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Blind Woman’s Curse (US Blu-ray review)

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: Teruo Ishii
Writers: Teruo Ishii, Chûsei Sone
Cast:  Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Satô
Year: 1971
Length: 85 min
Rating: NR
Region: A
Disks: 1
Label: Arrow Films and Video USA
Release Date:  April 21, 2015

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1
Type: Color

Audio

Audio:  Japanese: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English

Extras
  • 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
  • Trailer
Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 12.23.01 AMIt’s been seven years since Sony’s Blu-Ray disc triumphed over HDDVD as the premiere successor to the DVD format. Although its indoctrination into average household has been a long and gradual process, the Blu-Ray has finally made strides in becoming a popular viewing medium. With the increased volume over the standard DVD, Blu-Rays have ushered a new wave of special editions and remastered releases of both new and old films alike. The 1970 Blind Woman’s Curse is one such example of an older title getting the high definition treatment. Sporting an enhanced presentation and bonus features, does this updated version honor the oroginal Japanese cult classic honor?

The Film

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Video

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Audio

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Extras

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.

Teruo Ishii's Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) [click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

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.

It's been seven years since Sony's Blu-Ray disc triumphed over HDDVD…

Review Overview

The Film
Video
Audio
Extras

Bottom Line

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About Cody Noble

Cody Noble, despite being a lowly cashier, is an ongoing student of film studying at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, New Jersey. His favorite directors include Guillermo Del Toro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Adam Green, and James Gunn. On a side note, Cody enjoys rollerskating, playing videos games, and reading the works of Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughn, and Stephen King.

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