Every one of us has some measure of sexual fantasies. I’d imagine that some of them are relatively tame, relatively routine, the kind of thing that’s easily shared with a loved one or perhaps even a close personal friend. These intimate flights of fancy can be used as fuel for bedroom heat, or – in some cases – they’re simply left alone in our psychological background. When that happens, I suspect our imagination can run wild, and we possibly use them in a vastly more private fashion – helping to push our bodies subconsciously closer and closer toward achieving them in some way more personally acceptable.
But what happens if that isn’t enough? That’s the subtext of DEBAUCHERY, one of the latest releases in a string of titles from the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection seeing the light of day on American shores compliments of Impulse Pictures.
Does it rise to the challenge? (snicker snicker)
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of person who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “The sexy Ryoko Watanabe stars as Ami, a jaded housewife who pitches herself, body and soul, into the Tokyo decadence of the 1980s in an attempt to pep up her marriage. She secretly joins the elite ‘Madame Machiko Society Club’ to experiment with discrete sex games and the thrill of making love to anonymous men. The sexual perversion and sick depravity she is subjected to by her clients is much more than she bargained for. Bondage, beads and whips are only the beginning! Can she escape this secret life she has chosen, or will it destroy her forever?”
The central character trait that Ami exhibits – that which causes her to seek out and explore these strange, new worlds – is that fact that she apparently only feels alive when she’s being titillated sexually; the fact that these indiscretions relate to a personal fantasy she’s had for some time – that of being gang-assaulted by a group of patients she ‘heals’ as a duty nurse – only heightens her gratification. This pursuit to somehow bring her fantasy life alive is really what much of DEBAUCHERY’s narrative substance.
And about that fantasy life?
Well, there isn’t a whole lot of what happens initially to Ami as she delves into this lurid world which bears resemblance to it. Granted, there’s plenty of aggressive foreplay from her first customer; but there’s an even more shocking sexual defrocking which takes place with her second. (He’s a big man with big appetites, and his predilections for gratification do lean toward the bizarre … beads and all.) However, Ami – as played by skin flick regular Ryoko Watanabe, a vixen who’s extraordinarily easy on the eyes – ends up embracing all of it, so much so that I suspect most folks predict early on it’ll lead to her psychological destruction.
It isn’t as if our leading lady lacked any real attention from her soft-spoken husband. Rather, it’s the fact that he never pushes her physically to the brink of her imagined unbridled passion that keeps the currents flowing here. Her third customer turns out to be a former suitor who she’s repeatedly spurned in her private life; now that he knows what her passions truly are, he’s bound and determined to use them against her to the point of breaking her to his insurmountable will … and that’s pretty much what happens. Potentially disfigured from a gas-line explosion in the final act (it’ll all make sense when you see it), Ami can’t help herself but grow aroused by the pain she feels under the bandages … and she asks her husband to (finally) pay her sexual attention. It’s definitely a telling final scene.
Even when trying to do something noble – such as leaving her ‘fee’ in the hands of a homeless fellow sitting on a park bench because she doesn’t want the money – it seems that Ami cannot do anything right as DEBAUCHERY unloads a surprising second story that shows depravity may have no real limits.
DEBAUCHERY (1983) is produced by Nikkatsu. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Impulse Pictures. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Japanese-spoken-language release with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications, this motion picture actually looks and sounds quite well, a refreshing surprise given the age and subject matter concerned. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – there is the theatrical trailer, as well as a spiffy little essay included in the liner notes provided by Japanese film scholar Jasper Sharp.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If skin is your obsession, then DEBAUCHERY quite probably will fit the bill. Don’t expect to survive this one, however, without some emotional experience, be it sublime fascination or stark revulsion (in some cases). Unlike other releases, this film actually has a fair amount of plot – with the related text and subtext – and even serves up a secondary storyline involving Ami’s unintentional affliction to casual acquaintances. In the final estimation, Hidehiro Ito reminds the audience that no one escapes such dark places without some scarring. And bandages.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with a DVD of DEBAUCHERY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.