The lady with the lethal umbrella is back, although with the exception of the opening scene and closing bloodbath, the violence is mostly delivered by others in this entertaining period actioner.
Captured by the police in 1905, assassin Kashima Yuki (Meiko Kaji) is convicted of 37 murders and sentenced to die. Rescued by a mercenary squad of secret police led by Kikui, Yuki agrees to obtain a document from anarchist Tokunaga Ransui (Juzo Itami) and then kill him in exchange for her
freedom. She becomes Ransui's maid, thereby discovering that he is an honorable man and it is Kikui who is corrupt, as proven by the document. When Kikui realizes that she has switched sides, he sends his attackers after them both, but Yuki escapes with the document.
While the police torture Ransui, Yuki brings the document to his brother Shusuke in the shantytown slums. Shusuke has little love for his brother or his causes and sees only the blackmail value of the document. But when Ransui is tossed into the shantytown after having been infected with the Black
Death, everyone is spurred to action. Kikui's wife is killed attacking one of his torturers, and Yuki goes to the police demanding money and food for the poor in exchange for the document. Instead she is imprisoned and the shantytown burned to the ground. Escaping, Yuki finds Shusuke alive in the
ruins, and together they attack and kill Kikui and his minions. But Shusuke is mortally wounded, and she puts him out of his misery, leaving her alone once more.
As with LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973), the climax of this sequel includes a scene of Yuki smashing a mirror to discover it is a window into another room containing her enemies. Clearly this is a pivotal image in the psychological conception of Snowblood. Yuki is however largely a spectator in this
installment (until the end, anyway), with Shusuke by far the most interesting character. His former wife left him to marry his brother, explaining Shusuke's ambivalence toward helping Ransui. When Ransui is dumped into town, beaten and infected, Shusuke is clearly torn between loving his brother
and hating him, feeling similarly toward his ex-wife who implores him to help. The fractured storytelling of the first film, with its interruptions for voiceovers and illustrations to footnote the plot, have been kept to a minimum, allowing for a greater degree of emotional involvement.
Additionally, director Toshiya Fujita offers more striking compositions this time out, at times almost resembling a Hammer film with its carriages galloping through atmospheric mists and caped officers strolling through palatial corridors.
Like its predecessor, the film incorporates historical detail, this time taking place just after Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese war, with the underclasses crushed by spiraling inflation. The character of Ransui is in fact based on an actual socialist who strove for reform and was arrested
on trumped-up charges along with numerous other anarchists, and killed in a government purge. The actor portraying him, Juzo Itami, went on to considerably greater acclaim as writer-director of such satirical hit films as TAMPOPO, THE FUNERAL and A TAXING WOMAN before committing suicide in 1998.
(Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1974
- Review: The lady with the lethal umbrella is back, although with the exception of the opening scene and closing bloodbath, the violence is mostly delivered by others in this entertaining period actioner. Captured by the police in 1905, assassin Kashima Yuki (Meik… (more)