Cast & Crew
Japan's secret police enlist a female assassin to squelch a revolution.
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance -
"With the second film, I wanted to be even more liberated from the original manga," recalled Osada. "I wanted to work freely and not color within the lines set down by Koiki in the original." Osada's story is set a decade after the end of the first film with Yuki alive and well, but relentlessly hunted by the authorities for the murders committed in the name of righteous vengeance. Captured and sentenced to death, she is rescued by a shadowy government official who wants her to work as an agent on his behalf spying on a political activist. The politics are even more pointed in this film, which eyes the growth of nationalism and imperialism in the early 20th century in the wake of victory in the Russo-Japanese war. As capitalism sweeps away feudalism, the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful while the poor and disenfranchised are left behind. The villains, this time a group of decadent officials, are an even more flamboyantly eccentric lot who think nothing of sacrificing swaths of peasants to get rid of an enemy or make a profit, "I was also, in a way, portraying contemporary Japan," explained Osada in 2015. "In the 1970s, the Vietnam war was raging next door. American bombers were taking off from Okinawa to bomb Vietnam. That was the situation, and I wanted that to be reflected somehow in this film."
In the role of the self-described anarchist Ransui Tokunaga, a fictional revolutionary based on the real-life Shusui Kotoku (who was executed for plotting to assassinate the Meiji emperor), Fujita cast Juzo Itami, a charming, likable actor who went on to become an internationally celebrated director with Tampopo (1985) and A Taxing Woman (1987). He plays the role as a scholarly gentleman, attentive to his ailing, fragile wife, devoted to political philosophy and driven to shine a light on the lies and crimes of the officials who executed his fellow revolutionaries on trumped-up charges of treason. To carry on his mission, Yuki turns to the underworld. As in the first film, Yuki allies herself with small-time hoods to take on big-time crooks who use the law to protect their abuses. Born a revenge demon, she becomes the people's hero, a kimono-clad Robin Hood in a corrupt empire.
The script crams in a lot of characters, stories and ideas while director Toshiya Fujita barrels ahead to get it all in. It's a conspiracy film, a political drama and a social commentary, with Yuki acting as a nearly silent witness to the corruption of the new Japan before picking up her sword to fight for an ideal. The script was rushed into production and Norio Osada, who collaborated on the script with an old friend, was never fully satisfied with the screenplay but appreciates the finished movie: "It's a strange film with strange charms and strange flaws. That's how I feel about it." It was also one of Kaji's final roles as an action heroine. She starred in three Kinji Fukasaku yakuza movies in the 1970s, and then transitioned to television in the 1980s as she eased into her thirties, past her prime as far as the studios were concerned. Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance reminds us of what we lost because of it: her distinctive mix of grace, dignity, fury, charisma and intensity behind an enigmatic face and a poise of attentive calm that can explode into action in a heartbeat.
By Sean Axmaker
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.
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance -
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance
The woman is Lady Snowblood and that scene's mix of unleashed mayhem and smartly controlled visual style shows what made the two films in the Lady Snowblood series favorites among fans of edgier Japanese film. One is Quentin Tarantino who based part of the swordfight at the end of Kill Bill, Volume 1 on a similar one in the first Snowblood film and even tossed in a slice of the original's soundtrack just to be sure we caught the reference. It also helps that the two Snowblood films had stories co-written by the great manga author Kazuo Koike, creator of Lone Wolf and Cub. The first film--called simply Lady Snowblood (1973)--has been available on video but now you can catch the sequel in DVD. It's Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974) and though it's not in the same league as the first film it certainly fills the need for more.
Whether you've seen the first film or not won't really matter. In fact, it's easy to imagine somebody watching Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance and not realizing there was a previous film. After the film's opening mountain attack, Lady Snowblood soon gets caught in a fight that she can't win, this time on a beach against a veritable platoon of policemen. Sentenced to death for crimes from the first film (you just learned all you need to know) she is rescued by a mysterious benefactor who has his own assassination target for her. But as Snowblood pursues the political activist who is her goal (the film is set immediately after the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War) she becomes more and more intrigued by her intended victim.
One of the key elements in the success of the Lady Snowblood films is cult actress Meiko Kaji, who also graced in several notable series of the 60s. That's her as the Scorpion in the Female Convict Scorpion series, as one of the leads in the Stray Cat Rock series, in Kinji Fukasaku's Yakuza Graveyard and Deadly Fight in Hiroshima and in three of Yasuzo Masumura's rarely seen films. Her roles often feature that '60s balance of aloof coolness and anti-social wildness. This is put to good effect in Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance where she has to make believable a revenge-minded assassin who can care about events outside her world.
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, (released by AnimEIgo, distributed by KOCH Entertainment Distribution) features a clean transfer though some of the grain and saturated colors show the film's age and probably original filming conditions as well. There are only a couple of sparse extras in the form of program notes and trailers for other similar releases. While Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance is just the kind of film that could use an informed audio commentary, it still stands on its own.
For more information about Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, visit Animeigo. To order Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson