Friday, October 9, 2009

Kaidan nobori ryu (1970)

...aka: Black Cat's Revenge
...aka: Blind Woman's Curse, The
...aka: Strange Tales of Dragon Tattoo
...aka: Tattooed Swordsman, The

Directed by:
Teruo Ishii

For avenging the death of her father, Akemi Tachibana (Meiko Kaji, who'd go on to star in the excellent LADY SNOWBLOOD) spends three years in prison; heading home to take her place as leader of a large Yakuza clan upon release. As per her father's wishes, Akemi attempts to head a more civilized and less ruthless brand of crime family when she takes the reigns, but finds the task next to impossible when a series of events force her and her associates back to their violent ways. For starters, there's a rival Yakuza who are moving into their territory and plotting to take over. It's sadistic leader, Dobashi (Tôru Abe), has just teamed up with soft-spoken, yet stealthy and very skilled, swordswoman (Hoki Tokuda) who has a grudge against our heroine for slaying her father and accidentally blinding her in the process. Secondly, she believes herself to be cursed by a black cat that seems to be everywhere lapping up blood. And finally, someone's running around decapitating and skinning the dragon tattoos off the backs of her family members. The Tachibana clan eventually disband, at least temporarily, until some innocents are dragged into the picture and they're forced into a bloody climactic battle.

What will keep many at arms length the entire time is how needlessly complicated and busy the whole shebang is. The film is stuffed with so many supporting characters (several of whom are irrelevant to the main storyline) that our leads aren't adequately fleshed out. Just a few of these include a depraved, blood-licking hunchback (memorably played by Tatsumi Hijikata) obsessed with helping out Aiko, an embarrassing, arrogant rival gang leader (Ryohei Uchida) who struts around the village in a thong and a half-assed pseudo love interest for Akemi, played by Makoto Satô, who ends up getting romantically involved with the pure daughter (Yôko Tagaki) of a kindly local restaurant owner (Yoshi Kato). All these characters really do is underline an uncertainty in tone prevalant throughout the film.

Not-so-welcome humor mostly fixated around body odor is spread throughout the film for some strange reason. Both the ghost cat curse and the Yakuza crime themes have been done better elsewhere, many times before and since this one, so I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to secure a copy of Blind Woman's Curse, which received a DVD release in 2007 from a company called Discotek Media.


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