence represents the markings of her fathers killers: ochô meaning “butterfly”, ino “boar”, shika “deer”, as does the 3 symbols adorned on her person.
While in pursuit of her quest of vengeance, Ochô stumbles upon a chance encounter with a dying Yakuza ultimately leading her to Tokyo in hopes to free his sister Yuki from grips of prostitution. Elsewhere we are introduced to Yakuza Oyabun (boss) and political hopeful Kurokawa (Seizaburo Kawazu) and his cohort Iwakura (Hiroshi Nawa) as they celebrate the consolidation of the Seishinkai Groups power with their territories continued expansion in the newly and evermore modernized Japan.
Amidst an additional plot development, we meet Shunosuke (Masataka Naruse), son of a murdered rival of the Seishinkai group. Prior to Ochô’s travels to Tokyo Shunosuke escapes the pursuit of law officials, after a botched assignation attempt on Kurokawa with the unexpected aid of Ochô, both of which predictably to meet again in Tokyo.
Ochô's efforts to free Yuki runs into difficulty when Iwakura, who coincidently owns her marker refuses to relinquish her debt unless Ochô consents to the wager of her own freedom in a winner takes all poker match against the formidable Christina (Christina Lindberg). Christina, a westerner talented in an array of skills from dancing and gambling to marksmanship, proves to be yet another integral character in the ever entangled web of revenge, lust and greed.
As further events unfold the plot continues to convolute as the narrative intertwines upon itself eventually leading to an inevitable conclusion resulting in a bloodied massacre of carnage and unsuspected plot twists.
Sex & Fury represents the Pinky Violence genre to a tee, reveling in its excesses as relentlessly as it is titillating. From the onset we are bombarded with violence, which is graphically depicted in a celluloid friendly bright blossoming crimson red. The mayhem through the entire picture is wonderfully excessive, reaching a wholly uninhibited mark of crudely sadistic sleaze. The sex is glorified unashamedly, whether wallowing in the sorted affairs of the gluttonous or the horrified cries of the uninitiated. This is established early, with the scene of a fully naked Ochô battling it out uninhibited amongst of gang yakuza gamblers. While the scene resonates un-sexually in nature, the contortions and anglings of the beautiful Reiko Ike’s body of movement boarders on pornographic in an unapologetic offering of exploitative enticement.
Unlike many of the popular girl gang titles of the era, Sex & Fury is devoid almost wholly of the signature comedy and light-hearted moments often used to brighten the monotony of sex, violence and downtrodden despair. This leads to a darker over-all tone and heightens the intensity considerably.
Sex & Fury boasts an alluring mixture of marvelously colored imagery amongst an intermingling and wide variance of shots, approaches and angles. Notably director Suzuki uses numerous instances of shots fading slowly out and into focus resulting in a wonderful appeasement to the stimulated senses. Add to it a riveting score, a hybrid mixture of earlier orchestrations, lulled melodies with a finale driven by subtle rock jams all very much 70’s orientated and fitting soundly into the overall aesthetic.
Reiko Ike handles herself well here, a memorable performance that substitutes a lack of swordsmanship with a feverish intensity. It’s because of this, the actions scenes flow convincingly in conjunction with the added touch of alternate anglings of the lenses perspective including a distinct faraway trailing of movement.
The films main and only real hindering folly lies with an unpolished and overtly convoluted storyline. This quickly becomes tangled in mess of varied plot devices, intermixed amongst one another and winding both back to and from. This wears on the action and at times slows the pace considerably. However at its root Sex & Fury remains compelling and interesting enough with its many added vices, to withstand against said encumbrances.
Sex & Fury is a virtual smorgasbord of exploitative exuberances. Sure to please any rabid exploitation or Pinky Violence aficionado, as well as the occasional dabbler in some of cinemas most lavish excesses.