We return to the Terrifying Girls’ Highschool series to review the second film in the series, Lynch Law Classroom. The second film, also directed by Norifumi Suzuki, one of the masters of Japanese exploitation cinema and the Toei Pinky Violence genre (e.g. Women’s Violent Classroom (1972), Sex And Fury (1973)), reunites Pinky Violence queens Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike.
One day, principal Kazuko Nakata (Eizô Kitamura) announces that three new students – Remi Kitano (Misuzu Ôta), Kyoko Kubo (Seiko Saburi), and Noriko Kazama (Miki Sugimoto) – will enroll at the School of Hope For Girls, a school for rehabilitating young delinquent girls and mold them into good wives and wise Mothers (Ryosai Kenbo).
A ‘journalist’ (Tsunehiko Watase) approaches some of the girls who work at a club financed by the vice-principal Ishihara (Kenji Imai). He desires to know more about the recent death of Michiko Akayama. Before a row can break out, he is rescued by the ‘mama’ of the club who informs him about Ishihara’s corruption.
Not that much later, Noriko Kazama is approached by a student on the school’s roof. She hands over the pendant that belonged to Michiko Akayama (Emi Jô) to her, the same pendant Noriko is wearing. Noriko reveals herself as being the Boss with the Cross, a Sukeban leader from Yokohama, and tells the others that Michiko was her right hand. The girls that surround her urge her to take revenge and take on the school a.k.a. the disciplinary brigade.
Lynch Law Classroom, the second film in the Terrifying Girls’ High School series, explores very much the same themes as Woman’s Violent Classroom (1972), the first film in the series: the link between sexual violence and the phallic fixation that structures patriarchal society, the sexual power dynamics between the sexes, and the corruption by sexual pleasure and phallic power. Yet, just like the previous film, this critique of the phallic thirst is driven – how contradictory it may seem – by scenes to satisfy male fantasy.
Let us explore the themes of Lynch Law Classroom in more detail. The first important thematical element that the narrative introduces – this via the principal’s speech – is the very fissure that exists between the violent reality of the school and the carefully constructed peaceful image of the school that the school-administration wants to present to the societal Other, a fissure that puts the whole field of hierarchy and power in question (Narra-note 1). The vice-principal plays an active force in covering up the bloody proof of the violent excesses that mark the school to safeguard the peaceful image of the school, his own image as vice-principal, and the image of school’s founding father, the politician Shigeru Sato (Nobuo Kaneko), for the larger societal Other. One could even state the vice-principal, who holds a position of power in the eyes of this societal Other, glances over every element of subtle dissent that confronts him with the fact that, within the school, he has no true authoritative power – the disciplinary brigade holds the true power, by reigning terror. If the vice-principal has any control over the disciplinary brigade, it is not because he has any authority – he is too invested in patriarchal appearances to have any, but because he pays them – i.e. the special scholarship funds.
The vice-principal depends – and this is important – for his societal image, the image of the school, and the image of Sato on the terrifying girls of disciplinary brigade. And it is this dependence that, after all the money has been given, renders him powerless. Yet, Ishihara plans to take control over the school with his rich fiancée, Michiko Mishima (Jun Midorikawa). But does he realize that to improve his position, i.e. by usurping the position of principal, he needs to refrain from any attempt to change the power-structures within the school? Does he know that any attempt to change the power dynamics within the school will result in him becoming victim of his own veiled castration (Narra-note 2)?
The same is true for all the other teachers. While some teachers appear in a position where they wield some power – e.g. successfully telling the disciplinary brigade to back off, it is not true that these teachers hold power due to the authority attributed to them by our delinquent female youth. Rather, the little power they hold is a form of power they are given by disciplinary brigade. It is, as a matter of fact, only by giving the teachers some imaginary sense of holding authoritative power that the disciplinary committee can hold its power and violently dictate the dynamics of the social fabric within the school.
The second thematical element, one closely related to power dynamics mentioned above, concerns the dimension of sexuality and love. Utilizing the information that the mama of the club reveals about Ishihara – he treats women as property and exploits them to make money, we can also describe Ishihara as someone who does not hesitate to exploit, by manipulating the dimension of love with his assumed phallic presence, the female other for his own gain. Yet, his position, fueled by a thirst for power and a (mistaken) belief in his phallic worth, remains precarious. Firstly, Ishihara’s act of romantically ignoring the mama of the club leads her to aid the vengeful ‘journalist’ and, secondly, his belief of having a phallic worth is easily exploited by Yoko Nozaka (Ryôko Ema), the student he thinks he is dating with, for her own financial benefit.
Concerning the power dynamics between the sexes, Lynch Law Classroom reveal that the true non-violent power, the power that can nevertheless violently change and destroy societal positions, lies in the female body. It is the eroticism of the female body that causes men to fall victim to their own phallic thirst and their own fantastical investment in the phallus. It is, in other words, this thirst for the non-existing phallus that puts men in an easily exploitable position and that leads them to become, often happily so, to become the plaything of women, unknowingly orchestrating their own social destruction.
The only answer men have to this nonviolent power of eroticism is a violent one, the power of assault, the power of violently subjecting the female other to their phallic thirst. The patriarchal society is, as Lynch Law Highschool shows, structured in such way that those men in power (i.e. Sato, the politician) can easily protect their own position of power and are able to sexually exploit, in secret, the female other, an exploitation that, more often than not, leads to the subjective destruction of said female subject. The social commentary of Lynch Law Highschool is a commentary against the sexual violence that the patriarchal structured society allows by its very structure, against sexual exploitation thriving on men’s false belief in (having) the phallus and having the right to (sexually) wield it. The satisfying and deliciously rebellious finale visualizes this social commentary perfectly (Cine-note 1).
The composition of Lynch Law Classroom is maked by a certain dynamism. This dynamism is not only function of the rich use of zoom-ins, zoom-outs, and dramatical camera viewpoints, but also of crude spatial and tracking movement, generally applied to frame more action-rich and tensive moments (Cine-note 1). That Lynch Law Classroom succeeds in infusing palpable tension in certain scenes of torture is function of a marriage of the quirky cinematographical dynamism, the jazzy musical accompaniment, and the fitting performances. The composition, whenever it is able to, offers the female body (e.g. panty-shots, full frontal nudity, enticing lesbian action, an erotically showering woman, … etc.) to the male spectator’s visual enjoyment. Yet – and this is important – Suzuki ensures that these fleeting moments of visual ‘exploitation’ is not gratuitous but fit the flow of the composition.
Lynch Law Classroom is an amazing follow-up to Woman’s Violent Classroom (1972). While the film is not as thematically powerful as Suzuki’s first narrative, Lynch Law Classroom still offers an excellent critique of the exploitative dimensions of the phallic patriarchal society. Similarly to the first narrative, Suzuki succeeds in putting the male spectator into an uncomfortable position, by visually pleasing his phallic fantasies and, at the same time, by confronting him with the exploitative elements that structure his fantasies.
Narra-note 1: Nakata,the principal, as is made evident in the narrative, is blind to the violent reality of the school as well as to the reality of his own castration – he has, de facto, no power.
At a conscious level, he is not interested to have any phallic power, but this disinterest does not render him immune to the exploitation by his students. Why? Because behind his conscious disinterest in phallic power lies an unrealized field of sexual fantasies toying with the relationship between educator and student.
Narra-note 2: While Ishihara, in his quest to usurp the position of principal, honours the power dynamics within the school, we sadly never learn, due to some unforeseen circumstances, Ishihara’s plans with the school.
Narra-note 3: Lynch Law Classroom also shows that any kind of rebellion is short-lived. The rebellion may have had its effect – i.e. punishing Sato and his associates for the phallic beasts they are, this small rebellion is, of course, fails to make a dent in the patriarchal and phallic structure of Japanese society.
Cine-note 1: Spectators that are paying attention can notice a camera man passing in one shot. Hint: he wears a red hat.