Wandering Ginza Butterfly (1972) (DVD Review)
Directed By: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Starring: Meiko Kaji, Tsunehiko Watase, Tat
Rated: UR/Region: 1/Widescreen/Number of disc: 1
Available from Synapse Films
Gang leader Nami (cult film legend Meiko Kaji) kills a member of a yakuza group and goes away to prison. Upon her release three years later, she s a shamed woman confined to living in the shadowy world of sex clubs and street gangs. She returns to the city to live with her uncle, a billiard-hall owner, and after befriending pimp and ne er-do-well Ryuji (Tsunehiko Watase), she gets a job working at a hostess club in the chic Ginza neighborhood, where the expensive shops and neon lights conceal a dark world of crime and sexual slavery. But when a rival gang attempts to muscle in on the club, Nami becomes enmeshed in a violent struggle that forces her to wield a skilled pool cue to defend her uncle’s business, and eventually a short sword to wreak bloody vengeance upon her enemies.
This is the second movie of this nature starring Meiko Kaji that also opens up with her in prison that I’ve seen this month. I will admit that this one isn’t as good as Blind Woman’s Curse, but it does seem like it tries a whole lot harder at at least making a better story on screen and it might actually do that to some extent. So either way you cut it, the movie isn’t at all bad, but might hurt it’s self by not giving us the good stuff until later in the film. Nami is out of jail and wants to be a hostess. She gets a gig here and there of various means, but ultimately before you know it trouble comes to town and she has to go back to her roots and fight. It starts with a pool game and then ends up with a sword fight to close out the movie. I’ll talk more on that later. The story in this one is interesting, but I think I’d have liked less comedic stuff (which it sprinkles in) and more blood and action overall. Still, who can watch a movie starring Meiko Kaji and not get some level of enjoyment out of it?
Now, the last part of the film is the part I liked the most. There is the above mentioned sword play and the blood flies in a way that I’m more use to in films that tend to have Meiko Kaji. Of course, maybe I’m wrong to just compare everything I’ve seen her in to perhaps her most well-known role, Lady Snowblood. There is some pool games with high stakes, there is Meiko Kaji in her role of Nami collecting debts from people in funny ways, and overall it is a strong enough story with cool characters and interesting plot movements. I think the third act makes the film and had more of the movie been like that last part, I think we’d have a classic on our hands. You won’t hate this movie by any means, but if you wanted more blood, then you might find yourself having some issues making it through parts of the film. It is still worth checking out regardless. It just could have used a bit more blood.
– Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Chris D.
– New, exclusive video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
– Original Japanese theatrical trailers for both films
– Reversible cover with original Japanese poster artwork