Sukeban Gerira (Japan 1972)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Girl Boss: Guerilla
Review Date: 4/21/19
Cast: Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike, Ryoko Ema

"Get lost. Don't mess with us just 'cause we're chicks."

Sachiko (Miki Sugimoto) is the leader of the Red Helmet motorcycle gang. She and her girls leave Tokyo and head to Kyoto with the intent to take over the local girl gangs. An intense fight between Sachiko and gang leader Rika (Ryoko Ema) takes a deadly turn until Nami (Reiko Ike) shows up and puts an end to it. Unfortunately, Sachiko's newfound success in Kyoto brings her to the attention of the local Yakuza (including Nami's brother), who repeatedly assert their dominance by beating the girls and taking their money. This doesn't sit well with the hot-headed Sachiko, but her plans for revenge are put on hold when she falls in love with an amateur boxer named Ichiro who comes to her rescue one night. She follows him to a seaside resort like a relentless stalker where more trouble awaits, and tragedy finally pushes her over the edge. After getting her revenge, Sachiko and her gang head back to Tokyo to start their lives over again.

This is quite possibly the quintessential "pinky violence" film. It's overflowing with sex, violence, rape, torture, nudity, bloodshed, betrayal, revenge, and general social deviance, but is still accessible to mainstream audiences. It also has one of the most iconic and scandalous movie posters of the era. When I think of pinky violence, the image of Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike posing for a topless knife fight is what immediately comes to mind. Miki Sugimoto gives one of her finest and most provocative performances, and shows a surprising amount of emotional range. She does everything with intense ferocity, and quickly establishes her reputation in the film's opening scene by flashing her tattooed breast while beating up a group of aggressive bikers. Frequent co-star Reiko Ike plays the familiar role of Miki's biggest rival and gives a strong performance as well. Her extended brawl with Miki is one of the best fights the genre has to offer. Familiar bad girl Ryoko Ema also makes a memorable impression as yet another rival. The requisite torture scenes are bloody and unpleasant, but not nearly as nasty as other films in the genre. Likewise, the sex scenes aren't as tastelessly gratuitous as they could be, and the director livens them up with a sick sense of humor. A Catholic priest with gonorrhea and a mission to retrieve a used condom from a Buddhist priest are among the more amusing incidents. Continuing to poke fun at religion, the Red Helmet's newest recruit is a farting monk with a stinky crotch who steals one of the girls' bikes. Her role is inconsequential and completely unclear, but the trailer indicates that she had a back story that didn't make it into the final cut.

It's a good looking and well-made film, and the actresses are all at the top of their game. The action scenes are raw and exciting, although the motorcycle scenes are often spoiled by having glaringly obvious male stunt doubles. The climax is also more of a whimper than a bang, but it gets the job done. The film's most unintentionally funny moment is when an aspiring pop star sings a poignant ballad on the beach with his guitar, except the music is all being played on a piano. It's supposed to be a heart-wrenching turning point for Sachiko and Nami, but it ends up being hilariously absurd. Overall, if you're a fan of Miki Sugimoto and pinky violence in general, you will definitely want this film in your collection.