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  Criminal Woman: Killing Melody Reiko vs Miki, Round Two
Year: 1973
Director: Atsushi Mihori
Stars: Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Yumiko Katayama, Chiyoko Kazama, Masami Sôda, Ryoji Hayama, Shinzo Hotta, Seiya Sato, Keiichi Kitagawa, Tooru Hanada, Bontarô Miyake, Takeo Chii, Hiroshi Date, Hirohisa Nakata, Naoyuki Sugano
Genre: Sex, Action, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Out to avenge the death of her drug-addled daddy, young Maki (Reiko Ike) takes a swipe at a yakuza boss at his groovy nightclub, while topless dancers look on in horror. She fails and winds up gang-raped for her trouble. Shortly thereafter, Maki winds up in a women's prison ruled by queen bitch Masayo (gorgeous, pouting Miki Sugimoto). Her fellow inmates are played by an array of Toei Films' "Pinky Violence" sex-bombs - fiery redhead Yumiko Katayama, dishy Chiyoko Kazama and jive-talking Masami Sôda - each of whom gets a flashback explaining how they got here, a catalogue of crimes including robbery, extortion and sort-of rape (Katayama straddles an old man till he coughs up cash). When Maki leaves jail some years later, these three bad mamas join her revenge-plot against Boss Oba (Ryoji Hayama). Their plan is to fuel a blood feud between Oba Industries and the rival Hamayasu Clan, led by "mad dog" Tetsu (Takeo Chii), let both sides obliterate each other, then walk off with their drug money. But it turns out tattooed yakuza babe Masayo is Oba's mistress and has plans of her own...

While other Toei sexploitation-action-horror films spawned long-running sequels, Criminal Woman: Killing Melody strangely stands alone, the sole genre outing from two-time director Atsushi Mihori. Grittier and less fantastical (save for the gum-chewing thug who spits it like a projectile weapon) than the Sukeban movies, which may be why English-speaking fans seem to prefer it, the film is somewhat akin to a girl gang spin on Toei's Fight Without Honour (1973) movies, spinning a web of double-crosses and gangland feuds. Mihori can't quite match the comic book flair of his Toei contemporaries Shunya Ito and Norifumi Suzuki, but ensures this zips along at lightning speed, packed with memorable set-pieces with style to burn, not least via the fabulous Seventies fashions modelled by his comely cast. Chiyoko Kazama looks especially lovely wielding a machinegun in her Emma Peel-style black leather catsuit.

Toei's top teen sexpots Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto were great rivals and the plot seems calculated to further fuel that rivalry. The leads spend almost every scene lashing at each other like a couple of alley cats, from the prison knife-fight where they're bound together by a rope between their teeth, to the nasty torture scene where Miki stubs a cigarette on captive Reiko's nipples. An act that repulses even the hardboiled yakuza, except it's a pretext for Masayo to help Maki escape. For all the sadism, we are meant to admire the girls' gutsy, never say die, fighting spirit. An ethos born from Toei Films, the studio founded by onetime yakuza. Of course, this is also a softcore sex opus, so we have loads of lingering nude scenes as Maki beds a series of lovers to earn cash for her revenge spree, while Oba and Mayumi go at it with sweaty abandon. Where "Pinky Violence" movies usually stand out from the sex film ghetto is in their ability to weave intricate plots. This does so quite skilfully, moving from one off-kilter set-piece to another until the final epic punch-up between Reiko and Miki - interspersed with breathless declarations of admiration. Honestly ladies, why not just shag and be done with it?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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