- Original title
- Kinbaku SM 18-sai
- Japanese title
- Running time
- 61 minutes
- 22 December 2009
by Dean Bowman
Amongst distributor Pink Eiga's first run of releases, Shuji Kataoka's S&M Hunter possesses something of a notorious status. Certainly, the concept of a film about a chauvinist superhero that tames his female adversaries with his expert rope work is too bizarre to easily forget, and promises to thoroughly undercut the noble and self-righteous image projected by traditional western heroes. Such is the endurance of the character that Kataoka, also known for his Subway Serial Rape series, used him in a cluster of films between 1985 and 1987, of which this particular title is the penultimate.
The film begins with a heavy wooden door creaking open, and a man with an authoritarian air (played by Yutaka Ikejima, an actor now regarded as one of the pink genre's hottest directing properties) introduces us to the 'pleasure dungeon'. We have been immediately implicated in the proceedings through the point of view of the client, who we learn is named Joe (Pink Eiga's decision to anglicise the Japanese names initially seems strange, but somehow gives the characters an air of normality that is amusingly at odds with the absurdity of the proceedings). Similarly the film's epilogue sees the dungeon master open the door onto us again, point at the screen a la The Great Train Robbery and exclaim: "You must be an extraordinary sadist, right?" It's immediately apparent that this isn't going to be a guilt-free ride for any voyeurs out there, but S&M Hunter tells its story in such a charming, tongue-in-cheek manner that it's hard to be offended by anything - even though, on reflection, we probably should be.
After a highly amusing visual illustration of the various services on offer, courtesy of the dungeon master's hands-on approach to marketing (we are informed that accountants prefer sadism, whilst masochism is enjoyed by all, and sports stars like to dress as women), Joe chooses sadism and whips a woman into unconsciousness. "But why do you hate women so much?" The Dungeon Master asks. It transpires that Joe's gay lover Jack has been kidnapped by girl gang The Bombers, who are attempting to rape him into heterosexuality! This looks like a job for S&M Hunter, who, like all good super heroes, promptly appears in the room accompanied by his own kitschy Morricone-esque theme music. Panning up from his leather boots, to his skull-decorated eyepatch and dapper bowler hat, S&M Hunter (played with great restraint by Shiro Shimomoto) cuts a striking figure and the things that he can do with that rope... Later in the film S&M Hunter binds up one of the gang members in a complicated spider web, designed so that it tightens each time a strand is cut. It's an impressive display and frankly 'Bondage Consultant' is a credit that should be featured in more films.
S&M Hunter sets out into the woods to find the gang, followed by the dungeon master, Joe and Maria, a prostitute dressed as a nun who acts as an unlikely sidekick. On top of this, the fact that the protagonist himself incorporates a dog collar into his costume suggests that Kataoka's intention is for the film to be a critique of the church, with S&M Hunter representing the hypocritical, patriarchal elements of Christianity. As the men help one another up the rocky slope, Maria is amusingly left to struggle on her own. When they reach the top their hero heads off alone prompting Joe to ask: "Why did we come along?" "He looked lonely," the dungeon master replies casually. It's subtle visual gags and nuggets of dialogue like these that elevate the film. Another cracking line mocks the self-denying philanthropy of the traditional superhero: "All the masochists need me. I'm a charitable sadist."
It's good to see this and a bunch of other titles being given a proper release by new American label Pink Eiga, and it's even better news to see they are planning a release of S&M Hunter Begins, the first in the series. S&M Hunter's past is alluded to in this film as he is pursued by an old nemesis, a girl who dons full Nazi officer regalia before challenging him to duel.