Pushed to the west
Review Date: January 26, 2008
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 11/13/2007
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Drifting to the east
Night after night
The fallen leaf pursues
The end of the journey
For the woman of two names
Plucking the strings of this wretched world
With stubborn pride
With stubborn pride
We open in 18th century Japan as a family finds itself in crisis, with master swordsman Makabe (Kô Nishimura
) embroiled in a conflict with his son Rintaro (Masaomi Kondo
). Makabe is a respected teacher of samurai in training, but Rintaro is an embarrassment because of his clumsy and uncoordinated skills with the sword, especially in contrast with the expert skills of his beautiful daughter Okatsu (Junko Miyazono
). Rintaro would much rather be a farmer, and spends most of his time with his girlfriend Saki (Yukie Kagawa
As all this has been happening, Makabe has been under pressure from Shiozaki (Kenji Imai
), a sinister government official. Shiozaki has always been unhappy that he has been assigned to what amounts to a rural backwater territory that is essentially a career dead end, and he has been exploiting the area's peasants hoping to gain enough wealth to buy his way into a better job. He also wants Okatsu’s hand in marriage, but Makabe refuses to give her to him because he is so corrupt. But when Rintaro storms out of the house and his father tells him not to ever come back, Shiozaki strikes. Rintaro is persuaded to try his hand at gambling, but the game is rigged in the hope that he will run up a huge debt, forcing Makabe to give up his daughter as payment. However, when the rigging is abruptly revealed by a teenage runaway named Rui (Reiko Oshida
), Rintaro flees, stealing money from the gambling house while he's at it.
A mob of yakuza chases after Rintaro, but Okatsu gets to him first and instructs him and Saki to flee to the home of some family friends. She offers herself up as payment for Rintaro's crime, and then Makabe offers himself in her place. Shiozaki's henchmen begin torturing Makabe, and Okatsu gives herself to Shiozaki to save her father. But, after taking her, Shiozaki refuses to spare Makabe and the poor man is tortured until he dies. Shiozaki then has Okatsu locked up, hoping that she will decide to marry him. But Okatsu, determined to avenge her father's death, escapes. But it won't just Shiozaki she'll have to contend with, but also with a sinister bounty hunter (Tomisaburo Wakayama
) who is determined to bring in the handsome reward that is offered for her capture!
The second entry is Toei Studios' Legends of the Poisonous Seductress
series, Quick-Draw Okatsu
is in almost every way both different and superior to the first film in the series, Female Demon Ohyaku
. It is more colorful, more exciting and more fulfilling as a movie, even while laying the groundwork for the mediocre third entry that would end the series.
In a surprising move, the filmmakers chose not to continue the story of Ohyaku that was featured in the first film, instead bringing back Junko Miyazono as a whole new character with a whole new story (the script does, however, retain the origins of the main character from the first film by describing her as an orphan found by a river). The character of Okatsu is a little more endearing than that of Ohyaku, but in many ways it’s unfortunate that the filmmakers chose to create a whole new character, and it’s a decision that would come back to haunt them when they made the final film in the series, which also featured Miyazono as a different character. By choosing to use the same actress playing different roles, the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress
series lost the opportunity to stick with one main character and develop her to the fullest possible extent. Despite being rough around the edges, the character of Ohyaku was compelling enough that we as viewers became attached to her and cared about whether or not she got her revenge. By introducing the character of Okatsu, we are forced to start anew with a whole new story. By the end of Quick-Draw Okatsu
we have gotten ourselves attached to this new character, only to have to say goodbye and get acquainted with yet another new character for the final film.
The ultimate effect of all this is to make the series feel needlessly repetitive. Each film deals with the same basic story of the wronged girl taking violent revenge against the corrupt, evil men who wronged her. Any genre will develop its own clichés, but the Poisonous Seductress
series is filled not just with samurai clichés but also ones the series creates for itself. Not only do the main villains act alike, but the actors who play them are even similar in looks. Both the first and the second films feature scheming husband and wife couples who try to exploit the heroine, and in the third film their function is taken over by Miyazono’s husband and his mistress, who otherwise fulfill the same role.
It is for these reasons that Quick-Draw Okatsu
, like its predecessor, is much better when viewed as an individual movie and not an entry in a trilogy. As a stand-alone film, there is much to recommend to it, including finely choreographed action and excellent cinematography. Japanese cult director Nobuo Nakagawa handles the production with a sure hand, maintaining an excellent pace and filling the movie with striking compositions. Although not everything in the movie works, more than enough does for it to get a recommendation. If you only see one of the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress
films, this is the one you want to check out.
Letterboxed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this transfer of Quick-Draw Okatsu
looks almost dazzling. The image is sharp and excellently detailed, with beautifully saturated colors and above average shadow detail. Sourced from Toei's original vault materials, there is almost no print damage of any kind aside from some very noticeable vertical lines that pop up on a semi-regular basis.
The film's original Japanese soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono. For the most part the audio is very clean and acceptable, with great reproduction of dialogue and sound effects (especially of swords clanging together). There is some very slight hissing from time to time, but it's barely noticeable.
Japanese film expert Chris Desjardins returns for another feature length audio commentary. Unlike his somewhat droll and dry commentary on Female Demon Ohyaku
, here Desjardins is lively. He seems to know more about this film than the previous one, and about the people involved, and leaves far fewer quiet spots.
Also included are trailers for all three films, a gallery of Nobuo Nakagawa poster art, a text bio for Nakagawa, and liner notes by Desjardins that are mostly cribbed from his notes for Female Demon Ohyaku
is the best that the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress
series has to offer, and this DVD represents a fine piece of work from Synapse and the now deceased Panik House. Fans of Japanese exploitation films would do well to seek this release out.
Movie – B+
Image Quality – A-
Sound – B
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – 1 hour 29 minutes
- Chapter Stops
- Japanese 2.0 Mono
- English subtitles
- 1 Disc
- Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Chris Desjardins
- Nobuo Nakagawa poster gallery
- Nobuo Nakagawa biography
- Liner notes