Director Yoshihiro Ishikawa is perhaps best known for his love of cats — Ghost Cats, that is. He wrote the screenplay for Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1958 early j-horror film Mansion of the Ghost Cat. (He also worked with Nakagawa in 1959 as writer for Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan.) He then later directed two of his own Ghost Cat films, The Ghost Cat of Otama Pond (Kaibyo Otama-ga-ike, 1960) and The Ghost-Cat Cursed Pond (Kaibyo noroi numa, 1968). Thus in his own right, he can definitely be found amongst the early directors of Japanese horror film.
But as regards his 1968 Female Demon Ohyaku he is also known as directing one of the earliest Pinky Violence films, a genre which exploded in the 1970s, dedicated to female protagonists engaging in sex, revenge and yes, plenty of violence. Though in milder doses than the extremes of later films, Female Demon Ohyaku contains all the elements which would characterize the genre: a beautiful heroine, nudity, sexuality/lesbianism, rape, imprisonment, sexy tattoos, crazy torture, weapon flailing, and grisly revenge.
This film is the first of a trilogy entitled Legends of the Poisonous Seductress (Yoen Dokufuden) and sets a formidably high standard for the following two films. Each of the three films is an independent tale, though the last two films revolve around the same female character Okatsu. All three films cast the beautiful Junko Miyazono in the lead roles of Ohyaku/Okatsu. The last two Okatsu tales are directed by Nobuo Nakagawa who, as we mentioned, had worked together with Ishikawa on prior films. And while Ishikawa’s 1968 Female Demon Ohyaku employs a very bold black and white cinematography, both Nakagawa’s films, released in 1969, are in vivid color, a format which he had switched to a year earlier.
The films in the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress trilogy are:
- Female Demon Ohyaku (Hannya no Ohyaku, 1968)
Quick-draw Okatsu (Hitokiri Okatsu, 1969)
Okatsu the Fugitive (Okatsu Kyojo Tabi, 1969)
Despite their early role in the genre, there seems to be very little written about Ishikawa or his film in online discussions or film literature. None of the film references I own, including Chris D’s Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film, Donald Ritchie’s A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, or Jasper Sharp’s Behind the Pink Curtain make ANY mention of either director Ishikawa or the the Yoen Dokufuden films (including Nakagawa’s!). I’m not sure why these films have been overlooked other than the fact that they have perhaps been simply overshadowed by the more shocking extremes of later films in this genre. Even so, however, one would think that for the sake of historical origins you would find at least a nod toward Ishikawa’s film and influence. Good thing you’re reading SaruDama!
The Japanese title for this film is Hannya no Ohyaku which can be translated “The Hannya Ohyaku”. Hannya is a very specific and well-known female demon who appears throughout traditional Japanese folklore. You’re likely familiar with the traditional mask depicting Hannya’s face. It is this same depiction which Ohyaku chooses to have tattooed on her back, emphasizing the impending ferocity and violence. And indeed she becomes ferocious, enacting revenge with such relished fervor that it hearkens back to scenes of the demonic punishments taking place in the lower gates of Japanese Hell. Our lovely Ohyaku truly undergoes a radical transformation within the course of this film!