Ever since I interviewed Jasper Sharp, scholar of Japanese cinema, I’ve been desperate to see Trapped in Lust — a lost pink film Jasper himself really wanted to see. It sounded completely bizarre. Trapped in Lust is a Roman Porno remake of Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill (1967), which is odd enough in itself, but even odder is that it was directed by Atsushi Yamatoya and written by Yôzô Tanaka, both uncredited co-writers of Branded to Kill. Digging through the depths of pinku obscurity, the great folks at Arrow Video put the greatest extra feature on their excellent Branded to Kill blu-ray/DVD release. Yep, Trapped in Lust, once near impossible to find, can now be seen in an easy to find release and a pretty much pristine print. I was more excited by its inclusion than the main feature.
TRAPPED IN LUST
original title: 愛欲の罠 (Aiyoku no wana)
Japan, 1973, Atsushi Yamatoya
Unsurprisingly, the good times don’t last. After making a foolish error, the syndicate requests that Hoshi assassinate his own wife. Despite his obsession with her, his self-proclaimed title of ‘best hitman ever’ overrides any feeling of love and sexual desire. He shoots her straight through the heart. Hoshi spirals out of control after the hit, engaging in orgies and hard drinking.
But his wife’s assassination is not what it seems and Hoshi is soon taken on a nightmarish journey, discovering how deeply he’s been played by the syndicate. Then enters a truly upsetting figure — a hitman (Kazuo ‘Gaira’ Komizu) who carries around a cross-dressing ventriloquist’s dummy that claims to be the world’s most handsome man. Yes, things get very, very strange.
Trapped in Lust is exactly the sort of pink film that got me interested in the genre in the first place. From its super cool poppy soundtrack that always kicks in at the right moment to its swaggering leading man (who, admittedly, isn’t quite as swaggery as Jô Shishido), this is a film dripping in style. The strange buildings and locations Yamatoya managed to rustle up are unlike anything I’ve seen before. They took on an almost futuristic-circa-1970s quality, which works in perfect tandem with the film’s sometimes lurid art direction.
Trapped in Lust is often shockingly vicious. The violent ventriloquist dummy duo commit truly horrific acts of sexual violence. These characters appear at the halfway point, and they are a brilliant and jarring force in the film. It took me a good few minutes to gather my jaw and return it to its place in their first distressing appearance. The way they murder women is upsetting to say the least.
As the running time ticks by, Trapped in Lust moves further away from Branded to Kill. This is good in the sense that it becomes its own film, but familiarity with its source material creates certain expectations, and some of those expectations aren’t met. It doesn’t quite reach the delirium of Branded to Kill‘s final act and, as such, loses a little bit of steam in its latter half. Comparisons aside, this is undoubtedly among the most interesting and enjoyable Roman Pornos in Nikkatsu’s back catalogue. It is driven by a loose but engaging narrative, great characters, visuals, and sound, and it features an excellent balance between story and sex. Trapped in Lust is a must see for both Roman Porno and Suzuki addicts.
As mentioned in the intro, Arrow Video’s release of Branded to Kill on blu-ray and DVD features this as a special feature. It’s an awesome package with a great, a fantastic booklet written by Jasper Sharp, and a couple of interviews. Highly, highly recommended!