Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands (Japan, 1967)

Japan Society’s monthly film series The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema opened with a rare US screening of cult director Atsushi Yamatoya’s Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967), a First Wave pink film. Originally released under the title Horror Doll, it was also written by Yamatoya, who would write many pink films anonymously for Wakamatsu Productions.

The film stars Yuichi Minato as Sho, a hitman hired by Naka (Masayoshi Nogami), a real estate developer whose run-in with a gang led to the kidnap and torture-rape of his secretary and girlfriend Sae (Noriko Tatsumi, the first “Queen” of pink films). Naka wants Sho to meet with the gang and rescue Sae. As it turns out, one of the gang members is Ko (Shohei Yamamoto), the man responsible for the rape and murder of Sho’s girlfriend Rie (Mari Nagisa). Rie died at 3:00 p.m. and for five years Sho has dreamed of killing Ko at the same time of day. The night before his meeting with Ko and the gang, Mina (Miki Watari) surprises Sho in his hotel room. Mina is Ko’s girl and is attempting to set Sho up for an ambush, although the meeting the next day at 3:00 p.m. still goes as planned. Sho then finds Sae in what looks like an underground brothel and takes her back to Naka. We soon discover that things are not necessarily what they seem.

There aren’t many sex scenes in Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands, though there is quite a bit of nudity. The rape and sexual assault is implied but still provides plenty of impact. There are a few flashbacks to the death of Sho’s girlfriend Rie, as well as some dream sequences involving Sho’s desire to kill Ko out of revenge and they all flow nicely together without upsetting the story’s build-up. The dreams verge on hallucinatory, giving the film a bizarre quality that makes it so much fun to watch. Yuichi Minato plays Sho as man so hell bent on revenge that he is clearly unstable, and Yamatoya throws us a curve ball through the second half of the film right into the dream-like twist ending. Although it’s not entirely what you would expect from a pink film, Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands is a smartly paced production, and the use of innuendo and surrealism, combined with a very cool soundtrack by jazz composer and musician Yosuke Yamashita makes it amazing to watch. It’s a quirky film, compared to others in the genre, but one that comes highly recommend.

Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands was shown on Saturday October 18 at Japan Society as part of the film series The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema which runs until February 2015.