Poor blind Oichi. It's so difficult being a female bounty hunter in a man's world.
Set in feudal Japan, this is the second title in the Shochiku Films 'Crimson Bat' series and my personal favorite. It stars the lovely Yoko Matsuyama as Oichi, a hopelessly romantic killer whose self-admitted cross to bear is a life soaked in blood. Kikko Matsuoka co-stars as the viciously seductive, snake-handling Oen.
While Oichi's weapon of choice is a crimson red sword-cane reeking of blood, Oen wields a whip made from a whole lot of women's hair that won't let go once it wraps itself around you and is drenched with the grudge of women who were abandoned by men. God!, how I love Japanese Cinema.
This film has a hauntingly beautiful background score that is oddly reminiscent of the music from Boris Karloff's old 'Thriller' TV series. And if I'm not mistaken, the theme song may have been popularized by Quentin Tarantino in one of his 'Kill Bill' movies. You can pick up an english-subtitled version in its original japanese, titled "Blind Swordswoman: Hellish Skin" on DVD, but I prefer an old VHS copy I have that is dubbed in english and sub-titled in dutch. Like 'Shogun Assassin', there are a lot of asian martial arts films that are just more humorously entertaining dubbed in english.
Not wasting any time, Oichi efficiently dispatches a murderer at the beginning of the film for the 25 ryo bounty on his head and coyly flirts with the man who assists her in carting the corpse off to the police. We then meet little Okyo, a young waif Oichi has taken in for sisterly companionship and affectionate displays of singing, fondling, and hair-combing. But the evil Oen of the black hair plots to kidnap Okyo for a 200 ryo ransom she'll demand from Okyo's father. Oichi foils Oen's scheme and despite Okyo's urgent protests, returns Okyo to her parents, realizing a life of gore and danger is no life for a young girl. Oichi's sadness at losing her little playmate leads to a temporary emotional meltdown where she toys with the idea of throwing away her cane sword in the hopes of finding a life of normal happiness. But before that can happen, the vengeful Oen appears like a psychotic, twitching Veronica Lake to challenge Oichi to a final duel. Oichi spares Oen's life, but the treacherous Oen flings her poisonous snakes at Oichi and Oichi suffers a fatal bite. Oichi survives and recuperates in a little village where she nearly wets her kimono with the prospect of settling down as a simple fisherman's wife in this poor and barren land.
Will Oichi finally find happiness in the drudgery of housework? Or will she go on a vengeful rampage of her own, killing scores of pathetic henchman in a poetic dance of death where arterial sprays of blood that would put Jackson Pollack to shame are flung across the technicolor screen in a slow-motion descent into hell? My guess is as good as yours.
PS. Sorrily, the youtube clips are just teasers. They are from two other different english-dubbed films in the 'Crimson Bat' series.