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Legends of the Poisonous Seductress - Okatsu the Fugitive





Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: February 2, 2008

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 11/13/2007
MSRP: $24.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
1969


The wind blows...
A desperado blowing in the wind...
She’s from hell...
She’s Okatsu the Killer...
Where the wind blows...
She will go...
A woman passes through the theater of life...
She passes through...


The Story

inline ImageWe open in the Japanese city of Edo, circa the 18th century. A government official named Makabe (Akitake Kono) is laboring away at a document. As we learn, the sale and production of tobacco has been outlawed, and a thriving black market exists for its cultivation. The document that Makabe is writing is an official indictment against the men who are operating the ring, particularly a government official named Shimadaya and a businessman named Judayu who heads a company called the Numata Group. Because Makabe and Judayu were childhood friends, Makabe goes to him and warns him that he knows what he’s up to, but if he stops dealing in contraband he won’t file the indictment. Judayu reacts violently and takes Makabe prisoner.

inline ImageUnfortunately for Judayu, Makabe doesn’t have the indictment on his person, and in order to prevent it from possibly being discovered they need to find and destroy it. Makabe is water boarded, but when that fails to make him talk Judayu has his wife and his beautiful daughter Okatsu (Junko Miyazono) brought before him. The wife is put in a cell with criminals who try to rape her, and Judayu threatens to violate Okatsu personally. However, Okatsu is a skilled swordfighter and she is able to grab a blade from a guard. Holding Judayu and his men at bay, she is able to free her father long enough for him to whisper to her where he hid the indictment. Unable to keep the guards at bay any longer, Makabe kills his wife and then himself in order to spare themselves from any more torture, and Okatsu is knocked unconscious.

inline ImageJudayu still needs to know where the indictment is, but instead of holding Okatsu he releases her. However, he has a plan to get the information he needs. Before his death, Makabe had arranged for Okatsu to marry a lowly government official named Shinzaburo (Yataro Kitagami) who had a reputation for honesty. After Okatsu is released the two wed, but as it turns out Shinzaburo’s honesty is just an act to cover his corrupt dealings. Knowing this, Judayu makes him an offer he can’t refuse – wealth and promotion, if only he can get the document. Not realizing her husband’s deception, Okatsu sets off by herself on a mission to avenge her parents and kill Judayu, not knowing that her greatest danger might be that from the man she trusts and loves...

inline ImageOkatsu the Fugitive brings Toei Studios’ Legends of the Poisonous Seductress trilogy to a mediocre and disappointing ending. Although nothing about the movie is really that bad, when compared to the two previous entries in the series the film is disappointing and repetitive. Like each of the two productions before it, the movie is generally better when enjoyed as a stand-alone feature and not a part of a series.

inline ImageIn conceiving the second film in the trilogy, Quick-Draw Okatsu, Toei made the questionable decision of scrapping the main character from the first film and creating a new one for the same actress. The gamble mostly paid off, but unfortunately the decision to create yet another new lead for Okatsu the Fugitive leads to problems.

The fundamental issue is that there is just too little of a difference between the stories and main characters of the second and third film. In the movie that began the trilogy, Female Demon Ohyaku, Junko Miyazono played a lower class character who was not much more respectable than the street women selling their bodies for cash, while in the second film she played a girl with a different name from a respectable, middle class background. The character differences helped lend some needed distinction to the two productions, despite the fact that there were many plot similarities. However, in this third film Miyazono plays a character with not only with the same first name as the second film, but also with the same family name even. Whereas her characters in the first and second film had markedly different personalities, here there is virtually no difference between the old Okatsu and the new Okatsu. So what was the point of making her a new character?

inline ImageThe choice of a new character is even more disappointing when we consider that Quick-Draw Okatsu not only left room open for a sequel, but actively hinted that there would be one when, at the end, the bounty hunter who has been pursuing Okatsu tells her that he is letting her go for the moment because the reward offered for her will surely go up if he lets her be a fugitive for a while longer. Sadly, we never see him again. Instead, Okatsu the Fugitive rehashes the revenge plotline that we saw in the first two films. The Legends of the Poisonous Seductress movies generate their own clichés very quickly.

inline ImageDespite being the weakest of the trilogy the movie ultimately still entertains most of the time. Though seemingly less prepared than he was in Quick-Draw Okatsu (it’s very likely that his budget was lower here), director Nabuo Nakagawa still retains firm control of the production. At times the movie is dragged down by its own clichés, while at other times it’s the pace that drags, but in its very best moments it’s still capable of capturing the suspense and excitement of the previous films. It’s not a bad movie, but it just can’t match the impact of the productions that came before it, and the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress trilogy ends on a low note because of it.

Image Quality

inline Image Okatsu the Fugitive is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is enhanced for 16x9 displays. Overall this is quite a good transfer, with a clear and finely detailed image that features fantastic color reproduction. Aside from a few noticeable vertical lines there is practically nothing in the way of print damage. Even small specks and scratches are hard to spot. The only notable flaw in the transfer is the poor level of shadow detail in many interior scenes, particularly those where the lighting is dim. Blacks looks crushed and fine detail is quite lacking.

Sound

The film’s original Japanese language soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono. There are no problems here. If anything, this is the best sounding of the three Legends of the Poisonous Seductress DVDs, with clean and clear reproduction of sound effects, music and dialogue, and almost no background noise.

Supplemental Material

inline ImagePerhaps an indication of the film’s mediocrity, this time around we don’t get an audio commentary from Chris Desjardins, which is too bad, as I had mostly enjoyed his other commentaries. Instead we just get trailers for all three films, a Nabuo Nakagawa biography, a still gallery of Nakagawa posters and liner notes by Desjardins that are mostly copied from his notes on the other releases.


Final Thoughts

This release concludes the Legends of the Poisonous Seductress series. Like the movie itself, this DVD is a bit of a letdown compared to what came before thanks to the absence of an audio commentary, but the nice picture and sound quality ensure that this release is still a good enough value for fans of Japanese exploitation cinema.

Rating

Movie – B-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – B
Supplements – C

Technical Info.
  • Running Time – 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Color
  • Chapter Stops
  • Japanese 2.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc

Supplements
  • Trailers
  • Nobuo Nakagawa poster gallery
  • Nobuo Nakagawa biography
  • Liner notes

Other Pictures

 


Last edited by Jeremy; 11-18-2008 at 12:01 AM..
 

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