Female avenger cuts a swath in film that inspired Tarantino
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 10/19/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) is a starkly beautiful Japanese swordplay drama featuring a female fighter, Shurayuki Hime (Lady Snowblood), or Yuki for short, whose mission in life is to track down and slay three of the four villains who brutalized her mother and killed the mother's husband and son. It takes place in the 1890s, in Meiji-era Japan, and includes several helpful flashbacks to provide the context for Yuki's mission. Born in prison--her mother was there for killing the first of the villains and died after childbirth--Yuki is raised by a Buddhist reverend who calls her a "child of the netherworld" and trains her in the fighting arts. Tall and regal, beautiful and ghostly white, Lady S (played by Meiko Kaji) looks too pure to sully herself with bloodletting, a tack which gives her the element of surprise in her many swordfights. The film is divided into four chapters and is based on a manga written by Kazuo Koike, who also wrote the "Lone Wolf and Cub" and "Crying Freeman" manga series. At one point in Chapter Three, Yuki meets a writer (Toshio Kurosawa) who publishes a newspaper ("a cheap little rag") and tells Yuki's story, accompanied by manga-like illustrations, making her a legend in her own time and causing her considerable dismay. There's a bit of stylization in the fighting as Yuki leaps up impossible heights and causes blood to gush out like a fountain whenever she slices or dismembers an opponent, but otherwise the film has a deceptive simplicity as Yuki moves like a wraith through small villages and the back alleys of Tokyo in her inexorable quest for vengeance. There is a lot of action and bloodshed, so fans of samurai and yakuza films should be satisfied. The tape is presented in a flawless letter-boxed transfer, in Japanese with English subtitles.Meiko Kaji (who also starred in the FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION series) plays the title role and sings the theme song, "Flower of Carnage." Quentin Tarantino drew on this film as part of the inspiration for the Lucy Liu character, O-Ren Ishii, in KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003) and also uses "Flower of Carnage" on his soundtrack. As impressive as KILL BILL is, fans who want to experience the formal beauty of the original form--seen here in a deftly-blended mix of samurai, ninja, yakuza, and manga motifs--need to go back to films like this. And judging from recent Japanese genre releases, e.g. RETURNER, ONMYOJI, and PRINCESS BLADE (itself a flashy contemporary reworking of LADY SNOWBOOD), to name a few, it's clear that, aside from KILL BILL, "they just don't make 'em like that anymore.""
Sergio Dessic | Upstate New York, U.S.A. | 05/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really must congratulate the producers of this DVD. The subtitles of most of the asian films that I've seen are definitely their weakest point. On this one, however, not only is the film transfer & sound amazingly good, but the subtitles are also nothing short of fabulous; with none of the usual gaffs, but more importantly with a genuine artistic sense of the use of language. Plus there are two 'levels' of subtitle available, one with additional context.
There are enough other reviews here I don't feel that it is necisary to go into to much depth about the story of the film, but I'll just close by noting that this film has the kind of silly blood special effect successfully mocked in Monty Python's "Salad Days". Apparently these victims of the sword have such enormous blood pressure that they spout great arcs of the stuff at the merest scratch. Don't let this aside deter you from checking out this excellent film. If you at all a fan of Japanese Action Movies, this one will not disappoint."
Not for everyone...
S. M. Robare | Duluth, GA USA | 04/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'll be honest, I rented this film strictly because I love Kill Bill and I was curious to see where Tarantino culled his imagery and ideas. I'm very glad I did, and it's why I think Kill Bill is a very important bridge between modern cinema and cult and foreign film that, lets face it, most of us miss out on. This film is a very beautiful and poetic look at revenge and love. The title character, Yuki, is born into and raised with a single ideology, vengeance. She knows no love, except for that of her deceased parents and brother, nor hate, except for her enemies who killed her father and brother and tortured her mother. The film follows Yuki on her journey to find and enact her vengeance on these four villains. Though the plot is fairly simple, it's well crafted and manages to sidestep what could be easy static characterization for very well drawn character arcs. The action and swordplay are beautiful and wonderfully over the top, as are the settings, story devices (like the use of paintings and manga to depict flashback and plot explanation), and special FX (lots of arterial blood sprays.) For fans of Kill Bill, this film is the basis for the O-Ren Ishii character. Other references are similar settings (the fight at the end of the House of Blue Leaves sequence), numbered chapters, music, the afore mentioned arterial blood sprays, very similar character development, freeze frames with character identification, a very similar rouges gallery upward camera shot, and a mixture of live action and animation/manga."
Blood on Ice
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 10/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the films that Quentin Tarantino pays homage to in his Kill Bill films, Fujita's Lady Snowblood might have received the most because not do the Kill Bill films have screen shots almost taken directly from Lady Snowblood they also incorporate some of the music sung by Lady Snowblood's heroine Kaji Meiko. Like many other films from Japan during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Lady Snowblood was shot on a shoestring budget and at an incredibly fast pace. However, unlike many of the films made during that time period Lady Snowblood remains popular because while its plot had been done many times before, including Suzuki Norifumi's Sex and Fury which was filmed the same year and whose background plot is almost identical to Lady Snowblood, it possesses a certain style that differentiates it from many other films from this time period namely that the heroine seems to be able to keep her clothes on throughout the entire film and that while it has lots of blood and gore, another influence evident in Kill Bill, it is not too overdone. Also Kaji Meiko has quite a presence in front of the camera and her portrayal of the cool Yuki is almost perfect.
Penned by the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub and Hanzo the Razor Koike Kazuo, Lady Snowblood portrays the life of Yuki a young woman who was born to seek revenge for her mother whose husband was the scapegoat of a plot set up by for villains so they could extort money from a poor village. Forced to shack up with one of the murderers, Yuki's mom is able to kill him. However, while searching for the other three she is arrested and put in prison. In prison she sleeps with every man she can in order to get pregnant and eventually gives birth to Yuki and dies soon afterward. Trained by a stern priest in martial arts and swordplay the "child of the netherworld" Yuki begins her search for those who destroyed her family and her own life before she was even born.
While it may seem threadbare to many of today's film viewers, Lady Snowblood should be considered one of the finest examples of films of its genre. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy swordplay and blood in their films and also recommended to those who enjoy older Japanese films outside of the canonized films of Kurosawa, Ozu, and Mizoguchi, but it might not be for those with a weak stomach. "
Only the Inspiration for Kill Bill?
(Mr.) N. Sean Wright | Whiteville, NC USA | 07/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Quentin Tarantino owes a lot more to this movie than a passing reference of "inspiration." "Lady Snowblood" not only inspired Kill Bill, but it also served as the complete schematic blueprint for both Volumes I & II. While Tarantino claims that Volume I was based on a story by him and Uma Thurman, I suspect their collaboration would have come across totally different on screen if "Lady Snowblood" had never existed.
With that being said, I absolutely loved this movie. However, I would advise anyone who hasn't yet viewed the film to completely forget about it's connection to Kill Bill. If you concentrate on similiarites, you'll most likey be disappointed. First of all, I wouldn't really considered this an action film at all. Although the main character is a vengeful martial artist, there is less action in this film than you'd ever believe. The main theme of the film is the relationship between Revenge and Fate, and the resulting effects. Most of the film is reflection and contemplation on the part of Lady Snowblood.
But what a beautiful character Shurayuki is! The close-ups of her face while she's in a state of enraged numbness are breathtaking. Since I'm an avid martial arts fan I would've loved to have seen more (or even better) fight sequences, but this is such a great film, it's easy to be satisfied with the film as it is.
I think it would be best to classify this as a Dramatic Action movie. For all those who have already seen the Kill Bill volumes and are expecting any similarites beyond the plot basis, you'll be sorely disappointed. The action and special effects in "Lady Snowblood" are pre-school antics compared to Kill Bill. However, this movie is by no means a waste of time. In fact, the lead role in this film is the prototype for the emotionless, lone female assasin of countless other films. Regardless of how successful the Kill Bill volumes were at the box office, neither of them holds a candle to the way that Meiko Kaji incarnates this role of Lady Snowblood. Not only is she convincing, but she seductively compels the viewer to justify her vengeance.
Don't miss this film, but please appreciate it for being a great movie and not just an "inspiration" for Kill Bill."