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  Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal Biker Girlz
Year: 1970
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
Stars: Tatsuya Fujj, Noriko Kurosawa, Eiji Gô, Meiko Kaji, Bunjaku Han, Jirô Okazaki, Toshiya Yamano, Yasuhiro Kameyama, Hajime Sugiyama, Hiroshi Ichimura, Yuka Ôhashi, Sari Takamo, Eiko Matsuda, Masami Maki, Takashi Seyama
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Nobo (Tatsuya Fuji) and Sabu (Jirô Okazaki) have a plan for their American friend Charlie (Toshiya Yamano), who is in Japan to escape being drafted into fighting in the Vietnam War. They need to get to Sweden, so to that end have settled on a ship they believe can take them there which has only one snag: it will cost a pretty penny to gain safe passage. Luckily, they have thought of that as well, and have in their possession a large stash of LSD pills contained in a tea tin, but they have reckoned without a certain girl gang, led by Maya (Meiko Kaji), whose members are keen to cause mischief and to do so wish to liberate the drugs from the three men's clutches...

This was the fourth entry in the Stray Cat Rock series from nineteen-seventies Japan, but somewhat incredibly it was also the fourth entry to be released in the year 1970 (another follow-up arrived the next year), as the studio were truly churning out such product to appeal to the burgeoning youth market that were proving lucrative to appeal to, and not solely in Japan, either. The glamorous aspect of trailing around after some hip, young criminals was obviously too much to resist for the target audience, and this was obviously not the only effort in this genre of gang thriller, all wrapped up in an action movie style with added reflective moments to prove it had a brain in its head.

What was different about Machine Animal was the LSD element, which may have raised hopes for the opportunity to watch minor cult icon Kaji tripping off her face in psychedelic sequences, along with her fellow castmates, but while the hippy culture had affected pop culture in general, psychedelic imagery in Japan was more likely to be found in the anime of the day which would often take advantage of the more out there trappings of the scene to deliver their wild feasts for the eyeballs. Here, the only trip we saw lasted about a minute of screen time and largely centred on the trippers seeing blood on various objects while laughing their heads off simultaneously.

Well, it was better than nothing, though betrayed a suspicion of the drug and its accompanying experiences if the effects would be so grim and gothic; that said, it was entirely fitting to the drama that this franchise traded in. Mostly our heroine was concerned with helping out Charlie, as she feels guilty that some of her gang girls nicked the three men's car and stole the pills, which they take to a warehouse and pop like Smarties, which is far from advisable but seems to have no ill consequences for them. There is a bad gang hanging around too, you see, a biker bunch who are led by a cane-wielding, sidecar-riding evildoer who once he gets wind of the stash that's potentially available, wastes no time in trying to acquire it for himself, by fair means or foul - though foul is what he opts for.

Our allegiances thus marked out finally, the girl gang can set about assisting poor old Charlie, who everyone refers to as a foreigner, yet here a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary for the actor who played the role was plainly not even American, he was Japanese, which makes it absurd that his whiteness is referred to so often when its nowhere in evidence as far as you the viewer can work out. However, that kind of lunacy came with the territory, and indeed can lapse the mood into camp for the modern audience, particularly in light of what the script came up with for its final act as they had to add in an action sequence at some point, so Charlie, hapless as ever, gets kidnapped by the bad guy bikers in retaliation for their leader's wheelchair user girlfriend being kidnapped by the girl gang - strictly so they could get the LSD back, you understand. It gets worse as to demonstrate the film's serious credentials, however shaky they were looking, we were given an unhappy ending to see us on our way. Music by Akahiko Takashima (and Kaji sang us a mournful song, too).

Aka: Nora-neko rokku: Mashin animaru
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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