Director: Teruo Ishii
Writers: Teruo Ishii, Chûsei Sone
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Satô
Length: 85 min
Label: Arrow Films and Video USA
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1
Audio: Japanese: LPCM 2.0
- Audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
- Trailers for four of the films in the Meiko Kaji-starring Stray Cat Rock series, made at the same studio as Blind Woman’s Curse
Directed by Teruo Ishii, Blind Woman’s Curse opens with a Yakuza brawl between the Tachibana and Goda gangs. The Tachibana leader, Akemi (Meiko Kaji), attempts to slay Boss Goda, only to permanently blind his younger sister, Aiko (Hoki Tokuda). Five years later, and Aiko is trained and seeks revenge against Akemi, who’s occupied with defending her territory from the rival Dobashi and Aozora gangs. Aiko takes up sides with the Dobashi boss and his gang, but things change once an innocent bystander is killed and Aiko’s cohorts prove to be less than morally sound.
Thematically, Blind Woman’s Curse features undertones of honor, loyalty and, of course, revenge. None of this is particularly ground-breaking, but it’s nonetheless satisfying to see the guilty parties paying for their injustices. Also, the themes never comes off as generic or stale thanks to how they’re handled fairly casually. This in turn allows for the more physical and tangible characteristics of the film to instead take the spotlight.With talk of revenge, it’d be a shame if Blind Woman’s Curse was without any action. Luckily, that isn’t the case as the film is filled with public brawls, literal and metaphorical back-stabbings, and plenty of fake blood. The opening scene (a slow-motion gang-fight during a heavy rainstorm) is poetic and does a great job of simultaneously pulling viewers and keeping them engaged. The experience all culminates into a bloody gang-fight and one-on-one duel between the equally matched Akemi and Aiko. Some of the fight choreography and effects are expectedly dated being that the film was made in 1970, but these technicalities make the experience no less entertaining.
Aside from the traditional elements of the samurai film, Blind Woman’s Curse also features some supernatural elements as well. These included a black cat who aids Aiko carry out her revenge, and a reanimated corpse serving as an omen to the Dobashi gang. The presence of these supernatural highlights — while minor– contribute to giving the film a greater sense of identity and distance it from other samurai/yakuza titles of the time.One of the film’s strengths is its characters, particularly the two female leads: Akemi, the dutiful Tachibana head who seeks justice for her followers, and Aiko, the confidently skilled assassin who yields to no man. Considering that most other action movies of the era centered around hardened male protagonists, having strong female leads aids in further setting Blind Woman’s Curse apart from films like it.
Outside of the film’s leads, there are some eccentric side characters that help in making the film more memorable: there’s a hunchback who can moon-jump, a man who bears his teeth in a goofy smile when angry, and the Aozora boss who always insists upon wearing a bright, red diaper. At roughly one hour and twenty-five minutes, the film and its characters in Blind Woman’s Curse aren’t particularly deep, but the cast remains memorable thanks to their quirks and defining characteristics.
For this release, Arrow have provided a rather stunning print of the film. Color is pristine and beautiful, really capturing the colorful and bold era of Japanese filmmaking that the film was produced during properly. At times, the film looks a bit soft but there doesn’t appear as if too much, or any digital tinkering is on display. Overall, Arrow have presented the film in a fine manner.
For the audio track, we are given a single LPCM 2.0 representation of the original audio elements in Japanese. Nothing is out of line here, the mix is adequate, and there doesn’t appear to be any age related issues, such as distortion.
While the presentational upgrades are welcomed, the bluray package is rather light on bonus content. There’s some audio commentary, as well as several trailers for films like the various Stray Cat Rock series, and Blind Woman’s Curse. However, these features are all fairly commonplace and it’s rather disappointing, especially considering the expanse of additional content featured in other recent blu-ray remasters.
It may not be the most content laden edition, but this bluray release of Blind Woman’s Curse is still a worthwhile purchase. Memorable characters and plenty of entertaining sword fights help to save what would otherwise be just another generic update. Blind Woman’s Curse and its bluray debut make for an enjoyable addition to any fan of Japanese cinema’s collection.