Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 2nd, 2014
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1970 (Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss / Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo / Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter / Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal), Japan, 1971 (Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71)
Directors: Yasuharu Hasebe (Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal), Toshiya Fujita (Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo, Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71)
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Akiko Wada, Bunjyaku Han, Tatyu Fuji, Tatsuya Fuji, Hideichi Nagahara, Ken Sanders, Soichiro Maeno, Hiroki Tamaki, Takeo Chii, Yusuke Natsu, Hajime Kaburagi, Jiro Okazaki, Rikiya Yasuoka, Yuki Arikawa, Kouji Wada, Yuka Kumari, Hanako Tokachi, Eiji Go, Ryuzo Nakanishi, Michi Aoyama, Fujio Tokita, Toshio Harada
BluRay released: November 3rd, 2014
Approximate running times: 81 minutes (Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss), 85 minutes (Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo), 85 minutes (Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter), 82 minutes (Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal), 87 minutes (Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £34.99 (UK)
The Stray Cat Rock series which comprises of these five films Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal and Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71 where primary shot over the course of one year 1970 with the final installment being released in early 1971. Two directors Yasuharu Hasebe and Toshiya Fujita are responsible for shaping the themes present in this series. Yasuharu Hasebe directed the following films in the series Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter and Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal. Toshiya Fujita directed Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo and Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71 the series swan song.
Notable films also directed by Yasuharu Hasebe include, Black Tight Killers, Blood Territories, Female Prisoner Scorpion Grudge Song, Assault Jack the Ripper, Attacked!!, and Rape! 13th Hour. Notable films directed by Toshiya Fujita include, Step on the Gas, Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (Mieko Kaji appeared in all three of these films).
The series featured many of the same actresses and actors in each of them five films with the series main actress featured in all of them being Meiko Kaji. Up to this point in her career Kaji had yet to make her break through and one can clearly see as the series progresses the groundwork being laid for her later performances in such series like the Female Prisoner and Lady Snowblood series. Other performers who are prominently featured in the series are Bunjyaku Han (Proof of the Man, New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701) and Tatuya Fuji (In the Realm of the Senses), they both appear in all five films.
Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss: A tomboy biker named Ako helps the leader of a girl gang named Mei take on The Black Shirt Corps. This organization is responsible for the death of Mei’s boyfriend, who refused to throw a fight for them.
Though this film was supposed to be the launching pad for Akiko Wada. The real star of this film is Mieko Kaji in the role of Mei. Performance wise she stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast as she shows glimpses of what is yet to come from her. (Spoiler alert!) And being that this film was a huge success it is not surprising that more films were put into production despite the fact that Kaji’s character dies at the end of the film. (End of Spoiler)
To director Yasuharu Hasebe’s credit he creates strong female characters and when it comes to the abundance of violence in the film. The women show the men that they can stand toe to toe with them anytime or anywhere. And when it comes to the visuals Hasebe does not disappoint.
Overall Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss is a solid debut for the Stray Cat Rock series which features many of the clichés and the style that would be later fully established in the third film Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter and Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal.
Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo – Bored and wanting more out of life, a group of friends devise a plot to steal money from a dubious organization. Will there plane go off without a hitch or will there act of indiscretion have deadly consequences?
Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is only a sequel in name as none of the characters from the previous film return for this film. Content wise this film has a decidedly different vibe than its predecessor. With that being said the film does feature a riveting ending that deeply resonates.
Besides a different vibe, another area where this film features a substantial change is its director Toshiya Fujita, whose approach is on the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to Yasuharu Hasebe’s take on delinquent youth’s.
This film’s strength is its cast who are all very enthusiastic in their respective roles. With the standout performances coming from Mieko Kaji and Tatsuya Fuji. And though there are a few moments of violence, most notably the aforementioned finale. This film also features a substantial amount of humor.
Overall as a stand-alone film Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo is an engaging film that has far more positives than negatives. Unfortunately when compared to the other films in the Stray Cat Rock series it is easily the weakest film in the series.
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter – A half breed named Kazuma comes to town in search of his lost sister Megumi, who he hasn’t seen since she was adopted by Mama Blues. Mako is the leader of an all-girl gang that often clashes with an all-male gang named the Eagles and their leader Baron is infatuated with Mako. The Baron’s hatred for Kazuma runs deeper than his relationship with Mako, years before his sister was raped by a half breed. Irritated that Mako and her gang have been helping a Kazuma, the Baron gets back at them by inviting them to a party where they are raped by the men at the party.
Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter is widely regard as the best film in the series and nowhere is this more evident than its multilayered plot which explores mix ethnicity. In many ways this film’s is about struggling to find’s one’s identity, even the Baron who has fixed prejudices is not without his own inner struggles. (Spoiler Alert!) This film’s ultimate moment of acknowledging who one is comes during its finale when Kazuma sister who for the whole film has refused to acknowledged his as her brother, she finally calls him. This moment is also bittersweet as right after she does this Kazuma shoots her and then kills himself. (End of Spoiler)
Another reason why this film holds up better than any other in the Stray Cat Rock series is that it marked the return of director Yasuharu Hasebe whose is arguably one of Nikkatsu’s most underrated talents. Where many of his contemporaries left Nikkatsu due to them shifting towards Pinku cinema. He remained and show that it was possible to retain a high level creativity and substance working with such highly erotic subject matter.
In Regards to Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter some of its standout moments visually include his use of soft focus cinematography, most notably when photographing Meiko Kaji and there are a handful of moments were he altered the ‘scope’ aspect ratio and presented the image in a catastrophic way that framed the image around 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Of course this film’s standout sequence is the scene where Mako returns to the apartment where her gang is being raped by the men who paid the Baron for their services. She ignites the place with Molotov cocktails.
Performance wise the entire cast are superb in their respective roles and though Meiko Kaji gives another outstanding performance. It is ultimately the performance of Tatsuya Fuji in the role of the Baron and Rikiya Yasuoka (The Executioner) in the role of Kazuma. It is their performances and characters pathos which drive this remarkable film.
Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal – Two friends wanting to help another friend a Vietnam War deserter concoct a plan to sell a large sum of LSD to help pay for their safe passage to Sweden. Along the way their plan gets derailed when it is discovered by a local gang that they are trying to sell drugs on their turf.
Once again Yasuharu Hasebe returns as director. This would mark his third and final contribution to the series. He delivers rock solid visuals that are inventive and also a few of the techniques that he employed visuals in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter he carries over to this film. One of the coolest moments is a scene where Maya (Meiko Kaji) and her gang go into a Honda shop and confiscate several bikes.
Though not as heavy as it predecessor in regards to action, the film does deal with some strong subject matter like the character who objects to the war and is now on the run. Another thing that this film has going for it the way its explores guilt, most notably a character named Sakura who is taking care of young woman named Yuri who is now crippled and in a wheel chair because of him. He now devotes his life to her and to the point where she is the invisible leader of his gang.
Performance wise the cast are all very good in their respective roles with this film’s most memorable performance coming from Bunjyaku Han in the role of Yuri, she always has a look on her face that is equally devious and angelic. Other performances of note is Eiji Go (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs) in the role of Sakura and Meiko Kaji delivers another strong performance. Overall Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal is neck in neck with Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss as the second best film in the Stray Cat Rock.
Stray Cat Rock: Beat ‘71 – A wealthy man frames his sons’ girlfriend Furiko for murder to keep them apart. She briefly goes to prison for a crime that she has not committed, only to break out shortly after her arrival. Along the way she is reunited with her friends who assist her in quest with the man she loves.
Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71 marks the fifth and final Stray Cat Rock adventure with, Toshiya Fujita who has previously directed Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo returning to direct this series finale. Content wise, Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71 follows the same vibe established in Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo. Also the film’s plot bears more than a passing similarity to Romeo and Juliette, right down to its tragic ending.
And this time around the main characters are a different type of gang, they are hippies. The film’s score also reflects this film’s free love vibe and ultimately the addition of the hippies to the plot doesn’t help as they just feel out of place in the Stray Cat Rock world.
Performance wise the cast are more than adequate in their respective roles with no one performance standing out more than any other. And without a doubt this film’s most glaring weakness comes back to the cast and how this film woefully underused Meiko Kaji. Her character starts off as a key player only to disappear for a long period of time, the briefly reemerge and disappear until the film’s final. Overall despite its short comings Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71 is still an admirable finish to the Stray Cat Rock Series.
All five films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The first 50 GB dual layer (45.8 GB) BluRay disc contains these three films Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo and Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter. The second 50 GB dual layer (41.9 GB) BluRay disc contains these three films Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal and Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71.
Considering the age of these films and how well other films from this Era of Japanese cinema have fared in HD. The sources used for these brand new transfers is in great shape. Colors look nicely saturated, details look crisp, and there are no issues with DNR or compression. And black levels look for the most part look very good, there are a few instances where image clarity during darker scenes in not as crisp as it is during brighter scenes. Also where there are moments that look softer then what is representative of the majority of these films running time, this softness is intended and not a byproduct of the transfers. And when compared to this DVD box that was released in Japan, these new transfers are a marked improvement in every way.
Each film comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix Japanese and newly created removable English subtitles have been included for each film. All of the audio mixes included with each film are in very good shape as dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release are spread over two discs. Extras on disc one (BluRay) include trailers for Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (2 minutes 42 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (3 minutes 16 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles).
Extras on disc two include trailers for Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (2 minutes 48 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71 (2 minutes 38 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and three interviews director Yasuharu Hasebe (28 minutes 33 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), actor Tatsuya Fuji (30 minutes 6 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and actor Yoshio Harada (33 minutes 6 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles).
Topics discussed with Yasuharu Hasebe include how Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss originated as a project for Akiko Wada and Nikkatsu got involved in the project because of their interest in making delinquent girl films, the screenplays for each film he directed, optical effects and post production, visuals and the use of split screen, action cinema and violence, how content in the films reflected what was going on in Japan, how the series features strong female characters, how Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter was originally part of another film series and its original title was Frontline of the Night: Manhunt, the cast, Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal and his final thoughts on the three films he directed.
Topics discussed with Tatsuya Fuji include developing the characters he portrays, working with Yasuharu Hasebe and Toshiya Fujita and the differences between these two directors, he appeared in all five films and discusses each character he portrayed from each film and his thoughts on cast members from each film.
Topics discussed with Yoshio Harada include how he cast in his first film due to Meiko Kaji recommending him to the director, working with Toshiya Fujita, Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71 and he discusses various other films that he also appeared in.
Also included as part of this combo release are two DVD’s. Rounding out the extras is a twenty eight page booklets with cast & crew credits, a lengthy and informative essay about these film’s written by Jasper Sharp and information about the transfers used for this release. Overall The Stray Cat Rock film’s make their Hi-def debut via a first rate release from Arrow Video that gives fans of these films a chance to finally own all five films with English subtitles, recommended.
Note: This is a Limited Edition release only 2000 copies.