Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge
(Mesubachi no chosen) (1972)
Directed by Norifumi Suzuki

Artistic Value: * * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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Maki (Reiko Ike), the leader of a gang of delinquent girls in Kyoto, steals cars, cheats a lecherous monk, and gets into fights with Yuri (Chiyoko Kazama), the head of girl gang from Osaka. When Maki finally defeats Yuri, the latter forms an alliance with the boss of a local yakuza group, but he soon reneges on their agreement and forces that woman and her followers into prostitution. While this man is making plans to do the same to Maki and the members of her gang, she begins a romantic relationship with Yuri's former boyfriend, Eizo, an aspiring racer who has himself come into conflict with the yakuza.

Norifumi Suzuki's Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge is a sleazy, amorphous, and always entertaining movie.

The story the director tells is very loosely structured and consists of little more than the protagonist's various misadventures. I should emphasize, however, that this lack of structure does not weaken the film. Instead, it gives it a definite sense of veracity. Life, after all, is rarely circumscribed into a fixed plot. What is more, the events Suzuki portrays are not forgotten as soon as they are done. They have consequences, and these, eventually, draw Maki and Eizo into conflict with the yakuza, with terrible results, thereby giving the movie a trajectory that does draw the viewer along.

This narrative is further enlivened with a poignant sense of adventure and, frequently, with a sense of fun. The young heroines get into brawls, attempt to steal cars, get a young but very sexually experienced schoolgirl to prostitute herself, convince a man that this girl is a virgin so that he will pay more for her (though he soon discovers both that she is not and that she has robbed him), and Maki herself, after a friend of hers is cheated by a monk, seduces the latter and steals a large amount money from him. The movie is filled with such incidents. Some are exciting, others intriguing, and some are just comic. In one particularly silly scene, the girls of Maki's gang, while bathing nude in a hot spring, are watched by a man in scuba gear who is hiding underwater. Such humorous touches do liven the movie up. Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge is not, for much of its duration, unduly serious in tone.

The film is also consistently sexy and deliciously exploitative. Besides the event in the hot spring just mentioned, Suzuki shows Maki bathing and vigorously fondling her breasts, before standing up in front of the monk she is seducing to reveal to him her naked body, Maki and Eizo having sex outside upon a mass of fallen leaves, and other such occurrences as well. Admittedly, some of these are rather lurid and nasty, but they are still enjoyable to watch. For example, at one point, the members of Yuri's gang shake up bottles of soda, open them, and spray their contents into the vagina of a girl (Miki Sugimoto) they have pinned down, and, later, Maki is stripped and beaten by a yakuza wielding a bundle of sticks. The list of such things could go on.

In other words, the movie is typical of Suzuki's work. Fortunately, it is also as visually appealing as many of his other films are. Virtually every shot of Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge displays the director's usual skill at framing and composition. The movie is always lovely to look at. It draws the viewer into and drowns him in a beguilingly realized underworld of raucous clubs, dimly lit bars, grubby offices, and the like populated with hoodlums, thieves, failures, louts, prostitutes, and victims.

Lastly, I should note that all of the leads acquit themselves well. Ms Ike, as usual, is especially intense and enjoyable to watch. Unlike the actors in so many other exploitation films, she and the others here are actually quite talented.

Though it is hardly a great film, Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Challenge is well made and enthralling.

Review by Keith Allen

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