Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: Lady Snowblood (1973)

The film that inspired a key scene in Kill Bill is a classic in its own right. Pay attention to the non-linear plot and you will do fine…

In 1874, a baby is born in a women’s prison. Her deathly-ill mother names her Yuki (snow).

A woman blocks the path of several men and a rickshaw, and kills them using a sword concealed in the handle of an umbrella. She tells the last man to die, Shirayama, that her name is “Shura Yuki Hime”. She appears in a poor village looking for a man called Matsuemon, the leader of an underground organization, and asks him to find four people for her, having killed Shirayama for him.

In 1873, a teacher, his wife Sayo, and their son are attacked by four criminals. A woman named Kitahama Okono holds Sayo while the three men, Takemura Banzō, Shokei Tokuichi, and Tsukamoto Gishirō murder the teacher and his son and rape Sayo. Tokuichi secretly takes Sayo far away to work for him. Sayo kills him with a knife and goes to prison.

In the women’s prison, after the baby is born, Sayo tells her story. She has seduced a prison guard she can to conceive the child. She tells the other women to raise the child for vengeance, then dies.

In Meiji 15 (1882), the child Yuki trains in sword fighting with a priest called Dōkai.

Yuki, now twenty, finds Banzō’s daughter Kobue. Kobue is a prostitute, and her father is now an alcoholic wreck with gambling debts. At a gambling house, Yuki plays cards with Banzō, who is caught cheating. He is about to be killed. Yuki persuades the owners to pardon him, then leads him to a beach and kills him.

Learning that Tsukamoto Gishirō has died, she visits his grave. She cuts the flowers and then the gravestone. Matsuemon and his friends notice that Gishiro died just when Yuki started trying to find him, three years before.

A man who saw her attack the grave, a reporter named Ryūrei Ashio, follows Yuki. He questions her past. Dōkai tells him her story. Ashio writes and sells the story (which, on the screen, is told using frames from the original comic). Dōkai did this to get Kitahama Okono to reveal herself. Okono sends men to kidnap Ashio. They torture him for Yuki’s location, but he refuses to tell them. Yuki enters the estate and kills several of Okono’s men. She enters the building and is fired upon by Okono. While Yuki fights and kills Okono’s men, Okono hangs herself. Yuki slices Okono in half before her heart can stop beating.

Yuki learns that Gishirō is still alive. She finds him at a masquerade ball and kills him, but the dead man is not really Gishirō. Ashio and Yuki find and follow the real Gishiro. Gishirō shoots Ashio. Wounded, Ashio stops him from shooting Yuki as she swings on a lamp between balconies. Yuki stabs through Ashio into Gishirō’s chest. She then cuts Gishirō’s throat, but as he dies he shoots her. He falls over a railing and onto the ground floor full of guests.

Yuki, wounded, stumbles outside. Kobue suddenly appears. She stabs Yuki then runs away. Yuki falls on her face. The film ends with Yuki opening her eyes the next morning.

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