We’re stray cats, not dogs!
It seems kind of late in the game to title drop a series in its fifth and final outing. It’s not like you can say that’s when the series got its name. The series is over, but Stray Cat Rock follows the beat of its own drum and now that all but Sex Hunter have been removed from Amazon Prime, Arrow’s re-release of the collection on Blu-Ray couldn’t have come at a better time.
The films themselves are only loosely connected. Many of the cast members stay the same but they play different characters, with Tatsuya Fuji and Lady Snowblood’s Meiko Kaji appearing in all five. Arrow splits the films up into two disks.
Often when you have a series that goes on for five movies, they get weaker as they go along. Stray Cat Rock doesn’t actually have this problem, but it’s a tough series to rank because they’re all so different from each other.
Delinquent Girl Boss stars Kaji as Mei, the leader of a girl gang whose boyfriend, Michio (Kôji Wada), is trying to fix a boxing match. When the boxer (Ken Sanders) goes rogue, though, Michio needs the gang’s help if he hopes to survive the weekend. Japanese singer, Akiko Wada, also stars as Ako, a lone motorcyclist whose height and helmet often get her mistaken for a man. It’s Ako, not Mei, who encourages the girls to fight. She also sings. Stray Cat Rock takes the “rock” part of its name very seriously. Sometimes characters break into song, like in a musical. Most of the time it’s on stage at a club (like in Twin Peaks: The Return).
Lamely the trailer for Wild Jumbo tries to make out like Wada appears in the sequel. She does but it’s all recycled footage from Delinquent Girl Boss. Kaji is the lone girl among guys in Wild Jumbo, as the film takes some time to find its footing. The result is a heist movie mixed with a teen comedy, as the friends stop for juvenile hijinks along the way.
Sex Hunter is the most rough, violence-wise, of the five movies, as Kaji goes back to being the leader of a girl gang. It’s also arguably the most fashionable, as Kaji gets to wear her big hat in this one (she also wears one in Material Animal). Besides looking amazing, the hat sets her apart more from the other girls, which makes sense, given she’s not as approachable in this movie. The film deals with racial prejudice, as Fuji’s Baron orders his men to target Afro-Japanese people. It also includes some surprising product placement by Coca-Cola, who you wouldn’t think would be ok with one of their bottles being used to threaten castration.
Material Animal sees Kaji’s gang protecting a Vietnam War deserter. Why they’re so invested in his well-being isn’t clear but one of the best moments in the entire series has to be when Kaji’s Maya declares “We need Hondas,” and the gang stops, mid-chase, to go to a Honda store.
Finally, Beat ’71 is a western comedy where Kaji’s Furiko breaks out of prison. She’s not out of danger yet, however, because in the meantime her boyfriend (Takeo Chii) has been making a new life for himself and he doesn’t need a girlfriend who knows he killed a man ruining things.
Arrow’s release includes interviews with Fuji, Yoshio Harada (Beat ’71), and Yasuharu Hasebe, who directed Delinquent Girl Boss, Sex Hunter, and Material Animal (Toshiya Fujita directed Wild Jumbo and Beat ’71). They’re pretty extensive and the interviewer goes film by film for Fuji and Hasebe, so nothing gets skipped.
Stray Cat Rock is available now on Blu-Ray from Arrow.