Lady Snowblood

Dir. Toshiya Fujita
1973
A fast-paced samurai revenge picture with a female in the title role,
“Lady Snowblood” has received this release due to Tarantino referencing it (and using some of its soundtrack) in “Kill Bill.”
Wide-eyed Mieko Kaji (who played the title role in Female Convict Scorpion) stars as Yuki, whose mother died in childbirth, and raised by a hard-assed martial arts-teaching priest. She is raised to complete her revenge against the gang of four who killed her family and raped and tortured her mother. Yes, she has a list, just like in Kill Bill, but things get more complex. Death number one was completed by the mother before her death in prison. Death number two comes easily. But when Yuki tracks down Number Three, she finds a headstone. Seems like he died some time back. However, a young reporter seems to know about her story and a tenuous relationship develops.
All this is set against the Meiji era of Japan, and a climactic fight scene is shot inside a very Western costume ball, where British Admirals dance with Japanese ladies.
If anyone thought the violence in Kill Bill was cartoony or gross, Lady Snowblood has plenty more limb-choppin’, blood spurtin’ action. No matter where Yuki hits with her sword, she is guaranteed to hit a main artery, the result a hissing, arcing fountain o’ blood. Great fun, as is the wah-wah pedal-heavy, jazz-rock score, but Toshiya Fujita plays it straight. It was made in 1973 after all.
This is a very good DVD release by Animeigo, which though it lacks in extras, makes sure that every single thing in Japanese is translated, with multicolored subtitles helping the sometimes speedy dialog. Very few Japanese DVDs have such extensive subtitles.
Japanese film fans won’t be surprised to know Yuki dies in the end, but they may be surprised to see that Yuki came back the next year for a sequel. Did she punch her way out of her six-feet-under coffin? No idea.

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