By Casey Campbell
Closing out this first week of What’s Streaming? is Lady Snowblood, though initially I had planned to watch Death Race 2000. In my excitement to schedule the July movies, I missed the part where Death Race was leaving the Criterion Channel on the last day of June… three days before this review would be published. Funnily enough, I found this out after watching the movie (and rather disliking it). So, I went back in and found something else. And I’m glad that I did, as Lady Snowblood is a bad-ass revenge story, tastefully told and drenched in blood. Lady Snowblood is streaming now on the Criterion Channel.
My understanding of the samurai genre of Japanese films comes almost entirely from Criterion, whether through their release of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro, as well as the Lone Wolf and Cub and Zatoichi series currently streaming on the channel. I definitely love the regrettably few samurai movies I’ve seen, but Snowblood may take the cake. It manages to be focused yet employ flashback storytelling, beautifully shot and blocked during its many action sequences, and as previously mentioned, it’s all told tastefully without the t&a found in the more Grindhousey Lone Wolf and Cub.
Like most revenge tales, the story of Snowblood is quite straightforward. Though here, the revenge is more generational. See, she was born with the single task of seeking vengeance for the death of her father and brother, and the rape of her mother by a group of four criminals. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to the titular character, otherwise called Yuki, and she eventually went on to train with a monk. This backstory is interspersed throughout the chapters of the film while we learn who she tracks down.
The films simple story is amplified by the great direction and stylistic choices carried out by Toshiya Fujita. Rather than use the subject matter as an expression of exploitation film making, Fujita delivers the story with tact and taste. It’s also bloody as all hell. Every sword swipe creates powerful spurts of bright red gore in a cathartic offering of beautiful sensationalized violence. It’s a genuine treat to behold, no matter how grim the acts may be.
Lady Snowblood is a great representation of a simple story told right. If you’ve never seen it, my words clearly don’t do it justice so you might as well check it out. It’s on the Criterion Channel, and if you’ve never heard of that, you’re doing yourself a disservice.