Love and Crime (Menji, taisho, showa ryoki onna hanzaishi) (1969)
The graphic, maybe even slightly shocking introduction scene of Love and Crime is set in a mortuary. Naked body of a young woman is lying on a table, waiting for an autopsy. A doctor arrives, puts on his gloves and begins his work. Opening credits roll next to the blood spilling images.
What we see during the first few minutes of Teruo Ishiiâ€™s Love and Crime is almost like a celluloid depiction of the changes that were taking place in Japanese cinema in the late 60â€™s. Movie studios were losing their audiences to the television and had to come up with new strategies to attract people into cinemas. Sex, violence and directors like Ishii would be the answer. Starting with his Tokugawa series (kicking off with Tokugawa onna keizu in 1968) Ishii went looking for the limits, seeing how far the studio would allow him to go.
Love and Crime was released in 1969, the year when Ishii directed no less than eight feature length movies. He made brief visits to Nikkatsu studios in form of the Rising Dragon series (which concluded in 1970 with the Meiko Kaji starring Blind Womanâ€™s Curse) but all of his Toei films fell strictly under the exploitation banner. Love and Crime follows the structure of Tokugawa onna keibatsu-shi (The Joy of Torture) (1968) by telling several short stories of love, passion and violence, all narrated by Ishii veteran Teruo Yoshida (Inferno of Torture, Yakuzaâ€™s Law).
The first story, which is also my favourite of the bunch, is a dark horror tale set in the early 1960â€™s. It follows a married woman (Aoi Mitsuko) who hooks up with a young man (Takashi Fujiki) and together they go for a killing spree. The characters are rather interesting and Ishiiâ€™s directing is captivating. He doesnâ€™t hurry too much and allows some moody scenes. The use of music, and also the lack of it in certain scenes, creates nice old school horror movie atmosphere. The classic murder weapon, axe, is also used to a memorable effect.
In the second episode Ishii re-imagines the famous, often adapted Abe Sada story, later made familiar to international audiences by Nagisa Oshima in Ai no corrida (Real of the Senses) (1976). Ishiiâ€™s take unfortunately suffers in comparison because of the limited running time. The likes of Oshima, Tanaka (Jitsuroku Abe Sada) and Obayashi (Sada) would have the full running time for â€