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November 5, 2012

Movie Review: Madame O (1967, aka Zoku akutokui: Joi-hen)

Directed by Seiichi Fukuda

Michiko Saky├┤ plays the Madame O of the title, a highly successful female surgeon with issues. The frowning, matronly Sakyo is all business at the clinic, but come nightfall she paints on a smile and hits all of Tokyo ’s seediest gin joints to pick up men. After a roll in the hay, Madame O reaches for her lancet, marks her male prey and presses some syphilis-moistened swabs into their wounds as they sleep. Sakyo is lashing out at men after being gang raped on a beach as a teenager. She hates all men, and hates herself just a little bit more, as she mutilates her own genitalia sans anesthetic. A fellow male doctor (Akihiko Kaminara) catches her in the act and promptly falls head over heels in love with her! – YEEEEEEEEEEEcccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhh.

Buy Madame O on DVD

They marry and enjoy a few months of connubial bliss – until Madame O finds herself on the receiving end of a similar sort of “chemical warfare” that she had previously been applying to others. There’s another woman – there’s a scene in a tunnel – she confronts her husband – you really didn’t expect it to end well, now did you?

If this film was a high school student, it would be the impeccably dressed young lady with manners beyond reproach repeatedly sent to detention on the basis of her sullen, horrible attitude. Cheap and nasty, Madame O oozes postwar malaise all over the place. The curious thing is that Radley Metzger’s Audubon Films took the time to provide an English dub track – the only such audio on this DVD, and distribute it to American grindhouses and drive-ins. Of the literally thousands of Japanese sex films out there, this piece of work involving sexually transmitted diseases, rape and jealousy was deemed the most likely to succeed from a company specializing in softcore erotica.

Madame O is similar in tone to American film noir, and features some minor gore scenes. (What did the American audience members of that time think they were getting into when the film opens with a C-section?) Madame O switches from black-and-white to color film stock, but this probably reflects a budgetary – and not aesthetic decision. Remember, Japan cranked out motion pictures by the thousands to fulfill certain sections of the Japanese demographic. Whoever decided that this would translate well with western viewers was way off the mark …

Madame O is nonetheless fascinating in its detached, casual misanthropy. It’s far more worthy of your time than the typical slaughtered-cheerleaders-soiled-panties films making its way from the Land of the Rising Sun. The Synapse DVD boasts an Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) Transfer, the film’s original theatrical trailer and helpful liner notes.

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