The Nikkatsu Corporation is Japan’s oldest major motion picture studio. As the dynamics of the entertainment industry forced many film companies to either consolidate, re-organize, or go under in the 1960’s and 70’s, Nikkatsu survived by morphing into a provider of a slightly different product: its erotic dramas and thrillers. FEMALE TEACHER was one of its franchise tent-poles in the 1980’s, but (as I’ve learned from some brief reading) it ending up dying off when its narrative emphasis moved further and further away from actually school or schoolyard settings into more conventional fare. However, this doesn’t mean that the stories became more conventional because, as fate would have it, they didn’t. Rather, they turned into things a bit darker, a bit weirder, and maybe even a bit too out-of-the-norm for audiences to accept, especially given the fact that the title established expectations of a very specific fantasy (i.e. teachers and students) but ended up being something different.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Reiko (played by the lovely Rushia Santo) is the demure princess of a teacher; she’s prim, proper, and overly professional with her students all of the time. She takes a job at a new high school where the boys and girls aren’t so well-behaved as she’s grown accustomed to. One night – after an aggressive work-out playing tennis – she’s taken a shower when she’s attacked and raped by a stocking-faced man. After he’s left her alone, she discovers a clue: he left one flesh-colored piece of a jigsaw-puzzle by her side. When she returns home, she begins remembering the incident, and – mysteriously drawn to the emotions of what she experienced – she decides to personally get to the bottom of who made her feel things she’s never felt before.
So very much of FEMALE TEACHER delves into territory already vastly explored by skin flicks since the late 1980’s, 90’s, and well into the 2000’s, but, for its time, TEACHER was a bit of an outcast. What started out as a shower rape blossomed into the young woman’s sexual awakening – and, for the record, I’m not endorsing that reality here, folks, I’m simply trying to explain the nature of Japanese pink-style films, so cut me some slack! Anyhow, one assault only propels Reiko into even darker waters, as she finds herself curiously drawn to re-experiencing that original attack in order to better understand her newfound self.
The rest of the picture does play out reasonably well as a detective procedural: Reiko is attacked, she has her evidence, and she begins to interview her suspects. The trouble is is that each suspect only brings more awakening – or, at least, more assaults – and that causes the story to explore increasingly more disturbing sex at a fairly consistent rate. Eventually, Reiko’s accosted by a female student in the same shower; then she’s forced into a somewhat violent three-some with two more students; then she’s raped by a male co-worker; and then she’s forced into fellatio with a student while other students look on. Once she believes she’s uncovered her attacker, she willingly gives in to most if not all of these incidents; the truth is, she’s made a mistake, and the identity of her real attacker ends up being a face all too familiar to her (but probably never suspected by audiences, either).
In the end, Reiko and her attacker do try to explore a conventional relationship. As they soon learn, that isn’t what’s drawn them to one another. Their encounters are much more about wish-fulfillment than they are a genuine examination of a sick & twisted love affair, and only by returning to those roots can they find true happiness … along with all of the other red-blooded males watching. There’s some commentary by others in the film – there’s a brief discussion between Reiko and a work peer about how women secretly desire to be ravaged sexually – so the end game is certainly consistent with the themes explored by the film.
All of that is covered in under 70 minutes, people. Think what you will, but I thought it was kinda impressive, albeit in a kinky way.
Yes, yes, and one thousand times yes! Before you scroll down and give me a bad vote, let me be clear in saying that Reiko ends up arguably being the textbook definition of the ‘bad teacher.’ Still, that’s what makes the role (both in the film and in her students’ various fantasies) so utterly appealing; she’s supposed to be a symbol of authority – of maturity and adulthood – but even she isn’t above (at least in so far as this work of fiction is concerned) succumbed to her worst instincts. This is pornography, people; don’t look for it to make more sense than that.
But I’d be a fool if I didn’t give kudos to Ms. Santo. She seemingly throws herself into the role, and, allowing herself a measure of fascination with some torture and violence, there’s nothing she appears to be afraid to do. As skin flicks go, FEMALE TEACHER is pretty solid, with multiple encounters and even multiple partners, so maybe – maybe – on that front it deserves a little recognition.
FEMALE TEACHER: IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS is produced by Nikkatsu, and the DVD distribution is being handled through Impulse Pictures / Synapse Films. This is part of the “Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collections.” As for the technical specifications, the print looks and sounds as solid as pornography from the early 1980’s ever could, with some notable graininess and one sequence that’s apparently deliberately been blurred in order to cover up the important parts of a young man’s unmentionables. This is a Japanese spoken language film with optional subtitles (yes, they’re needed for the story, but not-so-much for the sex). As for the special features, don’t look too deep; there’s only the original theatrical trailer and some liner notes from Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp, which is essentially a short essay addressing the film’s history as well as some background on the Nikkatsu library.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Let me be frank: if you’re already looking into this film and reading reviews about it, then FEMALE TEACHER: IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS is just what the doctor ordered. To the film’s credit, there’s actually the development of a story here; while you may not entirely agree with it socially or culturally, it’s still worth pointing out that the film explores (as well as exploits) the development of erotic fantasies and wish fulfillment through the eyes of one prim & proper young woman’s sexual awakening. For the record, Rushia Santo is a deviant delight, throwing herself into a winning performance built on perhaps some measure of personal depravity, but, hey, it’s a dirty job and somebody’s gotta do it.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with a DVD screener of FEMALE TEACHER: IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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