SCENE 2: THE REVIEW
Thanks to fellow PL fan Alan Newman, I was finally able to get my hands on something I’ve sought for the longest time, but couldn’t find: a copy of the Pink Lady movie! As everyone knows, in 1978, Mie and Kei were on top of the Japanese entertainment world, what with hit records, titanic stadium shows, scores of TV appearances, even a brief, but successful foray to the States when they performed in Las Vegas. The only thing left for the girls to do was star in their own motion picture, which they did! After having seen stills from a movie program I bought via eBay several years ago, I’ve always wanted to view the film for myself, just to see what it was all about. Now that I’ve viewed the movie, which Alan was kind enough to put on a DVD for me a couple of months ago, I have to say that the best possible word to describe it was….surreal.
Without the benefit of subtitles, which certainly would’ve been helpful in doing a decent review since I’m hardly fluent in Japanese, I was fairly well able to discern that the storyline was that of a movie about a movie. Confused? So was I at first, but I’ll try my very best to explain, heavy emphasis on “try”. The movie opens with Mie and Kei in New York City (or a reasonable facsimile) being interviewed by both the American and Japanese press about their upcoming starring roles in their first motion picture. Meanwhile, back home in Japan, three nutty acting dudes (I’m guessing these guys must’ve been popular comedic actors back in the day) portraying movie directors hole themselves up in a hotel room, strewn with PL posters, pictures and other related stuff to discuss what sort of movie the girls will star in while a ditzy secretary, wearing the prerequisite short skirt happily pedals away in the background. And these nutjobs, hardly the second coming of Spielberg, Scorsese and Tarantino come up with three wildly different, and loopy ideas: a dorama (soap opera), a sci-fi epic and a spaghetti western. Now, if you'll remember, I had reviewed the movie in January, doing the very best I could without the benefit of subtitles, but after after sending a copy of the movie to fellow PL fan, verne Innhel, he was kind enough to provide me with a more detailed synopsis of the three vignettes which made up the movie. And for that, I can't thank him enough! So, without further delay, let's get right to Verne's review!
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The vignette starts with Mrs. Tanaka telling Nurse Kei how much she likes her and would really love for her to become her daughter-in-law. In fact, her son had mentioned to her that he was thinking of proposing to his girlfriend - who happens to be Kei. She asks "If my son proposed to you, would you accept?" Kei responds that she would. Mrs. Tanaka's son walks in and thanks Kei for taking care of his mother. Kei comes home to her younger sister Mie and tells her that she might be getting married soon. Kei is very proud of her boyfriend who graduated from a prestigious university and works at an equally prestigious company. Mie is overjoyed at the news and tells her mom (who has passed away). Mie then confesses that she has a secret boyfriend named Hattori who works in a bar. However, Kei expresses disapproval because of his "lowly status" as a bartender. Mie protests and says that love is what’s important.
At the bar later, Mie plans to introduce Hattori to Kei at a restaurant to convince her that he’s an outstanding guy, but there's an emergency at the hospital - a patient with an skull fracture has just been brought in. The head nurse orders Kei to remain and look after the new patient who insists that he’s feeling better wants to go home. But Kei is duty-bound to stay and misses the meeting with Mie and her boyfriend. At this point, neither girl knows they’re seeing the same man. Kei returns home to find Mie very upset at her older sister for not making it to the restaurant, upset enough to where she packs her bags to leave. Mie thinks that Kei didn't bother to show up since she thinks that her boyfriend was beneath Kei. After some harsh words, Kei straightens out Mie with a slap and explains that duty is more important. Kei arrives at the bar looking for Hattori but finds Tanaka instead. Kei adds two and two and immediately realizes that her boyfriend and Mie's boyfriend are one and the same person. Tanaka confesses to Kei that he has been living a double life and that he uses Hattori at the bar. He then reveals that his company had gone bankrupt, but he pretends that everything was alright for his mother and Kei's sake, but has been forced to work as a bartender Kei is crushed since she cannot bear to be with a man of such "lowly status."
A conversation later between Mie and Hattori at the bar (over a "Pink Lady" drink) has him confessing that he has been seeing Kei - but only because his mother wants them together. He tells Mie that he doesn’t love Kei but has decided to please his mom and marry her, adding that he and Mie can never be together. In an ironic twist of fate, when Hattori told his mom that he was going to propose to his girlfriend - he actually meant Mie. Mie tells Kei of Hattori’s plan, just to please his mother, leaving Mie heartbroken. Kei arrives at the bar and tells Hattori that she has a secret boyfriend and is breaking up with him. She then pulls in Mr. Sugimoto (the skull fracture patient from the hospital). Kei tells Tanaka/Hattori that he and Mie should be together since they love each other and leaves with her Sugimoto. Hattori and Mie know full well that the man isn’t Kei’s real boyfriend and realize her sacrifice.
At the docks, Kei tries to give Sugimoto payment for his part in her ruse, but he declines saying "I can't. You did this sacrifice for your sister." He goes back to his houseboat but parts with, "You are a very good woman! I'm sure you will find a very good man!"
Voice over: "Mie marries Hattori. Kei loses her first love. “
On the shipping docks, a large, strange, yet somewhat cute creature is being delivered to a local circus. Mie and Kei are put in charge of the creature (they call him “Mon-chan [Mister Mon/ster]) and try to teach it some tricks, but they’re unsuccessful. The ringmaster arrives with his henchmen (the animal trainer and the head clown) and is angry at the lack of progress. The girls tell him that Mon-chan should be returned home, but are told that the circus had paid a lot of money for the creature and they intend to get their money’s worth. The animal trainer takes over (with a whip which he uses), but the creature is a hopeless klutz. Mon-chan is later chained up and locked in a cage. Kei tries to console him with some bananas, but Mon-chan is homesick and just miserable, so they try to cheer him up instead by doing what they do best – sing! The song the girls choose, of course, is “Monster!”
Morning comes and the clown discovers that the creature gone – but leaves a souvenir. (Editor’s note: Three guesses as to what said souvenir is, and the first two don’t count!) The girls escape with Mon-chan and, taking a break in a secluded wooded area far from the circus, plan their next move. In the meantime, they try to communicate through music and start with “Do Re Mi” (the very best way to start). But Mon-chan beats out a different melody (Mie and Kei don’t seem to realize that it’s the intro to “UFO”). Later, the girls find that Mon-chan built a strange structure out of rocks. They ask him what it is, but there’s a communication gap. Mon-chan tells them it’s “Fuji.” The girls can’t understand him and Kei guesses “Fushi?” (“a knot?”) and Mie guesses “Bushi?” (“Samurai?”). A frustrated Mon-chan can only repeat “Fuji!” Fuji!!!”, but it’s no use. Mon-chan can understand them, but they can’t understand him.
Back on the road the next morning, the ringmaster and his cronies catch up to the fugitives and a high-speed, keystone cops style chase ensues. Kei’s skillful driving results in the bad guys crashing into a gas station. The ringmaster throws down his cigar in frustration – with explosive results. But they steal the fire truck that arrives and continue the pursuit. That night, the girls, having run out of gas find themselves in front of what Mon-chan has been trying to tell them earlier – Mount Fuji! The terrible trio catch up again but Mon-chan and the girls escape in a rowboat. Just then, a flying saucer arrives and they’re beamed up to safety – boat and all. Inside, Mon-chan is reunited with his parents. Mie and Kei discover that the ship is speeding away from earth. The aliens are taking them to the safety of their home planet. Earth is a dangerous place. But for the girls, Earth is the only home they know and want to go back. Mon-chan’s father prepares them for return, but an accident occurs and the girls are turned them into “Tomei Ningen!” (Invisible People)! They don’t mind and return to Earth to fight crime in their invisible states.
Now we’re transported back to the old west for the finale where Mie and Kei are saloon entertainers in a Texas bar called Western Town. They catch the eye of the local rough bunch. The gang grabs them and the leader (to be called Black Bart from this point on) tries to buy them a drink and make conversation but the girls won’t have any of it. Enter Sugar (that’s his name folks. In fact, he calls himself "Sugar Brown") the hero, and of course the place explodes into a full blown bar brawl which ends with Sugar dropping Bart’s number one pistolero in a duel. Sugar gets winged by another goon, then makes a getaway leaving the girls at the mercy of the gang, but "Pepper Keibu" (Sheriff Pepper) arrives and restores order. Black Bart demands that the Sheriff arrest Sugar for killing of two of his men, claiming they were just having fun when Sugar came in and shot them for no reason. Sheriff Pepper has no choice but to put up "Wanted" signs for Sugar.
Meanwhile, out in the sticks, Kei tends to a wounded Sugar down by the river. Sugar needs to leave town and Kei wants to go with him, but he says it’s a bad idea, to which Kei asks, "But, don’t you love me?" We switch scenes back to the hotel where the movie’s producers are arguing over where the story will go. One of them suggests bringing a UFO in to deal with the gang, which the others (rightfully) think is ridiculous. Back in Western Town, Sheriff Pepper is grilling Mie at the station on the whereabouts of Kei and Sugar, but she doesn’t know. On the way back home, Sheriff Pepper catches up to Mie but tells her that this isn’t about Sheriff business. "Then, what’s this about?" ask Mie. Pepper replies "…Maybe… about lovers…? Sheriff Pepper has fallen for Mie and pours his heart out to her. And just as they’re about to kiss – they’re interrupted off camera by one of the now drunken producers who questions the validity of the scene. The sheriff protests "Idiot!! This is the perfect time for the kissing scene!!" But as Pepper is distracted, Mie slips away.
Mie finds a distraught Kei who refuses to say where she’s going. "You intend to leave with Sugar don’t you?!" asks Mie. The sheriff enters and Kei mistakenly assumes that Mie has betrayed her. But Mie tells her that she’s wrong and it’s not what it looks like. Later, Sheriff Pepper returns to the station and is caught by surprise by Sugar who locks him in his own jail. Back at the saloon, the girls are performing "Wanted" (appropriately, given the plot), Kei spots a disguised Sugar in the audience. Unfortunately, the gang spots him too, and try to shoot him. Kei heroically throws herself in the line of fire and takes the bullet intended for Sugar. Sugar takes out both bandits but a third one guns him down. Sheriff Pepper arrives too late (again), but kills the third gunman. He sees both Kei and Sugar dead and mutters "Damn! Too late!" He calls Bart out but only the piano player shows up. Bart arrives and catches the sheriff unarmed. But the pianist rolls a bottle over to Mie who smashes it on the leader’s arm distracting him long enough for Pepper to grab his gun and take him out.
On a lonely hilltop, a grieving Mie is at the graves of Sugar Brown and Kay Rose. The girls can never sing together again. Sheriff Pepper arrives and tries to console her, but Mie can never forgive him for not saving Kei.
The scene is ruined by the arrival of a UFO. One of the producers insisted that it be included and a furious Pepper shows him what he thinks of it.
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Once again, many thanks to Verne for his hard work. I greatly appreciate it. Like I said, the whole thing was surreal. Especially with cutaways of concert footage throughout the movie, and segments with the goofy directors yammering to each other. At times, it was hard to keep from shaking my head from wonder while taking notes since the movie was just so darn silly in more than a few spots. In retrospect, Pink Lady’s fluff filled silver screen romp made Mie’s infamous star turn four years later as a hooker in “Call Girl” all the more shocking. As for the girls, while their performances were far from Oscar worthy, they looked pretty creditable as actresses, especially in the first vignette where they were called upon to flex their dramatic muscles. Still, in the longtime tradition of pop singers who try their hand at acting in movies, no one’s going to mistake this crazy hodgepodge for cinematic classics like “Jailhouse Rock” or “A Hard Day’s Night”. But then, perhaps that was never the intention since Pink Lady’s audience at the time included teens and pre-teens, so maybe doing something light, comedic and fantasy driven was all part of the plan. In any event, the movie was a delight to watch, and a fun way to spend ninety minutes while watching Mie and Kei launch their acting careers to go along with their unparalleled success as singers.