Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973)

What’s the allure of people in uniforms?  Men and women alike share this attraction, the most common cliché (to my mind) being police officers (though I’m sure soldiers and fire fighters get some loving from both sides as well).  I think the draw comes partially from the barriers society has between work and play.  Picking up a police officer off the clock is one thing, but getting them to drop their official duties for some nookie is a formal transgression that amps up the erotic, “naughty” aspect of the tryst.  Men, being pigs, expand their horizons on this fetish.  This is where the classic French maid and (especially) schoolgirl outfits come into play.  Maybe it’s the amount of leg showing from underneath the short skirts.  Maybe it’s the power play of seducing/corrupting young, nubile co-eds.  Maybe it’s a fantasy of older men to reaffirm their sexual attractiveness to young women and stave off obsolescence.  Maybe it’s none of that, maybe all, maybe more.  Any way you slice it, the schoolgirl trope is, and likely always will be, with us as a sexual pipe dream (pardon the pun).  Certainly, the Japanese have embraced, run with, and jumped off the cliff of this proclivity, and they sure aren’t shy about taking it to extremes.  All one needs do is have a gander at Noribumi Suzuki’s Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (aka Kyofu Joshikoko Boko Rinchi Kyoshitsu), wherein student Michiyo (Emi Jo) is tied up in the school’s science lab while other students in red surgical masks slice her breasts with a scalpel and drain her blood before dropping her off the school’s roof.  And this is only the film’s first few minutes.

Three young troublemakers, Noriko (Miki Sugimoto), Razorblade Remi (Misuzu Ota), and Kyoko (Seiko Saburi), are sent to the School of Hope for Girls where they run afoul of the resident Disciplinary Committee headed by sadistic student Yoko (Ryoko Ema).  Naturally, there are people higher up pulling the Committee’s strings, and Noriko hatches a plan to take them all down for very personal reasons.  And then Reiko Ike shows up as a rival gang member to further obfuscate Noriko’s scheme.

Lynch Law Classroom is an example of the Pinky Violence genre, one not necessarily exclusive to Japan in terms of its elements but absolutely in the refinement and expansion them (Plus, I believe that the actual term Pinky Violence refers only to Japanese product, the same way that Poliziotteschi refers to crime movies made in Italy).  I won’t pretend to know all the ins and outs, the highs and lows of the Pinky Violence genre, but here’s what I do know based on my relatively narrow experience.  These films all feature strong females as their protagonists (and they are usually members of, if not leaders of, a girl gang).  There is commonly another girl gang whom the protagonist has to fight with and/or gain the respect of (though this element is many times more of a subplot that will have to be resolved after the big finale, much like in the vast majority of the Zatoichi films).  They all feature yakuza on whom the protagonist typically wants to take revenge for the death of some loved one.  More than these, the Pinky Violence genre, holding true to its name, highlights sex and bloodshed, often in the same scene.  Women are routinely bound up and tortured with everything from knives to genital trauma to cigarette burns, and those are probably some of the tamer means.  Sex is plentiful with lots of groping, breast gnawing, butt shots, and so on, and lesbian loving gets almost as much screentime as straight, so fair play on that.  Toei Company, Ltd, the studio that produced a vast array of the more popular Pinky Violence films including this one, had the genre down to a formula, and damn it all if they didn’t do it extremely well.  Granted, some are better than others, but the same can be said for Universal’s classic monster movies of the Thirties through the Forties. 

The women in these movies are in no way, shape, or form shrinking violets, nor are they afraid to get their hands dirty.  Noriko is a badass of the first order.  When she is caught trying to boost a car, she immediately throws down with both the car’s owner and the cops who arrive on the scene.  Remi doesn’t bat an eye at taking on a gang of thugs who harass her in her little cowgirl outfit.  Kyoko gives a “helping hand” to the trucker who gave her a lift, causing him to run into a cop and wreck his vehicle.  She’s pretty blasé about the whole affair, and that’s the thing about the tough girl characters in this genre.  They are cold as ice, all business, and taking no shit from anyone.  They are, for all intents and purposes, the same generic characters as are given us in just about any Yakuza film you could hit with a dart, the only difference being their gender.  This means that honor and revenge play a huge part in the proceedings, and this film is no exception.  Noriko is at the school specifically to avenge the murder of her friend and lieutenant, and it’s this touch of humanity that demarcates the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.  The male yakuza in this film couldn’t care less about other people, even the ones in their own organization, but Noriko and her friends share a bond that goes beyond that of mere association.  Hence, despite the lengths to which they are willing to go, the cruelties in which they will partake, Noriko and company are compelling and likeable as protagonists.

There is also a strong theme of hypocrisy in the guise of decency flowing through Lynch Law Classroom.  The local juvenile delinquent cop writes up Michiyo’s murder as an accident.  Vice Principal Ishihara (Kenji Imai) runs the Disciplinary Committee, and his sole concern at this juncture is making sure that the school’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary, which includes a visit from local Chairman Shigeru Sato (Nobuo Kaneko), goes smoothly.  The Committee follows Ishihara’s orders explicitly in order to maintain their own power and privilege.  Ishihara is engaged to teacher Toshie (Yuko Kano), but he’s only involved with her for her family’s wealth.  Further, he’s completely okay with pimping her out to meet his ends.  Likewise, every other man in a position of power, from the Mayor to the Chief of Police, is corrupt to the core.  They all leap at the chance to have an orgy with a bunch of schoolgirls.  The appearance of respectability is all-important, hiding the immorality that lies in their hearts.  The protagonists, by contrast, are exactly what they are on their face.  Their lack of hypocrisy and pretense is what sets them apart from and above the other characters.  They are true to themselves, take it or leave it, and in much the same way, so is this film and (I’m assuming a bit here) every other film in this genre.  Personally, I’ll take it.

MVT:  The thoughtful way the film combines sleaze with craftsmanship and makes it all work.

Make or Break:  If the opening scene doesn’t put you off, you’ll be along for the ride.

Score:  7.5/10 

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