The 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats

Year: 1975
 Makoto Naito
Rating: 8.0

How have I never heard of this film before! It is the perfect combination of action and sleaze. A total trash fest that had all my fanboy nerves working in concert. Now I expected the action since it stars Etsuko Shihomi (aka Sue Shihomi of Sister Street Fighter fame) but all the gnarly brutal sleaze took me by surprise. In its 77 minutes, it crams in enough action and lewdness to fill two movies. You want nudity, perversion, sex slaves, drugs, girls fighting in prison, eyes being gouged out, hands crushed, choked with long hair, an ear being sliced off, nunchuck action, naked girls on a merry-go-round and lots of high kicking somersaulting action this is the film for you. Not for the overly sensitive. Shihomi is center stage all the way through with only a brief cameo from her mentor Sonny Chiba and she rings the bell time after time. The final scene in which she bursts though the window of a large Yakuza meeting telling them that she is going to kill all of them is just what we wanted.

Maki (Shihomi) is the leader of a girl gang that call themselves the Stray Cats. Now there is a series of Japanese films called the Stray Cats about Japanese girl gangs, but those were produced by Nikkatsu while this one comes from Toei and comes a few years after the series ended. Nikkatsu was the leader of the female trashy films that began in the early 1970's but Toei was not far behind. Looking at these sorts of films from an outside perspective they are quite remarkable in their way - exploitive but also female empowerment at the same time as these women generally end up killing men trying to oppress them. I can't think of any other world cinema that had anything like this any time. The Stray Cats try and save women being exploited by the Yakuza. That can lead to trouble.

As the film opens we see two women spread eagle tied to the railroad tracks with a train not far away. But this is a female gang doing it to them and out of nowhere comes Maki - called the 13 Steps of Maki - and she has a big 13 emblazoned on her shirt to make sure no one forgets and she beats the crap out of them. Then she rescues a naked girl escaping from a sex show and has to beat up a few Yakuza - then they bring in a professional killer (Tatsuya Nanjo) to deal with her but they don't finish the fight - later - and then they come across a high society girl (Misa Ohara) who rubs them the wrong way and they bury her naked up to her neck in the sand. This is all in the first 10 minutes.

They girl they buried turns out to be the daughter of a CEO who has connections to the Yakuza and she wants revenge. This leads to a series of escalating confrontations between the Stray Cats and the Yakuza that get more brutal as they go along. And throw in a few songs as these films tend to play over those few moments of calm. This really doesn't waste a minute of time - door to door action and trash. This can be gotten with subtitles in the gray market. Shihomi is so great - very attractive too - I only wish she had made a few films in Hong Kong as well - maybe even with the Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest. I wonder if they tried. Directed by Makoto Naito.