• Ravi Swami

"Inflatable Sex Doll of The Wastelands", Dir: Atsushi Yamatoya, 1967



"Inflatable Sex Doll of The Wastelands" - (BFI Player / Japan Season 2020) is a so-called

"Pink Film" in Japan - a genre defined by themes of sexuality, though not out-right pornography, and often set in the twilight underworld of the "Yakuza", essentially hard-boiled tales of passion and vengeance.


The film opens with a man standing in a wasteland as a car pulls up and it soon transpires that he is a hired killer, assigned by the driver of the car - a shady businessman - to find his girlfriend who he suspects has been kidnapped, drugged and forced to act in degrading pornographic films, by using any means possible - this means finding and killing suspects if necessary.


And if the plot suddenly sounds vaguely familiar, you would be forgiven if the Mike Hodge film "Get Carter", made half a decade later in 1971, springs to mind because in terms of the plot, the two films are virtually identical.


The films share other similarities, Carter, played by Michael Caine, is an emotionless killer hit-man until he discovers that his daughter has been kidnapped for much the same reasons as those in "Inflatable Sex Doll of The Wastelands", and in hunting down the culprits he uncovers corruption in high places, and without spoiling the film too much, he comes to a sticky end at the conclusion.


Where the films diverge wildly is in the sheer experimental craziness of the earlier film and downright bizarre scenario - for example, the town that the story is set in, in Japan, is the location of factories that make the most convincingly lifelike "sex dolls", and the director is inventive in using this aspect to wrong-foot the viewer- is that a real woman or is it a sex doll ?- in the seamy underworld of organised crime and illegal pornography where women are viewed as for one purpose only and are expendable, perhaps there is no difference.


The plot takes a turn when the hit-man falls for the woman he has been assigned to rescue, which proves to be his undoing, but this is not all, it turns out that the entire plot up to the point where he has almost saved the girl is actually an elaborate set-up and the businessman at the start is actually at the center of an elaborate and perverse enterprise in which the kidnapped girlfriend is just a ruse to take out the hit-man.


I won't spoil the ending of the film, suffice to say that it is as unexpected as the ending of "Get Carter", a film that clearly had a wider audience in its sights unlike its predecessor - that in a sense limited it in some ways, whereas the director of "Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands" wasn't so limited by the rules of censorship and could experiment more freely with ways of telling a story by virtue of the fact that the "Pink Film" genre was defined by transgressive themes and greater freedom to experiment.


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