A young girl witnesses the murder of her father who is a detective and the only clue to his killers are three cards which carry the pictures of a deer, a boar and a butterfly, but what does it mean?
The years pass and the girl has grown into a beautiful young woman who goes by the name of Ochô Inoshika, played by Japanese exploitation superstar Reiko Ike (. Having survived a tough life as a female orphan in patriarchal Japan, Ochô has to been strong and streetwise and prepared to use whatever means she had at hand, which quite often means her naked body. A skilled gambler and blade wielding streetfighter, Ochô finds herself thrown into a deadly confrontation with powerful, scheming factions whose true identity could be the key to her own revenge.
Sex and Fury is in many ways summed up by its title, as the character, Ochô's personality is easily summed up by both. A woman driven by a burning inner fury who will use sex as a weapon if she needs to (and this being an exploitation film it's pretty much guaranteed she is going to need to … a lot.) Reiko Ike (Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom, Girl Boss Guerilla, Female Yakuza Tale) is Joined in the film by Swedish exploitation sex-bomb, Christina Lindberg, best known for the Tarantino-influencing cult classic Thriller, A Cruel Picture AKA They Call Her One Eye. So, you know there is going to be a serious dose a naked. Christina plays Christina, a British spy and devil at the card table in the employ of a sleazy Brit on a mission to destabilise the emerging power of Japan and start another Opium war. Unknown to her boss, Christina became a spy to travel to Japan to find a former lover, a Japanese son of a man wronged by the same powerful group that Ochô is taking on. Needless to say, a degree of co-operation ensues to take on the mutual foes.
Enough of the plot, though, as needless to say it really performs as a vehicle to drive the sex and fury onscreen that exploitation audiences hunger for, including a Lady Snowblood-alike scene in which Reiko Ike strips naked and fights her male attackers in a snowbound courtyard. Most of the performances are very good, although the English speaking characters acting and delivery leaves a lot to be desired. I can only imagine the Japanese director was unaware of how bad they sounded, but that's OK as there is nothing wrong with an element of cheese in an exploitation movie and they don’t have a lot of dialogue. I guess I don’t need to tell you that the woman are sexy, the bad guy's eeeevil and the blood flows; it's a prerequisite of this type of movie after all. Reiko Ike is a great actress who really warms up the screen and has a very expressive face. which means she can convey many emotions without saying a word.
As exploitation films go, director Noribumi Suzuki has created a very attractive film; mixing pop art décor, funky seventies kitsch music and creating a great feel of an Eastern nation colliding with, and absorbing, elements of Western culture into its own. Many of the key exploitation elements are there; naked flesh, lesbian encounters, inter-racial love (maybe not exploitative now, but remember its 1973,) torture, gambling, organised crime, prostitution, extreme violence, rape and even a slice of nunsploitation and blasphemy. Fans of female Cult sirens will certainly want to watch out for the scene in which Christina Lindberg dons a swade cowgirl outfit and is made to whip a half naked and chained Reiko Ike.
While it will no doubt draw comparisons to well known Japanese cinema of the period including many samurai films, and the gambling scene at the begging is very remanisant of a Zatoichi movie, Ochô's outcast status similar to that of Ogami Ittô from the Lone Wolf series, it is perhaps Lady Snowblood which will draw the most comparisons and, in terms of setting, it can at times feel like Ochô could pass Meiko Kaji in the street (the same manga was the inspiration for both films). However, the characters are very different; Snowblood's Meiko Kaji is a trained and deadly emotionally controlled beast of vengeance, while Ochô is an emotional, wild spirit of fury, deadly with a blade but she is a rough and ready streetfighter and should the two have ever met in fantasy vs. land you get the feeling Meiko would dispatch Ochô without breaking a sweat. Both films where made in 1973 and both have there place in the collection of any serious fan of Japanese Cult cinema. So leaving aside comparisons and fanboy vs. dreams, Sex and Fury as an introduction to the "bad girl cinema" of Japanese studio Toei is an incredibly entertaining film. Packed with pretty much everything you could ever want from a well made exploitation film and its sequel Female Yakuza Tale is just as good.
Glorious bad girl action, Reiko Ike is indeed sexy and furious, as she slashes and sleeps her way to deadly revenge! 8/10