Color, 2012, 77m
Directed by Mark P. Forever
Starring Nina, Kaori Sasaki, Hitomi Usano, Mako Higashio, Runa Shimotsuki, Hiroaki Kawatsure
Danger After Dark (DVD) (US R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0
If you thought Cube and Battle Royale would've been a lot better with topless women fighting for survival instead of random Canadians or school kids, then feast your eyes on Strip Mahjong: Battle Royale. The title pretty much covers 90% of the concept here in this low budget but attention-grabbing production from Jolly Roger, the Japanese exploitation company behind such films as Tokyo Gore School, Demeking the Sea Monster, and Death Tube.
Finding themselves held captive in an underground lair equipped with video cameras, four women who have indulged in too much fiscal recklessness by dumping all their money and time into online mahjong are suddenly turned into contestants for an unseen audience. (Cutaways to a TV broadcasting in the middle of a barren wasteland indicate this may be some kind of postapocalyptic scenario, but that's as far as it goes.) The ladies -- consisting of a lawyer, a pop star, a mob wife, and a retail clerk -- are equipped with metal collars around their necks which, when triggered by a plastic pistol, shock them into submission if they don't agree to face off for rounds of mahjong, with an item of clothing sacrificed in each losing turn. Of course, it's just a matter of time before blouses, shoes, bras, and pretty much everything else hit the floor thanks to the aggressively enthusiastic TV host, who wears a blinking gold oversized tie and has a thug henchman in a diaper to help him out. Cheating, teary confessions, lesbianism, and other drama ensue, but the women also find out that the "severe punishment" doled out to all but the champion contestant is very nasty indeed.
So intentionally ridiculous it climaxes with contest to see whether a woman's panties can be twisted off with a pen before it breaks, this is one of the more ambitious Jolly Roger productions to date and manages to use its very limited setting and cast to its advantage, mixing both goofy and dark comedy along with the expected barrage of bare flesh. (Not surprisingly, most of the female cast is topless nonstop for the second half of the film.) As you'd probably expect, characterizations are kept to a bare minimum here as we get the usual stereotypes on display: the hot buttoned-up lawyer, the scheming nymphet sidekick, the final good girl, etc. Basically it's a fast-paced T&A exploitation film with a dystopian twist crammed into less than 80 minutes, which makes it perfect for party viewing.
Danger After Dark presents the film in fine condition on DVD with an anamorphic transfer about as good as the limited, intentionally gray color schemes will allow. Much of the lensing is filled with graphic overlays and various diffusion effects, but for what it is, this looks great. As usual, the two-channel Japanese audio sounds fine given that it's mainly comprised of dialogue, moaning, and shrieking, while extras include trailers for Satan Hates You, The Bunny Game, Epitaph, and Suicide Club. Nope, you won't get a strip mahjong tutorial anywhere in the extras, but the movie itself should be more than enough to compensate.
Reviewed on September 26, 2012.