Note: Arrow’s Region B locked Blu-ray of Blind Woman’s Curse is available from their website.

Blind Woman’s Curse is an interesting Japanese film from 1970. It goes by a number of different names in English-speaking markets and a direct translation of its Japanese title is closer to Ghost Story: The Rising Dragon. A woman inherits the leadership of a criminal gang, caught in a bitter struggle with their rivals. A mysterious blind woman opposes the group, slaughtering its henchman with her remarkable skill as a swordsman. Cult director Teruo Ishii employs an unusual blend of samurai action, horror, the Yakuza, and strong female characters to create one of the more memorable B-movies of all time.

Blind Woman’s Curse is one of those Seventies’ offerings a young Quentin Tarantino must have seen before he would go on to create Kill Bill. Legendary Japanese actress Meiko Kaji (Tarantino would have definitely seen her in Lady Snowblood) plays Akemi, female head of the Tachibana gang. Having inherited the mantle of leader upon her father’s death, the Tachibana are caught up in a turf war with the Aozora gang. Akemi has a number of female henchmen to do her bidding, all with an elaborate dragon tattoo that adorns their backs.

This movie goes far beyond the simple tropes of Yakuza films, incorporating a number of horror elements popular in Japanese entertainment. A mysterious, ghostly black cat goes around with a taste for blood and death. A blind woman with unmatched fighting skill offers her services to the Aozora gang, alongside her hunchback friend. They wage war on the Tachibana, going after the women bearing the dragon tattoo. Makoto Soto plays Tani, a good man caught up in the war between the gangs. He loves Chie (Yoko Takagi), one of Akemi’s relatives.

The plot is a bit difficult to follow in the beginning and you need to pay careful attention, though it does all pay off in the end. Once you get past the taut opener featuring stylish samurai action, the first act spends a lot of time setting up the various relationships in the gangs and who are the players. It is the second and third acts that really make this film as the action gets weirder and the complex plot begins to unwind into an utterly epic conclusion.

Blind Woman’s Curse is a real gem for those interested in stylish Japanese cinema with darker themes. It is one of those rare films in which the female protagonist ends up fighting against a female antagonist. The plot is strong enough that a modern remake would likely change very little from the original concept, aside from possibly eliminating the slapstick humor in a few scenes. This is 84 minutes of slick weirdness and stylish action.

Movie ★★★★☆

Chilin' on the porch @ 10:43

Arrow Video serves up a satisfactory transfer for Blind Woman’s Curse, though it is somewhat dull in detail and lacking the vibrant color saturation of a new film transfer taken from the camera negative. Here is what the included booklet mentions about the transfer:

Blind Woman’s Curse was transferred from original pre-print material by Nikkatsu Studios in Japan. This was delivered on a restored master tape to Arrow Films. The film is presented in the 2.44:1 widescreen aspect ratio with mono audio.

Going off the visible cue marks in some of the reel changes and the transfer’s overall appearance, Nikkatsu Studios likely pulled from secondary film elements. It’s a film print in acceptable condition with few visible scratches. There are a number of times when gate weave and telecine wobble distort the frame, especially in the lower half of the film’s image. The cinematography is not razor-sharp and some shots are intentionally soft.

The transfer itself has been untouched by digital noise reduction and edge enhancement. The light grain structure is film-like and handled perfectly by an AVC video encode that averages nearly 30 Mbps on a BD-25. One probably wishes for slightly better shadow delineation but overall black levels are okay for a low-budget Japanese film from 1970.

Video ★★★☆☆

The original mono mix has been included in a decent-sounding 2.0 PCM soundtrack. Fidelity is quite adequate, rendering clean dialog. There is some harshness to be noted in the opening piece to the score. The distortion in its wide dynamic range tends to clear up after that point. Musical cues and the sounds of battle come through in a satisfactory monaural presentation. No one will confuse this as demo material but it definitely gets the job done without serious complaint.

Optional English subtitles are provided for the Japanese-language film. They display in a white font laying halfway outside the widescreen framing. This is an excellent translation from Japanese to English, though it does take the stylistic choice of dropping the Japanese honorifics from it.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Arrow includes both a DVD and Blu-ray in their typical Dual Format configuration these days.

Audio Commentary by Jasper Sharp – Sharp is a Japanese cinema expert and is quite good at detailing the studio system of the period and related films by the featured actors. While he does speak specifically about Blind Woman’s Curse, he’s not averse to going off in other directions during this commentary. There is a nice amount of information to be learned, if one is heavily into Japanese cinema of this period.

Trailer (03:12 in HD) – The original trailer looks in great condition. In fact, its colors and definition look a touch better than the film itself on this BD.

Stray Cat Rock Trailers (Various times in HD) – These trailers really have to be seen to be believed. Nikkatsu Studios soon moved into exploitation fare after 1970 and produced films of some lurid interest. B-movie fans have to see them.

“Wild Jumbo” (2:39)
“Sex Hunter” (3:15)
“Machine Animal” (2:45)
“Beat ’71” (2:35)

A stylish reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx.

An 18-page collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, illustrated with original archive stills.

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

One thought on "Blind Woman’s Curse (UK Region B) Blu-ray Review"

  1. Phantom Stranger says:

    Arrow did set improper black levels for this UK edition of Blind Woman’s Curse. They corrected the problem when releasing the film in America.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *