Thursday, March 7, 2013
Fifty Shades of a Deeper Gray: Fairy in A Cage
Beyond some extravagant and audacious bondage and torture sequences, Koyu Ohara's Fairy in a Cage (Nikkatsu Studios, '77) boasts stellar production values with period detail unique for its budget. Never have these elements been more obvious and lush than on Impulse/Synapse's Blu-ray of this infamous Roman Porno (Romantic Pornography) production. Never released on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere in the world, it finally gets the royal treatment.
Released simultaneously with the just-reviewed and highly praised Female Teacher: In Front of the Students, this superb piece of elegant perversion from '77, the year Star Wars arrived on our planet, is a must-have for collectors and the cinematically adventurous. The 'Fifty Shades of Gray' crowd may not be ready yet for Mr. Ohara and writer Oniroku Dan's brand of S/M, but, if anybody is looking for a worthy entry point for this unique Japanese genre, this may be a good place to start.
Mr. Dan is a Japanese novelist whose works have been enthusiastically adapted by erotic filmmakers. A couple of Dan standouts are Rope Cosmetology, Teruo Ishii's The Red Silk Gambler, and various films based on his 'Flower and Snake' books. He's not big on plot or characterization, but he does imbue the genre with particularly personal touches. You'll find a lot of rope bondage in the author's work, and Fairy in a Cage is consistent with that fact. The film is a catalog of squirmy "tortures" that run the gamut from suspension to spanking to various water-based outrages. Rape is pretty frequent, too.
Ohara, the director of the infamous Zoop Up: Rape Site, True Story of a Woman Condemned To Hell, Wet and Rope, and the exploitation classic White Rose Campus: Then, Everybody Gets Raped, brings a more tempered artistic style to this tale of military and upper class corruption set doing WWII in the Land of the Rising Sun. The bare-bones story involves a wealthy pervert who uses a dubious military pretext to arrest and incarcerate (in his home torture chamber) a woman (Naomi Tani) that he wants for his own private amusement. Assisted by delightfully deviant wife, he involves Tani in his games, and brings along a devotee of hers (she's an actress!) for additional humiliation.
The film is lavish, somewhat confronting, but fairly predictable plot-wise until the two-thirds mark. It then shoots off on an interesting tangent and re-locates itself to a dense forest where horrors of a more personal kind are experienced by Tani, an actress who never met a torture she couldn't embrace.
The work of cinematographer Nobumasa Mizunoo on Fairy is exemplary. Surprisingly, he had only shot two Masaru Konuma classics before this (Erotic Diary of an Office Lady and Cloistered Nun: Runa's Confession), but produces the work of a veteran artist here, delivering exquisitely lit interiors complimented by striking compositions. The tortures shot through the metal bars of a cell are breathtaking, as is his photographic treatment of the film's final denouement.
Similar in style to Toshiharo Ikeda's very fine Sex Hunter, Koyu Ohara's Fairy in a Cage is intensely erotic stuff that will arouse the open-minded and shock those bringing traditional expectations of entertainment to it. Like all Nikkatsu 'pornos', it is not, in fact, pornography as we Westerners define it, and steers well clear of hardcore sexual depictions.
That it is now available on Blu-ray is, I must admit, kind of amazing.
I urge you to support this release with a legit purchase in order to encourage Impulse's head honcho Don May to think seriously about releasing such unreleased (in the US) Nikkatsu treats as Rape, White Rose Campus..., Zoom Up: Rape Site, Sex Hunter, and Raping! on Blu-ray.