Thursday, 27 March 2014

Blind Woman's Curse (1970)

Anyone who got a kick out of Arrow’s release of LADY SNOWBLOOD (and its star, Meiko Kaji) will probably want to watch this one, made a couple of years prior to that film and due to be released soon in another of Arrow’s excellent transfers. It’s by director Teruo Kitagawa, who also gave us 1969’s weird Edogawa Rampo mashup HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN and, although you might not expect it from the plot synopsis, if you liked that barrel of weirdness then there’s plenty for you here as well.
We’re in Japan in the late 1930s. Meiko Kaji plays Akemi Tachibana, the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In fact all her gang have it, and it’s an impressive and creative piece of makeup. During a battle with another Yakuza gang Akemi blinds the sister of the gang leader by slashing her across the face with her sword. A black cat appears and drinks the blood streaming from the woman’s eyes. Then it stares meaningfully at Akemi, who believes herself to have been cursed.
Three years later and Akemi is out of prison. The women she was in prison with have sworn allegiance to her and have all had themselves tattooed in a similar fashion. In Akemi’s hometown various criminal elements are attempting to rest control, including a gang led by a very odd chap wearing a bowler hat, waistcoat, shirt and tie and virtually nothing below the waist. References are also frequently made to how offensive he smells.

Someone is murdering members of Akemi’s gang, and the deaths seems to coincide with the arrival in the town of the Weird And Screwed Up Japanese Circus that features Tatsumi Hijikata as a scary hunchbacked dancer. Hijikata is best known to me as the weird Jesus-freak mad scientist of HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN and he’s equally disturbing here.
The circus also features a blind woman who, despite bearing no facial scars, turns out to be the person Akemi injured at the beginning. And so the scene is set for yet another climax that Quentin Tarantino was no doubt influenced by for KILL BILL.
As with quite a few of these film, a plot summary doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s helpful to have an aid to understanding what’s going on (I had trouble following what was happening for quite a bit of this). The film has a very weird feel to it, and the climax is beautiful, with two women sword-fighting against the kind of painted sky found in movies like KWAIDAN. BLIND WOMAN’S CURSE (aka THE TATTOOED SWORDSWOMAN) is a must for anyone who enjoyed the other movies mentioned here.
Arrow’s new HD digital transfer is very nice indeed, in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and with vivid colours (especially all the blood in the massacre that takes place near the end). The print is clean and there’s very little damage. Extras include a commentary track by Jasper Sharp that helps to explain what’s going on, a trailer for the movie and four other trailers for the ‘Meiko Kaji Stray Cat Rock’ series. Finally, there’s a collector’s booklet and some very nice new cover art which is shown above.

Arrow Films are releasing BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE on dual format DVD & Blu-ray on 31st March 2014

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