Warning: This review is about a movie with mature content.
I’ve often said that most acclaimed Japanese directors made their ’breaks’ into the film industry through the so-called Japanese “Pink” films and award-winning director Yojiro Takita (Departures) is one such director. Pink films often have a social commentary but there are also other variations such as “Pink horror”, “Pink violence” and “Pink comedies”; they do have one common denominator and that is the abundant content of sex and nudity. “Groper Train: The Search for the Black Pearl” (1984) is part of the “Groper train” series that features the detective Ippei Kuroda in a series of silly, goofy, exploitive yet clever murder-mysteries. Looking at the dvd cover, one may think that this a perverse, offensive, exploitive flick but the film presents this idea in a humorous, goofy manner.
Back in 1934 during the Japanese-Chinese war, the world’s largest known black pearl goes missing and remains as one of the great unsolved mysteries in Japan. Some years later, a war veteran named Gohei Yamamori confessed that he knew where the black pearl was all along to his wife Matsuko (Mitsuo Nakayama) before his untimely death. His last words were (as in the female genitalia) print. Puzzled, Matsuko enlists the aid of a private detective named Kuroda (Yukijiro Hotaru) to help her solve the mystery and find the coveted black pearl. Things become more complicated when Gohei’s son Hasuo and his niece Yoko (Serina Miyabi) also expressed interest in the coveted jewel. What makes matters worst is when mystery writer Matsuki (Naoto Takenata) offers his aid and people begin turning up dead; can Kuroda and his assistant Hamako (pink veteran Yuka Takemura) solve the mystery before they also fall victim to the killer?
“Groper Train: Search for the Black Pearl” serves as a cautionary tale for those whose lust for riches go beyond their control. The characters in the film are pretty motivated by greed and would stoop to anything to get their desires; they would cheat, lie, intimidate and black mail, all in the name of greed and for sex. The women in the film are portrayed as gold-diggers who uses their bodies to get under a man’s skin. Now don’t let its serious subtext fool you, this is a sex-comedy and this film is insanely silly and goofy. Pink movies always have a message to get across and often uses it sex as a device to pull off a more intricate commentary.
The film isn’t wanting in the graphic displays of sex and nudity; there are a lot of them and with the 64 minute runtime, I would say it has an exploitive scene every 5-8 minutes. The way Kuroda approaches the search for the clue is more humorous than perverse, as he tries to find his quarry with the use of matching the vagina print with the riders of the train (hence the title “Groper Train”), he encounters the most odd folks in the train and even gets more than he bargained for most of the time. The investigation scenes do have some cleverness in them albeit they are pretty goofy. Matsuki the renowned mystery writer even addresses the viewer directly as to challenge them to figure out the mystery. I have to give credit where it is due; Japanese directors have an uncanny knack for making their fetishes and perverse silly ideas into an art form.
The sex scenes in the film are very graphic and exceeds the ones we see in America when it comes to softcore. Curiously, there is no full frontal nudity but all the actresses get to show their stuff. Yuka Takemura is a household name in pink cinema and she gets to strut her stuff in this movie quite often. Some sex scenes are more goofy than actually arousing as we see Kuroda and Matsuki’s silly over-exaggerated facial expressions. There are some shots inspired by hentai anime as we see from a vagina viewing perspective (I know, I could hardly believe it!) but it all made for goofy fun as it was so obvious that it was fake. I didn't feel that they were meant to be offensive but rather more silly.
“Groper Train: Search for the Black Pearl” isn’t one of the best pink films I’ve seen out there but it is fairly entertaining when it comes to goofy fun. There is a lot of sex and nudity on display that those looking for this type of movies will not be disappointed but I like my ‘pink’ films with either an intricate commentary or violently pink. I rather found the way Kuroda turned the tables on his nemesis and the climax just reinforces the fact that greed doesn’t pay. Still, this is a fun film for those who like this type of Japanese filmmaking; the Japanese continue to surprise me when it comes to executing bold, perverse ideas such as this. This is NOT a film for everyone and just simply a guilty pleasure.
Recommended timidly ONLY to fans of Japanese cinema [3- Stars]