One of those wild Japanese films packed with striking imagery and offbeat performances, Teruo Ishii’s 1970 hybrid Blind Woman’s Curse makes for another excellent Blu-Ray release from Arrow Video. It wraps up action and revenge flick aesthetics with a creepy tone, loads of late 60’s era sexiness and violence with a solid performance from beautiful Meiko Kaji. She plays Akemi, the head of a yakuza clan sometime during the 1920’s who’s been released from prison only to find there’s a pretty efficient pair of assassins as well as other folks after her and what remains of her loyal gang.
The main assassin (Hoki Tokuda) happens to be the sister of a rival boss out for her own revenge. Akemi accidentally blinded her during the fierce and beautifully shot sword battle that opens up the film and she now she’s somewhat hard to stop as she whittles down Akemi’s gang. Her assistant, a muttering and really creepy killer with wild hair (Tatsumi Hijikata) is one of those characters who gets under your skin and remains there from the moment you see him. Both he and the black cat that appears during the film lend a supernatural tone to the proceedings that lend the film a nice horror vibe. That said, if you pay close attention, you’ll see that the film tends to toss a lot at you with expectations that you’ll keep up.
Ishii’s direction is solid as are the performances, but the plot is an intentionally oddball stew that mixes action, horror, dramatic and comedic elements with each bouncing off the other. If you go in expecting a straight narrative the film will throw you off every time it makes a sharp turn into a new alley. Then again, this is a film that may take place in the 20th century but doesn’t reveal that fully until a truck finally appears about 47 or so minutes in. Granted, the modern-ish hairstyles and other bits mixed in with some mild near nudity give what’s here great appeal to genre fans. You’ll be eyeballing Kaji and the other pretty actresses as they do their thing and do some shivering whenever Tokuda and Hijikata are around.
For comic relief, there’s Aozora (Ryohei Uchida), a gang leader wearing modern clothes, sunglasses and a bowler hat above the waist, but a shiny red loincloth to complete his unique look. The film makes note many times that he’s not a frequent bather and between shots of his butt in that thong thing and the assorted comments and dialog about his stench, you can practically smell his odor from your TV screen. Aozora also gets in some of the more amusing lines in the film whether he’s persuading Akemi not to kill him during a street fight or commenting about the pungent powers of his own smell. He’s an enemy and ally you know will always draw a laugh whenever he appears, a good thing in a film that often seems quietly chaotic as everything comes together for the final showdown.
As for extras, there are some fun trailers for four of Ishii’s other films which also serve as a promo for the upcoming Stray Cat Rock: The Collection Blu-Ray/DVD set. There’s also a nice commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp that’s worth checking out. Again, I only got a plain screener disc to review so I can’t comment on the reversible cover art, collectible booklet or the contents inside. As with the other releases I’ve reviewed so far, if the wonderful transfer of the film is any indication, those extras are most certainly going to be worth the retail price. So far, Arrow is on a roll with its US release list and Blind Woman’s Curse makes for an excellent introduction to Teruo Ishii’s work as a director.
Score: A (90%)