Author: Cameron Ashley

+Cameron Ashley lives and works in Brunswick, Australia. Aside from the local bar staff who know him too well, he toils away in obscurity on numerous pulpy projects, including Crime Factory. He lived in Japan from 2003-2006 and still works through his bizarre bi-polar love/hate (mainly love these days) for the place through his column at this site. Join him as he works it all out.
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Songs of Hate, Part Two: The Visual Instead Of The Verbal

We left off last column with a run-down on the first of actress/singer Meiko Kaji’s Female Prisoner Scorpion series and a hint that things were about to get pretty weird. Well, the phantasmagoria goes full bore in the second film in the series, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (Joshuu Sasori – Dai 41 Zakkyobo). Filmed, like its predecessor, in 1972, here Nami Matsushima, aka Sasori (scorpion), is pretty much fully transformed into something supernatural and, like Lee Marvin’s Walker/Parker in Point Blank, begins to haunt the minds of all who’ve wronged her. She even transcends time and space through some stunningly psychedelic timeshifts and edits. At one point, as Sasori hacks away at her foe, she literally slashes through the “screen”, taking us to a different environment.  It’s completely, beautifully bonkers.

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meiko kaji

Songs of Hate: Meiko Kaji and Female Prisoner Scorpion (Part One)

She sold over a million albums, her films inspired much of Kill Bill, and when she didn’t want to do what she was asked of by executives, she said uh-uh and split for greener pastures. Her name is Meiko Kaji. Possessed with a confidence and an intensity that saw her type-cast as one of Japan’s toughest bad girls, Meiko’s beauty and fierce you’re-a-fucking-dead-man stare, framed by tresses of long jet-black hair (frequently shot in weirdly-angled extreme close-up), has made her a global cult film icon.

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cold fish

It’s Not The Quantity, It’s The Quality: Sion Sono’s COLD FISH

Back in my days teaching English in Japan, I raised the topic of murders and why they were so frequently extreme in Japan. One student actually said in reply, “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality.” Kind of grimly funny, and a nice attempt at busting out some natural speech, but the thing is, I totally got what he meant. I always believed that the severed heads stuck on school fence posts and the dismembered parts littered around cities, not to mention the extreme pornography, were a result of social repression that, in certain people, boiled up and manifested itself in horribly sick, violent and often public ways. It’s not exactly a long bow to draw, is it? There’s a reason Ian Buruma’s fascinating book on Japanese culture (and valuable aid to this project), Behind the Mask is called that. It’s not just a clever title.

In and Out of The Big House: DOING TIME and 9 SOULS

By his own admission, noted Mangaka (pro comics creator) Kazuichi Hanawa had long been interested in themes of confinement. An early, unfinished experiment was a manga concerning a masked man locked up in a basement. It’s oddly appropriate then that Hanawa, a noted collector of replica firearms would, years later, be incarcerated in Hokkaido and serve roughly twenty months of a three-year sentence (December 1994-October 1996) after “trying out” some remodelled guns he’d acquired.

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gates of flesh

Apocalypse Whores: Seijun Suzuki’s GATE OF FLESH

Welcome to post-World War II Tokyo. The Occupied City. It’s a crime-fest. Aside from yakuza-run markets, gang wars, gambling, and seemingly everybody on the grift, prostitution  is so utterly widespread, there’s even a governmental department named The RAA (Recreation and Amusement Association) specifically established to relieve the occupying troops of pent-up libidinal urges that could possibly be exorcised in even less wholesome ways. The ensuing  fuckfest is prodigious. So prodigious that  the moat around the Imperial Palace becomes “so clogged with used condoms”  it has to be “cleaned out once a week with a big wire scoop.”

My Valentine’s Date With BUTCH FATALE

A few months back, I ploughed through Jungle Street by Don Elliott. Elliott (the pseudonym of SF master Robert Silverberg) wrote numerous smutty novels (such as Escape To Sindom, Sex Gang and Party Girl), the kind which once flooded the market with their lurid pulp covers of half-naked buxotics either frolicking with strapping young men or running from them.

Through The Lovecraft Looking Glass of Love: FATALE #1 by Brubaker & Phillips

It all depends on how you choose to view it:

Fatale is a crime comic. It features square-jawed tough guys making goo-goo eyes at beautiful dames with curling, jet-black tresses and fine suits and shotguns and embittered, trench-coat wearing cops and broad-shouldered goons.

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guilty of romance

Murder, Sex, and True Fake Crime in Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance

“Oishi sausage des!”

–Sion Sono, Guilty of Romance

Okay, hands up if you know what a love hotel is? Yeah, right, feel free to skip ahead.

For those who don’t:

A love hotel is basically a venue that you pay for by the hour to go and have sex with someone. They are frequently themed and full of weird shit (I once spent the night in a room with a cage over the bed and manacles bolted to the bathroom wall). It’s essentially an industry built on infidelity, which in Japan is almost as common as a hot meal, so it’s a smart industry at that. Anyway, picking up from last time, Sion Sono’s true crime-ish Guilty of Romance is loosely based on a love hotel murder in Shibuya. We open with detective Kazuko Yoshida (Miki Mizono) arriving at the grisly crime scene where a body has been found and several limbs have been replaced with mannequin parts. The film flashes backwards and forwards from there as the events leading up to the murder unfold alongside the autopsy and detective work.

Whatever Her Name Is, She’s Brilliant: The MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE | Review

It’s a role of intense emotional shifts frequently conveyed internally. It’s a portrayal of severe emotional and psychological damage created with such subtlety and intelligence it’s hard to imagine any healthy twenty-two year old pulling it off, let alone one related to seemingly vapid child star/fashion designer twins. Yet, here we are.  I have a new favourite actress.

The raves are in.

Here is mine.

A Colony of Bruce: BATMAN in the New 52

Speaking simply in terms of narrative possibility, Batman is the writer’s best friend. A skillful wordsmith armed with this brooding pulp titan could spin an infinite number of genre-spliced yarns and never would the plot-well run dry.

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human chair

Edogawa Rampo: The Godfather of Japanese Crime Fiction

In a story entitled “The Human Chair,” an anonymous, physically repulsive furniture maker builds a large, beautiful chair that he can climb in and out of to enjoy the sensuous delights of having woman of all physical types sit on him. When the chair—with him inside it, of course—is moved to a luxurious hotel, he falls in love with not only his cocooned world, full of shifting female flesh relaxing on top of his own, but also various other “qualities found in…the sound of the voice, body odor.”

Dead Supermodels: The Photography Of Kaoru Izima | The Nail That Sticks Out

I love them when they are dead

I want some cold-blooded women lying in my bed

I love you when you are dead

– Batmobile, “Dead (I Want Them When They Are Dead)”

At first you have to look closely to see her, but once you spot her, she’s hard to miss.

In a field of sunflowers lies Jun Matsuda.  She’s the one blemish in this scene of rich green and vibrant yellow, a body dressed in a metallic silver dress with light blue polka-dots. She’s covered in blood.