The Embryo Hunts in Secret (Japan, 1966)
Directed by Koji Wakamatsu

Runtime 72 minutes


Koji Wakamatsu is the undisputed Godfather of Pinku. While at Nikkatsu from 1963 to 1965, he directed over twenty pink films before quitting and starting his own company, Wakamatsu Productions in 1966. Pinku films are exploitation films that mixed sex and extreme violence with political and social messages. It is a very lose genre with few rules and can run the gamut from yakuza to horror. Most early Pinku films, while low-budget, have received critical acclaim for the topics they tackled. Wakamatsu also produced the controversial film In the Realm of the Senses (1976) by director Nagisa Oshima. The Embryo Hunts in Secret was the first film released by Wakamatsu Productions.
While many of Wakamatsu’s films were based on famous crimes, Embryo was not, though it is a familiar subject. A manager of a shop invites a young and attractive employee to his apartment following a night of drinking and partying. She is drunk and expecting a good time, but the man has other plans. He drugs her, ties her up, and proceeds to torture her—viciously whipping her and cutting her with a straight razor. He withholds food and water until she does what he demands, telling her he will make her what he wishes and she will become his wife. Through flashbacks we discover that his wife died in childbirth—with a child he never wanted—and that the girl looks strikingly similar to his dead wife.
With is use of low light, still shots, and a set consisting of two small rooms and a hallway, the film is highly claustrophobic and emphasizes the trappings of modern (1966) thinking of the two subjects—she is a modern woman who is free to do what she chooses with her body and he is grappling with the James Bond-like ideal of male sexuality. In the wake of his wife having gotten pregnant by artificial insemination, the man feels emasculated and his oedipal complex surfaces. He longs for the sexless safety of the womb, before the exposure to a miserable and anxiety-filled life (he is the embryo in the film’s title), and a woman like his mother. The scene in which his wife actually shows him the test tube in all its phallic glory, complete with leftover sperm, is one of the most powerful in the film and goes a long way to explaining the man’s psychosexual fantasies. He lost control of his wife so he wants control of the young woman. There is no love or romance involved, just raw sadism on his part and the illusion of control. At one point he bathes her tenderly and then applies makeup and brushes her hair as though she were a doll. The gentleness of this scene is shattered when she attempts to alert a visitor of her predicament and the man becomes so enraged he says he’s going to kill her. Just as he loses control, the young woman gains the upper hand, though in the end, she has also lost something of herself due to the brutality of her experience. There is no happy ending and both lives are destroyed. There is a beautiful fantasy sequence that foreshadows the final scene in which the girl calmly takes an axe to her captor.
For fans of Pinku films, The Embryo Hunts in Secret is a staple film that embodies the stripped-down violence of the early genre’s films. For those who have never seen a Pinku film, this is a great place to start.


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