Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Okura Mitsugu and the First Pink Film

A scene from Flesh Market, 1962
I mentioned in my previous post that a film called Flesh Market (肉体の市場 Nikutai no Ichiba) is considered to be the very first pink film. It premiered in 1962 and was written and directed by Kobayashi Satoru (小林悟 1930-2001). The Wikipedia entry on Okura Films (大蔵映画, aka OP Eiga) says Flesh Market was released by this company. More on Okura in a bit.

Wikipedia asserts that nudity was shown in female pearl diver films in the 1950s but the release of Flesh Market marked the first time bare naked breasts were shown on the big screen in Japan.

That seems to be a contradiction. Then again, I haven't seen any of those female pearl diver films from the '50s to know what they're talking about. Maybe the nudity was tastefully covered as in the above poster.

Apparently, Kobayashi did not shy away from the subject of SM during his career as a director. He is said to have been tortured by the kempei during World War II and claims this firsthand experience influenced his later exploration of SM themes in his films.

But was the very first pink film also an SM film?

The movie starred energetic pink actress Katori Tamaki who is reported to have appeared in some 600 softcore pink films during her career. (By comparison, director Kobayashi, with "only" 400 pink films to his name, was a slacker.)

After Flesh Market, Katori starred in Okinawan Ghost Story: Upside-Down Ghost which was also directed by Kobayashi in '62.

And, as far as I can tell from this site, Katori appeared bound with rope in a 1965 film called Jealousy Trap, aka Trap of Blind Love. She is credited with an earlier film called Sweet Trap (1963) and a later film, Female Trap (1967). Enticing titles to be sure.

Jealousy Trap, 1965
Katori Tamaki, Female Trap, 1967
I don't have graphic evidence but at least one website has described Flesh Market as an SM film. Commenting on the closure in 2010 of the Okura adult theater in Ueno, Tokyo Reporter had this to say:

The Okura originally opened under the Toei film company in 1951. A decade later it screened “Flesh Market,” a tale of bondage and torture directed by Satoru Kobayashi that is typically considered to be Japan’s first pink film. By 1971, it was entirely dedicated to the pink genre.

The Okura Theater is named after Okura Mitsugu (大蔵貢 1899-1978). Okura was a film producer who at one time was president of Shintoho Studios. One biography states that he started his own production company, Okura Eiga, after Shintoho had gone bankrupt in 1961.

Like the Shaw Bros. in Hong Kong and the old Hollywood moguls, Okura opened theaters of his own which he kept busy night and day by churning out hundreds upon hundreds of his own low budget, sexually-charged pinku eiga.

Take, for example, 1967's Cruel Map of Women's Bodies (女体残虐図 Jotai Zangyakuzu),  aka Female Bodies in a Brutal Scenario. In answer to a question I posed recently, this is apparently Tani's first movie which has SM as its theme.

Tani Naomi, Cruel Map of Women's Bodies, 1967
Okura Mitsugu died over 30 years ago but his company is still in existence. Actually, two companies: OP Eiga which is a production company and Okura Eiga which handles distribution.

I guess pink "films" are shot digitally these days but the spirit of pink lives on.

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