Lady Snowblood (1973)
Genre: Samurai Period Drama Thriller (Japan)
Starring: Meiko Kaji (Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion; The Yakuza Papers, Vol. 2), Toshio Kurosawa
Directed By: Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance)
Acting: As I've come to understand, this Meiko Kaji is not necessarily popular or successful, but she is a well-known enough name in Japanese girl-gang films (The Stray Cat Rock Series). Whether you watch 70s Samurai Films, Sexploitation or Zombie Horror, you know intrinsically that the risk of failure is high. Add the era with the subject matter and you know that even if it isn't low budget it might just be too gaudy and Art-Nouveau to survive. This suffers from that a little. Though professional, the performances of the cast and crew were nothing special.
Cinematography: For all the good things I have to say about the origin of this story and how this may stand the test of time, the fight choreography in this was far more clumsy and nowhere near as exciting as with Lone Wolf And Cub. Sure there's a great scene with bisection and there's blood spray all over the place, but the blood itself and the way people died looked unrehearsed. Either that or I was corrupted by the splendor that was our heroic Shogun Assassin... at least it was wickedly storyboarded.
Script: There's a lot of important back-story in this and though from time to time all the names and present-day details go a little long, when the history and the reason for all the devotion towards this bitter quest is learned, you know it's a worthy cause, and really well told.
Plot: Originally a manga (Japanese graphic novel) series, written by the creator of the Lone Wolf And Cub Series, this tale is heavy on the storyline. We have a woman who was born to finish a task of vengeance, and her whole life is devoted to this end. Eventually she gets some help from a reporter dude with crazy 1973 hair, and much like Dead Man, we have a story that is believable and we're often left wondering how many ruses and double-crosses will indeed occur. The best part is that the end is really not predictable.
Mood: Having seen this, I now know where Quentin Tarantino got his major influence for Kill Bill: Vol 1, and I'm not just talking about the use of Lady Snowblood's opening score for his last scene in Kill Bill, which is some pretty swank music indeed. What's great about this is that we have a very realistic approach to the samurai vengeance film because we have a woman who faces true danger every step of the way, and she logically does what she can to NOT get into scraps with fourteen people, choosing realism over heroism, which is nice.
Overall Rating: 78% (It's Snow Masterpiece But Still A Little Blood-Rush)
Aftertaste: So I decided to take a little break from the Hitchcock for a couple movies, just to appease those brave souls who've done all they could to suffer through his greatest stinkers. I'll admit that during this intensive study of mine, this particular film might have acted too much as a wedge, throwing my Hitchcock-ready brain out of whack, but the tale itself was nowhere near as impressive as the Lone Wolf and Cub that advertised this one, though that series definitely spoiled me...
Once I saw a movie that held so much promise that I wanted to redo it myself, changing the flaws and adding my own ideas. Looks like Quentin saw this film once and thought the same...