Lady Snowblood


1h 37m 1973
Lady Snowblood

Brief Synopsis

A young girl is raised to kill the criminals who destroyed her family.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shurayukihime
Genre
Action
Thriller
Foreign
Period
Release Date
1973

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Color
Color

Synopsis

Yuki's family is nearly wiped out before she is born due to the machinations of a band of criminals. These criminals kidnap and brutalize her mother but leave her alive. Later her mother ends up in prison with only revenge to keep her alive. She creates an instrument for this revenge by purposefully getting pregnant. Though she dies in childbirth, she makes sure that the child will be raised as an assassin to kill the criminals who destroyed her family. Young Yuki never knows the love of a family but only killing and revenge.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shurayukihime
Genre
Action
Thriller
Foreign
Period
Release Date
1973

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Color
Color

Articles

Lady Snowblood


"Yuki, you will live your life carrying out my vendetta." A mix of historical drama, martial arts spectacle and pulp moviemaking with new wave panache, the flamboyant revenge drama, Lady Snowblood (1973), brought the popular manga by author Kazuo Koiki to the big screen with a melodramatic flair and stylistic splash.

A successful author of the distinctive style of Japanese comic book known as manga, Koiki had created the icon "Lone Wolf and Cub" series, which had been brought to the screen in a series of hit martial arts thrillers, and would go on to create "Crying Freeman." "I'd created enough male assassins," he explained in a 2015 interview. "It was time for a female." The story of Lady Snowblood is set in the Meiji era, a turbulent period of transition from the feudal past to a modern state with power centralized by an emperor, and follows the elaborate revenge of an innocent woman whose husband and son are murdered in front of her eyes. She's imprisoned after killing one of the murderers and her daughter Yuki is conceived, then born behind bars to be the instrument of her vengeance. She's an asura demon in her mother's words, raised to become a warrior and an assassin and to hunt down the three surviving villains behind her mother's ordeal. "Yuki" is Japanese for snow, a fitting name given the stark, graphic imagery of white snow against a black sky during her birth, and Shurayuki - "snowblood" - is a play on Shirayuki, which is Japanese for "Snow White."

Producer Kikumaru Okada was looking for a project for actress Meiko Kaji, who had just made the hit women-in-prison exploitation film Female Convict 701: Scorpion (1972). According to screenwriter Norio Osada, "He wanted to make full use of her persona to make an even more flamboyant, engrossing and fun film." Okada hired Osada, who had scripted a series of Yakuza movies for Kinji Fukasaku, to adapt Koiki's manga, and filmmaker Toshiya Fujita to direct. Fujita rose through the ranks at Nikkatsu to become a director specializing in youth rebellion films, including Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970) and Stray Cat Rock: Beat '71 (1971), two of Kaji's early successes. It was a change of genre for Fujita whose specialty, according to Marc Salkow, was in portraying misunderstood youth searching for their identity in the world, or what Osasa called "a certain kind of ennui" among the young: "their stifled rage, a rage that has no outlet." He had never made an action film before and he brought an unconventional approach to the inventive storytelling and graphic action scenes.

Clad in a demure kimono and armed with a sword hidden in her parasol, Yuki looks like a delicate aristocrat but for her eyes - intense, bloodshot, haunted - and she transforms from proper lady to the fiery Lady Snowblood in the blink of an eye. She's a largely silent figure with simmering fury under her stillness and she's a dervish in action, cutting down thugs and bodyguards with wicked efficiency and ballet grace. Koiki was not involved in the adaptation (screenwriter Osada remembers meeting him only once) or the production, but he praised the casting. "Meiki Kaji was perfect for the role: beautiful and grim, but with a touch of softness." Osada uses a remarkable array of ideas and techniques in his storytelling. The story slips back and forth in time and are nestled in flashbacks. Scenes are composed like serene paintings with delicate, soft colors in one shot and panels from a comic book, with sprays of spurting blood in explosions of crimson and objects reduced to stark graphic images, in another. The manga origins are carried over in the intermittent use of penciled panels to illustrate exposition in the vivid chapter titles (like "Crying Bamboo Dolls of the Netherworlds" and "Umbrella of Blood, Heart of Strewn Flowers") that mark her progress and in the slash cutting that sends the film jumping rapidly back and forth in time. Like the films of Seijun Suzuki a decade before, Lady Snowblood is a pulp revenge melodrama directed as an avant-garde thriller.

Quentin Tarantino was one of the film's many fans and it was his primary inspiration for the Kill Bill films, from the premise of a wronged woman taking violent revenge with a sword, to the complex flashbacks, to the use of animation for exposition (a nod to the use of original "Lady Snowblood" manga panels), to the climax, which evokes imagery right out of the film. He even takes the theme song, "The Flower of Carnage," sung by Meiko Kaji herself, as his own heroine's theme. It's not so much theft as homage, like much of Tarantino's cinema, and he stirs the elements into his own sensibility, but his tribute--and his outspoken love of the film--casts a spotlight on the film decades after its completion. He inspired fans to seek it out and gave the film new life in the U.S.

By Sean Axmaker

Sources:
2015 interview with Kazuo Koiki, The Complete Lady Snowblood Blu-ray. Criterion, 2016.
2015 interview with Norio Osada, The Complete Lady Snowblood Blu-ray. Criterion, 2016.
Outlaw Masters of Japanese Cinema, Chris D. I.B. Taurus, 2005.
"Flower of Carnage: The Birth of Lady Snowblood," Marc Walkow. FilmComment.com, January 26, 2016.
IMDb
Lady Snowblood

Lady Snowblood

"Yuki, you will live your life carrying out my vendetta." A mix of historical drama, martial arts spectacle and pulp moviemaking with new wave panache, the flamboyant revenge drama, Lady Snowblood (1973), brought the popular manga by author Kazuo Koiki to the big screen with a melodramatic flair and stylistic splash. A successful author of the distinctive style of Japanese comic book known as manga, Koiki had created the icon "Lone Wolf and Cub" series, which had been brought to the screen in a series of hit martial arts thrillers, and would go on to create "Crying Freeman." "I'd created enough male assassins," he explained in a 2015 interview. "It was time for a female." The story of Lady Snowblood is set in the Meiji era, a turbulent period of transition from the feudal past to a modern state with power centralized by an emperor, and follows the elaborate revenge of an innocent woman whose husband and son are murdered in front of her eyes. She's imprisoned after killing one of the murderers and her daughter Yuki is conceived, then born behind bars to be the instrument of her vengeance. She's an asura demon in her mother's words, raised to become a warrior and an assassin and to hunt down the three surviving villains behind her mother's ordeal. "Yuki" is Japanese for snow, a fitting name given the stark, graphic imagery of white snow against a black sky during her birth, and Shurayuki - "snowblood" - is a play on Shirayuki, which is Japanese for "Snow White." Producer Kikumaru Okada was looking for a project for actress Meiko Kaji, who had just made the hit women-in-prison exploitation film Female Convict 701: Scorpion (1972). According to screenwriter Norio Osada, "He wanted to make full use of her persona to make an even more flamboyant, engrossing and fun film." Okada hired Osada, who had scripted a series of Yakuza movies for Kinji Fukasaku, to adapt Koiki's manga, and filmmaker Toshiya Fujita to direct. Fujita rose through the ranks at Nikkatsu to become a director specializing in youth rebellion films, including Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970) and Stray Cat Rock: Beat '71 (1971), two of Kaji's early successes. It was a change of genre for Fujita whose specialty, according to Marc Salkow, was in portraying misunderstood youth searching for their identity in the world, or what Osasa called "a certain kind of ennui" among the young: "their stifled rage, a rage that has no outlet." He had never made an action film before and he brought an unconventional approach to the inventive storytelling and graphic action scenes. Clad in a demure kimono and armed with a sword hidden in her parasol, Yuki looks like a delicate aristocrat but for her eyes - intense, bloodshot, haunted - and she transforms from proper lady to the fiery Lady Snowblood in the blink of an eye. She's a largely silent figure with simmering fury under her stillness and she's a dervish in action, cutting down thugs and bodyguards with wicked efficiency and ballet grace. Koiki was not involved in the adaptation (screenwriter Osada remembers meeting him only once) or the production, but he praised the casting. "Meiki Kaji was perfect for the role: beautiful and grim, but with a touch of softness." Osada uses a remarkable array of ideas and techniques in his storytelling. The story slips back and forth in time and are nestled in flashbacks. Scenes are composed like serene paintings with delicate, soft colors in one shot and panels from a comic book, with sprays of spurting blood in explosions of crimson and objects reduced to stark graphic images, in another. The manga origins are carried over in the intermittent use of penciled panels to illustrate exposition in the vivid chapter titles (like "Crying Bamboo Dolls of the Netherworlds" and "Umbrella of Blood, Heart of Strewn Flowers") that mark her progress and in the slash cutting that sends the film jumping rapidly back and forth in time. Like the films of Seijun Suzuki a decade before, Lady Snowblood is a pulp revenge melodrama directed as an avant-garde thriller. Quentin Tarantino was one of the film's many fans and it was his primary inspiration for the Kill Bill films, from the premise of a wronged woman taking violent revenge with a sword, to the complex flashbacks, to the use of animation for exposition (a nod to the use of original "Lady Snowblood" manga panels), to the climax, which evokes imagery right out of the film. He even takes the theme song, "The Flower of Carnage," sung by Meiko Kaji herself, as his own heroine's theme. It's not so much theft as homage, like much of Tarantino's cinema, and he stirs the elements into his own sensibility, but his tribute--and his outspoken love of the film--casts a spotlight on the film decades after its completion. He inspired fans to seek it out and gave the film new life in the U.S. By Sean Axmaker Sources: 2015 interview with Kazuo Koiki, The Complete Lady Snowblood Blu-ray. Criterion, 2016. 2015 interview with Norio Osada, The Complete Lady Snowblood Blu-ray. Criterion, 2016. Outlaw Masters of Japanese Cinema, Chris D. I.B. Taurus, 2005. "Flower of Carnage: The Birth of Lady Snowblood," Marc Walkow. FilmComment.com, January 26, 2016. IMDb

Lady Snowblood


Based on a gruesome manga series by Lone Wolf and Cub creator Kazuo Koike, this slightly lesser known saga of retribution and bloodshed offers a gender-switch variation on the same themes. Here our killing machine protagonist is beautiful Yuki (played by the reliably intense Meiko Kaji of Female Convict Scorpion fame), a girl brought up by her dying mother, Sayo (Miyoko Akaza), to exact revenge on the bandit thugs who wiped out her father and brother. Only her mother survived in a harsh prison environment and decided to sire a daughter solely as a means of getting back at a world gone wrong, so now Yuki is destined to fulfill her deadly fate with the aid of a warrior priest. Once trained, she sets out on a mission to strike down those responsible for her unfortunate lot in life.

A visually stunning and emotionally engaging meditation on the familiar avenging angel motif, Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime, sometimes subtitled Blizzard from the Netherworld in reference to Yuki's instilled belief that she comes from a supernatural source) took longer to reach Western pop culture consciousness than the Lone Wolf films primarily due to insufficient distribution; only until its long overdue release on laserdisc could fans realize that this lady comes second to none in the mayhem department. Shot with a widescreen artistry equal to the best of '70s Japanese cinema, Lady Snowblood delivers a series of exquisite tableaux including a famous face-off in the snow that spawned the climax of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1.

An actress who can do more with a glance than most can do with an entire monologue, Kaji is an inspired choice and equals her work as the ferocious Female Convict Scorpion, whose exploits would make perfect co-features with this film considering the common female prison motifs and Kaji-vocalized theme songs (which were also grafted by Tarantino into his blood-spurting opus). Her performance was strong enough to inspire an unnecessary but not embarrassing sequel (Love Song of Vengeance), and eventually the story was recycled for one of the strangest remakes in history, 2001's futuristic The Princess Blade.

Like the Lone Wolf and Cub films with which its video history seems inextricably tied, Lady Snowblood first appeared in a washed-out and zoomboxed laserdisc whose transfer was later rehashed for substandard, non-anamorphic UK DVD and a host of bootlegs. The anamorphic German DVD is better, but the choice option is easily Animeigo's Region 1 disc, a colorful and breathtakingly rich presentation with reds so vivid they leap off the screen. Black levels are also correct and suitably dark, making it the only really viable viewing option to convey the original look of the film. The optional English subtitles are literate and historically rich without being confusing or bogging down in too much explanation, a flaw of some of Animeigo's other titles. The US disc is light on extras related to the film - mainly program notes about Japanese history in the late 1890s with a few notes about the film - but does include trailers for Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, Zatoichi the Outlaw, and Zatoichi The Festival of Fire.

For more information about Lady Snowblood, visit Koch Lorber Films. To order Lady Snowblood, go to TCM Shopping.

by Nathaniel Thompson

Lady Snowblood

Based on a gruesome manga series by Lone Wolf and Cub creator Kazuo Koike, this slightly lesser known saga of retribution and bloodshed offers a gender-switch variation on the same themes. Here our killing machine protagonist is beautiful Yuki (played by the reliably intense Meiko Kaji of Female Convict Scorpion fame), a girl brought up by her dying mother, Sayo (Miyoko Akaza), to exact revenge on the bandit thugs who wiped out her father and brother. Only her mother survived in a harsh prison environment and decided to sire a daughter solely as a means of getting back at a world gone wrong, so now Yuki is destined to fulfill her deadly fate with the aid of a warrior priest. Once trained, she sets out on a mission to strike down those responsible for her unfortunate lot in life. A visually stunning and emotionally engaging meditation on the familiar avenging angel motif, Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime, sometimes subtitled Blizzard from the Netherworld in reference to Yuki's instilled belief that she comes from a supernatural source) took longer to reach Western pop culture consciousness than the Lone Wolf films primarily due to insufficient distribution; only until its long overdue release on laserdisc could fans realize that this lady comes second to none in the mayhem department. Shot with a widescreen artistry equal to the best of '70s Japanese cinema, Lady Snowblood delivers a series of exquisite tableaux including a famous face-off in the snow that spawned the climax of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1. An actress who can do more with a glance than most can do with an entire monologue, Kaji is an inspired choice and equals her work as the ferocious Female Convict Scorpion, whose exploits would make perfect co-features with this film considering the common female prison motifs and Kaji-vocalized theme songs (which were also grafted by Tarantino into his blood-spurting opus). Her performance was strong enough to inspire an unnecessary but not embarrassing sequel (Love Song of Vengeance), and eventually the story was recycled for one of the strangest remakes in history, 2001's futuristic The Princess Blade. Like the Lone Wolf and Cub films with which its video history seems inextricably tied, Lady Snowblood first appeared in a washed-out and zoomboxed laserdisc whose transfer was later rehashed for substandard, non-anamorphic UK DVD and a host of bootlegs. The anamorphic German DVD is better, but the choice option is easily Animeigo's Region 1 disc, a colorful and breathtakingly rich presentation with reds so vivid they leap off the screen. Black levels are also correct and suitably dark, making it the only really viable viewing option to convey the original look of the film. The optional English subtitles are literate and historically rich without being confusing or bogging down in too much explanation, a flaw of some of Animeigo's other titles. The US disc is light on extras related to the film - mainly program notes about Japanese history in the late 1890s with a few notes about the film - but does include trailers for Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, Zatoichi the Outlaw, and Zatoichi The Festival of Fire. For more information about Lady Snowblood, visit Koch Lorber Films. To order Lady Snowblood, go to TCM Shopping. by Nathaniel Thompson

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