Blind Woman's Curse (Japan 1970)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: The Tattooed Swordswoman
Review Date: 1/14/14
Cast: Kaji Meiko, Hoki Tokuda

Aiko: I wish I could see your face.
Akemi: My face is the same as any other about to fight: the face of a demon.

After her clan leader is murdered, Akemi Tachibana (Kaji Meiko) assumes leadership of the clan and takes her revenge by killing a rival clan leader and blinding his daughter. The event leaves her psychologically scarred and she fears that she's being haunted by a ghost cat. When another yakuza gang comes to town with intentions of overthrowing the Tachibanas, Akemi stands her ground and refuses to meet their threats with violence. But she'll only be pushed so far, and after enough of her friends and family members die horrible deaths, she finally picks up a sword and delivers bloody justice. The cycle of revenge continues as the climax pits Akemi against a blind swordswoman (Hoki Tokuda) who bears an old grudge against her.

An early starring role for pop idol Kaji Meiko, but she unfortunately doesn't get to do much other than look intensely sad and angry as a result of the violence that surrounds her. Most of the action falls to her underlings, and it isn't until the last ten minutes that she erupts into a whirlwind of female fury. It's a long time coming, but her fight scenes are extremely bloody and immensely satisfying. The rest of the film is standard yakuza period fare with a strange horror element woven into the plot. A traveling horror show adds a creepy factor, and the "ghost cat" is seen running off with the skins of Akemi's slain comrades. The cat effects are very bizarre, and mostly involve a (presumably) stuffed cat being yanked around on wires. In addition to the freaks in the horror show, there are a number of other eccentric characters, including another rival clan leader who parades around in a smelly red loincloth. As far as I can tell, he only exists as comic relief.

While it's one of her lesser films, Kaji Meiko's unwavering intensity dominates every scene that she's in, and she is delightful to watch. It's just unfortunate that the film spends so much time on all of the other characters rather than her.