A Storm from the East

A child born with one purpose, vengeance.
Emotionless, robotic, Yuki surges forward, silently.
To avenge her family.

Like the Eastern Pam Grier, Meiko Kaji spent much of the 70s kicking ass and leaving the collecting of names to those who could be bothered.

Whether she was girl bossing it in the Stray Cat Rock series, in lockdown as Female Convict 701 or suffering from a Blind Woman’s Curse, Meiko was turning heads and cranking out a steady stream of Girls Take No Shit style exploitation.
Ostensibly much of her output falls under the Pinky Violence banner, that little tiny sub genre of the Japanese Pink films, Pink films being Japan’s answer to softcore porn (oversimplification alert). Pinky Violence films were an offshoot, mainly girl gang exploitation or Sukeban. Lots of rape and shirts being ripped off in breast exposing ways. The initial intention was to grab a gap in the market, by combining the Yakuza and Pink genre’s into one, and getting the teenage boys into the cinema. Combining sex and violence, as one would expect, turned out to be quite a successful move.

At the same time as the Yakuza films there were the Chanbura films, period pieces, Samurai films to you and me. Films like Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman, or the iconic, Lone Wolf and Cub, better known as the infamous Shogun Assassin, it was here that fountains of blood became the norm. Shogun Assassin was, of course a Western invention, a mashup of the “best bits” of Lone Wolf, tailored for the West. If you want to work your way to the more over the top end of things you can thrown in some Hanzo for added penis bashing and orgasmic torture achieved through rape, or Bohachi for breast filled insanity.

It was only a matter of time before the Pinky Violence crept into the Samurai genre, creating a miniscule sub genre of PV, starting with Female Demon Ohyaku. But Meiko Kaji herself starred in three of these PV tinged Chanbura, Lady Snowblood 1 & 2 and the outstanding Blind Woman’s Curse. Kaji’s genre companion was Reiko Ike, like Kaji, she too had her start in Sukeban, before starring in PV classic Sex and Fury alongside Swedish sleaze star Christina Lindberg, who delivers the single worst performance ever committed to film (a Swedish hardcore porn star in a Japanese film playing an English assassin).

While Ike typifies the hard as nails girl you’d expect to be wielding a flick knife, someone you’d not want to meet in a dark alley. Her stocky build and steely eyes lent themselves perfectly to the girl gang films. It was Kaji, whose grace and beauty, makes the silent assassins of Sasorai of the Female Convict series and Yuki of Lady Snowblood so deadly and terrifying.
Whether she’s running down the street with a dismembered hand cuffed to her own or calmly walking walking down a flight of stairs as she slashes her way through 15 armed men of the secret police, she cuts a striking image of a strong and defiant woman.
Lady Snowblood itself isn’t quite Pinky Violence, often unfairly thrown into that genre, it’s lacking in the Pink, but brimming with the Violence. At it’s base, Snowblood is pure exploitation, like it’s namesake, it’s on an almost single minded mission to paint the screen crimson and show off the gorgeous actress.

You can easily sell this film by waffling on about how it was a heavy influence on Kill Bill, but you shouldn’t need too, it’s a gem of a film that will have you locked in from the opening sequence, falling snow and spraying blood, it’s beauty and grace sets it in a league of it’s own.

 

Shogun Assassin, Hanzo the Razor and the Female Convict Scorpion Series are available through Eureka.

Lady Snowblood 1 & 2 are out on 24th Sept on Bluray and DVD from Arrow. Zatoichi is also available from Arrow.

Sex and Fury is available from Fabulous Films.

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