The Machine Girl – A Retrospective Review
I have a new kind of film I want to share with you all. A genre that, while in its formative stages, has an effect on me as a movie-goer and a writer. These films have provided me with the kind of entertainment you just have to share with friends. They are… cheesy, ultra-violent Japanese b-movies.
They are known as J-splatter, J-sploitation or, to my friends, ‘what the hell are you showing us, Lucas?’ Bizarre films drenched in blood and a comical, almost slapstick tone that could only possibly come from one area of the world. Above all, J-splatter films contain the most ridiculous, jaw-dropping fighting scenes you will ever see.
As an introduction to the bonkers world of J-splatter, I’d like to talk about my favourite film in the genre – The Machine Girl.
The film comes from the fantastically immature mind of writer/director Noboru Iguchi. Along with Yoshihiro Nishimura, the pair have laid the foundation for J-sploitation and created other cult films such as Tokyo Gore Police, Robogeisha and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (which is not only a crazy splatter film, but a well-done parody of the Twilight series).
The Machine Girl follows the well-worn route of the revenge flick. The protagonist, Ami, is a typical teen girl who has the extra burden of having to raise her younger brother after their father committed suicide after being wrongly accused of murder. However, Ami’s brother gets into debt and is killed by the son of a Ninja-Yakuza boss. Ami vows to avenge her brother’s death, but is captured by the Yakuza. She escapes, but it costs her an arm and a leg… well an arm and a creepy, over-complimenting friend.
Ami joins forces with Miki and her husband, the parents of another child who died at the hands of the Yakuza’s son, to take down the Ninja-Yakuza, who build a custom machine gun for Ami. After Miki’s husband is killed in a ninja ambush, Ami and Miki’s quest for revenge hits full steam.
Bar the machine gun arm, The Machine Girl seems like a stock-standard action film. But then again, The Room is just a drama about a love triangle on the surface. It is all about the execution (pun intended). The film starts with a flash-forward, giving viewers a taste of the over-the-top carnage to come in one of the more memorable movie openings you will see. Afterwards the first act is relatively tame (but no less ridiculous, see the tempura-fried arm above) as it establishes the plot. But once Ami puts on the machine gun arm, it’s a one-way ticket to violence-town, population: rapidly declining. Ami and Miki tackle ninjas, Yakuza ninjas and mourning parents-cum-ninjas, before taking on the Yakuza boss and his wife, who isn’t a ninja but rocks a bra made of drills.
Why a drill bra? Don’t ask stupid questions
It’s not just the constant violence that makes this film what it is, it’s how it happens. Blood doesn’t just squirt out of a severed limb, it sprays everywhere like a hose on full blast. No-one is hit with a few bullets, they are shot at until just a red, chunky mess remains. The actors know what kind of film they’re in and ham it up accordingly. For example, when characters are hurt, they will express their pain by yelling out exactly what just happened to them. The best of these coming from a Yakuza henchman getting nails hammered into his face:
Like all great b-movies, The Machine Girl and its contemporaries are best enjoyed with friends. Laugh with your gore-hungry friends as you consider that you maybe, just maybe, are terrible people for enjoying it so much. Watch with joy as unprepared viewers gasp with astonishment as a chef is forced to eat sushi made from his own fingers. Just remember to tell your brain to shut up and stop asking how or why things are happening, and you’ll have a blast. A blast filled with enough fake blood to drown a grown man.