Sunday, March 3, 2013

DVD Review: FAIRY IN A CAGE (1977)

Label: Impulse Pictures
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Region: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 71 minutes
Audio: Japanese Dolby Digital Mono 2.0

Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Koyu Ohara
Cast: Naomi Tani, Hirokazu Inoue, Rei Okamoto

Set during the latter part of World War II,  sadistic Judge Murayama (Minoru Ōkōchi) is the corrupt head of the military police, the sleazy official uses his position to falsely accuse the stunning Namiji Kikushima (Naomi Tani), a wealthy woman, of using her Ginza jewellery shop to finance an anti-government organization. Judge Murayama has Lady Kikushima and her suspected accomplice (Hirokazu Inoue), a noted kabuki actor arrested. Once imprisoned Murayama orders  new recruit Taoka (Kazuo Satake) to torture her while her Kabuki accomplice becomes a sex toy for the judge's female companion. As the film progresses Taoka falls in love with Kikushima, at first he despises torturing her but slowly grows to enjoy the physical tortures, as his lust grows he becomes more unstable and fantasizes about freeing her from her captors so that he can have her all to himself. 

The film is a long series of tortures and humiliations, Ōkōchi as the sadistic judge is fantastic, even more so is Japanese "Rope Queen" Naomi Tani whom endures many physical torments, mostly by the way of exotic rope bondage which look exquisite on film as she is strung up and degraded through humiliation. Her accomplice is subjected to the wild sexual demands of his female captor, forced to endure fellatio and as punishment for disobedience. At one point late in the film both he and the Lady Kikushima are bound as an itch inducing liquid is applied to their genitalia, thrown together into a cell they grind against each other in a desperate attempt to relieve their uncontrollable irritations, weird stuff.

The film stands out apart from other Nikkatsu Roman Porno titles in that it is quite political, clearly taking aim at the corrupt judicial system of the era, showing that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in this instance corruption manifests itself luridly and gloriously onscreen in a series of perverse sexual tortures for the amusement of the corrupt. Political statements aside it's also a gorgeous period piece that's rather well executed and the cinematography is quite fantastic, adding a nice layer of gloss to an otherwise sleazy goings on.

DVD: The anamorphic widescreen (2:35:1) presentation looks fantastic, this marks the first time the film had seen a home video release on either DVD and Blu-ray and I am only too sad to say that I am reviewing the standard definition DVD - it must look fantastic in 1080p HD. As it is the DVD looks great, sourced from the original 35mm negative the print is near flawless with precious few instances of dirt, debris or scratches. The color pallet is a bit subdued, heavy on earth tones, but the colors are deep, fine detail is nice and the black levels are quite nice, this must look quite a sight on Blu-ray. 

Main Menu
The Japanese language Dolby Digital mono track is also very clean and well-balanced. Dialogue is crisp and clear, the score from composer Hajime Kaburaqi sounds great, well balanced and free of distortion with an English language subtitle option. 

Special features are limited to a 4pg. booklet featuring original movie poster art and liner notes from Japanese film historian Jasper Sharp,  a regular contributor to Impulse Picture's Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection releases, this was a particularly good read putting the film into historical context as well as praising the particular talents of the Japanese "Rope Queen" Naomi Tani. 

Special Features:
- New High-Definition Transfer from the Original 35mm Camera Negative
- Newly Translated Removable English Subtitles
- Liner Notes from Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp

Verdict:  Available for the very first time on DVD and Blu-ray Fairy in a Cage (1977) is a perverse and sadistic women-in-prison style period film featuring the stunning "Rope Queen" of Japanese pink cinema Naomi Tanio, a dark, erotic masterwork of sadism, titillating rope bondage, and degradation. This will be a scream for the fetish fans and perhaps the perfect grueling double feature to play alongside Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom (1976), both are notorious indictments of fascist society, depraved and controversial slices of cinema, this is by some measure my favorite of all of Nikkatsu's pink films, essential erotic cinema. 
3.5 Outta 5