Also known as: Maruhi: joro ichiba
This is a wonderful little Japanese sex film from the seventies. It's funny, erotic, sad and maybe even bordering on offensive to some. Much as I love it, I'm not sure if I'm doing the world a disservice by reviewing and raving about it, as I have absolutely no idea how anyone would get a hold of it! I can't find it anywhere on the web, having watched and taped it years ago, on our Australian multi-cultural channel. And that's the last I've heard of it. Still, maybe some attention will bring this little lost gem to light. However, if you do get frustrated by reading about something that you can't find, please turn away now, as the chances are high that you won't find this one. Those of you who are left, please read on! I love Japanese cinema, particular any "Pink" or erotic cinema I can get my hands on. I think this one may be from the famous Nikkatsu Production house that churned out so many classics in the seventies. I'm not sure though, and anyone that's in the know please feel free to write me, and fill me in on the truth. I'd best get into the review though.
It's ancient Japan, and brothel broker Kishi (Hiroshi Gojo) is despairing of the small village he's working in, finding nothing but plain girls, older peasant women and unenthusiastic females to sell at the local "prostitute market". Still, just as he's about to give up, a simple-minded homeless girl called Oshin (Yûko Katagiri) shows up and is soon parading herself innocently before him. Sensing something special about her, he turns his magnifying glass to her nether-regions and finds many "earthworms and electric jellyfish" - apparently a measure of a woman's sexual skill and appeal! The ugly dark mole on his cheek swells up - obviously a sign of some sort of sexual ecstacy. This "inflating mole" will figure again much later in the film! Convincing the naive young girl that a better life lies ahead, he takes her and her pet bull Blackie, to the rural brothel he feels he has a chance of selling her to. He realizes that Oshin has no idea whatsoever about sex, but still feels she will succeed. She lovingly calls him "Uncle Kishi". Kishi makes out that being a prostitute is easy, that all she has to do is "sleep" with the customer to make money. She's convinced and happy.
Kishi leaves Oshin at the brothel. The stern madam is not hugely impressed, but willing to give the attractive "half-wit" a chance. First off, Oshin is left with a man who like to tickle. After being told to sleep with him, that's indeed what she does. He tries to tickle her naked body into a sexual frenzy, but the sleeping girl will not respond. As he gives up on her, and tickles himself into orgasm, Oshin panics and throws a vase of water on him! He's furious and storms off, but the annoyed madam gives her another chance. The next customer, a giant Sumo wrestler, ends up crashing through the floor as he chases the playful, nude Oshin ("what a cheerful girl!") in a game of Sumo, which he'd hoped to turn into sex. No such luck. The couple he fell on downstairs end up painfully locked together by the genitals as some poor old dogs can be known to do! This is all broad humour and played for laughs, of course.
For the next round of doomed customers, we get three blind men, whom the brothel staff seem to hate for some reason, whose efforts to have sex with the helpless Oshin are hampered by their lack of vision. They end end kissing and licking each other's hairy selves as Oshin vanishes, finally to become so frustrated they attack each other with their canes. Oshin is turned over to one of the girls for education. As her body is "set aflame" by the experienced whore, the prostitute herself experiences a strange fit as she feels her body charged with a strange electricity. She emerges exhausted and feeling like a limp rag, taking days to recover. Finally, a local bigwig called "Glancing Monta", whose brief glance is supposed to seduce any woman, tries to bed the confused girl. We see his glances but they do nothing for the "half-wit" as Oshin is so often called. After her pleasurable experience with the prostitute, Oshin doesn't want anything to do with men and keeps her legs firmly closed. After he tries to rape her, her faithful bull Blackie is enraged by his attack (and his red loincloth) and chases him out a window. Oshin is left to starve in a pit for days as punishment. Then, for revenge, the bandaged Monta gets the Madam to kill the bull and they both trick Oshin into eating her pet.
The distraught girl runs away, and after living hard in the countryside for a while, runs into "Uncle Kishi" again on the road. Convincing her to go back, mainly to save face with the Madam, she reluctantly agrees. Another attempt to please Glancing Monta goes wrong though, as after telling the very literal-minded Oshin to take a bite, she proceeds to bite him in the nether-regions (I'm not sure if it's penis or balls) and he seems to die from the wound. Kishi intervenes and in a desperate bid to save face for the final time, and possibly save Oshin's life, he offers to demonstrate the wonders of Oshin's "earthworms and electric jellyfish" to the cynical Madam. Oshin agrees because she loves his smell, and him too, I'm guessing. As the Madam and her assistant look on in sexual arousal, Kishi makes love to Oshin for the first time, in quite an erotic scene. We're told by narration that they do all sorts of positions, and suddenly that dark mole on Kishi's cheek swells up again like a balloon. He suddenly dies of the ultimate sexual ecstasy. Having had enough of them both, the Madam dumps Kishi's body on a cart and leaves the two of them abandoned in the countryside. In her grief, Oshin notices that his "thing is still alive" and strips off to have sex with Uncle Kishi's corpse, hoping to bring him back to life. Even though the body, as we're told, seems to have a smile on it's face, it doesn't come back to life. As the singing narrator tells us, "so ends the romance of Oshin."
It's a pretty downbeat and some would say necrophiliac ending, but with a character as innocent as Oshin you can't really see it that way. Something about the entirety of this film works. The humour of most of the film is broad and silly, but I couldn't help raising a smile now and then. It does veer into the depressing, as we realise that her beloved Uncle Kishi doesn't really care about her - he just wants to save his fading status in the prostitute brokering business. Still, this is the sort of storyline you can view when you're not watching the latest Hollywood movie. The actors are all of a good standard for this type of film. Yûko Katagiri has a gorgeous face and body, and her sex scenes are subtle but very erotic. I loved the music, which varied from seventies lounge music to traditional Japanese string music. There is also the ongoing sung narration by the "Greek chorus" of a traditional Japanese female singer. I just loved that throughout the film. As with most Japanese movies from this era, it's all well photographed with some stunning compositions, such as Oshin's final sex scene with the dead Kishi, shot against flowing reeds blowing in the wind.
I hope this film becomes more readily available in the future, it's well worth a look to any enthusiast of Japanese erotica, or any fan of unusual cinema, for that matter. I hope you can track it down, if I've ignited your interest.
© "Glancing" Boris Lugosi, 2005.
Review written: 10/18/2005 22:30:17