Blu-Ray Review: The Complete Lady Snowblood | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Complete Lady Snowblood

Studio: Criterion

Jan 05, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Criterion’s The Complete Lady Snowblood collects two of Japanese director Toshiya Fujita’s revenge films, Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974), which are must-sees for fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies.

Lady Snowblood: On a snowy night in 1874, a baby is born to an inmate at a women’s prison. Her mother—on her death bed—looks to her new daughter, Yuki, and curses the baby to live out her violent vendetta. Twenty years pass as Yuki is trained in swordfigthing by a priest and stealth by the ex-convict who helped raise her. On her birthday, she leaves her home with a list of names of the criminals who raped and tortured her mother more than two decades earlier. Dressed in a kimono and carrying a sword disguised as a parasol, Yuki—adopting the name Lady Snowblood—won’t stop until she has her vengeance, and every one of the people who harmed her mother is dead.

Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance: After somehow surviving the events of the first film, Lady Snowblood is captured and sentenced to death for slaughtering 30-some-odd people in the previous movie. On her way to the gallows, she’s sprung from captivity by a mysterious stranger who asks a favor of the famous female assassin. Once the film’s true enemy is revealed, Lady Snowblood cuts another bloody path against Meiji-era Japan righting wrongs and killing evil men.

Lady Snowblood looks, sounds, and feels a lot like the Kill Bill movies, and it’s no coincidence—the movie was Quentin Tarantino’s primary inspiration for his two martial arts films. Always a master of cinematic re-appropriation, Tarantino borrowed plot elements, character ideas, several exact camera shots, and even two songs from Lady Snowblood’s soundtrack when making Kill Bill: Volume 1. (Snowblood even had a backstory sequence told in manga style!) To his credit, Tarantino is never shy about sharing his influences, and his homage to (and praise of) Fujita’s works brought more attention to the original Japanese films than they probably would have otherwise seen among Western audiences. While Kill Bill and Lady Snowblood make fascinating companion pieces, these two films stand perfectly well on their own, too. Snowblood’s violence is almost balletic at times, particularly in the way that Yuki carries herself perfectly upright and cuts through villains with single, perfect swipes; color is also used incredibly well. (The cartoonish blood sprays imprinted themselves in Tarantino’s brain, too—in Snowblood, every wound spurts like a crimson geyser.) The plots could barely be more straight-forward and there are a handful of scenes that feel needlessly sleazy, but in the end it all adds up to a pair of extremely well-executed (and deliciously pulpy) grindhouse films; the first is the much better of the two, but they’re short enough to easily be screened back-to-back.

At first glance at the back of the case, Criterion’s The Complete Lady Snowblood seems light on the extra features. But, considering that you do get two films for the price of one Blu-ray, it shakes out pretty well in the end. Trailers for both are included, as well as two new interviews: one with screenwriter Norio Osada, and another with Kazuo Koike, who wrote the original manga the films were based on. With strong picture quality and a reasonable price point, fans of samurai-style action films shouldn’t pass this release up.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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