When her father died, Akemi (Meiko Kaji) becomes the new leader of the Tachibana gang and swears revenge on the leader of their rival gang, Goda. When she and her clan go to battle, Akemi slays Goda but in doing so, she blinds his daughter in the act, and in a very strange scene, a black cat laps up the blood. Thus begins Akemi’s nightmares of a black cat who tries to attack her, and Blind Woman’s Curse begins. She believes she is cursed and while in prison, she befriends a group of women who want to join her gang when she and they are released.
When released from prison, she goes back to being the leader, but becomes a much more passive leader, trying to be peaceful, pushing away her violent past. Some attacks by Aozora (Ryôhei Uchida), a gang leader who liked to not wear pants and fart a lot, and with one of her own gang members Tatsu who is plotting with Dobashi (Tôru Abe), the rival gang leader who wants control of Akemi’s territory. When a blind swordswoman offers her services to Dobashi, things go from slightly comedic to dark real fast.
Blind Woman’s Curse is a rare yakuza/supernatural/horror film from Nikkatsu, and it’s sudden shifts in genres and styles might throw some people off, but it’s what I find so intriguing and cool about the film. Somehow this was one of Meiko Kaji’s films from the 70’s that I missed throughout my late teens foray into Japanese genre cinema, and I feel that I appreciate it more now than I probably would have when I was younger. I can’t say I’ve seen many films with someone slicing off the back tattoos of gang members after they’ve been murdered, a dancing hunchback who laughs maniacally and somewhat Italian horror tinges that pop up throughout. I’m guessing Teruo Ishii might have watched a bit of Mario Bava and mixed it with gothic horror, while throwing in dashes of slapstick comedy, gang intrigue, fart jokes and brilliant action scenes with beautiful arterial spray.
The Arrow Video release is absolutely stunning, the colors popping off the screen, every paused still looking like a piece of art (even the more demented stuff). The only drawback, and it isn’t even that big of one, is that this is a release with not as many supplements compared to their other releases. You do get a fantastic commentary track from Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, the original trailer and trailers for the Meiko Kaji Stray Cat Rock series, which were also made by Nikkatsu (and is also coming from Arrow in June on Blu-ray, which I cannot wait for).
With everyone talking about Mad Max: Fury Road and with the idea that women can kick ass as well as men (duh), then it’s a perfect time to check out the filmography of Meiko Kaji. Kaji is a legend when it comes to badass women in cinema, with a shopping list of titles that are worthy contenders, such as the Lady Snowblood films, the Female Convict 701: Scorpion series and the Stray Cat Rock series. As you can see, her films tended to do well with fans of rebellious women in film. This Arrow release is no exception, and should be an instant buy for anyone who loves Yakuza films, horror films and to see Meiko Kaji’s first leading role in a feature film and how she would dominate the 1970’s.