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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.33%
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1 review, 3 user ratings

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Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance
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by Brian McKay

"Cold, beautiful, and blood-splattered - just as the title implies."
4 stars

The original manga of LADY SNOWBLOOD came from the pen of the same man who brought LONE WOLF AND CUB into the world - Kazuo Koike. While the film adaptation doesn't reach the same grandiose level of glorious storytelling and bloodletting as the LW&C series, it is still an enjoyable Samurai revenge romp.

I'd been wanting to check out the two Lady Snowblood films for a while, but finding them at a rental place is a daunting task. Let's face it - a cheap bastard like me isn't going to shell out $30 plus S&H to buy a movie I've never seen, even if the fact that it was written by the genius behind Lone Wolf and Cub gives it some street cred. Luckily, I stumbled upon a battered VHS copy at the local non-chain affiliated video store, and eagerly popped it into my 4-head deck (These old Samurai flicks are about the only thing that can get me to deviate from DVD these days). Although I would have liked to have seen the original film first, I doubt the previous story makes much difference when it comes to following this one.

Lady Snowblood unfolds amid the background of the Meiji restoration, a period in Japanese history that in many ways ushered in "modern" Japan. After three hundred years of isolationism under the Tokugawa Shogunate (the period in which Lone Wolf and Cub took place), the shift of power to the young emperor Meiji led to expanded interactions with the West and a new policy of eschewing isolationist traditions for expanded trade and colonialism. One of the biggest influences of the Meiji restoration is that it put the final nails in the coffin of the old Samurai class system, looking toward conscripted armies to provide military might while shifting wealth and power to the Zaibatsu, or merchant class. While most soldiers still carried the traditional Katana, the presence of guns became increasingly prevalent.

Shurayuki-Hime, or "Yuki" (Meiko Kaji) is a Betsushikime, a woman warrior of Samurai blood. Most of her family was murdered by a band of criminals before she was even born, her mother being brutalized by those same criminals but left alive. Though she dies in childbirth, Yuki's mother has already made arrangements for her daughter to be trained as an assassin, so that she may grow up to take vengeance in their family's name.

After avenging her family in the first film, a wounded Yuki visits her family plot at the beginning of Love song of Vengeance. No sooner have the opening credits finished rolling than she is attacked by a group of thugs. Armed with only the tanto short-sword traditionally preferred by female Samurai, she cuts through a dozen men in short order, only to find herself pursued by an even larger contingent of policemen who are after her for her crimes in the first Lady Snowblood film. Though she manages to cut up several of them as well, she eventually gives herself up, having grown weary of the assassin's road.

She doesn't spend much time in prison before she is offered a deal by the secret police. If she infiltrates the home of an anarchist revolutionary leader named Urami Renga by posing as his female servant, then retrieves an incriminating document from his possession before killing him, all will be pardoned. She takes the gig, but is quickly turned toward sympathy for Urami and his cause. When she refuses to kill him, the Secret Police send their men to arrest both her and Urami. Although he is captured and tortured, she escapes with the document, which she takes to his brother. The brother, working as a doctor in one of Japan's largest slums, refuses to have anything to do with his brother's cause at first, intent on using the document to blackmail instead. However, when his brother and brother's wife are murdered, and the slum he lives in is attacked and burned down, the doctor takes up his katana and joins forces with Yuki to wreak vengeance on the leaders of the Secret Police.

While the glimpse at turn of the century Japanese politics is certainly fascinating, we all know what we really watch movies like this for - the ass kicking. While it's no Lone Wolf and Cub, it ain't half bad. Meiko Kaji is nowhere near as agile or skilled with the blade as Wakayama Tomisaburo was, but her Kodachi-style short-sword fighting is certainly entertaining to watch with the requisite amount of spurting blood, severed limbs, and eye-gouging. The fight choreography, though a bit stiff in places, is competent overall. Meiko plays the role of Yuki as stoically as Wakayama Tomisaburo portrayed Ogami Itto - she speaks little and emotes even less, but when it's time to shed some blood, she is mechanically ruthless and proficient. She's certainly easier on the eyes than Wakayama Tomisaburo was, but her beauty is tempered by a cold aloofness that is appropriate to the role. It's a shame this series was cut short, as it would have been interesting to see how her character developed from film to film.

Carnage and Carnality

-Short sword slashathon as Yuki parrys and cuts her way through dozens of foes
-grotesquely fake but amusing eye-gouging
-Renga's wife displays a fine rack with two of the biggest nipples you've ever seen. Gummi worms, anyone?
-Lady Snowblood takes more lead than the cast of The Wild Bunch, miraculously recovers within days of each shooting
-impossible ammounts of neon-red "blood" whenever a body falls into the water
-Bubonic beatdown: Renga is smacked around with bamboo sticks, then injected with a strain of the black death.
-A "slow" sai-toting henchman dis-armed by Snowblood's blade
-bad guy blasts away with never-empty shotgun, gets a poke in the eye with a short sword for his trouble.
-running graveyard battle ending in Katana impalement followed by jugular-slashing finish move.

This is mostly 70's Samurai action cheese, but it's fun cheese. It mixes just the right ammount of drama and historical relevance with the mostly two-dimensional villains and wholesale slaughter that you'd expect from a good chop-sake' film.

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originally posted: 01/20/03 16:52:17
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User Comments

2/17/12 Matthew Thompson Dalldorf Great picture! 5 stars
10/17/09 Joise Cotton is a goddess As good as the first 5 stars
4/15/04 Mr Snowblood Ilive for this s**t 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1974 (NR)
  DVD: 07-May-2009



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