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Lady Snowblood

Blizzard From the Netherworld

Japan (1973), 97 minutes
Starring: Kaji Meiko, Kurosawa Toshio, Masaaki Daimon
Reviewer: Teri Tom
Genre: Martial Arts
Rating: 3

Chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about Lady Snowblood in relation to Quentin Tarantino’s blood gusher Kill Bill. In the November issue of Uncut, Tarantino gave credit where it’s due and listed the influences and references that fueled Bill. So, heck, let’s let Quentin provide the plot summary for Lady Snowblood from the Uncut interview:”A fantastic Japanese samurai revenge movie starring Meiko Kaji, one of the true queens of genre cinema. Four bandits murder a man and gang-rape his wife, who is kept as a personal whore by one of the killers. The wife eventually murders the killer and is sent to jail where, ingeniously, she fucks all the prison guards until she gets pregnant, with the idea of raising the child — Lady Snowblood — as a vengeful assassin.

“What I took from this movie was the idea of a revenge that takes a long time to come to the boil. As the years go by, the lives of these murderous bandits have changed. One might have become destitute. The other has become very powerful. The third has started a family. What really impressed me is that none of this means a damn to Lady Snowblood. Nothing these guys have done in the past 20 years is going to get in the way of this unfinished business. These fuckers are gonna pay.”

This is not the sort of film you watch if you’re in a funk. Our pasty heroine never even cracks a hint of a smirk. And neither would you. She was born for one purpose only — vengeance. Vengeance, vengeance, vengeance! Uh, the key word here is vengeance. As her trainer in all things assassin-like tells her, “You have a destiny. Forget joy, forget sorrow, forget love and hate, forget everything except vengeance.” And Ms. Snowblood certainly does a good job of it.Moody and stylish and over-the-top violent, there are a lot of things I like about this film. Meiko is the typically stoic Asian heroine. Make that stoic to the nth degree. The opening fight scenes are a bit painful to watch as they lack the pacing and lickety-split cutting of other Japanese films, but later fights are much more satisfying once the limbs start to fly. There are also some good training scenes that make you feel for this poor girl, who is told throughout the film that she is not even human. She is a child of the netherworld born for one purpose only. All together now: VENGEANCE!

I’m afraid the weight of this film, so relentlessly dark and horrific, just brought me down. I like dark, but there’s only so much I can take. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, and a tale like this is just too much of an assault on my Western Girl sensibilities.

Still, one thing I really like about Lady Snowblood is that there is no moralistic crap about forgiveness. It’s an eye for an eye all the way, baby. And the ending, which I won’t give away, doesn’t say what’s right or wrong. It’s, well, sort of the way things are. For that, I have to tip the scales ever so slightly in favor of recommending this film.