The fifth volume in Impulse Picture’s Nikkatsu Roman Porno series is this nasty little shocker written by Chicho Katsura (Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl [M]) in which a black gloved serial rapist & killer assaults women and literally sets their privates aflame, committing a mangled collage of atrocities in daylight & nighttime, initially with total impunity.
The strangeness of this particular entry in pink cinema lies in the skillful way first-time director Naosuke Kurosawa makes use of the almost decaying environment of a partially built apartment complex, and his use of elegant widescreen composition and saturated colours. It’s not extreme to suggest Kurosawa was making his own giallo hybrid – at least in the use of streamlined visuals which don’t date the film’s look, and whole sequences devoted to sexual mayhem.
Shocks and revelations burst like an Italian giallo, yet the film also combines extended softcore scenes as well as graphic rape which isn’t germane to standard thrillers, let alone the giallo. (There are full-blown exceptions within the giallo genre, but graphic sex scenes rarely go on for long stretches because the goal of a giallo is to keep the pace moving, and sex is merely the cheap teaser to the longer stalk and slash audio-visual mobile.)
The film’s most bizarre sequence, however, is rooted in the giallo: the ludicrous eye puncture of a schoolgirl by running into a barbed wire, and the fast-editing of the victim’s full debasement by displaying feminine attributes across the screen before mangling them due to a sadistic undercurrent rooted in the killer’s warped psychology. Kurosawa goes way further by having his killer set victim on fire, which in this case consists of stuffing a gas-soaked wad in her privates. It’s a repulsive scene steeped in feral misogyny... and yet in its own warped way, like Takashi Miike’s extended sexual torture scenes (notably Imprint, his revolting episode of the Masters of Horrors series) Kuroswa is making his own kind of sexual splatter art.
If the kills aren’t blatant and kinetic, they’re sometimes abstract, like a girl found cut and twisted within the metal tubing of an unfinished support column – an image that perhaps to western eyes, evokes a twisted figure ensnared within intricate playground monkey bars. That scene is later tied to a Sadean moment in which the dead girl’s father walks past the apartment banging a drum, mourning his loss while another woman is not only raped and killed, but has her privates blow-torched in a scene presaging the tool’s ugly usage in The Girl Net Door (2007).
Zoom Up: Sex Apartments is completely absurd – the violence and logic behind the assaults and killings is as rational as a giallo’s narrative underpinnings, and the nutbar finale where ‘all is explained’ in operatic excess – but it’s a somewhat successful creation, perhaps because Kurasawa is able to balance melodrama, sexual violence, and straightforward softcore copulation. There’s also the peculiar inference that the heroine, after surviving deceit and violence in the opening construction site / dusty wasteland assault, has been irreparably transformed into a soul sympathetic to her aggressor, as well hungry to relive the extreme events, much in the way newlywed Amparo felt quite bereft once she was back at home with her dull husband at the end of Erotic Escape [M] (1985).
Impulse’s transfer is gorgeous, capturing Masaru Mori’s superb cinematography and the compositions. Jasper Sharp’s liner notes place the film within the context of its strange genre, and he makes note of Kurosawa’s own career for Nikkatsu, starting as an assistant director on pink films like Masaru Konuma’s explosive ‘bondage & bowel voiding’ drama Wife to be Sacrificed / Ikenie fujin (1974), as well as the film’s sort-of antecedent, Zoom Up: Rape Site / Zûmu appu: bôkô genba (1979), or Zoom Up: Rape Report / Zûmu appu: bôkô hakusho (1981).
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan