Monday, June 15, 2015

LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) &
LADY SNOWBLOOD 2 (1974) - Toshiya Fujita


In the great big grab-bag of film references that was Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2), this is the film Tarantino grabbed from the most. Plot, soundtrack, snowbound fight sequences, the chapter headings...it's all here in Lady Snowblood, 30 years prior and, in this blog's humble opinion, 30 times better. Director Fujita gets his dirty business done efficiently in the course of a lean 90 minutes, charting Yuki's single-minded quest for revenge on the four people who killed her mother and father with a lyrical touch and a relentless pace. As a child "born of vengeance," she never gets a chance to develop much of a personality in the first film. She only realizes what her family bloodlust has robbed from her (namely, a life) while bleeding out into the snow from a mortal stomach gash at the film's end.

Obviously, it was just a flesh wound because Yuki returns for the unnecessary but enjoyable sequel. Having dispatched with her vengeance in the first film, she's somewhat adrift in the second, doing the local government's avenging for them to escape a life in prison. You could say she's "contractually obligated," probably like the director after the first film turned into a modest Japanese hit. Still, there's a well-choreographed beach-side sword fight at the beginning (from snow to sand!) and some interesting business with the man she's been assigned to kill, an anarchist penning a politically charged treatise complete with comic book style panels. It goes down a lot easier than the animated O-Ren origin story wedged into Kill Bill because, well, this is where that origin story originated.

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