Anyone that has experienced a Pink Eiga film certainly already knows that they’re much more than your standard soft-core fare. They’re shot on 35mm, have actual plots and artistic value, and are released theatrically in Japan. It’s a way for visionary directors to get their feet wet in the world of film; heralded directors like Kiyoshi Kurosawa of Pulse and Cure fame, as well as Yojiro Takita, whose film Departures has been nominated for best foreign language picture at the 2009 Oscars, got their start in the Pink Eiga genre.
Many of the films of the genre are extremely over-the-top and outlandish as well. This brings us to Shuji Kataoka’s S&M Hunter, a film with a title that I’m sure elicits all sorts of wild images in ones mind. In all actuality, what you’ll see in the film is sure to beat out any of the twisted fantasies you may happen to dream up.
The film begins in a place called “The Pleasure Dungeon”, where all types of twisted sex acts can be performed with a woman for a price. A man named Joe visits the shop, and after browsing the menu which includes masochism, dressing up in drag and getting fucked, and more, he chooses sadism. He proceeds to whip a woman into submission, but doesn’t have sex with her once she passes out. This arouses suspicion in the dungeon master, who questions him about it. Joe reveals that he hates women, and only wants to beat them. The dungeon master tells him that’s because he’s never been with a woman that was trained, and brings out a man that does just that: The S&M Hunter (or The Roper).
The Roper proceeds to use his rope to ensnare the woman that Joe had beaten and pleasures her solely by plucking and twisting the rope in various spots on her body. When Joe sees this, he admits why he really hates women: a girl gang named The Bombers has kidnapped his boyfriend Jack, and are making him their sex slave. Upon seeing The Roper’s talents, he asks him if he’d be up for the job of trying to get Jack back for him. After some consideration, The Roper agrees to the mission. What he doesn’t realize though is that The Bombers have just recruited a new member named Meg, who has past history with The Roper: she’s the reason he’s lost an eye.
As its name hints at, S&M Hunter is a ludicrous romp through a Manga-like world that could only really come to fruition in the Pink Eiga genre. The elevated budget these films receive, as many of the same studios that produce mainstream fare (Toei and Nikkatsu, to name two) also finance their share of soft-core films, allows the audacious ideas to truly take form. I’ve seen a lot of films in my time that have amazingly unique ideas that unfortunately don’t take shape because all of the tools needed to do so aren’t at the filmmakers disposal. Pink Eiga is one of the few genres out there that can almost always deliver on the promises made by their outrageous outlines.
It’s quite cliché to say “you have to see it to believe it” in this day and age, but S&M Hunter is one of the few times where it can be aptly applied. Sure, I can describe how The Roper lassos hapless women Western-style with his rope (he even quick-draws the rope from a holster), ties them up in amazing fashion with a few precise flicks of the wrist, and then proceeds to sexually pleasure them by plucking the rope like a string on a bass guitar, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun if you actually see it! I could tell you about the final showdown between The Roper and a chick decked-out in Nazi garb and wielding nunchucks that ends up with a crane involved, but it's more rewarding if you see it for yourself.
The character of The Roper really is something else. On top of his amazing rope skills, he spits out some of the most hilariously pretentious nonsense I’ve ever heard. Yes, this stuff would work just fine in a Samurai or Martial Arts film and I wouldn’t give it a second thought, but it just sounds so crazy coming out of the mouth of a guy who basically trains women through bondage. You’ll be treated to wise lines such as “Desire grows into sin, sin ripens into death”, “Hate and love, that’s two sides of the same coin”, and even some lines from the Bible, implying that God can’t punish the desires humans have since he's the one that created it.
Technically, S&M Hunter is quite accomplished. The production values will more than likely be among the first things that those not accustomed to the genre will notice. Shuji Kataoka shows a lot of confidence behind the camera, while the sets are expertly put together. The lighting is another highlight of the film, with strong artistic flourishes here and there, especially in the Pleasure Dungeon scenes. The soundtrack is wonderful as well; while there’s really only one main track to speak of, it has a Western flair that fits perfectly with the actions of the onscreen rope-slinging.
While on the surface, the plot of S&M Hunter sounds extremely misogynistic, everything is pulled off with such a tongue-in-cheek nature that you’d be hard pressed to derive anything offensive from it. With strong Western overtones, comic book stylings, and absurd ruminations on desire and sex, S&M Hunter is a standout entry in the Pink Eiga genre. Connoisseurs of the bizarre will definitely find much to enjoy, and may just find themselves ensnared by the enigmatic Roper.
S&M Hunter is newcomer PINK EIGA's inaugural DVD release, and they really couldn't have picked a better film to expose the masses to. The film is presented in non-anamorphic letterbox format preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It would be nice to have these types of films anamorphically enhanced, but I've seen it so rarely, there must be a reason as to why most of the time they're letterboxed. Print is decent, although a bit murky and soft, but it gets the job done nicely. The English subtitles are burned into the print and aren't removable, which will surely be a point of contention for some, but for someone like me who likes to use the zoom feature on my HDTV when films aren't anamorphic, it works out well. I did notice that the translator took a couple of liberties in altering a handful of things to make the dialogue more American-friendly, like changing a Giant Baba reference to a Hulk Hogan one. Probably just the Puroesu nerd in me, but that urked me.
Extras include a short photo gallery featuring a few promo shots of the film, a slew of Pink Eiga trailers (can't wait for some of these films!), a quick text primer on the Pink Eiga genre, and a few bios for the cast and crew. Overall, this is a nice little package, and for anyone interested in these films, support PINK EIGA and pick the DVD up, as these guys are doing an awesome service by bringing these films to the US audience, which is something I thought no one would ever step up and do.
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