Monday, 29 June 2015

Japan Haul:
SM (‘Suspense & Mystery’) Magazine
(June 1969)

Although it purports to offer readers an experience in “suspense and mystery”, Japanese periodical ‘SM’ seems to have been fairly blatant in aiming it’s contents at an audience seeking an entirely different kind of ‘S’ and ‘M’.

Whilst this isn’t the kind of material we’d normally go out of our way to feature on this blog, what I find remarkable about SM is that it is a magazine entirely dedicated to sexual titillation (often of a slightly questionable nature) that features no photographic or overtly pornographic content whatsoever. Instead, SM - on the basis of this copy randomly discovered in a Tokyo second hand bookshop, at least - chose to illustrate its various stories and articles with an astounding array of original artwork, much of it veering heavily toward the abstract and psychedelic.

A immediate demonstration of this daring  policy comes immediately after the contents page, as furtive browsers get their eyes seared by eight full colour pages of Masao Kawamoto’s mind-melting collage artwork – a “FOR MADMEN ONLY” sign on the door if ever there was one, and, needless to say, a guarantee that this little magazine was going to be leaving the shop with me, regardless of what the rest of it contained.

Unfortunately, I can find very little online about Masao Kawamoto (was he the same Masao Kawamoto who wrote these two seemingly innocuous guides to watercolour painting..?), but searching using his name’s Japanese characters did at least turn up this Tumblr post, wherein another motherlode of his artwork (from a 1968 publication entitled “Crash Comix”) can be enjoyed.

Credits for ‘SM’s other interior illustrations are sufficiently vague and scattered that I’ve been unable to find many of them, but the illustrations themselves are all rather wonderful, with a different artist seemingly being assigned to each of the magazine’s numerous pieces of erotic fiction. Of course, I’m unable to read these stories, but I think the pictures below succeed in giving us the general gist of where this magazine's focus lay.

After all that's over with, the end pages of ‘SM’ widenstheir focus to include a few factual articles and reviews. Worryingly, there is a lengthy piece entitled "Joys of the Torture Chamber" detailing the practices of the Catholic Inquisition, illustrated by faded reproductions of familiarly icky Western wood-cuts. We don’t really need to dwell on that here, but, more interestingly, the magazine also features significant coverage of saucy movies, and particularly those imported from Europe, if the predominantly caucasian features of the pictured actors is anything to go by.

Whilst I don’t immediately recognise any of the productions featured, a special fold out section reproduces variety of publicity shots depicting the kind of grisly exploitation business that, whilst it had become commonplace in European films by the mid ‘70s, was still pretty rare in 1969, leading me to wonder just where the hell these images of close-up gore, weird bondage scenarios and nasty Nazisploitation / WIP type goings on originated.

There are also a few longer text reviews of some comparatively genteel looking movies that I’m equally unable to identify, so, just out of interest, readers who can place any of the following images are encouraged to get in touch via the usual channels.

Even more interestingly (to me at least), ‘SM’ also features a few pages dedicated to reviewing the latest American smut paperbacks – see for instance these no doubt insightful write-ups of ‘Horizontal Secretary’ and ‘Hillbilly Haven’.

To my knowledge, no English language publications ever bothered discussing the content or merit of these books, so the mind boggles trying to imagine what a (presumably) bilingual Japanese reviewer might have found to say about them.

Maybe one day I might find out, but as my darling wife is currently busy with a some rather more pressing translation-related endeavours, I’m reluctant to bother her with demands to tell me what some guy in 1969 thought about ‘Hillbilly Haven’.

Below are a few double-page scans of those Kawamoto collage pages, for all your desktop wallpapering needs.

1 comment:

Elliot James said...

The only photos I recognize in this insane publication are from The Legend of Lylah Clare with Kim Novak.