Sex & Fury (1973) is a wonderfully eclectic and insanely violent Japanese sexploitation flick directed by Norifumi Suzuki, the father of the sukeban subgenre and the same madman responsible for the later School of the Holy Beast (1976). His best- known film in the West is likely Shogun’s Ninja (1980), which for years proliferated on gray market VHS and DVD. His movies, like colleague and contemporary Teruo Ishii’s, are restraint-free exercises in perversion and excess often with some very weird touches. However, unlike Ishii’s films, which are fun in themes and subject but too often sloppy in visual execution, Suzuki actually had a decent eye for striking images. This is quite obvious in Sex & Fury.
The film opens in Japan in the late 19th century, where a detective is brutally murdered in front of Kyoko, his own daughter. Kyoko grows up to be one Inoshika Ocho (Reiko Ike), a lady gambler who dreams of bloody revenge against the evil men who killed her father. She meets Shunosuke, a revolutionary on the run from the law. Soon Christina (Christina Lindberg), a British spy working for an evil government official who herself has romantic ties to Shunosuke, arrives on the scene. As things get weirder and weirder, Ocho slowly begins to find and hunt down the men who killed her father.
The film reminds me quite a bit of Lady Snowblood (also 1973), though interestingly enough, Sex & Fury may have actually been released first. Both have plots revolving around strong- willed young women going on a quest of vengeance against the individuals responsible for the death of family members. However, whereas Lady Snowblood is a fairly ace piece of bloody chambara cinema that plays it very straight, Sex & Fury is a lot crazier, a lot more tasteless, a lot more exploitative, and a lot less serious. It absolutely revels in madness and features everything from soft-core sex scenes a plenty to bloody violence to Teruo Ishii-esque torture sequences that go on for way too long.
Though Meiko Kaji is more or less the reigning queen of Japanese exploitation cinema, Reiko Ike is a close second. Meiko Kaji had better acting skills and screen presence, but what Reiko lacked in those departments, she made up in others, with her lovely, beauty-marked face and her busty figure. Her performance in Sex & Fury is no doubt her most memorable, as she runs around, often naked with a large tattoo showing, slashing up bad guys with her katana. The film also stars Christina Lindberg, yes, the same Christina Lindberg from Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974), the infamous, viciously vile Swedish revenge flick. While in Sex & Fury, she never gets anything done to her even close to that in Thriller, but she still gets a lot to do here, including a soft-core sequence (sadly not with Miss Ike, however). She is passed off as a British woman, but speaks English with a thick Swedish accent. Between this and Chuck Conners being cast as a British man in Kinji Fukasaku’s Virus (1980), it’s clear that Japanese film producers didn’t seem to think Japanese audiences cared or could tell the difference.
The last reel of the film is particularly amazing, involving a train full of nun assassins, Miss Ike being whipped by Miss Lindberg in ridiculously graphic detail, Christina meeting her fate in a hilariously melodramatic fashion, and Ike finally escaping and going on a bloody rampage. My biggest problem with Sex & Fury is that the first three-quarters of the film are occasionally a little on the dull and pedantic side, but those stunning final 25 minutes more than make up for it. It’s also nicely directed by Norifumi Suzuki and its cinematography features a rich palette of bright colors. Sex & Fury, unlike Lady Snowblood, is no masterpiece, but does it really have to be? The final quarter of the film truly never lets up in its insane onslaught of wild visuals, spurting blood and sleazy sex. The film would lead up to a sequel, Female Yakuza Tale (1973), directed by Teruo Ishii and also featuring Reiko Ike as Inoshika Ocho. While more entertaining in some ways, it lacks the visual strength of Norifumi Suzuki’s direction in Sex & Fury.