Nikkatsu is Japan’s oldest movie studio. Founded in 1912, its mid-twentieth century golden age produced works from Seijun Suzuki and Shohei Imamura. But the most notorious chapter in its legacy came after that, in the 1970s and 80s, when the studio turned its focus to titillation, producing a series of sex-driven films with titles like Women in Heat Behind Bars. Calling a movie like that “erotica” is probably giving it too much credit but the term does apply to an earlier effort like Seiichiro Yamaguchi’s Love Hunter from 1972, out now on a new Blu-ray from Impulse Pictures. While Yamaguchi certainly delivers on the prurient promise, he does so with plenty of style, both in the filmic sense with lush close-ups and dramatically high and low angles and in the fashion sense, which runs the gamut from proto-disco glam to “Take Ivy” casual.
Ryûji Ôizumi plays the passive lead, Kazuo, a university student with a virginal girlfriend, Hisako (Mari Tanaka). When Kazuo catches the eye of a bored, hedonistic socialite named Kyôko (Hidemi Hara), though, both he and Hisako are pulled into her sexual orbit.
Even at only 73 minutes, Love Hunter is indulgent. But, then, if a movie like this weren’t, you’d probably ask for your money back. Kyôko’s predatory actions start out voyeuristic, asking probing questions of the young couple when she’s not hanging out at sex clubs and looking sullen. Soon, though, her approach becomes more hands on (and mouth on and foreign objects on).
Not all of the sexy stuff in Love Hunter is actually sexy, though. Sometimes that’s because of juvenile choices like upskirt shots or because of bizarrely unrelatable depictions of sex (no one has ever kissed the way people do in this movie, sticking out their tongues and pushing them together like a kicking match between two people in sleeping bags) or because of stuff that’s just not to everyone’s taste (warning: foot fetish) or because of scenarios that sound like they’d be hot but aren’t (beach sex just means a lot of unwanted sand in unwanted places). At other times, though, it’s because the film has something other than lust on its mind, exploring cycles of abuse or the gender politics of two women fucking and fighting over a dull man who doesn’t deserve either of them.
Impulse’s Blu-ray features a transfer with good, consistent color fidelity and light density but with a bevy of film dirt and pixel hits. The mono audio track clips, as well, in some of the louder moments.
There are no special features, unless you count the theatrical trailer and new English subtitles (which are actually quite good).