Female Slave Ship (Onna Doreisen)

Director: Yoshimoto Onodo
Year: 1960
Production Company: Shin Toho
Running Time: 83 minutes

With a title like this one might easily assume that this will have the lurid smell of girly exploitation surrounding it like a beer worn lap dance parlor, but then one has to realize that the film was made in 1960, a few years before Japan cinema dived head first into the “pinku” genre. In truth this is a fairly mild film in that respect – it is more of an adventure action film that may tease but never crosses the line. The film does have an intriguing mix of female slavery, pirates and girls with guns and that combination alone makes it somewhat unique and enjoyable.

It is 1945 and things are looking bad for Japan’s war effort, as the American’s have devised a radar device that has allowed them to control the skies. The Japanese have found some information though that may counter this and they encode it on a picture and send Lt. Suguwa back to the home country with it in his possession. Suguwa is played by a very young and very lean Bunta Sugawara years before he was to make it big in Yakuza pictures. On the way back though, his plane is shot down by American fighters and the next thing he knows he has been taken on by a Chinese freighter headed for Shanghai. With some interesting cargo.
These are slave traders of female flesh headed with their valuables to be auctioned off in China – and in their cramped dingy hold are a dozen Japanese women ready to go to market. All of them were prostitutes back home except for Rumi (Utako Mitsuya) who thought she had signed up to be a nurse and is the picture of innocence in her pigtails. She wanders out on deck against the rules and is whipped on the orders of the tough sexy female “Queen” who is the cohort of the captain. Played by Yoko Mihara, she puts the yum back into yummy and was apparently nicknamed the “Monroe of Japan” and it wasn’t because she had a habit of marrying famous men. She is a sexual tinderbox and appeared in a few hard-edged Teruo Ishii films like “Pier of Woman Body”, “Zone of Black Line”, “Yellow Line” and “Sexy Line” and later on when she had put on a few years and a few pounds she showed up in some films that have cult scribbled on them with a broken crayon -  “Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs”, “Convent of the Holy Beast” and “Prisoner Scorpion 701”.
As a gentleman and soldier Suguwa of course tries to free the women – unaware of the irony apparently that the Japanese army maintained “comfort women” as one of their imperial policies. He gets caught though and as a punishment is tossed into the brig with the scantily clad women – punish me some more please. Then the pirates in their pirate regalia show up under the command of an open-shirted Tetsuro Tanba and they board the ship and kill all the crew except for Suguwa who they take a liking to even after he beats up most of them and Queen who they take a lusting for. They are also pleased to discover the cargo. The pirates take the women back to an island where they plan to brand and sell them to the highest bidder and to sell Suguwa to an agent for the Americans. Things begin heating up a bit with a heat-seeking belly dance from Queen, a big cat fight and a final explosion of violence when Suguwa breaks the women out and they decide to fight for their lives after a quick lesson in firearms. They learn quickly.

My rating for this film: 6.5