OK. so here is the situation. There is this Japanese movie from 1988 called Star Virgin. It was a straight-to-VHS affair and it is very hard to find. For several years, I have pined after it, but the only copy I could find had no subtitles. The little clips of this movie looked so outrageous that I finally broke down and watched it with Google Translate as it tried to spontaneously translate the dialogue. It was a singularly surreal experience. The jumble of words that Google spit out was often completely indecipherable, and on top of that, they were often wildly out of sync with the images. For example, early on in the film, we see a young man at the dentist. The dentist leans in toward the young man holding a tooth in a pair of tweezers and says, “Yes, it’s not the same as the leaves of the children.”
It’s a sentence you would expect out of a surrealist exquisite corpse. The text adds to the insanity, but the imagery is already quite bizarre. The film opens with a young woman crucified in the wilderness. She anxiously scans the horizon until a towering kaiju frog appears and begins to molest her with his glistening wet, 1,000 foot tongue. Then suddenly, there is a burst of electricity and the young lady transforms into a superhuman thingy and banishes the Kaiju frog to oblivion.
The point is that, due to a lack of proper subtitles, I may not be able to fully understand Star Virgin, but even if I were fluent in Japanese, I doubt it would have made much difference. The first step in trying to comprehend what is going on is trying to figure out who this film was made for. Is it targeting little children? Is it a campy comedy for adults? It’s very hard to tell. The presence of giant creatures, and later a bunch of robots, might lead one to believe that Star Virgin is for kids, but the way our heroine is filmed does not seem appropriate to that end, as seen below.
As far as I can figure, Star Virgin is a plucky, happy, bubbly young lady who, with the help of a wrist gadget given to her by her father, can turn into something very like Wonder Woman. It reminds me of the Philippine version of Wonder Woman named Darna.
There is an oh-so-clever role reversal at the heart of the film. Star Virgin is followed around by a hapless young man who is constantly in a state of panic. The vast majority of his lines are “eheh,” “eee,” “Oh,” and “eh!” He is a character type found in many Asian comedies. There isn’t really a Western equivalent. Jerry Lewis is a bumbling fool, but he talks and has some approximation of a personality. The young man in the film (I think his name is Ko) is a one liner that won't stop repeating itself.
The two of them end up on an island somewhere in an effort to discover why tanks are attacking their hometown. Once on the island, they are confronted with a robot samurai who wants to murder them, but he gets run over by a ten-foot-tall ball of shit that was thrown by a giant dung beetle. Unfortunately, he survives the shit ball assault and continues his pursuit. With his red eye, he is obviously modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s indestructible terminator. He fights off a giant spider, he survives sinking to the bottom of a river, and he just keeps coming.
If Star Virgin has a discernible narrative, I think it is about a very old man, possibly a general from WWII who wants to right the wrongs of WWII and Make Japan Great Again, either that or he wants to destroy Japan. He has robots and weird drugs that make him young and it’s all inside a fancy space-age lair, but there is one gadget that outshines them all. Deep in a cave, he has an albino Statue of Liberty which emerges on a platform and bursts apart, revealing a chesty Statue of Liberty robot with a flame-throwing torch. If you need to read that last sentence again, I’ll wait.
However, Lady Liberty is not alone. The director must have seen Woody Allen’s Sleeper and decided that Allen’s butler-droid would fit well in Star Virgin. After you take peek at said robot below, take note of Google’s translation at the bottom. It just serves to enrich the whole experience.
Here’s another curious bit of Google poetry, or perhaps it is philosophy.
After watching the film and writing this piece, I ran across a synopsis of the film on TMDb The Movie Data base. It seems I missed an essential plot point. Here is the synopsis, “Eiko is an alien girl with a unique superpower. She can sense when a man or a monster is out to rape her and take her virginity. She can transform into a superhero, Star Virgin, and use her superpowers to destroy anyone out to take her chastity. Star Virgin never wears more than a small bikini and a headdress. Along with keeping her virginity, Eriko has to save the world from killer robots and spend time with her nerdy boyfriend.”
The writer and director of this masterpiece was Ichiro Ômomo. IMDb only credits Ômomo-san with one film, but my new best buddy TMDb found a second film called All About Mighty Lady made in 1984. I managed to find it on YouTube, but again without subtitles. Google Translate was disabled as well, but there was no text that could possibly make sense of the random clips tumbling around on screen. I suppose if one of the characters had said “And now a whole bunch of random clips are going to tumble around on screen,” It might have made sense, but even then All About Mighty Lady feels more like someone changing channels on a TV than a movie. Ultraman makes an appearance, Garfield gets nailed to a wall, there is a musical dance number, lots of Kaiju, and they throw in what appears to be a mini-rom-com… I think.
Well, it was an entertaining journey, and as far as I can tell, I managed to come out the other end with my sanity intact, so that’s a plus.
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