The Complete Lady Snowblood (Blu-ray Review)
Rated: UR/Region A/2:39/1080p/Number of Discs 1 (Share Same Disc)
Available from Criterion Collection
Lady Snowblood (1973)
Directed By: Toshiya Fujita
Starring: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon
Yuki’s family is nearly wiped out before she is born due to the machinations of a band of criminals. These criminals kidnap and brutalize her mother but leave her alive. Later her mother ends up in prison with only revenge to keep her alive. She creates an instrument for this revenge by purposefully getting pregnant. Though she dies in childbirth, she makes sure that the child will be raised as an assassin to kill the criminals who destroyed her family. Young Yuki never knows the love of a family but only killing and revenge.
The first Lady Snowblood is just a sight to see. Here, we have what could very well be the main influence to Kill Bill and you’ll see a lot of things from this film that was borrowed for that one. The whole revenge story has never been one to lose interest, thus why we even see it again and again today. However, sometimes you run across a movie that takes the same old plot and mixes it up just enough to stand out and be a front-runner for that type of story, that is what Lady Snowblood is. This is a movie that makes molds and breaks them and while often imitated, it never was really duplicated unless we are talking about another classic, Kill Bill. Still, this came first. There is a lot to love about this movie, from the style to the substance. You can’t deny that this is Meiko Kaji’s signature character. This is what she is known and loved for, with very good reason. Her performance here is perfect, from the little reaction that means more than what a page of lines could say, to her going to battle against the people she’s been raised to kill, you can’t go wrong with seeing her here. There are a few characters worth seeing here, but you’ll always be a fan of Meiko Kaji after seeing this movie.
While this movie offers up a number of really cool stylish things, like the breaking down of the movie in chapters. A love it or hate it thing that comes from the movie is the blood. Some might not like the gallons of blood we see come from a cut in this movie, after someone is hit with Lady Snowbloods blade, but I love it. This is an extremely bloody and violent film, which is one of the main things I love about it. I like lots of blood and while the way it is used here could be called cartoon-ish, I think it fits and above all else, it works. If you perhaps already have the Arrow Blu-ray of Lady Snowblood, I want you to know that this is a transfer that I fully believe tops that one. Opening up the case you can read about all the work that went into this transfer and it shows here. The movie looks great and really pops with great color, which is a good thing when you want to see a fountain of blood shoot out from someone as clear as possible. Overall, Lady Snowblood is a near perfect movie and if you like these sorts of movies, this is a must-own release based off the original film alone.
– Interview with writer Kazuo Koike
– Interview with screenwriter Norio Osada
Quality of Transfer: 98%
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)
Directed By: Toshiya Fujita
Starring: Meiko Kaji, Jûzô Itami, Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Lady Snowblood (Shurayuki-hime) is caught by the police and sentenced to death for her crimes (in Lady Snowblood I). As she is sent to the gallows she is rescued by the secret police who offer her a deal to assassinate some revolutionaries.
Well, here’s where things get tricky. Yes, this is the complete Lady Snowblood and this film isn’t taking a backseat to the original in the advertising for this release, but I feel this film is more like an extra or bonus movie to complete the Lady Snowblood saga, but at the same time it is a film I feel isn’t anywhere near the original’s level or quality. Yes, you get Meiko Kaji back as well as the director Toshiya Fujita. Gone, however, this time around seems to be all the blood that rained down upon the first film. If it isn’t broken, I’m not sure why people would try to fix it, but the whole tone of this one seems way off from the original and in its place is a political statement that I’m sure fits the time, but seems a bit dated in regards to such now. I’m not going to tell you it is a horrible movie, it isn’t that. I’m just saying that in comparison to the first film, it just can’t hold a candle to it. So, just don’t go into Lady Snowblood 2 expecting Lady Snowblood 1. I did that and I was a little let-down, because this was actually my first time seeing this one.
That isn’t to say the same amount of effort didn’t go into the transfer from Criterion, because the movie still looks great, even if you could say the colors seem a bit more richer or thicker overall. I’m sure this is the best this movie will ever look and if you don’t mind the blood being taken back a great deal, you may enjoy this one more than I and you may even place it on the same platform you’d put Lady Snowblood. It just wasn’t what I had hoped for, even if it good seeing Meiko Kaji once again reprise the role. But after such a strong film, it might have been hard to properly follow it anyway you went about it. Still, while not as good as the first, you can’t deny there are some interesting characters here and there in it and overall it is a great release from the Criterion Collection folks.
– Illustrated leaflet featuring Howard Hampton’s essay “Flowers of Carnage”
Quality of Transfer: 96%