Toshiharu Ikeda – Sei kari udo aka Sex Hunter (1980)


A beautiful young ballet dancer is accepted into a prestigious and exclusive dance academy. Overjoyed at the opportunity to further her career and repair her relationship with her boyfriend, she soon discovers that the academy has a much, much darker side to it–and she may not be able to escape it.

After performing in Swan Lake, virginal ballerina Miki (Yukari Taguchi) is approached by Akiko (Erina Mirai), elegant older sister of her boyfriend Genichiro who has been missing for a year. Hoping to uncover his whereabouts, Miki accepts an invitation to Akiko’s ballet school at a secluded castle hideaway. As they share a cup of tea, Miki is horrified to discover she has been drugged and stumbles into the studio to find the young, naked ballet students engaged in a heated lesbian orgy on the floor. Bound captive, seduced, violated and abused in every imaginable way by Akiko and her satanic manservant, Miki’s ordeal continues day after day. All the while she remains unaware, the recently-crippled Genichiro is bedridden upstairs. It is all part of Akiko’s evil plan to turn sweet, innocent Miki into a wanton nymphomaniac so she will be disgraced in Genchiro’s eyes. Then Akiko can make him her incestuous love toy.

A box office crisis in the early Seventies drove Japan’s oldest film studio, Nikkatsu Films, to concentrate solely on cranking out so-called Roman Porno or romantic porno movies. These were not tawdry low-budget affairs for the raincoat crowd but glossy, impeccably crafted albeit lurid sex fantasies pitched at mainstream audiences. Some of these were searing, even award-winning dramas, others were bawdy comical romps, and some were twisted tales of psychosexual horror. Many important Japanese filmmakers launched their careers in roman porno, including Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shusuke Kaneko. Sex Hunter marked the directorial debut of Toshiharu Ikeda who went on to one of the leading lights in Japanese horror and action films. Known for his audacious camerawork and inventive lighting tricks, Ikeda found cult fame with the likes of Evil Dead Trap (1988), Mermaid Legend (1984), Red Foliage (1992) and XX: Beautiful Prey (1996) to name but a few, though detractors charge he cribbed his style from Dario Argento.

There are aspects of Argento lingering about Sex Hunter’s operatic tone, stylized sets and dreamily abstract visual flourishes but the film arguably draws as much from the ballet manga serialised in girls’ magazines that were popular around the time. It is almost a parody of their emotional excesses only in a pornographic context. There is an aggressively sadomasochistic edge to Japanese sexploitation that leaves it unpalatable to some though irresistable to others. In fact, Sex Hunter draws explicitly upon the ideas of the Marquis De Sade as outlined in his key text, “Philosophy of the Boudoir” wherein a virginal innocent is similarly kidnapped and repeatedly abused for days on end, eventually emerging with an altered world view.

Ikeda treads a fine line between harmless steamy nonsense and brutal degradation, especially as Miki appears to respond passionately to her rapists. By far the nastiest scene involves the hapless heroine being violated with a Coca-Cola bottle then strung up in mid-air until a fountain of the fizzy beverage comes spurting out her ass. Worst product placement ever. Obviously this might as well have “not for everyone” stamped across it in big black letters, yet beneath the sordid surface lurks an oddly ingratiating fairytale quality. Akiko is evidently out to ensure Miki is not only spurned by Genichiro but rejected by a society that hypocritically prizes virginal innocence above worldliness in women. The manner in which her devious plan backfires is rather delicious as Miki begins to derive power from her situation, in an echo of Sadean heroines from Eugenie to Justine.

Taut, economical at a mere sixty-seven minutes, Sex Hunter is extremely well photographed and acted particularly by the alluring Yukari Taguchi. Admittedly depraved yet undeniably erotic in parts provided one is willing to delve beneath the sadism to discern the satirical intent. But you won’t feel like having a Coke afterwards.

— Andrew Pragasam (The Spinning Image)

Subtitles:English (muxed)

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