by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Lady Snowblood (1973)

Director: Toshiya Fujita

Jack   B+

IMDB    7.7



   Set in 1874, the movie opens in a women's prison with a baby being born with snow falling outside. Tje mother tells the child that she will carry on her vendetta. Her mother names her Yuki (snow).

We next see Lady Snowblood pulling a blade from her umbrella and killing a gang leader and his men.

"Over 20 years have passed since the Meiji era began, ending 300 years of peaceful Tokugawa rule. Prattle about 'civilization' and 'Western thought' has seemingly taken root in people's minds, yet factions of former clans still vie for power and greedy conglomerates abound, as do dishonest merchants, officials who care only about getting rich, and countless men and women living lives of debauchery. Meanwhile, the common people struggle in poverty, their cries unheard by heaven. Into this world an asura, or demigod, woman was born."

She then goes in to a village looking for a man called Matsuemon. She tells Matsuemon that she needs his help in finding three people. He tells her the people are from the village he was from. She then tells him about the Blood Tax Riots of 1873. She said that those three people exploited the situation and fled with some money. We then see in a flashback how in 1873, the government, intent on building a modern army, instituted a draft. The peasants thought the draft was unfair and rioted.

We then see the new elementary teacher out walking with his wife, Sayo, and child. Some rioters, mistaking him because he was dressed in white, as a conscription officer. The three men and a woman then brutally murder the teacher and his son in front of Sayo. Blood pours out on the teacher's white suit. The four peasants then steal the village conscription money from the peasants and flee with Sayo to Tokyo. Sayo bides her time but when she gets a chance she kills one of the four who had been in love with her. She was hunting down the other three when she was arrested and put in prison. Sayo had sex with anyone she could while in prison, just so she could have a child, to become the instrument of her revenge. Sayo dies while bidding the infant to get revenge.

The baby is placed in the care of a priest called Dokai, who trains her in sword fighting. We flash forward to 1882, and we see Yuki and Dokai training to get her ready. He trains her to be an asura : one who gives up his life to avenge another. Dokai is relentless and brutal while training her, but she develops almost super-human skills.

Yuki finds one of her Father's killers, Banzo, and then kills him at the beach. She then goes looking for the other two.

Yuki finds the tombstone of one. Then the story of her search is published. Dokai gave the reporter the information, hoping to find the remaining killer, Kitahama Okono.

Yuki finds Okono, who fires a pistol at her but misses. Yuki then kills Okono's men. Okono hangs herself but Yuki kills her before she is dead.

Yuki then learns that one of the murderers, Gishiro, faked his death and is still alive. Yuki finds him at masquerade ball. She kills a man she thinks is Gishiro, but is wasn't him. Yuki then finds him and cuts his throat but Gushiro shoot her as he dies. Yuki is wounded and then is stabbed by the daughter of one of the men she killed. But the next morning she does open her eyes.

Not really a samurai movie, it is a "chambara" or sword fighting movie. In tone it is like a Spaghetti western, much in the style of the Zatoichi amd Shogun Assassin movies. It is highly stylized with bright colors and dramatic music. It is no secret the Lady Snowblood was a major influence on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies.

Not a samurai movie, but it was during the period and it is a unique, and influential film.