43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Black Cat Horror,
This review is from: Kuroneko - Masters of Cinema series [DVD]  (DVD)
A mother & daughter are robbed, raped & killed by marauding samurai. In revenge their spirits return to this world - via a black cat! - to seduce murder & suck the blood of passing samurai. This is very much a follow-up to Shindo's earlier Onibaba (1964). It has the same formula of mother & daughter struggling to survive in war torn feudal Japan. But where in Onibaba the supernatural element is in the minds of the characters, in Kuroneko (1968) the supernatural is "real" - the film is based on a traditional Japanese folk ghost tale. Like a lot of 60s films (Kwaidan, Actors Revenge etc) Kuroneko borrows elements from the extreme stylisation of traditional Japanese drama & dance and gives them an almost pop art spin. The black & white cinematography is absolutely stunning - chiaroscuro lighting magically transforming different bits of the studio set. The editing is equally impressive, giving a complexity to what might otherwise have been an overly simple & predictable narrative. The "feline" aspect which could so easily have seemed ridiculous is handled very well - handled straight (though not without understated humour). There is also some interesting use of "wire" acrobatics as in martial arts movies. Apparently this film was a big box office success in Japan which makes it surprising the film wasn't imported successfully to the west. Maybe the film lacked the erotic content that made Onibaba exotically appealing to foreign audiences. Anyway the film stands up really well & if you are at all interested in 60s Japanese cinema you must see this. It might also appeal to today's fans of Asian horror/fantasy. Eureka Masters of Cinema are probably the best DVD imprint for classic films & they've done another fine job here: restored high definition transfer, new subtitles & a fully illustrated booklet with very informative essay on the film by Doug Cummings & extract from Joan Mellon's old interview with Shindo (largely concerning his interest in sex & politics!).