Sex and Fury


Toei Studios’ reigning queen of Pinky Violence, Reiko Ike, stars in Norifumi Suzuki’s infamous, overheated Jidaigeki classic of gambling, espionage, murder, revenge, and naked swordfighting. In contrast to Shunya Itō’s furious, near-contemporaneous Female Prisoner Scorpion trilogy (and Yasuharu Hasebe’s series capper), the thrills and spills on display here don’t carry quite the same message of righteous female empowerment, falling more into the more prurient end of the pinku spectrum of the era. But, that’s not to diminish the utter badassery and screen presence of the incandescent Ike, who cuts a swathe through the film and the series of miserable baddies that killed her detective father when she was a mere child. Emerging after 2 decades as a skilled gamber, pickpocket, and brawler, she navigates the underbelly of Tokyo with smoky eyes and a sly smile that disappears when it’s time to slaughter a dozen lackeys in the snow without a stitch of clothing. While in a separate subplot, Swedish exploitation star Christina Lindberg struggles gamely with her accent as a British dancer embroiled in a plot by the dastardly British to undermine the emerging Japan’s power, despite her romantic entanglement with a Japanese political activist. The film heads towards a shocking, somewhat blasphemous, bloody and oddly captivating full-throttle conclusion (mostly stolen from Meiko Kaji’s Lady Snowblood). It’s a heady stew of bad taste good times, anchored by one of the most charismatic performers of her era relishing the solo spotlight (Ike was more often paired with the intense Miki Sugimoto during this period).

Here are my two designs inspired by the magnificent 不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶 (Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō) a.k.a SEX AND FURY! A large format full-colour poster print, available at Etsy as a gallery grade, 36cm x 87cm giclee print:

You can also pick up a t-shirt, or A3 poster print, of this alternative black and white design over at Teemill, from another original photomontage layout:

Full Colour Poster Process

For this poster, I knew I wanted to use the infamous naked bath house sword fight as the key image. It’s the most iconic scene in the film, utterly ridiculous, moronically cool, and the perfect hook for the type of poster I wanted to create – as close a rendition as I could manage of the early 1970s Japanese exploitaion movie posters that didn’t hold back on the base-level thrills they used to hook viewers. However, my standard edition DVD is the only source I have available for any images for this film; high resolution digital images seemed scarce and while I believe there may be a Blu-ray release of Teruo Ishii’s sequel Yasagure anego den: Sôkatsu rinchi, a.k.a Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture, I couldn’t find one for this. That meant that, no matter if I could pull images, there would be such pixellation that I would have to degrade the picture substantially to avoid this being visible at scale. The first task was screenshotting a section of the fight – the moment Ike jumps from the bath gave the clearest set of images. These were enlarged as best I could within Photoshop, cropped (leaving the unfortunate victim of the katana-slashing intact in one), and the sword replaced in all but one shot due to the motion blur rendering them all but invisible.

Next, these screenshots were laid out together, with the spacing between them planned as best as possible to show the movement. This started to determine the shape of the poster (highly unusual in Japan – most posters of these dimensions would actually be vertical, not horizontal). While I had thought initially that they could run across the bottom of a larger design, the lack of good quality material determined that I preferred to make this the centrepiece. There were a few readjustments before I struck in the idea of a 4-folded sheet of roughly 4 x A4 paper. The size felt right: a 30cm height would be feasible for the print quality. That led to the idea to actually add ‘folds’ to the final design, one of a number of elements that would help hide the deficiencies of the original images. I liked the idea of a ‘widescreen’ poster – this influenced the idea to have a border of some kind to help create a more horizontal look, to allow for the very wide, 10 screenshot montage to not look too out of place. In this new layout (which at this point had only plain black letterbox borders) the images took roughly half of the vertical space remaining. I’d screenshotted a striking close up of Ike’s face that felt to me as the natural choice for her ‘hero’ shot; I wasn’t sure how to use it, but by adding a white layer border it looked more intentional. By this time, I’d added the pink-to-yellow colour blend as a background. The choice was largely organic – I’d seen a similar fade effect in the background of numerous Japanese posters of the era, and the pink represented, simply enough, pinku as a genre. The yellow was both complementary, and allowed for the somewhat clumsy blood splatter to be visible. That red element was tricky. I had taken screenshots of the title screens to the film, snipped them, and run both through Illustrator to create vectors. I knew I wanted the titles in red and white, but the pink background made it difficult to read. Luckily, the solution matched the white border I’d chosen to add to Ike’s closeup. A comparable close up for Christina Lindberg seemed natural – after all, on the original release poster (and subsequent DVD and video releases), she’s actually featured far larger than the film’s actual star.

Basic elements in place, I started adding text. Again, I think the mixture of vertical and horizontal text would actually be highly unusual in a poster of this era. Ike’s name goes first, as vertical text is read right-to-left rather than left-to-right, although this change was made very last minute after I hired a translator from Fiverr to translate the tagline to the film. It, in the very blunt manner you’d expect, refers to ‘Sweden’s No.1 Porno Queen!’, Lindberg, and that ‘Japan’s Porn Queen Reiko Ike!’ answers her challenge. This, then, dictated the order of the main images. The rest of the tagline, which says something like ‘These two will fight elegantly, and gracefully make the flower bloom!’, was added to the lower part of the poster, in red to help with the colour balance.

Those border sections felt like they needed something additional – I downloaded a pattern maker from Adobe Stock and created a simple wave pattern that I felt evoked the period film trappings, and used the exact shade of dark brown of Ike’s hair as the dominant colour to try to ensure that it felt organically connected, and to evoke the narrower colour palettes of older posters with limited inking abilites. The dark blue was added purely to allow it to stand out, and to hopefully make some sense of the blue light flare that was in the best available close up I could source of Lindberg.

The importance of the Hanafuda cards – the gambling cards that carry the images of the deer, the boar, and the butterfly – was something I’d wanted to include. First, via a screenshot of the cards clutched in Ike’s father’s dying hand, but I didn’t think that it fit the layout I had to this point. I managed to find, on a US Embassy website of all places, a clear image of the cards on a plain background. I separated them, and laid them out in a space that had emerged to the left of the film’s title. Adding in the various logos that would somewhat allow this to pass as a genuine period poster, including the Toei logo in the bottom left and the registration mark in the bottom right, I felt the design itself was done.

To get a vintage print style, I first downloaded Studio 2am‘s Zine effect process, as I wasn’t sure where to start with creating a realistically aged print effect. Unfortunately, the dimensions of the standard version were too small. I retrofitted the various layers of filters and processes as best I could, most importantly a color halftone effect that helped to obliterate the pixellation of the source images. Among others, there is a sandstone texture, added noise, gaussian blurs, and finally the halftone effect, set to 4 pixels. This was then exported, and dropped into a new psd.

I stitched together 4 creased paper overlays that I found on Adobe Effects – black screens that contained realistic paper fold damage – and shaped them to cover the image as needed, before using the eraser to avoid contaminating the image too much. I set this as a ‘screen’ layer, and added one more, different paper texture effect to offset the lightening that resulted with some darker paper grain.

Finally it was time to set up the print layout – I’ve ended up with slightly bizarre final dimensions, but was unwilling to affect the specific halftone pixel size by reducing the final exported image to fit a print border/bleed. I decided to add the English text based on a book I have of Japanese cult posters, Tokyo Cinegraphix, and allow for a wider border across the bottom edge. Each poster in that book has a little information block regarding the year of production, Japanese, and English translated titles. The book series is excellent, and highly recommended!

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