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A Crazy Concoction
on 18 July 2008
This 1970 Japanese masterwork shows cult siren Meiko Kaji in her first starring role. She performs with conviction in what is a unique blend of yakuza and horror genres. Directed by enfents terrible Teruo Ishii , this is a strange dark creation.
Kaji stars as a young female Yakuza boss in early 20th century Japan. Her Clan is under attack from a rival group, an undercover traitor and a surreal dark carnival of freaks. Kaji believes she is cursed by a black cat, and the cat motif figures heavily in the film from start to finish. Kaji's clan have the dragon as their insignia and each member has a section of a dragon tattood on their back, when they fight they line up together to show a full dragon, which provides a stunning opening shot in the rain.
What begins as a fairly routine yakuza tale of revenge fills out into a fullblown horror. Yakuza tattoos are skinned off victim's backs, and blood is lapped up by the vengeful black cat. A blind female warrior somehow appears with her macabre hunchback servant and is pitted against the benevolent clan of Kaji. There is a history there which is gradually revealed.
This is a visually exciting picture with both the yakuza imagery of samurai swords and tattooed backs, combined with a very dark and surreal horror background. The wandering carnival of horrors is particularly unsettling. Meiko Kaji looks beautiful as ever and shows class and stature unusual for someone so young. It is obvious to see why she became one o the key stars on Japanese cinema in the 70's. Teruo Ishii is also on form and his vision is particularly complete in comparison with the choppy water of some of his other pictures. The story is outlandish, the imagery darkly beautiful. All in all this is a unique experience, even bringing in some almost slapstick comedy at times to lighten the mood.