Sunday, February 5, 2017

Macabre Japan

Blind Woman's Curse (1970) - Ishii
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Wow, this movie is batshit crazy! Meiko Kaji plays Akemi, the head of the Tachibana clan, known for the dragon tattoos on their back. The rivaling clan wants to take over its territory by any means necessary- planting drugs in businesses in Tachibana controlled area, making alliances with shady and weird characters, hiring assassins, etc. One such assassin happens to be a vengeful blind swordwoman (Hoki Tokuda) who has grudge against Akemi ever since she slew her husband and blinded her. Director Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men, The Joys of Torture series) known in Japan as king of cult, pulls all stops here with macabre images - an underground opium den orgies, water torture chambers, grand guignol style theater, supernatural forces, a creepy hunchback, a red loinclothed creepy man, expressionistic matte painting... the list goes on and on. Action packed and super violent, not only Blind Woman's Curse a showcase for Kaji's martial art skills but also her raised eyebrows and deadly stare, a prelude to what's to come.


Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973) - Ito
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Third in the Female Prisoner 701 series, Beast Stable finds Sasori (Scorpion, played by steely eyed Meiko Kaji) hacking off an arm of a pursuing detective with a kitchen knife in the subway even before the credits roll. It's not a chicks in prison movie as much as a girl on the run fugitive movie. The premise is lurid and way over melodramatic with a storyline involving Sasori's aide Yuki, a street walker with a retarded brother she regularly has sex with. But Toei studio director Shunya Ito (who has directed the first 3 Female Prisoner movies to critical acclaim) has enough flair for visuals to keep things interesting. Indeed, a nod to Yojimbo and the Third Man-esque sewer chase scenes have enough artistry to rise above its mere exploitation label the series is accustomed to.

Like a ninja, Sasori hunts down every man and woman who done her and Yuki and some other prostitute wrong and brings down a surgical scalpel to their necks. Feared by her enemies, she becomes a some kind of indestructible force, almost an imaginary boogey(wo)man by the end.

Kaji, in an almost silent, physically demanding role, lets her death-stare speak volumes as a dead-girl-incarnate for vengeance. She lets others do the baring - both soul and body. She fully becomes a persona, a symbol of vengeance, a kindred spirit of sisterhood to those who are abused. I vote Sasori for president!