Blu-ray Review: Sailor Suit & Machine Gun

During the ’70s and early ’80s, you’d get off the bus and run into the house to watch Looney Tunes, Ultraman or Batman. But once a month there would be an unexpected surprise: The ABC Afterschool Special. This would be a dramatic film aimed at kids that had important issues as the plot such as “My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel,” “Me & Dad’s New Wife,” “Teen Father,” “Stoned” and “It Isn’t Easy Being a Teenage Millionaire.” Little did we know that in Japan, they were getting the ultimate Afterschool Special with Sailor Suit & Machine Gun. The premise is brilliant, what if you’re a trouble teenage girl who learns while at high school that you’ve inherited your own Yakuza family. This is like the Godfather in a school uniform.

Things are looking bleak for Izumi Hoshi (G.I. Samurai‘s Hiroko Yakushimaru) when her father dies. She gets taken in by a woman who was a friend of her father. All she seems to have left is her school. But that gets interrupted one morning when a group of mobsters arrive on the playground. Nobody is quite sure what the Yakuza has arrived and Hoshi approaches them only to discover she’s the one they’ve come to find. Turns out her father was the next in line to be chairman of the Medaka Family. While it seems rather outlandish to have a teenage girl calling the shots, those are the rules. Her family isn’t in the greatest of shape, but they are loyal to her. A rival mobster group doesn’t respect her power during a visit. She decides they will take back the turf they’d lost to them. She learns quickly that this is a dangerous game when the rivals send goons with machine guns to spray her headquarters. But she doesn’t run back to science class. Hoshi demands respect and revenge.

Sailor Suit & Machine Gun came out in 1981 and 40 year later, it’s a engrossing strange film. You’d figure someone in America would try to remake the film, but they wouldn’t come close to touching the extremes depicted in the film. They’d completely make the experience cute and comical. While there are such whimsical elements in the film, there’s also a harsh edge when the bullets start flying. She even hooks up with one of her men which you wouldn’t see in a Hollywood remake. There’s a lot going on as she comes of age while calling the shots for a criminal enterprise. Director Shinji Somai doesn’t hold back in his depiction of how ruthless people can be in this underground world. This is a masterpiece of gangster cinema. This might also be the strangest film about how a teenage girl can do anything if she sets her mind on it. I really wish Sailor Suit & Machine Gun had been imported for the ABC Afterschool Special.

There’s two cuts of the Sailor Suit & Machine Gun on the Blu-ray disc. There’s the original theatrical version that runs 111 minutes and an Extended Director’s Cut that lasts 130 minutes. The extra 19 minutes appear to give more depth to supporting characters. You’re best off going with the longer cut.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfers brings out the details in the mayhem when the machine gun comes out. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix in Japanese. There’s also the original mono mix. The levels bring out the gunfire and the pop songs. The Extended Director’s Cut is only in mono. The subtitles are in English.

Girls, Guns and Gangsters: Shinji Somai & Sailor Suit & Machine Gun (51:13) has actor Akira Emoto, film scholare Chika Kinoshita, Somai biographer Tatsuya Kimura and assistant director Koji Enomoto give background on the film, the director and its impact. Everyone speaks Japanese, but the special is subtitled in English. Hiroko Yakushimaru really was a high schooler and a pop idol at the time. Emoto talks about his casting in the film was a phone call from Somai.

Trailers and TV Spots includes the original theatrical trailer (2:39), complete version (3:14) and a theatrical teaser (0:35). All play on the concept of a high schooler taking over her own Yakuza family. There’s also a TV Spot (2:30).

Image Gallery has 14 press photos.

Original Press Kit has them selling it as a teenage girl with a machine gun.

Arrow Video presents Sailor Suit & Machine Gun. Directed by Shinji Somai. Screenplay by: Yozo Tanaka. Starring Hiroko Yakushimaru, Tsunehiko Watase, Masaaki Daimon, Shinpei Hayashiya, Toshiya Sakai, Shingo Yanagisawa, Tatsuya Oka, Ken Mitsuishi & Yuki Kazamatsuri. Rating: Unrated. Running Time: 111 minutes. Release Date: November 16, 2021.

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