Tattooed Swordswoman is a unique Japanese film from 1970. Also going by the title ‘Blind Woman’s Curse’, this movie tells the story of a blind woman going after a gang of tattooed, swordfighting women – strange coincidence! 🙂
The story begins as a woman, Akemi (Meiko Kaji of Lady Snowblood), is fighting a rival gang to avenge her Yakuza father. When faced with her father’s killer she is interrupted by the daughter of the man she intends to kill, and accidentally cuts out her eyes during her killing stroke. When her victim hits the ground (after this woman has run off) a black cat comes and starts drinking the blood and eating some of the flesh from her recently killed enemy.
This sets the scene for the whole movie!
Akemi is sent to prison for 3 years, but now believes she is under the curse of this cat. When she is released she is given control of the Tachibana clan. She has a gang of skilled swords-woman who all share a common tattoo – when the all stand along side each other a long serpent is tattooed across all of their backs – with one girl having the tale, and Akemi having the head tattooed on her.
That’s when a blind woman named Aiki comes to town, and shortly after these women start getting killed and their tattoos cut off their backs. Before long there’s turmoil between some of the gangs and everything comes together into a bloody finale when Aiki reveals herself as the one Akemi blinded some five years ago. The two then face off in a vengeful sword fight.
A big mix!
This movie is primarily about the revenge of Aki and the ‘curse of the cat’ and the revenge of the blind woman. Yet other characters and gangs seem to be going at it as well, making it a movie that does require some concentration to fully understand – it can take more than one sitting to fully ‘get’ this movie.
While the set is quite clear, its the events afterwards that get a little too mixed for my liking.
It’s a bit ‘murder mystery’ meets ‘horror/thriller’ combined with a little bit of swordplay thrown in at the end. The movie is very dark most of the time, and even has some very strange and twisted characters (like a hunchback man that is quite strange).
All the while this ‘curse’ haunts Akemi and we see her attempt to deal with it as she has nightmares. But ultimately it’s like a small horror / thriller movie more than a martial arts movie since there seems to be hardly any sword work during the ‘bulk’ of it’s story telling.
The Martial Arts and Action
As mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of action in this film.
What we do see though is primarily at the beginning of the film, and at the end during the finale. What sword work you see isn’t bad, but its over with pretty quickly as the movie focuses more on the pace of the stroyline. The final showdown is what we’re here to see, as Akemi and Aiki face off, but even this is over with quite quickly and even ends a little funny – being based more on the characters motives than the actual fight itself.
Once again, more thriller than martial arts.
A different movie, even for a swordplay film but it’s ‘martial artiness’ is only very slight. It is an intriguing movie however, so if you like classic cult thrillers check this one out!