Blind Woman's Curse Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Teruo Ishii
Written by Teruo Ishii and Yoshitada Sone
1970, Region A, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 21st, 2015
Meiko Kaji as Akemi Tachibana
Hoki Tokuda as Aiko Gouda
Makoto Satô as Tani Shouichi
Hideo Sunazuka as Kantaro
Shirô Ôtsuji as Senba-tatsu
Tôru Abe as Dobashi
Yoshi Katô as Jutaro Mitsui
Tatsumi Hijikata as Ushimatsu
Akemi has assumed control of the Tachibana family crime organization following the death of her father. While fighting the rival Gouda clan, she accidentally blinds their leader's sister, and is disturbed to see a black cat lapping up the blood. Following a five-year prison term, our heroine returns home to find her territory challenged by the rival Aozora family. Akemi has lost her taste for violence and refuses to retaliate when members of her organization are killed by an opposing gang. She cannot shake the feeling that she has been cursed by the bloodthirsty black cat that now haunts her dreams. Things are not as they seem, however, as an outside party headed by Boss Dobashi has infiltrated her organization and is playing her against a traditional rival in hopes of wiping out both sources of competition.
The Boss of the Aozora family is too cowardly to directly challenge Akemi's clan, but he is more than happy to intimidate Jutaro, a retired gangster turned restaurateur. Aozora is a smelly bully in a bowler hat and dirty loincloth. He is a dangerous clown that demands respect he has not earned. Keeping him in check is Tani Shouichi, a valiant warrior refusing to take sides, but who is unable to let innocent bystanders suffer. Akemi tries to convince Tani to stay with the Tachibana organization, but he politely refuses and helps maintain balance from the sidelines of Jutaro's restaurant. Things take a dark turn for Akemi when the primarily female members of her group start being murdered in gruesome ways, which include having their elaborate dragon tattoos peeled from their backs and publicly displayed. Tani is unable to stop the crimes, but will do his part to prevent predatory villains from capitalizing on the situation.
Aiko Gouda, the blinded woman from the beginning of our story, returns as an incredibly talented knife thrower, the star attraction at a local carnival. It is no secret that she is working to assist Boss Dobashi to end the Tachibana reign. She has many secrets, including a hint of supernatural malice, as she may hold a connection to the haunting “Ghost Cat”. Appearing at the carnival with her is a crazed dancing hunchback named Ushimatsu, whose psychedelic performances are hypnotic and carry a vibe of danger. It is quickly revealed that this man has a particular talent for removing tattoos. Aiko is content to allow these men to torture the woman responsible for blinding her, but when it comes to a final showdown with Akemi, these two women will settle their scores privately, with large swords.
Blind Woman's Curse (aka Black Cat's Revenge) is a wild movie that begins as a beautifully-shot yakuza film and transitions into a bizarre tale of the supernatural. There is a lot going on, but the numerous subplots and peripheral characters do not work to the story's advantage. Director Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men) has admitted the film is a bit of a mess, but sagging box office numbers demanded a bit of the “kitchen sink” approach in order to pull audiences from their home televisions. This picture never fully commits to the popular “Ghost Cat” legend that is shoehorned into the plot and honestly, it doesn't really need it. The opening sequence in the rain with its slow-motion photography and dynamic freeze frames sets the tone immediately for this gorgeous production. The stunning Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood) carries the film handily as the remorseful Boss Akemi Tachibana. Hoki Tokuda (Nippon Paradise) is particularly creepy as Aiko, the titular blind woman whose simmering rage is quite unsettling. The film is highly entertaining, but the murky script leaves things occasionally confusing. Enough works so that I can recommend this release to devotees of Japanese cinema, but horror fans may want to keep looking.
Video and Audio:
Blind Woman's Curse is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty terrific. The picture clarity is impressive and filled with small-object detail. Colors are rich and vibrant while black levels are deep.
A DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track is surprisingly effective, particularly during the numerous action scenes and also the bizarre theatre sequence that kicks things into a hallucinatory nightmare. Music cues also benefit from the solid presentation.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Film historian Jason Sharp's audio commentary is a fast-paced history lesson on Japanese cinema. The information is well-organized and non-stop. This is a highly recommended track.
The original theatrical trailer for this film is paired with a collection of previews for additional titles of the era, now available from Arrow Video.