To most red-blooded American men, nothing screams “hot” like one of the many toy-breasted, tan-whores you see every month exposing their generic trampstamps in the pages of Maxim and other such PG-rated jerkbooks aka fantasymags for jocks. I’m not going to say that those of us in the “geek” crowd always have a more refined taste in attraction, but most of the nose-in-a-comic types that I know find the above mentioned abhorrant. Of course, we all love the “librarian” stereotype as a reflection of our high school past, but over the years the tastes become more variant, and in some cases, fuckin’ weird(hello furries!). Lately, for me, nothing says “sexy” more than kimonos, kitanas, and the enemy’s blood stained upon paper walls, usually in that order. That’s right, folks, I’m talking of the female yakuza, especially those portrayed in 70’s Japanese cinema. One actress in particular, Meiko Kaji, has been the object of my nerdly desires. Or, rather, the Meiko Kaji of three decades ago. If only I had been born in post-war
In Black Cat’s Revenge(Kaidan nobori ryu,1970) stars my current unrealistic fantasy as Akemi, inheritor of the Tachibana clan. After spending 3 years, Akemi is torn between retiring the clan as her dearly departed father-and-former-clan head supposedly wished, or bringing the Tachibana clan’s name back to it’s former glory. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to be easy if she plans on the latter. First off, Tachibana clan’s men and women dropping like flies, with there bodies being found minus the family tattoo, a dragon that stretches across the entirety of the Tachibana clan when they are lined up in battle formation. Akemi also happens to be plagued with reoccurring nightmares of a black cat who wants nothing more than to take her vision. During the course of the movie, these nightmares take a physical form when a black cat repeatedly is around when clan bodies are discovered.
It turns out the a rival clan of drug dealing, slave traders are responsible for the grotesque murders. All the while trying to pin in on another local clan of wannabe-turf leaders. Not only do these truly evil, peddlers-of-vice have the help of a Tachibana turncoat, but also that of a mysterious, blind she-warrior who wants nothing more than to destroy Akemi. Who she is and why the vendetta are the mystery to be answered at the very end of the movie.
As the bodies pile up, Akema eventually has to make the decision the right decision, and once again the Dragon Formation will be completed.
Although not as action-packed as I expected it to be, coming down from my Lady Snowblood-high, Kaidan nobori ryu had it’s fare share of swordplay and bloodsprays. It was enough to keep the most diehard fan of the yakuza genre entertained. But where it lacked in action, it more than made up for in cross-genre style. We not only have strong elements of suspense and horror, as seen in the grisly murders and reoccurring use of the black cat to induce more fear, the director, at times, likes to throw in psychedelic elemnts, which really threw me for a curveball. The scene I speak of involves the mysterious blind women and the freakshow of circus company she involves herself with. After demonstrating her unearthly knife throwing abilities, we are sent into a torrent of surreal direction involving a bestial hunchback and the washing of blind feet. Fucking weird, but it was something that was pretty popular in American exploitation cinema at the time, so I wasn’t that weirded out by it. Although it might seem out of place in this kind of period piece, the director, Teruo Ishii, is able to blend it pretty well along with the other directional elements I mentioned. After watching this, I’m curious of his other work, which I hear is pretty spectacular in some cases.
Although not my favorite Meiko Kaji flick, I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in Pinky Violence or Yakuza movies from the 70’s. Even if you don’t know anything about said genres, it is still fun to watch hot, tattooed girls spill blood in heavy amounts. Besides….Meiko Kaji is fuckin’ hot! Nuff said.