Ordinarily I wouldn’t shed any light on erotic films here at Cinema S out of principle. I just don’t much like sexploitation for reasons I’ve gone over in the past in reviews of Jess Franco movies. But to dismiss S&M Hunter as cheap sexploitation would be unfair because it is so much more than that.
Back around 1999 I became fascinated with the world of Japanese cinema due in part to the sudden rise of Takashi Miike and the genuine appeal of Ringu. DVD was making it easier than ever for Japanese movies to become available in the United States and if you had an all-region DVD player, you were set. The only thing standing in your way was the common problem of a lack of english subtitles. To compliment my new fascination I bought a book called Eros In Hell, which explored the finges of Japanese cinema and spent a hefty portion of its pages documenting the world of Pinku Eiga, pink film. What sets pink films apart from their cheap European and American erotic counterparts is a distinctly Japanese quality of madness. Where most erotic films are cheap vehicles for soft-core porn or T&A flicks, Pink Film has a tendency to put sexuality second in favor of absolutely insane situations that step into manga territory or avant garde film experimentation. S&M Hunter falls into the former. It’s a maddening comic book approach to soft kink.
Joe, a frustrated mysoginist, employs the services of a BDSM dungeon to take out his aggression toward women but the dungeon master sees through him and through the process of psychoanalysis discovers that he isn’t a sadist at all. As a matter of fact, he’s a masochist and gay. As it turns out, a cruel gang of girls, The Bombers, has kidnapped his boyfriend. To aid in his release, the dungeon master introduces S&M Hunter, a bad ass bondage master who can bend anyone to his will through the skillful use of rope. The three men and their submissive assistant from the dungeon set out to free the captive boyfriend. The Bombers, in the meantime have a new member, who really hates guys. They also arm wrestle to determine who gets to have their way with Jake, the captive gay man. The S&M Hunter employs his best moves to seduce The Bombers with his ropes but their newest member turns out to have a past with Hunter.
My experience with pink film is limited at best because of my earliest experiences with some of the movies I’d seen. Pink Film has a tendency to tread on the darker side of sexuality, fetishizing just about everything you can think of. Though the films are meant to be arousing to the people watching, they’re often tremendously unpleasant. They have a tendency to lay bare the gender politics of Japan and involve a ton of cruelty and degradation. S&M Hunter dips into this territory from time to time, it’s main theme, of course, being BDSM. However, it has a juvenile sense of humor that is constantly rescuing it from taking itself too seriously. After all, our hero, S&M Hunter, is a man who can ensnare a woman simply by the masterful throwing and twisting of ropes. His mastery so clearly defined that he pleasures them simply by plucking the ropes like guitar strings.
How many times have you seen a samurai movie or a kung fu flick where the master in question is so disciplined that they can casually pull of feats of great dexterity or strength simply because they’re just that awesome? Take that formula and now apply it to a kinky action comedy, if you can even call it that. However, with so much specifically kinky scenery including many elaborate rope rigs, I’m left wondering who this movie was meant to appeal to. From what I’ve learned by way of Pink Eiga’s promo kit for the movie, S&M Hunter, second in a trilogy of bondage hero movies was actually quite popular. Then again, so was Rapeman. Is kinky sex so prevalent in Japan that BDSM is received as pure pop culture? I really can’t say.
But at the bottom line, S&M Hunter is massively enjoyable. Make no mistake, it is monstrously mysoginistic but seems so drunk on its own madness that it never feels genuinely hateful since the whole things seems like a sixty minute long inside joke shared by the producers of the movie and no one else. The idea that resentful women need only to be tied up in order to see the positive qualities of men is absolutely laughable and those with the sense of humor tuned to receive this movie properly will be rewarded by a film so uniquely strange that there isn’t anything in the United States or elsewhere that I could compare it to. Films like this made anywhere else in the world would be condemned to obscure internet porn sites. It’s hardly explicit pornography and even by soft-porn standards it’s quite tame but bondage themes are still quite taboo and the final confrontation brings S&M Hunter face to face with a nunchuk wielding woman in a nazi uniform.
Fans of Takashi Miike’s craziest films (particularly Visitor Q) will fall in love with S&M Hunter. Pink Eiga, along with a handful of other totally insane pinku eiga and “Roman Porn” (less insane, more emphasis on romance and relationships) films have provided a window into a uniquely Japanese film culture that has somehow managed to avoid mainstream acceptance much in the way that many Japanese genre films, anime and manga have here in the United States.