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Rope and Skin/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Rope and Skin
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Rope and Skin is mostly remarkable for being Naomi Tani’s farewell movie. According to the 31 year old sm starlet herself, she wanted her fans to remember her as a ”forever blooming flower”. Retiring from the movie industry before the effect of aging took its price was the way to achieve this. To honor her decision Nikkatsu decided to make her last film something special; a period pink actioner with a budget.

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The picture was scripted by the acclaimed Toei professional Takeshi Matsumoto (who had been working on such classics as Showa zankyo den and the Furyo bancho series). He delivers a screenplay that combines elements from Nikkatsu’s own sm films and Toei’s more classy ninkyo yakuza pics. Novelist Dan Oniroku is also given credit for the storyline, although that seems to be the case with almost every sm film Nikkatsu ever produced. The directing duties were given to Shogoro Nishimura, one of the studio’s most experienced roman porno experts.

The film’s key scene is placed in the very beginning. Naomi Tani, dressed in white kimono, introduces herself to the audience as a gambler who’s about to participate in the last match of her career. ”Let it be one of my best”, she says. Obviously this scene is referring as much to her acting career as anything in the film. The fact that’s she’s talking directly to the camera only underlines this.

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However, the true significance this scene is elsewhere. From Naomi Tani’s appearance to storyline (a female yakuza helping a young couple) and characters everything is made to resemble Toei’s legendary Red Peony Gambler movies. As the film advances it becomes very clear the filmmakers are attempting a sort of Roman Porno Red Peony. The comparison is utterly unfavourable, even to miss Tani. She may have been a genre queen, she doesn’t stand a chance againts someone like Junko Fuji.

Another problem is that despite all the ambition, the film runs short on yakuza ingredients. Make no mistake, this is a roman porno sm movie and very little else. There’s only a couple of short action scenes and while it’s indeed fun to see a tattooed Tani jumping around topless with a sword in her hand, the quality of these scenes is nothing to get excited about. The storyline is simple and characters have practically zero depth. The soundtrack borrows heavily from Nikkatsu’s own, pre-roman porno film Blind Woman's Curse (1970).

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The amount of torture and degradation scenes is lower than in most films in the (sub) genre, but they’re there alright. Director Nishimura mercifully saves us from the most disturbing details but all the nastiness is still present, even if sometimes off screen. If you had a problem with some other Nikkatsu sm films, you may have to add Rope and Skin to the avoid list as well. On other hand, you can’t really blame the filmmakers for the content. This is a Naomi Tani’s movie after all.

The cast features some interesting names such as Junko Miyashita, who was perhaps Nikkatsu’s most popular star of the time along with Tani. Her role in this movies is more like a cameo, though. The main female support Yuri Yamashina has a cute face but her role isn’t too special. Shohei Yamamoto plays the stripped down Ken Takakura role, without memorable results. The best supporting actor is Tatsuya Hamaguchi, whose villain performance is loaded with enjoyable sleaziness.

Reviewed by HungFist

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