Pink Film Reviews - Beauty's Exotic Dance: Torture! (1977)

Published : February 15th, 2023 Written by Anton Algren

Given what an improvement Watcher in the Attic was over A Woman Called Sada Abe, you would expect the third and final entry in the Showa Trilogy to be an even better experience. And you would be wrong. Dead wrong. Utterly and thoroughly wrong. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Beauty's Exotic Dance: Torture! is ostensibly about the life of Seiu Ito, whom I covered in a previous article here. However, the film eschews a traditional narrative structure in favor of a series of nonlinear vignettes, focusing on the various kinky acts Ito inflicted on his wife and then later a sex worker named Tae. While no full penetration is shown in the film (because did you really expect there to be after the last two Showa Trilogy entries?), if you replaced crimebusting with photoshoots, Dance would bear an eerie resemblance to Dennis Reynolds' movie pitch from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, right down to running for 90 or so minutes until the movie just sort of ends.

Whenever I review media, I do my best to avoid moral judgment of a work, creator, or audience. However, I think I can say say without fear of contradiction that there are some works out there whose morals negate any artistic merits they might have. For instance, I don't think anyone sensible would blame me for despising Jud Süss on purely moral grounds, because it is blatant, fascist, antisemitic propaganda. And while I would never say that Beauty's Exotic Dance is on par with something like Jud Süss, my main objection to the film is, ultimately, moral in nature.

You see, Dance presents Ito as not simply staging the scenes he photographed with his models, but actually doing to them everything he shot. Now, I don't know how historically accurate this is. As I said in my article on Ito, biographical information on him in English is scarce. And it's not impossible for him to have sought an unnecessary level of realism with his photography. However, the film never presents Ito as unusual or abnormal for an erotic artist, leaving us with a film that presents his methods as the norm for how adult content is made, rather than a gross aberration.

Ask any AV director, actor, or producer, and they will tell you very emphatically that safety is their number one priority when making AV. The more intense stuff, like you would see in something like Attackers, is staged. It's all acting, and behind the scenes everyone is simply doing their job. Yet the pernicious myth that if it's what you see on screen it must be what really was going on behind camera remains the popular conception of porn, no matter how emphatically the adult industry defends itself from these accusations. For Dance to promote this myth then is not simply ignorant, but actively irresponsible.

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I am someone who does not think that art is worth subjecting its participants to genuine pain and harm. Even if I've enjoyed works like The Crow or The Shining, which did see its cast and crew suffer tremendously, I don't think anyone would look at those incidents as anything other than tragedies whose shadows are cast over the finished pieces of art. To Dance's Ito though, the injuries to his models are the point. They have to genuinely suffer to fulfill his artistic vision.

And what is this artistic vision? To get Ito off. No, really, that's it. Ito doesn't seem interested in reaching an audience with his art. He just takes these pictures because it makes him hard. After all, Ito tells us directly, didn't we all torment animals when we were little? (Answer: No) And isn't it so much more fun to do to women what we do to animals? (Answer: Speak for your fucking self, mate)

At the very least, Dance does not posit the Gorean notion that every woman in the world secretly yearns to be treated horribly, with Ito explaining to the audience that only certain specific women are really into what he's into. However, the film throws away any goodwill it gained from this statement by having Ito discuss how he deliberately cultivates women who will submit to him, testing them to see if they're receptive before binding them to his will. So, rather than a John Norman type who believes all women love being treated like shit, Ito comes across more as a Keith Raniere or Charles Manson type, someone who carefully vets women so that they never want to leave him, even if things get out of hand.

At the beginning of the movie, when Ito first meets Tae, he regales her with a story detailing some truly shocking and disturbing things he did to his wife. And while he ends the story with a laughing "Just kidding!", by the film's end I was genuinely unsure if his story was just a story after all, so convinced was I then that Dance's Ito was a violent sociopath who used his art to disguise and excuse his cult-leader tendencies (which I suppose would make him more a Jodorowsky than a Manson type, or perhaps a BDSM Doc Antle).

Maybe if Dance demonstrated that Ito was in the wrong for his actions, or tried to make this a story about an artist going too far, this would be more digesitble. But the only people who ever criticize Ito are government censors who just don't get it maaaaaan, and Tae's matriarch, who has syphilis-induced dementia and is clearly not in a sound mental condition. Ito never changes or learns a lesson from the events of the movie, and remains firmly convinced by story's end that he did nothing wrong, which leads me to assume that we the audience are meant to feel the same way. And I'm sorry, but I simply cannot agree with that.

Even if I could though, I still could not forgive Dance for its attempts to introduce a plot midway through its runtime with a twist, that twist being that Tae has congenital syphilis which drives her mad, before eventually passing away with Ito feeling no remorse or grief afterwards. And apart from further convincing me that Ito is an irredeemable psychopath (his only concern when hearing the diagnosis is what a pain it will be to care for Tae), as a plot development, it doesn't make any sense!

I confess, I am not a doctor, but I know enough about medical science to know that congenital syphilis shows very clear symptoms either at birth or soon afterwards. It would not suddenly appear when a woman is in her late 20s (Tae's age is never specified but her actress was 28 when the film was released), and it would not manifest as dementia, the only symptom Tae has before dying. There would be some physical sign of her ailment, or at the very least a runny nose. More than that though, if Tae does have syphilis, then it raises the question of why Ito is never concerned that he may catch the disease from her. Syphilis is, after all, a sexually transmitted disease, and we know Ito and Tae have been having sex because we've had to watch them do it (Dance sees a return of the bodies-awkwardly-flopping-around style of sex scenes, which is a chore to sit through). But no, Tae's syphilis is just another Soap Opera Disease, there to explain her premature death and garner sympathy before the movie's end.

It may seem like I am hyperfixating on a single minor plot hole, but I have to stress that this is the plot of the movie, what little there is. Dance can be neatly divided into pre-syphilis-diagnosis vignettes and post-diagnosis vignettes, but apart from that the film is entirely disinterested in presenting a cohesive narrative. This movie has no porn. It has no plot. And, worst of all, it has no point. It is a complete and utter waste of time. Once again Junko Miyashita gives a performance far better than the material deserves, but unlike with Woman or Watcher, I am no longer willing to give the movie points for that. The same weekend I watched Dance, I watched Samurai Cop, and somehow, the latter film had a more coherent plot, better characterization, and sexier love scenes than this drek. And when a movie notorious for its poor quality manages to outclass you in every way, you know your film is a real stinker. This is not a bit, by the way. I would genuinely like to end this review by telling everyone to watch Samurai Cop instead of Beauty's Exotic Dance, because it's just. That. Bad.

Have a pink film you'd like me to review? Leave a comment down below. Whatever you recommend, it can't be worse than this turkey.

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