While Kill Bill paid homage to Norifumi Suzuki's classic, it is difficult to forget Sex And Fury's high-octane mix of sex, splatter and tattooed killer. Revenge has never been sweeter when it involves lesbian sex, whippings and stiletto-wielding nuns. Stephen Tan reviews.


It's understandable that those who have never seen Norifumi Suzuki's Sex And Fury (1973) to gush over Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill for its over-the-top violence. After all, there is Lucy Liu calmly looping off the head of a yakuza member and then there is the bloodbath at the House Of Blue Leaves where Uma Thurman takes on what looks like an army and then some.

For all its action, Kill Bill is really a collection of Tarantino's favourite movie moments and characters, reinvented for a new generation who had never seen the real thing. Sex And Fury is the real thing - it was part of the pink yakuza/samurai cycle from Toei studios in the '70s.

Not only does it influence Kill Bill in presenting a woman on a vengeance trail, there is a fantastic sequence of the heroine Ocho (Reiko Ike) fighting off her attackers - this time in the nude - right down to the battle in the snow. The geyser-like blood from chopped-off limbs was nothing new to Japanese cambara (samurai) movies or to Sex And Fury either. And then there is the Japanese woman gambler who displays an elaborate tattoo when she bares her shoulder - so well presented in Wong Jing's God Of Gamblers (1989) - it's here too, only that Reiko Ike bares all.

As a child, Ocho sees her detective father murdered by two unknown killers. As he lies dying, he clutches three playing cards - a boar, a deer and a butterfly - providing clues to the identity of his killers. Twenty years passed and Ocho is not only a skilled swordswoman but a professional thief with revenge on her mind.

At a gambling house, Ocho finds a dying yakuza member who asks her to help his sister who is under the clutches of Iwakura. Ocho runs across Shunosuke (Masataka Naruse), who harbours a hatred for Kurokawa (Seizaburo Kawazu) and Iwakura (Hiroshi Nawa) of the Seishinkai group as Shunosuke says the two caused the death of his father. Earlier, Kurokawa and Iwakura had killed Ocho's father for some documents which allowed them to consolidate their power in the Seishinkai group. At the same time, Shunosuke is in love with Christina (Christina Lindberg), a spy from a western power that is trying to carve out a stake in Japan.

To gain the girl's freedom, Ocho agrees to a gambling duel with Christina, who represents Iwakura. Ocho wins but Iwakura rapes the girl before he sets her free. Feeling suicidal, the girl talks to Ocho and reveals that Iwakura has a tattoo of a deer on his back. Agreeing to spend the night with Iwakura, Ocho poisons the man before telling him that Iwakura had been one of those who killed her father.

Shunosuke, who has been trying to get in touch with Christina, sees her having sex with Kurokawa and tells Ocho that Kurokawa has a tattoo of a boar. While trying to kill Kurokawa on a train, Ocho is captured by Christina who has a security team of stiletto-wielding nuns. At a dungeon at Kurokawa's house, Ocho is stripped and whipped by Christina. She is visited by Kurokawa's wife, who tells Ocho that she is her mother but the conversation is heard by Kurokawa. Before he strangles his wife, Kurokawa douses the woman with water which shows a butterfly tattoo on her back.

But being tied up is no obstacle to Ocho who manages to set herself free before taking on Kurokawa and his minions in one last battle.

The greed and vengeance motif is probably as old as the hills in cinema but director Norifumi Suzuki has added a number of juicy ingredients to make Sex And Fury a standout. First of all is the statuesque Reiko Ike, who has no problems with her nude scenes. A strong actress, she is hardly demure but a hardened killer when she takes on her attackers, even in the nude.

While nudity and sex are key elements, Suzuki, who also directed School Of The Holy Beast (1974), has added a lesbian angle - Kurokawa gets a rise seeing Christina and one of his female assistants in bed. Suzuki would base School Of The Holy Beast on a convent with nuns who are into lesbian sex and not above whipping and sado-masochism.

While Sex And Fury is complicated by the Christina and spying subplot, it definitely holds your attention, thanks in no small part to both Reiko Ike and Christina Lindberg and the magnificent bloodletting. What may stump today's viewers is probably the dated '70s musical cues that involve melodic trumpets and blues-ish rock guitar in the thick of the action.

Note: The Sex And Fury DVD (Panik House) is banned in $ingapore.

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June 17, 2007


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