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Synapse Films presents
"I'll no longer be a man's toy, even if it kills me."
DVD ReviewOne of the great things about DVD, something I've probably mentioned more than once in reviewing a disc, is that we've been exposed to a vast array of material that never saw the light of day on VHS. One of those unexplored corners is "pinky violence," the Japanese genre that saw its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Depending on your tastes, pinky violence had it all: hot babes, vile authority figures, sex, nudity, copious violence, and plenty of vengeance. We've seen a handful of examples over here, and now, courtesy of Synapse, we get what is billed as the first pinky violence film in Legends of the Poisonous Seductress: Female Demon Ohyaku (Yoen Dokufu-Den: Hannya No Ohyaku). This was the first in a loose trilogy starring Junko Miyazono as the lead bad girl.
Whether this is the "first" pinky violence film or not is something others can debate, as it sounds like more of a selling point than anything else to me. The film slots nicely into its time period, and if you've watched enough of this type of film, you'll recognize the usual story tropes of the revenge flick, as Ohyaku (Miyazono) is the daughter of a hooker who tries in the opening scene to commit suicide with the child Ohyaku but only gets herself killed. Ohyaku grows up to be a grifter and tightrope walker (sort of the same thing, really), and meets Shinsuke (Kunio Murai), a ronin who wants to rob the mint. Shinsuke wants to teach the fat cats in power a lesson, and he and Ohyaku quickly hit it off. There's almost always a betrayal in this type of story, and when Shinsuke and his men get captured, Ohyaku is first raped and then dumped on a prison island to mine for gold. She then begins to work her way toward escape and her ultimate revenge.
Given the sameness of the many of the stories in the genre, much relies upon the details, the performances, and the direction. As our heroine, Miyazono is certainly easy on the eyes, and she carries off the role of the wronged Ohyaku quite smoothly. The title "Poisoness Seductress" and the trailer both hype up how Ohyaku is basically evil, but it doesn't really jibe with the actual contents of the film. Ohyaku is wronged, certainly, and goes about getting her revenge in the bloodiest manner possible, but I'm not sure how anyone could argue that the villains didn't have it coming, particularly Koji Nanbara's superbly slimy Sengoku. Ohyaku becomes quite sadistic (another pinky violence hallmark) in repaying Sengoku, but she only does he did to her and Shinsuke earlier.
Yoshihiro Ishikawa's direction is capable if unspectacular. He keeps things moving, and keeps the performances on an even keel, though Tomisaburo Wakayama is rather wasted as a crime boss sympathetic to Ohyaku. Ohyaku would be finished after this film, as the series suddenly changed to a similar character named Okatsu, but focus on righteous vengeance, and Miyazono, remained. Given the establishment of Ohyaku, it would have been interesting to continue her adventures, but it wasn't to be.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: This was the only film of the three to be shot in black and white, and it looks great, with very little damage. There are a couple softer looking shots, but those may have been by directorial choice. The optional subtitles are white and clean, but they occasionally fly by a little too quickly for even my taste.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track is provided and sounds generally fine for what it is and what originally went into it. Toshiaki Tsushima's score is a highlight, particularly during the final sequence.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Quick-Draw Okatsu, Okatsu the Fugitive
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Japanese film scholar Chris D.
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsAs a nascent example of the pinky violence genre, Female Demon Ohyaku has enough to keep devoted genre fans interested, even if it doesn't quite scale the giddy heights, at least gore and nudity-wise, of the genre's salad days. Synapse's DVD release looks great.
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