Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bride is nothing without Meiko Kaji

Quentin Tarantino. For some the name conjures images of gangsters, gimps, afros, kung-fu, and the Twist. A brilliant storyteller who pays homage to the forgotten, grindhouse cinema he grew up on in every movie is has made. Everything from blaxploitation to spaghetti westerns has been emulated in one or more of Tarantino’s movies. To many, Tarantino’s movies have helped open up the b-movie floodgates and exposed us to many movies that might have fallen through the cracks. If it wasn’t for Tarantino, would actors like Pam Greer and Sonny Chiba have the careers and cult followings they do today? I doubt it, but who am I to give an opinion? I know if it wasn’t for QT, I would never have had the urge to watch Return of the Street Fighter like I will be doing tonight. Thank you Tarantino!!!

For others though, the mere mention of the name brings violent outbursts and feelings of deep hatred. Yes folks, this is the other side of the genre-cinema-fan coin. Those who curse Tarantino for being a rip-off artist, a charlatan, and a hack. Those who claim Tarantino doesn’t have an original bone in his body. An Exploiter of Exploitation if you will. It seems to have become quite fashionable to have this approach these days. I can understand the opinion for those old enough to have lived and experienced the 42nd Street days. But if you happen to be my age or younger, I kinda look at it as biting the hand that feeds you.

Obviously, I am of the first opinion, but this blog isn’t about licking Tarantino’s asshole. I don’t even know if this article is going to do QT justice. In fact it might fuel the fire of Team Hater.

This article, my friends, is about the Bride. Rather, the archetype the the Bride is based on. Yes, we all know of Lady Snowblood and how some of the scenes in Kill Bill are almost filmed shot-for-shot, or so it seems. It happens to be my opinion, as powerful as such a thing is, that the character of the bride wasn’t based exclusively on Lady Snowblood, but more on the stereotypical roles played by the actress who portrayed Snowblood, Meiko Kaji.

Anybody who is familiar with the Pinky Violence genre will know the name Meiko Kaji by instinct. During the 70’s, she was the poster girl for all the embodied “Bad Ass” in Japanese cinema. In many a movie during this time, she was the perfect instrument in the name of feminine revenge. Whether she played a gang girl, a prisoner, or a murderous geisha…it ended in a bloodbath most of the time. Meiko Kaji was also quite the pop star during her reigning period as screen queen. QT even included one of her songs in the OST for Kill Bill(hmmm???).

So now I present a series of videos to you that prove, to me, the the Bride was based less on a character and more an amalgamation of characters all played by the same person. Granted, I could just be completely wrong and this is more about exposing, to the world, my love for Meiko Kaji. Either way you look at it, Meiko Kaji is incredibly nice to look at, especially when she is kicking ass.


  1. You get no argument from me. When Kill Bill came out, I told some of my friends that it looked like highlights from my movie collection.

    I would, however, point out that the Kill Bills used two of Meiko Kaji's songs. One for each half. Part one has "The Flowers of Carnage" from Lady Snowblood (a better song title I cannot imagine). Part two has "Urami Ibushi" from Female Prisoner Scorpion.

    I think my favorite Meiko Kaji moment is when she speaks her first lines in the second FPS movie. That rocked.

  2. > During the 60’s, she was the poster girl for all the embodied “Bad Ass” in Japanese cinema.

    Meiko Kaji embodied the stereotyped role of 'nice (Nikkatsu) girl' in almost all his filmography up to 1971. Her 'powerful/vengeful woman' roles were all made between 1971-74. After that she returned to her usual 'nice' roles.

    Some early Meiko appearances

  3. Sorry about the temporal fuck up, anonymous, I edited it. But it looks like she was playing bad-asses before 1971:

    The Blind Woman's Curse (1970) (Kaidan nobori ryu) (d. Teruo Ishii)

    Stray Cat Rock series

    * Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Stray Cat Rock (1970) (Onna banchô: Nora-neko rokku) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
    * Stray Cat Rock : Wild Jumbo (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Wairudo janbo) (d. Toshiya Fujita)
    * Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Sekkusu hanta) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
    * Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Mashin animaru) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)

  4. oops i meant 1970, sorry. This is the year Nikkatsu has almost gone into bankruptcy and tried new 'exploitation formula' which allowed first-lead for female actress.

    Other interesting 1970/71 exploitation flicks are 'Bad Girl Mako' and 'Melody of Rebelion'

    Btw, i love Meiko Kaji vengeful roles, but all her others 'normal' roles didn't really convinced me :)


  5. This is the first post I've ever read on your blog, but it won't be the last!

    MEIKO KAJI 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Well hopefully not,adgy. I always welcome new readers as much as I welcome new blogs to read.

    Looks like I'm going to have to update my links tonight. Thanks for the comments, guys!!!

  7. Enjoyable read. As a "genre" film junkie, it always nice to read pieces that celebrate the art and the artists.