Working my way backwards, I have seen most of the Zero Woman Japanese exploitation movies, movies which are… at best… suspect, but we had yet to have seen the original, the genesis of the Zero Woman series of movies, that being this movie, ‘Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs’. And it’s a good thing that I didn’t watch director Yukio Noda’s 1974 tour de force of violent exploitation because those 1990 iterations of the Zero Woman would’ve been far more unwatchable than they already were. This, my friends, is what we are talking about.
Rei, as played by Miki Sugimoto, is dressed in red, as she tends to do, and is dancing it up at the disco. She catches the eye of some old white dude who plies her with liquor, takes her back to his hideaway, gets her all naked and then opens his box of ‘toys’. Unfortunately for this cat he will not be having any fun on this night because it is brought to our attention that he raped and murdered one of Rei’s best friends… get used to rape… seriously… and he must be made to pay. He is soon introduced to Rei’s magical red handcuffs with the ten foot chain and her cute but lethal red .22 snub nose.
Not that Rei gave a damn, but this dude was some kind of diplomat which has landed the former police officer in jail for a real long time, but don’t you worry, the stone cold, stoic hottie with the perfect lips and the wonderful boobies will be out in no time flat.
You see there’s this cat named Yoshihide (Eiji Go) who has just gotten out of jail, and instead of his boys taking him to the club to find a woman to celebrate with, they just find some random woman sitting in a car and rape her near to death. Turns out this young lady is the daughter of a high ranking political figure who could very well be president one day, so they hold her for ransom. This political dude can’t let the news
get out that his daughter is kidnapped and needs this to be taken care of on the down low, which prompts top cop Kusaka (Hideo Mororta) to yank the ice cold Rei out of jail with instructions to save the girl and kill the kidnappers. Her freedom will be her reward.
Rei manages to integrate herself into this violent crew, and is greeted by getting gang raped… and at this point in ‘Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs’, any sense of logical exposition is completely thrown out the window. Truly, almost nothing any character does from this point on makes any kind of sense and is wildly illogical on almost any planet, but this nonsense does serve this story well. I mean how else are we going to squeeze in the vicious raping of a Shakespearean acting troupe? Or Rei murdering this crews defacto boss bitch and the crew being okay with this? Or observing Rei, who probably could’ve ended this crew the minute she walked in the door, allowing it to be dragged out so that everybody we meet in this movie is murdered, raped, or raped and murdered? Ah, but if she had ended it early then we wouldn’t have seen more rapes, glorious amounts of blood spray, car chases, dudes set on fire and those handcuffs… Oh those handcuffs. Outstanding.
Know what my main problem is with ‘Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs’ is? That Toei Studios only made one of these back in the seventies. You have this blistering starlet who is impossible to take your eyes off of whenever she’s on the screen, a legendary director of exploitation movies, a rich and fertile subject matter and an unlimited supply fake blood and we only got one of these. If I had a time machine, instead of doing something that could help society, I’d advise Toei to make about a half dozen of these back to back with it all culminating with ‘Zero Woman in America’ where she and her handcuffs take on the Italian mob who has kidnapped her baby sister, strung her out and dope and reprogrammed her into being their own Zero Woman with blue handcuffs with a ten foot chain. That would’ve been some stellar cinema right there. Born fifteen years too late I was.
Nonetheless, what you will get with this movie is a completely exploitative experience. The film is brutally violent, there’s torture, there’s nudity, there’s rape aplenty and it’s all completely shameless. For instance the cops want one of our bad guys to talk, which is good and fine. But it would’ve been nice if they had actually asked him a question before putting his hand in a vise, burning him with a blowtorch and then giving him some Abu Ghraib style water boarding. One thing we liked about Rei, who later calls herself Zero, is that she is completely focused on the job at hand, that being making sure that she gets this lady out alive. They beat this woman she’s supposed to save, they cut this woman, they rape this woman, they inject this woman with heroin… all of which Rei could’ve prevented… but they didn’t kill her so she’s still good. A lot of atrocities Rei could’ve prevented, but if they weren’t associated with the primary goal, then those clowns were out of luck. That includes Rei who didn’t mind being raped as long as the rape didn’t clash with the primary objective.
All of the performances were gloriously over the top, except for Miss Sugimoto who took benign disinterest to all new levels with her Zero Woman interpretation, but it worked here. And director Yukio Noda can make an exploitation flick with the best of them. Didn’t quite get the Navy Jets flying above whenever something bad was happening… I’m sure the director was making some kind of statement since we were still in Vietnam around this time, but social statements in a movie built around the consistent rape and torture of women is a bit odd. But what we wouldn’t give to have seen Miki Sugimoto in more of these. Enjoy the one ‘Zero Woman’ movie as it was meant to have been seen.