Thursday, March 27, 2014

Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi (1980)

... aka: ズームイン 暴行団地
... aka: Zoom In: Sex Apartments
... aka: Zoom In: Rape Apartments

Directed by:
Naosuke Kurosawa

Saeko (Erina Miyai) is having a very eventful day. In the morning, her competitive cyclist husband Kôchi (Toshikatsu Matsukaze) wants a quickie before he heads out the door on an extended trip. In the afternoon, she's riding her bike through a vacant lot when someone throws a rock into her wheel spokes and makes her crash. The rock-thrower - decked out in a black trench coat, black pants, black toboggan and black leather gloves - then bends her over and rapes her. Strangely only slightly disturbed by the attack, Saeko makes her way to an apartment house to meet up with Takaya (Keijirô Shiga), an ex-lover she hasn't seen in five years. The two had bumped into each other aboard a train a week earlier, he sent her a key to his apartment and there she is. It isn't long before the two are rekindling things. After having sex (twice), Takaya confesses to Saeko that, when she left him for the other guy; "I wanted to kill you so badly." Considering Takaya wears the same exact outfit and gloves as a psycho who's recently been killing women in the same area and brandishes the same assault weapon (a "hammer felt picker;" basically a needle with a handle used to tune pianos), he may not be kidding about the killing part...

Immediately after Takaya arrives on the scene, the currently-under-construction Kibougahara high rise apartment complex is haunted by a psycho arsonist who gets his jollies raping, torturing and murdering young women. The first victim is a schoolgirl who gets her eye gouged out before the killer strips her naked, stuffs a gasoline-soaked rag up her vagina and then sets it on fire. Yow! The next woman's dead mutilated body is discovered strewn in a jungle gym. Saeko begins to suspect Takaya may be the culprit, but continues her passionate affair with him. In fact, deep down inside she may actually be turned on by the fact he's nuts. 

Despite news bulletins recommending women in the area not go out alone, women continue to, anyway. A third victim is assaulted inside a vacant unit, where the killer strips her, knocks out her teeth, forces her to perform oral sex on him and then takes a blowtorch to her privates. Saeko goes to visit her married girlfriend Sachi (Yôko Azusa) for comfort and ends up getting comforted all right... by both Sachi and her husband (Ren Seidô). There's also a mentally-disturbed young homeless girl (Yûkô Osaki) lurking around who seems to be obsessed with Takaya and hides in a garbage dump masturbating while watching the killer incinerating another naked woman alive (!!)

Pleasant stuff this is not, but it's actually not as disturbing and outrageous as it probably sounds. Part of that is due to Japan's ban on showing pubic hair and full frontal nudity, which keeps the sex and genital mutilations a bit less explicit than what one may see in an American or European counterpart. Another reason is that it refuses to tap into the psychology of its characters enough to really get under one's skin. Sure, the attack scenes are somewhat nasty, but they would have been more disturbing if we knew something - anything - about what makes the lead characters tick. The fact our heroine has some dark sexual desires herself could have been a novel angle to play, but it's not adequately fleshed out. There are many long simulated sex scenes (again, shot not to show any below-the-waist nudity) and T&A though, and this was clearly made primarily for titillation purposes. In that regard, it's probably most successful, at least for roughie, rape and / or fire fetishists.

Best known here in the U.S. as Zoom In: Rape Apartments, this was issued on DVD by Synapse as Zoom In: Sex Apartments, which is a more apt title since there's more consensual sex on display than actual rape. Though the writing is highly uneven, it's otherwise technically sound, with good photography and music, plus some nice visual / directorial touches. The running time falls just short of 70 minutes.

There were numerous other Zoom In or Zoom Up soft-core titles released in Japan around the same time as part of Nikkatsu's long-running Roman Porno series. The ball started rolling with the financially successful Zoom Up: Rape Site (1979), which was also written by Chiho Katsura and starred Miyai. That led to this one, Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl (1980), Zoom Up: Sexual Crime Report (1981), Zoom Up: Genuine Look at a Stripper (1982), Zoom Up: Graduation Photos (1984) and Zoom Up: Special Masturbation (1986).


High Priestess of Sexual Witchcraft (1973)

... aka: High Priestess of Sensual Witchcraft
... aka: Sexual Witchcraft

Directed by:
Beau Buchanan

I guess if nothing else, I'm happy to provide an accurate review for this seldom-watched hardcore horror flick and clear up some misinformation about it. For starters, the current IMDb plot description; "A young runaway escapes from abusive men and finds a happy home with a cult of devil-worshiping lesbians" happens to be completely misleading, if not flat out wrong. Like most of the info over on IMDb, this same false write-up has spread onto many other websites over the years despite the fact that no runaway factors into the plot, no one tries to escape an "abusive man" and, most disappointingly of all, there's no cult of devil-worshiping lesbians, though there is a cult of devil-worshipers. Strangely, there's only a handful of brief and / or incomplete sex scenes. The longest of these by far is a female solo number. Two of the others don't even make it beyond the early oral stage before abruptly ending. And the fourth bit, the only scene with actual intercourse, lasts less than two minutes and is at the very end of this 63-minute film. Perhaps that's why Newsweek called it "classy," but for a typical porn viewer, this is going to be a disappointment. Sexual Witchcraft is the type of adult film made by someone seemingly disinterested in porn who wanted to make a movie and perhaps saw the X market as the only viable way to do so. While there's no escaping the fact this doesn't come through on the sex, it has enough of a basic plot to be watchable and the performances are pretty good. Actually, I've seen a lot worse acting in many R-rated horror films.

After having spent his teenage years away (presumably at a religious boarding school), a now-grown Wayne ("Rick Livermore" / Levi Richards) returns to his New York City home to visit his sister Debbie (who is "away" throughout the entire film) and his oddly-paired parents. Dad William (Harding Harrison) is a seemingly-repressed "fuddy duddy" minister whose idea of a pleasant dinnertime conversation involves telling his son "If either you or your sister lose sight of your Christian upbringing you won't have to worry about God's vengeance because I'll beat you within an inch of your life!" Mom Ellen (Georgina Spelvin) is about the polar opposite. She's flirty, vivacious, foul-mouthed and has held up surprisingly well over the years. So what's her secret? Well, she attributes it to dance and yoga classes, but we later find out otherwise. After Wayne goes to a party to bang Sally (Jean Palmer), he returns home only to catch mom and dad engaged in some rather non-religious behavior. It turns out the holy roller dad likes to be dominated and humiliated, and mom is all too happy to appease his desires. She calls him a "filthy mongrel" and "disgusting turd" while walking him around on a leash and putting nipple clamps on him. For an encore, she sits on his face and instructs him to "Eat it or I'll beat your cock to a bloody pulp!" Christian values, indeed.

After the S&M horror show, Wayne decides to trail Ellen around the city to see what she's really up to and discovers more than he bargained for. After following her inside a scummy apartment building and up a long flight of stairs to the top floor, he makes his way up to the rooftop and watches his "high priestess" mum overseeing a Satanic sex cult from the skylight. He's made it just in time to see the initiation of a big-breasted virgin (Stephanie) into the cult, which involves bongo drums, nude body painting and a deflowering with a sheep's horn headdress. Ellen catches Wayne spying on them and then forces him to either take part in "the supreme test" or else face becoming a human sacrifice. Wayne opts for the former, which involves him having to stay hard after getting his cock smacked with a cane and then having sex with the virgin. The end. A voice-over comes over the credits stating "You'll see what happens to Wayne and his strange new power when you see Happy Days at your neighborhood theater." A sequel? Yep. Released the following year, Happy Days was also made by Buchanan and also stars Spelvin, Richards and Harrison in the same roles. I guess Wayne's "strange new power" is his ability to maintain an erection while his own mother administers genital torture.

This is available on both DVD and VHS through Alpha Blue Archives, who have included it in their "Satanic Sickies" box set. The print quality is pretty damaged / dark / blurry, but that's pretty much to be expected with one of these obscure 70s hardcore flicks.

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