Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE (1970) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video
Rating: A
Region Code: A
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Audio: Japanese LPCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Satô
Director: Teruo Ishii

Synopsis: Akemi (Kaji) is a dragon tattooed leader of the Tachibana Yakuza clan. In a duel with a rival gang Akemi slashes the eyes of an opponent and a black cat appears, to lap the blood from the gushing wound. The cat along with the eye-victim go on to pursue Akemi’s gang in revenge, leaving a trail of dead Yakuza girls, their dragon tattoos skinned from their bodies.

This is a strange one, a weird blend of a bad ass female Yakuza film and a cat ghost story (which s apparently a thing in Japan) wrapped up in a tale of vengeance and violence, one that is not easily categorized. The movie begins with an excellent stylized fight sequence with Akemi and her Tachibana Gang battling adversaries Goda Gang during a torrential downpour. The dragon-tattooed Tachibana are in fine form, but Akemo accidentally blinds Aiko (Hoki Tokuda), the sister of Boss Goda with her sword, afterward a black cat appears begins to lick the blood pouring from the blinding wound. The entire opening credit sequence is fantastic, rain-soaked and action-packed with effective use of still frames, it's a very stylish sequence bursting with color and violence.  

After the bloody battle Akemi is imprisoned for her crimes, when she is released three years later she resumes her role as the leader of the Tachibana Gang but now faces opposition from rivals Gang Boss Dobashi (Toru Abeand) the the Aozora Gang lead by the smelly Aozora (Ryohei Uchida). She must also contend with the fact that one of her own are conspiring against her with a rival boss. However, she is aided by a bad ass warrior named Tani (Makoto Sato) who aids the Tachibana in their battles throughout the neighborhood, enforcing his own brand of justice. 

The blinded woman from the start of the film reappears at a freaky sideshow as a knife thrower, and not long after members of Akemi's gang are found dead with their dragon tattoos skinned from their backs. Akemi is convinced that she has been cursed following the appearance of the black cat, a creature that has haunted her dreams for since the accidental blinding. The spooky black cat's reappearance gives the film a strange supernatural vibe, even if it's not fleshed out in a satisfactory way I appreciated the mash-up of genres. 

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video looks fantastic, bold colors and sourced from a great looking print. The Japanese LPCM 1.0 Mono audio presentation is decent, not the cleanest presentation you could hope for on Blu-ray with some minor instances of distortion along the way but overall is damn decent Blu-ray edition of Blind Woman's Curse (1970) which is making it Blu-ray debut in North America here from Arrow Video. 

Bonus features are pretty slim by Arrow Video standards but are nothing to scoff at, beginning with an info packed audio commentary from noted Japanese film scholar Japser Sharp, who also wrote the liner notes for the Impulse Picture's Nikkatsu Collection DVDs. There's also a theatrical trailer for the film, four more trailers for Nikkatsu film starring Meiko Kaji, plus a reversible sleeve of artwork and a collector's booklet with new writing on the film. 

A weird and confusing tale of female Yakuza revenge with some supernatural elements and some fantastic imagery. Admittedly I didn't quite follow everything the first time around but I enjoyed it quite a bit just the same, was even better the second time around, a very entertaining revenge film laced with betrayal and some supernatural charms.