Battle Royale


I am quite convinced that whoever the woman is who wrote The Hunger Games saw Battle Royale before being ‘struck’ by the idea of Katniss Everdeen. The similarities are surely not just coincidental. Children battle to the death on an isolated island (or arena for THG) with the weapons they are given/can find.

It’s not exactly the same but the basic story is definitely very familiar, however, in Battle Royale the government chooses a naughty class of children to be the sacrifices. It’s not random death selection like in THG. From there on it’s pretty much the same. Lots of kids you don’t feel much for get chopped to bits by other kids you don’t feel much for and the kids you do get to know try to avoid killing as much as possible but have to do it to save themselves now and then.

There’s a little romance thrown in to Battle Royale in between the insane violence – not sure why, there’s nothing nice going on here and you know everyone’s going to die, right? As if you’d be thinking about boys/girls at this time. Although it’s a while since I was a teenager so maybe kids these days are all into bloody destruction matched with romance?

Battle Royale is really violent although not in a very realistic way. It’s a mean film though. There isn’t any weak conquering the mighty to be seen and those you think might make it through the battle to the death are just as likely not to.

BR is pretty gross and pretty wrong but I think it’s got quite a bit to say about authority and the role of government in making laws that are good for some but bad for others (really bad in BR) and usually bad for the people who have the least power to do anything about it. Maybe I’m reading a bit more into it than the writers intended but if I saw it at all I’m pretty sure it’s there – I’m not the best at finding hidden meaning in anything. At the same time it seems just as much an excuse to get Japanese girls to beat the shit out of each other while wearing school uniforms and still managing to be manga cute while, of course, the blood sprays in every direction.

There’s no happy ending here and a lot of the death is really quite gruesome. If you can handle splatter splash heads off kind of gore you might just like Battle Royale. Don’t watch it if you don’t like blood or if you don’t like to see the blatant meanness underlying the entire story or watching a film while knowing it’s never getting any better or that general feeling of dread when you know it’s all going to hell in a handbasket but you’re sitting in your living room and you probably don’t need to keep watching.

Also this film is in Japanese with subtitles. Also this film does not have Cary Grant in it, which is disappointing but something I’ll probably have to get used to when it comes to movie watching…


Lady Snowblood (1973)


You know that sound when you cut yourself and the blood gushes out like it’s coming from a tap? No? Well you will after watching Lady Snowblood. There is not one stabbing, slashing, swording, samurai-ing (definitely words) that doesn’t end with someone bleeding out like they’re more blood than anything else and they just turned on a geyser. Also, get used to it. There is a lot of stabbing, slashing, swording and samurai-ing in this film.

Lady Snowblood is a classic story of revenge but Lady Snowblood herself is one generation removed from the victim she is avenging – her mother. This makes for some intrigue as we travel with LSB as she tries to track down the bad doers with only their names to inform her. This is a grand old story and really quite clever in the use of flashbacks and backwards story telling so you are never sure of the whole story – just like LSB.

The film is pure Japanese fun times. Best to watch this in the original language I think. It would be too cheesy with American accents and mistimed mouthing.

Here’s something else I can tell you – Quentin Tarantino has seen this film. From the female protagonist warrior to the film’s ‘chapters’ this is Kill Bill circa 1973. There’s a mean all knowing warrior master too (yep, training montage!!). Even the over the top blood spurting is Tarantino-esque. I’m 100% sure QT watched it A LOT. So much so that he just had to go full homage on it. I can’t blame him. Lady Snowblood is all sorts of amazing.

If you like swording and samurai-ing and schlocky over the top action sequences with excessive blood spillage, well, this is the film for you. It’s no Kurosawa but it is all action and all samsploitation (samurai exploitation – new word).  Plus there are women taking the main stage instead of second fiddle. Classic exploitation film stuff – the one place you’ll find female main characters who can take care of themselves, although the women usually wear crazy not helpful to fight in outfits – which is also true of LSB although hers is a kimono. Of course you also see female main characters who can take care of themselves in  Tarantino films… that guy watched way too many exploitation films back in the day but oh how we love him for it.

Lady Snowblood is definitely one of the best samsploitation (if I use it enough it becomes a word right?) films I’ve seen. I can’t think of any others I’ve seen right now so I can’t compare but I’m sure it’s one of the best nonetheless. I would like to call it delightful but there was a touch too much blood and torture and stuff and swording for that. Plus blood geysers are not exactly a delight. They are, however, awesome. I shall therefore describe it as aweful, nope, too close to awful. Let’s try – delightsome. Yes, that.