Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (Japan 1974)

Rating: **
Review Date: 7/28/12
Cast: Miki Sugimoto

A female cop (Miki Sugimoto) is sent to prison after killing a murder suspect, as punishment for her "sense of duty being too great." Um, okay... Meanwhile, a nasty criminal is released from jail, and he immediately hooks up with his old crew of miscreants. After raping the daughter of a powerful political figure, he decides to kidnap her and hold her for ransom. To avoid a media scandal, daddy instructs his underlings to rescue his daughter and kill the kidnappers without bringing any attention to themselves. The head of the operation strikes a deal with the incarcerated cop to do the job in exchange for her freedom, and she reluctantly agrees. And thus, Zero Woman is born! She quickly manages to infiltrate the gang, but gets raped and beaten in the process. She's also extremely ineffective for the most part, and spends nearly the entire film in a lifeless daze, staring vacantly into the distance. Only in the final minutes does she spring into action and break out her curious red handcuffs, which prove to be a formidable weapon.

Reflecting the social attitudes of the time, this came out during Toei's "pinky violence" era and is a nasty exploitation film combining extreme sex and violence. It's difficult to watch women being treated so brutally, and the rape and torture sequences are unpleasant. Unfortunately, as far as "rape and revenge" films go, Zero Woman never gets to exact her revenge on anyone, as her boss takes care of all the killing. (which makes you wonder why Zero Woman is involved in the first place) The action scenes are pretty weak for the most part, but there are a handful of very satisfying blood geysers, which were a popular effect at the time. (I kind of wish those would make a comeback) Definitely low budget, but it looks good and has decent production values. Miki Sugimoto is gorgeous, but has little to do other than get naked and feign indignance. But she does that extremely well.