So the cat is officially out of the bag: We are very pleased to confirm that the cult classic Stray Cat Rock films will be joining the ranks of our Arrow Video label! With a mixture girl gangs, bikers, action and ass kicking it is no wonder that these 5 films have become favourites across the globe.
By Louise Buckler
The Stray Cat Rock films were a product of the Nikkatsu New Action film craze that took the studio by storm in the very late 1960s. Filmed over a period of 2 years there were 5 films in total, 3 of which, Delinquent Girl Boss, Sex Hunter and Machine Animal were helmed by Yasuharu Hasebe. The remaining 2 titles, Wild Jumbo and Beat ‘71 were both directed by Toshiya Fujita with both directors bringing their own stamp to their respective features.
The first film of the series, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss was originally envisioned as a star vehicle for Japanese singing sensation Akiko Wada who took the lead role of the ass kicking motorbike riding rebel. However it didn’t take long for Meiko Kaji to steal the spotlight in her role as leader of the Alleycats.
So as not to spoil the series for those yet to experience it, we won’t say too much about the films themselves. The series does however focus on a delinquent girl gang made up of strong and sassy females and, much like the Nikkatsu New Action era as a whole, the Stray Cat Rock films were heavily influenced by the style and ideals of the late 1960s (think sex, drugs and rock and roll and lurid pop art sensibilities) that had become a key aesthetic of many Nikkatsu films of the time.
Unfortunately although the Nikkatsu New Action films contributed to the studios output from the 60s to the early 70s this came to an end in 1971 with the rise of television and Hollywood feature films. By 1970 cinema attendance which was at 1,014,364 visits in 1960 dropped considerably to 253,000. To try and recoup some money and win back some audiences Nikkatsu, much like Toei, focused their efforts on the popular pink film market with the creation of their own brand of pink, the Roman Porno. These films mixed softcore pornography with S&M along with some scenes of graphic violence. After a short stint in TV, Stray Cat Rock director Yasuharu Hasebe tried his hand at the genre, with one of his most notable contributions being the violent pink Assault! Jack the Ripper.
Unfortunately the new direction of the Nikkatsu studio resulted in Stray Cat Rock star Meiko Kaji deciding to jump ship and continue her reign as a bad ass action queen elsewhere. She took up an opportunity to work at Toei where she took the lead role of Matsu in the women in prison series, Female Convict Scorpion, the fourth of which reunited Kaji with director Yasuharu Hasebe, whilst over at Toho she gained her arguably most infamous role starring in Lady Snowblood and its sequel Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance which also allowed Kaji the opportunity to work under the direction of Stray Cat Rock’s Toshiya Fujita once again.
The Stray Cat Rock collection will be receiving the Arrow Video treatment later this year. We are also very pleased to announce that Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss will be screening as part of the Terracotta Film Club at the Prince Charles Cinema on the 26th of February. A big thanks going out to the team at Terracotta Distribution for allowing this screening to take place.
Hope to see you all there!