Friday, November 01, 2013
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom
Welcome to the fourth year of Winter of Discontent. The previous three seasons amounted to 69 titles (an appropriately sleazy number) including gialli, blaxsploitation, nunsploitation, warsploitation, carsploitation (kinda – I’m thinking ‘Rolling Vengenace’ here), hicksploitation, sexploitation, cannibalism, polizia, rape/revenge, zombies, vampires, biker flicks, slashers and the improper use of electrical equipment.
Casting around, earlier this year, for a movie to kick off 2013’s Winter of Discontent, I started thinking about which subgenres I hadn’t tackled yet. Pinky violence was high on the list. I’ll assume that since you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll be no stranger to the kind of movies I write about (particularly towards the end of the year!) and won’t need any explanatory note or background essay about the pinky violence movement.
If, however, you’ve ended up here by accident and you’re sufficiently un-freaked-out to continue reading, welcome aboard, please check in your moral conscience at the baggage desk, then make a short diversion to this article, which will tell you all you need to know. See you back here in a couple.
Right then: welcome to Norifumi Suzuki’s ‘Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom’. This is actually the second of four films under the ‘Terrifying Girls’ High School’ banner, following on from the similarly titled ‘Women’s Violent Classroom’. The other two instalments, for the record, are the queasily titled ‘Delinquent Convulsion Group’ and the rather more feral ‘Animal Courage’. If you’re under any delusions that we’re in Japanese St Trinian’s territory, think again!
Suzuki melds the iconography of the prison movie with Japanese exploitation cinema’s evergreen obsession with young women in schoolgirl uniform, throws in some heavy-handed political satire and makes sure the violence-to-nudity ratio is pretty much equal. Which I guess is easy to do in a film where every bitch fight requires a blouse to be ripped open and torture by exsanguination or electrocution can only be effected by disrobing the victim. Oh, and it being set in an all-girl education facility, gratuitous shower scenes are a contractual obligation.
So what’s it all about then … apart from the cruelty, the microskirts and the lesbian gropings? Well, we open with a girl called Michiyo being tortured by a group of young women wearing school uniforms and red masks. This nasty bunch are the so-called Discipline Committee, who are what prefects would be like if the Marquis de Sade was on the average school syllable; their leader (Ryoko Ema), is a gloating sadist.
The Discipline Committee are part of a hierarchy, reporting in to the corrupt vice principal, a man who’s trying to oust the equally corrupt principal from office so he can take his job. Both men have the local police force in their pocket, which is helpful when it comes to covering up “accidents”. Like the one that befalls Michiyo when she tries to escape from her assailants. A rooftop chase ends as she plummets to her death.
The credits sequence establishes the locale at the School of Hope, a reformatory dedicated to turning wayward delinquents into respectable young ladies. Ain’t exactly a spoiler to say that they fail in this. Spectacularly.
In short order, Noriko “The Boss with the Cross” Kazama (Miki Sugimoto), Remi “The Razor” Kitano (Misuzu Ota) and Kyoko Kubo (Seiko Saburi) are arrested for, respectively, attempted car theft, possession of a switchblade and giving a truck driver a hand job that results in a fatal crash. Yes, you read that right. They’re sentenced to a spell at the School of Hope. None of them being the obsequious types, they immediately antagonise the Discipline Committee. But when Noriko discovers that the Committee were behind the death of Michiyo – her trusted lieutenant in a girl gang she used to lead – things escalate into all-out war. But not before ex-cop-turned-journalist-turned-blackmailer Wakabayashi (Tsunehiko Watase) and gang leader Maki Takagawa (Reiko Ike) show up with their conflicting agendas, and things get even more heated.
Ike, of course, was the poster girl for pinky violence – thanks to iconic roles in ‘Sex and Fury’ (again for Suzuki), the lion’s share of ‘Girl Boss’ films (Suzuki et al), Teruo Ishii’s ‘Female Yazuka Tale: Inquisition and Torture’ (the sequel to ‘Sex and Fury’) and Kinji Fukusaku’s ‘Battles Without Honour and Humanity: Proxy War’ – with Sugimoto perhaps only second to her in the popularity stakes. Both of them in the same movie? Pinky heaven, right!
Unfortunately, Ike’s role is little more than a cameo with the nebulous conflict between her character and Sugimoto’s unresolved by the end of the movie. Still, Sugimoto carries the film admirably and looks as badass as you’d expect from the genre. Ota and Saburi bring sass and sexiness to their supporting roles; in fact, none of the female cast were remotely assailed by the ugly stick. They are, however, assailed by their director’s sleazier peccadilloes. In additional to the aforementioned blood-letting and electrocution, Suzuki throws in a squirmy scene (apparently replicated in some of his other films, which casts the dude in a worrying light) where a girl who’s sympathetic to Noriko is forced by the Discipline Committee to ingest a huge quantity of water then forced to remain at her desk until her bladder gives way.
Not content with such urological humiliation, Suzuki throws in a rape and a suicide before abruptly shifting gears to stage the denouement against a backdrop of social unrest and political protest, for all the world as if he were making a torn-from-the-headlines docu-drama and not the venal and nasty-minded (yet scabrously entertaining) piece of filth that a film of this title – never mind its content – could only ever be.