Review: Lady Snowblood – Love Song of Vengeance (1974)

After watching Lady Snowblood 2, it’s fairly easy to see why there was never a Lady Snowblood 3.  It isn’t that the film is terrible.  It’s just that it’s fairly bland AND it isn’t much like the first movie.  I believe the first film was intended to end with Yuki’s death and greed made the studio choose to have her inexplicably resurrected at the end.

This film begins with the oddly casual butchering of a group of pursuers as Yuki (AKA Lady Snowblood) walks along a forest path.  There’s a little exposition provided by a narrator and we’re off.  Trouble is, there isn’t much to get Yuki worked up, unless she’s pissed off about the terrible narration that was tacked onto her film.  In the first movie, she’s out to avenge her parents who died unjustly.  That’s a pretty good motivator and one we, as an audience, can fully get behind.  But now that they’re avenged, what is there to do?

In LS2, Yuki is captured and threatened with execution for the murders she’s committed, but her execution is stayed by a crooked Meiji-era politico who wants her to act as an assassin for him.  Yuki eventually agrees to the undercover mission, but her motives are never clear.  She eventually goes over to the other side, but only after being discovered trying to fulfill the mission she was given.  Huh?  Like in all bad plots, the characters in this film just jump around according to the screenwriters wishes and none of their motivations seem to come from within.  It really felt like Yuki was shoehorned into some other movie about Meiji era politics.

Production values are all over the map.  For a movie made in 1974, this certainly looks too much like a 60s Hammer picture.  Director Toshiya Fujita is once again too fond of his wide angled lens.  Many of the shots have characters positioned at the edges of the frame.  They  fall completely out of focus even when they’re delivering dialog!  I realize this wasn’t a big budget movie, but that’s inexcusable.

Scenery is excellent, as is usually the case in these sorts of Japanese films.  There’s so many cool locations that sets are mostly restricted to interiors.  The shinto shrine is especially cool to see, but I wonder who was charged with cleaning all the blood up after filming was completed.  Did the priests know that was what they were signing up for?

Makeup effects are atrocious.  The rivers of blood are that Hammer horror opaque red of the 60s.  Facial appliances appear to have been sculpted out of modelling clay the day of the shoot.  In one shot, a man’s cheek is cut during an interrogation.  While the actor tries to force the knife into the cheek appliance, you can see that the solid appliance is just glued to his cheek.  Yikes!  A couple of eye-gougings look better than that, but it’s often easier to make the big effects look real.

Sound doesn’t fare much better.  The monaural soundtrack is dominated by hideous 70s music.  Yes, I know it was the trend at the time, but it really did hinder my enjoyment of the film.

While there are some memorable fight sequences (the final fight at the shrine was especially good), I doubt I’ll ever want to see this one again.  Not recommended.

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