05th Nov2014

‘Stray Cat Rock: The Collection’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

stray-cat-rock-collection

Bikers, hippies, drugs, sex and rock & roll…sounds perfect for an American movie set in the sixties.  Stray Cat Rock: The Collection though is a new box set from Arrow Video collecting a series of Japanese movies together that not only have all of the above, but also featured Lady Snowblood herself, Meiko Kaji.

The Stray Cat Rock: The Collection is made up of five movies Delinquent Girl Boss, Wild Jumbo, Sex Hunter, Machine Animal and Beat 71.  Each film follows similar themes of gang violence, strong(ish) female characters and general delinquent stupidity that often results in death and loss.  With plenty of battles there does seem to be a push to show just how bad ass the women gang members can be, but there is also a moral undertone that shows how wrong these young people are for being in their anti-social gangs.  You almost expect a narrator to do a voice over highlighting how grim life must be for these outcasts from society, where in truth they appear to be enjoying themselves way too much to care.

Stray Cat Rock: The Collection has a feeling of being light on emotional impact, there isn’t really enough complexity to the characters to make them stand out to the audience and make them empathise with them.  They rarely show any redeeming qualities in what they do, so likability is not really that strong with them.  These are gang members who steal for the fun of it and bully their way through life, but also have a general naivety in their actions with little forethought on the outcome.  This is shown in moments like when they act shocked that somebody would pull a gun on them when they were holding knives to their throats, as if there is a real difference in the two weapon types…both can kill.  The strangeness of their reactions sometimes shows just how much these “gangs” are just acting like kids in a playground in their own little world.  The consequences of this is death, though this doesn’t change them for the better or force them to change their ways, almost as if it is just a part of their life.

While most of the time the films have a light-hearted edge, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter takes a more serious turn and for it becomes a better film, though feels more exploitative.  With attacks on so called “half-breeds” race is brought into the mix and also rape, which straight away puts the film into a darker tone than the rest.  The concept of a rape party and subsequent scenes to save women from that fate show the one aspect of Stray Cat Rock which is at odds with trying to show strong female characters.

It would be unfair to say that the female characters in Stray Cat Rock are weak, because that is not the case but the way in which they are viewed not only by the male characters but seemingly by the makers of the films creates an impression that the women are weaker than the men and must fear them, the men are the real gangsters, and more deadly.  The women come across as more intellectual and sneaky, able to think their way out of the fights and the men more stupid and thuggish.  This is obviously a sign of the film’s age in a way, but I do feel that the equality between sexes could have been handled better, especially when there seems to be a push to show the women in strong roles within the gangster world.

Other than the somewhat confused message we get when we see the women in the movies, Stray Cat Rock: The Collection manages to stay fun and light hearted (other than the darker Sex Hunter) and are easy to watch.  With each film lasting just under ninety minutes they don’t tax the brain too much and focus more on the style of the film than the content, which pushes them into cult status just for the look of the film.  With the use of freeze frames, split screens and other stylistic choices the films are pushed outside of the normal film techniques and made all the more interesting.

Arrow Video have done well to bring Stray Cat Rock: The Collection to this Blu-ray release and with such good quality.  Though I found the films themselves to be quite hit-and-miss in terms of entertainment value, they are still above average and not dull, even if Sex Hunter does take quite a sharp U-turn in tone compared to the other films.  What that shows really is that even though the Stray Cat Rock films focused mainly on fun, they could still very easily focus on the more serious side of things.  Stylish and full of attitude, Stray Cat Rock: The Collection is an interesting release and one well worth investigating for fans of Japanese cinema.

**** 4/5

Stray Cat Rock: The Collection is available on Blu-ray now, courtesy of Arrow Video.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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