Sex and Fury (1973)

Also known as:
Fury˘ anego den: Inoshika Och˘
Elder Sister: Och˘ Inoshika
Och˘
Anego den

Please forgive me if my ignorance of Japanese culture leaves some gaping holes in this review of Director Norifumi Suzuki's Sex and Fury. It's a hugely entertaining film nonetheless, and if Quentin Tarantino wasn't directly inspired by the goings-on here for Kill Bill, he must have been by some virtually identical films. I don't fully understand a lot of what's going on with the various crime-gangs, the meaning of the changing names, tattoos and political shenanigans on display. Still, the copious blood, violence, sex and nudity, not to mention the cinematic proficiency of the whole thing, more than held me in thrall. There's even cult sex-icon Christina Lindberg in a supporting role, so this one's pretty much the total package for cult enthusiasts.

In Japan at the turn of the century, little Ochô Inoshika (Reiko Ike) sees her detective father murdered in the street by two sword-wielding thugs. As she runs up to her murdered father, her youthful gaze takes in three gambling cards his cold, bloody fingers still hold - a deer, a boar and a butterfly. When we next see Ochô as an adult, she's emblazoned her right breast and arm with these images as tattoos, and wields a fine samurai sword. We see a montage of Ochô being a pickpocket as well, in the streets of Japan. Ochô saves an injured assassin from the authorities, who was on the run from attempting to kill the head of a gang who is rising to power in Japan. He's grateful but runs off, and not able to help herself, she picks his pocket to steal a locket from him. The locket contains the photograph of Christina (Lindberg), his long-lost love.

Later, at a gambling house where I assume Ochô works, one of the tattooed men working there is killed by the thugs of the owner for failing to go through with a sting. Ochô cradles his head as he dies, and he passes his last wish on to her, as well as the fact that the boss made him cheat. He wishes that Rie Ochô save his sister Yuki (Rie Saotome) from becoming sold into slavery at a brothel at Asakusa. He gives her his bank book to buy her out of the place. The gambling boss witnesses this and later, when Ochô is taking a bath, sends his goons to kill her. So, what's a girl to do but jump out of the bath naked and kill your attackers with a samurai sword. Ochô runs out through the gently falling snow in slow-motion, slaughtering her numerous attackers one-by-one as severed limbs fly, gore sprays and her nude body becomes more and more blood-spattered. Folks, you haven't lived until you've watched this scene ... you know I'm right.

Ochô turns up in Asakusa and meets the young assassin she saved a few days ago. She gives him back his locket and returns to the gang of female thieves who raised her as an orphan. They direct her to the brothel where Yuki is held. The corrupt mayor from the earlier scenes has turned up to have sex with the virgin he demands, who happens to be Yuki. Ochô offers to pay her out, but the mayor has a deal to offer, as he recognizes her as a proficient gambler. Play the opponent of his choice and win, and she can take Uki home. Lose, and the evil man gets both Yuki and Ochô for himself. Ochô agrees and turns up at the sumptuous gambling house. Her opponent is none other than the British dancer Christina - with Lindberg sounding very non-British with a very thick Swedish accent - and the two women square off at poker. The young assassin, Christina's ex-lover, turns up to storm the proceedings and try to kill the gang-boss who's joined the mayor. Christina fights them off with a revolver but won't shoot him and he escapes. We hear Miss Lindberg narrate a flas-back scene to when they were lovers. That is why she's now a spy, so that she can enter Japan and look for him. They try to resume the game but Christina's now too rattled to win and Ochô easly defeats her.

Though Ochô now has the right to take Yuki home, the mayor gets to her first and rapes her, not before smearing her vagina with an 'elixir' that will leave her a permanent nymphomaniac. Christina's older male British boss rapes her for botching the operation - the British want in on their drug industry - and she gives in to it in a fairly steamy scene as she will do anything for Shunosuke, her lover. The mayor visits the crime-boss's house and we see he's having an affair with his wife. We also see in flashback that the crime-boss's wife is Ochô's mother, who also witnessed her husband's murder. Shunosuke's gang of rebels want to attack the crime-boss again, but they attack first and only Shunosuke escapes. He takes refuge with Ochô's gang of thieves, who hide him. Shunosuke tells her all about the corrupt crime-boss and major, and how they killed both their fathers to hide the evidence of their illicit dealings. This enabled them to climb the social ladder to political power. Ochô swears she'll kill all the holders of the deer, boar and butterfly tattooes.

The brothel owner, working for the police, storms the girl-gang's house and tortures the girls until Ochô gives herself up. She offers herself to the major, who leeringly accepts. She sees his deer tattoo. Later, alone, they begin to disrobe but she wants to put 'perfume' on. In a sensuous scene she rubs it all over her nude form. In the bedroom the frenzied man licks it off her body, and promptly dies in agony from the poison. The vengeful Ochô swears to find and slay the other two killers. Back with the Britishers, Christina is forced to bring the spy mission back on track by becoming the crime-boss's concubine. She has a threesome with him and a servant girl. Shunosuke is watching and though upset, finds out from Christina when the crime-boss is travelling on a train. Shunosuke goes back and tells Ochô, and to stay out of it, but she refuses.

The train leaves as scheduled, and Shunosuke attacks. Before he can wreak any damage he's booted off the train but Ochô herself attacks. Her gun jams and a group of knife-wielding nuns attack her! Christina herself knocks her into unconsciousness with a gun, I guess to keep up appearances. Back at a Christian church, Christina, in a sort-of cave-girl outfit and leather boots, whips the semi-naked, bound and chained Ochô, as the evil nuns and the crime-boss look on. This is one bondage-fetishist's dream-scene, and goes on for quite a while! When Ochô is left to hang on a rope - come on, we had to have some rope-bondage - the crime-boss's wife comes and cuts her down, explaining herself as her mother and how weak she was to let her father die. Ochô rejects her. The crime-boss comes back into the room and attacks his wife, washing the makeup from her back to expose the butterfly tattoo. He strangles her to death while Ochô watches with a vengeful stare.

Shunosuke and Christina meet at a train station, but it's a trap by the other dastardly British spy. He shoots them both, but they die in each other's arms in the snow, and Christina kills the careless villain with a sword. Ochô cuts herself loose with a razor-studded card and storms the crime-boss's quarters, announcing herself by a rain of playing cards, the boar-card having a knife through it. As she squares off against at least a dozen men, will she be able to survive guns and swords, and fulfill her lust for vengeance by killing the man with the boar tattoo?

My ignorance of exactly everyone's name, position and what everything means aside, I still got a lot out of Sex and Fury. Reiko Ike as Ochô is absolutely gorgeous, tattoos and all, and conveys intelligence and a fierce determination with her luminous eyes and noble face. That she's often naked doesn't do a lot of damage to the film either. Christina Lindberg is stunning in her sex scenes, but fares less well in the numerous close-ups. She's got an amazing body, but the director seems to constantly film her when she's at her most expressionless. Her heavy European accent as a British spy is odd, but this was made for Japanese audiences, so it doesn't matter much. The rest of the actors are servicable for this type of film. The film's incredibly well-made, the camerawork by Motoya Washyo is a site to behold in a number of scenes - white snow and red blood in used in this film like few others. The sex scenes are filmed with a true appreciation for the female form as well - the men are semi-clothed anyway, and just accessories to the naked women writhing in ecstacy - or ecstatic pain. If you're a Christina Lindberg fan you won't feel let down by Sex and Fury, she's an important character who gets a lot of clothed and unclothed screen time, but it's Reiko Ike who has the most presence in this film, and I believe appeared in a lot of other female Yakuza films along the lines of this little masterpiece.

If you're in the mood for an excess of style, blood, sex and violence the Japanese way, I can only recommend Sex and Fury. I've described a couple of obvious 'set-pieces' that fans of sex and violence on the silver screen will love, but the whole story's an engaging one, and we actually do care about what fate will befall our sword-wielding, blood-splattered heroine.

© Boris Lugosi, 2007.


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