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August 2, 2013

Movie Review: Fairy in a Cage (DVD, 1977)

Review By: Rob Sibley

 During World War II, the tyrannical Judge Murayama uses his military power to imprison and torture innocent people. Suspected of helping an anti-government movement, the lovely Namiji Kikushima (Naomi Tani) is captured, along with a local kabuki actor. Helpless and unable to escape, the two are subjected to a grueling series of tortures including rope bondage and psysical assault. As the Judge an his evil assistant Kayo revel in their perverse fetishes, a new military recruit they've hired named Taoka may be the key to the prisoners freedom. He loves Namiji and will do what he can to help her, even if it means betrayal to organize an escape!

Well leave it to Impulse pictures (Synapse's dirty little cousin) to release one of the most controversial and most sought after Nikkatsu productions of all time. The film at times reminded me of Salo, mainly due to the fact it mixed in heavily political statements with it's rape and violence. I must admit this film was my first journey into Nikkatsu. I've seen countless Pink films but this film is a different breed. Unlike your common Pink flick it seems the Roman Porno's focused on violence and sexuality on equal levels. It's certainly not a film for everyone.

I was ready to write this film off from the start but that's not fair at all. I'm not going to say I loved the film but it certainly has some merits to it. The most interesting aspect of the film is it's World War II setting. I imagine when the film was released it must have been controversial and not for the reasons you'd expect. The way the soldiers are portrayed surprised me. I knew a lot of sadistic stuff was going on back then and abuse of power and sick games were more common then not. But I was surprised that a Japanese film actually shunned the WWII soldiers. These are not the patriotic fella's you root for. These are men who are abusing their power and take sick pleasure in raping and humiliating people.

Obviously from the cover art you know what your in for. A LOT of bondage and rape and torture. It's not an overly violent film but it doesn't hold back with the punches. The sexuality in the film isn't titillating at all, so if you're expecting Fifty Shades Of Grey Japanese style look elsewhere. Once you get past the humiliation and bondage what you are left with is a rather interesting story. The film also packs some very solid production values. Everything from the setting, to the uniforms feel spot on.

The acting was also a pleasant surprise. The best being Naomi Tani, who is nothing short of outstanding in her role of Namiji. She's not your typical hysterical victim, the character of Namiji is a strong one. Often Tani acts without speaking, her strong expressions and eyes really do all the acting for her. Not to mention she is a very attractive women.

Impulse Pictures brings Fairy in a Cage to DVD for the first time in America with an outstanding 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer.  It's surprising how good this film looks on DVD (A Blu-ray is also available). Colors are spot on, grain isn't heavy at all and all around it's a solid transfer. Fans of this film will be thrilled that they can ditch their second gen VHS bootlegs of the film. 

The film gets a Dolby Digital 2.0 track (Were you expecting 5.1 DTS HD audio?). Jokes aside, the audio track is crisp and clear with no crackling or background noise. 

As far as extra's go you don't get any actual video extra's. But you do get highly informative linear notes from Author Jasper Sharp included in the package. It would have been great if Jasper had done an audio commentary since he knows his stuff. In his notes he discusses in detail the films production, the state of Japanese cinema at the time and Nikkatsu films in general. 

Overall, this film wasn't my cup of tea. It's not a bad watch and it has an interesting political message. But with this film I'm not the target audience. Fans of Nikkatsu will definitely want to pick this up as Impulse Pictures has done an outstanding job presenting this film on DVD. RECOMMENDED. 

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