In preparation for this event, Tani was interviewed by the U.S. publication, Asian Cult Cinema for its April, 1998 issue.
More DetailsHide DetailsSurprised by this attention from the U.S., Tani commented "I didn't think U.S. movie fans were interested in me or my movies. I thought Americans ignored my films because of the SM theme, since these movies give the impression of being abusive toward women. Regardless of the filmmaker's intent - the intellectual or artistic merit - I thought Americans viewed these productions as politically incorrect."
This attention from the U.S. again brought Tani to the attention of the domestic Japanese media. At the time, Tani wrote, "the fact that people are still interested in me - after almost 20 years away from the screen - fills me with buoyancy and surprise. It embarrasses me, too."
In 1996 she also opened "Yours Naomi", a video store near Hakata which specializes in erotic cinema, especially Nikkatsu's Roman Porno films.
More DetailsHide DetailsShe comments that "Many young people (in their 20s and 30s) who used to buy the mindless AV Video junk have shifted to 'Roman Porn' after being introduced to it."
During the late 1990s Tani's work enjoyed a renewed surge of interest. Wife to be Sacrificed was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1998, playing in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.
This difficult period in her life continued with her 1984 divorce from her husband.
More DetailsHide DetailsAfter the divorce, she opened the Ohtani restaurant in Kumamoto, which became highly successful, and which she currently owns.
In 1981 she was hit by a car while walking her dog, and had to undergo extensive rehabilitation for three years.
In 1979, after reigning for five years as Nikkatsu's "Queen Of S&M," Tani retired suddenly and unexpectedly at the height of her popularity.
More DetailsHide DetailsShe later gave her reason as, "I never wanted to disappoint my fans by showing an unflattering face. That's why I've always refused to do a comeback. Nobody is free from aging. I want to exist in the audience's memory as a forever blooming flower."
She celebrated her retirement by issuing a vocal album entitled Modae no Heya. On this disc's recent re-release in CD format, a reviewer commented of Tani's vocals, "There’s a worldliness in her voice and a maturity which suggests she’s seen it all... There is however a fragility to her voice, a cracking sense of the truly erotic, the unseen, the taboo which drapes each syllable... hearing music which would usually be readily associated with a mid-70s Samurai movie bedding down with such muted eroticism is more than a winning formula."
Tani notes that she immediately felt much more relaxed upon retirement. "I didn't have to worry about going out in the sun. I could suddenly enjoy the outdoors, golf and the beach." Her early retirement from film was clouded by difficulty however.
Director Shōgorō Nishimura's 1978 film, Lady Black Rose, contained two notorious scenes which are often selected as examples of the Roman porno S&M genre.
More DetailsHide DetailsIn one, gallons of water are forced into Tani's mouth through a funnel while her stomach can be seen enlarging. Tani points out that scenes like these were often tricks, though no special effects were involved. "I was simply good at sucking my belly into a small ball and then expanding it." In the other, gallons of brandy are similarly poured into Tani's vagina while her body can be seen flushing from pale white to a drunken red. The film is alternately praised and condemned as "the ultimate woman-as-an-object" film. Tani's last film, Rope and Skin (1979) was also directed by Nishimura, once again based on an Oniroku Dan novel, and had a part for fellow "Pink queen," Junko Miyashita. As Tani's farewell performance, Nikkatsu gave this critically acclaimed yakuza period-piece a big budget.
Known for her remarkable dedication to her work, Tani would perform even the most extreme of S&M scenes without complaint. During the twelve years she worked as an actress, she never went to the beach or allowed herself to get a suntan, feeling that it was important to keep her skin very white, so that it could be seen turning red during some of the scenes involving such things as whippings or melting candle wax tortures. Tani wrote in 1998 "The woman's naked body must not only be seen as a sensual object, but must also be able to express emotion; so, I did my best to keep Naomi Tani's body as close as possible to perfect condition."
In Konuma's 1977 parody of the Roman porn genre, In the Realm of Sex, Tani appears as herself, stalked by a perverted middle-aged fan who wants to perform an S&M session with her.
More DetailsHide DetailsTani manages to reverse the roles by binding and torturing the fan instead.
Besides Konuma, Tani worked for many of the other most prominent Roman porno directors while at Nikkatsu. "Violent pink" director Yasuharu Hasebe commented, "I regret that I only worked with her once... a very short scene at a greenhouse in Rape! The segment was only long enough for her to get assaulted by the rapist." Tani starred in director Kōyū Ohara's Nikkatsu Roman pornos, Fascination: Portrait of a Lady (1977), Rope Hell (1978) and Fairy in a Cage (1977) which had Tani playing the role of a wealthy business woman who is tortured by the sadistic head of the inquisition branch of the Japanese military during World War II.
Tani's female co-star from Wife to be Sacrificed, Terumi Azuma, would return in the 1975 film, Cruelty: Black Rose Torture, and the two would be paired in several other films until Azuma began starring in her own films in 1976.
More DetailsHide DetailsThe title introduced Nikkatsu's nickname for Tani ("Black Rose"), which would be re-used in later film titles.
In 1972, she directed two films from Oniroku Dan stories, Sex Killer and Starved Sex Beast.
More DetailsHide DetailsCommenting on her own directorial style, Tani noted, "I accentuated scenes with a lot of torture and bondage."
Throughout the 1960s, softcore pornographic "Pink Films" had been produced in Japan by small, independent studios. In 1971, however, Nikkatsu, the country's oldest film studio, had entered the "Pink Film" market with its high-budget and quality "Roman Porno" series.
Besides appearing in Nikkatsu's first experiment in the pink film in 1968, Tokyo Bathhouse (Onna Ukiyo Buro), which featured over 30 sex-film stars in cameo appearances, Tani's first official Roman porno for Nikkatsu was in a minor role as a nurse in Sensuous Beasts (1972). Unlike her starring roles for smaller studios, she played a supporting role in this film. Preferring to continue starring in lower-budget films rather than playing supporting roles for Nikkatsu's leading Roman Porno actresses, she did not stay with Nikkatsu at this time.
As an indication of her growing prominence as a representative of the erotic cinema in Japan, she appeared in the U.S. Playboy's December 1968 issue in their "Girls of the Orient" pictorial article.
Tani would play similar roles for Sakao in other films such as Virgins With Bad Reputations, also made in 1967.
More DetailsHide DetailsDuring this early stage of her career, Tani sometimes worked at prominent pink film producer/director Kōji Wakamatsu's independent studio. She worked several times with the prolific director Shinya Yamamoto in such films as Degenerate (1967), Memoirs of Modern Love: Curious Age (1967) and Season For Rapists (1969). Also during this period she became friends with the SM author, Oniroku Dan, with whom she would work throughout her film career. Dan was secretly writing S&M film scripts under the pseudonym Matsugoro Kuroiwa while working as a high school English teacher. Tani's "pretty face, beautiful fair skin... and 96cm (38") large breasts" as well as her acting abilities helped make her a popular actress in the late 1960s. She reportedly appeared in more than 200 films before her work with Nikkatsu, for which she is best known today. Even at this early stage of her career, working for independent studios, Tani had already established herself as the "Queen of Pink."
Her debut was in the 1967 film Special.
More DetailsHide DetailsShe took her screen name "Tani" from the novelist Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and "Naomi" from the central character in his important early work A Fool's Love. "Tani," or "valley," is also a Japanese slang word for the cleavage between the breasts. Consequently, Ms. Tani may have had a variety of puns in mind when she later opened a restaurant calling it the "Ohtani" (Big Breasts or Big Tani).
Tani's early films were principally with the small companies that were making pink films independent of the large studio system in the 1960s. In her pre-Nikkatsu career, she appeared in comedies, dramas, and action films, but it was the S&M genre which would make Tani a star. Her debut film was Special (スペシャル - Supesharu) for Shin Nihon Eigasha and directed by the prolific pink film auteur Kōji Seki. The film had Tani in the role of the mistress of a black marketeer who tries to cheat people at an onsen. The couple is stopped by the local villagers. Experiments on the Human Body (Zanki: Seitaijikken 1967) was a war drama in which Tani played a nurse in China where Japanese doctors are performing experiments on Chinese POWs.
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