Impulse Pictures // 1981 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 21st, 2012
"Cat fights, nudity and even a crazy perverted monk"
As a film reviewer, I've always envied music critics their ability to come up with cool genre names. I've seen reviews that say stuff like "this track sounds like acid-influenced grime with a dubstep break and a handbag-house vocal hook." In the film world, we're lucky to get two-name genre combinations: noir-western, horror-comedy. So, when I discover a new genre or genre combination, I'm always excited. Nympho Diver: G-string Festival is cause for much rejoicing. First, it's an "ama" film, which is an entire subgenre devoted to girl divers in Japan's fishing communities. Then, it's a Nikkatsu-style erotic comedy to boot. That weird combination of an obscure subgenre and erotic antics is enough to recommend the movie to fans of weird (especially weird Japanese) cinema.
Many of Japan's smaller towns rely on their proximity to the sea for economic prosperity. Nympho Diver occurs in one of those cities, where the woman in charge of diving for abalone and other delicacies is getting older and the town is suffering. Someone gets the bright idea of bringing in a series of younger (more beautiful) divers both to scour the ocean floor and titillate the tourists. The plan works, with plenty of sexual antics along the way.
This film defies review. It sets out with the most modest of goals -- to get beautiful young Japanese women in various states of undress to engage in diving and or sexual antics -- and meets them quite easily. There's not much of a plot once we understand that the town is in danger and only bikini-clad young women can save it, but the series of sexual situations (that culminates in the Japanese equivalent of a wet T-shirt contest) are enthusiastic and creative.
Fans of erotic cinema will find something to enjoy here. Nympho Diver is very much in the vein of bikini carwash films that were the staples of late-night cable in the 1980s, where economic problems are solved with nudity and ingenuity. Be warned, however, that while Nympho Diver is a pretty softcore film, it does go a bit beyond the usual topless nudity of similar American films. I'm thinking especially of a scene in which a man pleasures a woman with a large wooden dowel. Again, it's not explicit insertion or anything, but it's not a Cinemax-style erotica either.
Fans of weird cinema will also find something to love. Between the beautiful women and the borderline nonsensical plot, there's so much happening in Nympho Diver that defies logic. Several times I found myself going "Wait, what?" over some strange transition or particularly gymnastic attempt to get the women naked. This is very much the kind of film that would be improved with a six pack and a few friends to marvel at just how little sense it really makes.
The case could also be made this film is important for fans of Japanese cinema as well. It's "just" a low-budget erotic genre film, but Nympho Diver (as the essay booklet by Jasper Sharp makes clear) does some interesting things with gender in Japanese cinema. Though Japan was entering the era of its total dominance of the electronic market through Sony and other companies in 1981, the film reminds viewers of the more precarious position its rural citizens were placed in. More importantly, it demonstrates the way in which women are essential to the economic life of Japan. No one will mistake this flick for a progressive example of women's cinema, but it does far more interesting things with gender and economics than a film called Nympho Diver has any right to.
Historians and erotica lovers will enjoy this DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is largely excellent. The source print is free from major damage. Colors are accurate to the period (compared to other Japanese features from the early 1980s). Black levels are consistent, and detail is generally strong. No serious noise or compression artifacts come up. The 2.0 mono Japanese audio track is fine for this kind of presentation. Dialogue is easily audible and well-balanced, and English subtitles are included.
The film's original theatrical trailer is the only extra on the disc (and its inclusion is appreciated), but the meat is in the essay booklet by Jasper Sharp. He gives a good idea of the backdrop of the film, as well as how it fits in with other films of the day. It's worth a read for fans of the film.
Of course, Nympho Diver is not for anyone who doesn't want rampant nudity, sexual situations, and gratuitous shots of women dripping water.
Nympho Diver: G-string Festival is the kind of release where the title alone announces its audience. If it sounds weird or sexy, then you probably won't be disappointed. Those not looking for scantily clad Japanese women should steer clear.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Impulse Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Japanese)
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated