Lady Snowblood (film)
Japanese release poster
|Directed by||Toshiya Fujita|
|Produced by||Kikumaru Okuda|
|Screenplay by||Norio Osada|
|Music by||Masaaki Hirao|
|Edited by||Osamu Inoue|
Lady Snowblood (Japanese: 修羅雪姫 Hepburn: Shurayuki-hime) is a 1973 Japanese action thriller film directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring Meiko Kaji. It is based on the manga series of the same name, recounting the tale of Yuki, a woman who seeks vengeance upon three people who raped her mother and killed her father and brother.
The movie's plot is nonlinear: jumping from present to past; the below summary describes the plot in chronological order
In 1874, a deathly-ill woman named Sayo gives birth to a baby girl in a women's prison. Naming the child Yuki from seeing the snow outside, Sayo confided to the inmates who helped deliver the baby how she was brutally raped by three of the four criminals who murdered her husband Tora and their son Shiro a year ago. While she managed to stab her captor Shokei Tokuichi to death when the chance presented itself, she was arrested and imprisoned for life. Sayo then seduced many prison guards in order to conceive Yuki. Her final words were for the child to be raised to carry out the vengeance against the three remaining tormentors. In Meiji 15 (1882), the child Yuki undergoes brutal training in sword fighting under the priest Dōkai to become her mother's wrath incarnate.
Yuki, now twenty and an assassin going by the name Shurayuki-hime, blocks the path of several men and a rickshaw and kills them and their leader Shibayama using a sword concealed in the handle of an umbrella. Yuki appears in a poor village looking for a man called Matsuemon, the leader of an underground organization of street beggars, and asks him to find her mother's surviving tormentors in return of having killed Shibayama for him. Matsuemon's intel leads her to Takemura Banzō, who became an alcoholic wreck with gambling debts while his daughter Kobue took to prostitution to support him. After convincing the gambling house's owners to pardon Banzō after he was caught cheating in a card game, Yuki leads him to the beach and remorselessly kills him after revealing her identity. Yuki then learns that the last of her mother's rapists, Tsukamoto Gishirō, had suspiciously died in a ship wreck three years prior when she first attempted to find him.
After attacking Gishirō's tombstone in frustration, Yuki finds herself being followed by a reporter named Ryūrei Ashio whom she warned to stay away from her. However, Ashio learned of Yuki's story from Dōkai who persuaded him to publish it as a means to draw one of the last of Sayo's tormentors who personally murdered Shiro: Kitahama Okono. Okono sends men to kidnap Ashio, threatening him with torture for Yuki's location as he refuses to tell them. But Yuki enters Okono's estate and kills several of Okono's men while pursuing Okono throughout the estate. Eventually, Yuki and Ryūrei finds Okono's dying body hanging within a room with Yuki slicing Okono in half before her heart can stop beating.
Yuki learns from Ashio that Gishirō, revealed to be Ashio's father, had faked his death when he learned of Yuki's mission. She finds Gishirō at a masquerade ball and kills what she realized is his decoy. Ashio and Yuki find and follow the real Gishirō, who shoots Ashio. Wounded, Ashio grapples with Gishirō and stops him from shooting Yuki as she swings on a lamp between balconies. Yuki stabs through Ashio into Gishirō's chest. She then cuts Gishirō's throat as he shoots her, falls over a railing and onto the ground floor full of guests. Yuki, wounded, stumbles outside where she is stabbed by a revenge-driven Kobue before she runs off. Yuki falls on her face in the snow, awakening the following morning.
- Meiko Kaji as Yuki Kashima, aka Lady Snowblood
- Mayumi Maemura as young Yuki
- Kō Nishimura as Priest Dōkai
- Toshio Kurosawa as Ryūrei Ashio
- Masaaki Daimon as Gō Kashima
- Miyoko Akaza as Sayo Kashima
- Eiji Okada as Gishirō Tsukamoto
- Sanae Nakahara as Kitahama Okono
- Noboru Nakaya as Takemura Banzō
- Takeo Chii as Shokei Tokuichi
- Hitoshi Takagi as Matsuemon
- Akemi Negishi as Tajire no Okiku
- Yoshiko Nakada as Kobue Kitahama
The film was produced on a relatively low budget and filmed with a minimal length of film (20,000 feet). At one point, a special effect blood spatter went wrong, covering Meiko Kaji in fake blood.
Release and reception
The film has a rating of 100% on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 6 critic reviews. TV Guide gave the film three-out-of-five stars, calling it "certainly entertaining, but unnecessarily distancing".
Sequel and influence
Lady Snowblood was released on VHS in 1997, and was later released on DVD by AnimEigo in 2004. In 2012, the film was released in a box set with Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Video. In January 2016, the film was again released with Love Song of Vengeance on Blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection.
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 292.
- Thompson, Nathaniel (2006). DVD Delirium: The International Guide to Weird and Wonderful Films on DVD; Volume 3. Godalming, England: FAB Press. p. 327. ISBN 1-903254-40-X.
- Shinsuke Kasai (interviewer), Meiko Kaji (interviewee) (2012). Nihon Eiga Retorosupekutibu (in Japanese). Nihon Eiga Senmon Channeru.
- Lady Snowblood at Rotten Tomatoes
- Lady Snowblood review at TV Guide
- "Post Malone and 21 Savage Drop Ultra-Bloody New "rockstar" Video: Watch | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- "Lady Snowblood No 1 VHS". Amazon.com. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "Lady Snowblood: DVD Talk Review". DVD Talk. 11 May 2004. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "Lady Snowblood / Lady Snowblood 2 Dual Format". Arrow Films. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- Paul Metcalf (30 September 2012). "'Lady Snowblood' Steelbook Review (Arrow Video)". Nerdly. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "The Complete Lady Snowblood". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "The Complete Lady Snowblood Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- Chris Coffel (7 January 2016). "[Blu-ray Review] 'The Complete Lady Snowblood' Gets Much Deserved Criterion Treatment". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 14 July 2018.