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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DVD Review: WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY 2: SHE CAT-GAMBLER (1972)


FILM:
The Ginza Butterfly Nami (Meiko Kaji, returning to her role from the original) is back in a new story that finds her on the hunt for Hoshiden, the man who killed her gambler father when she was only a child. Arriving in Tokyo, Nami takes a job as a hostess in a swank Ginza club, all the while combing the back-alleys and gambling dens for news of Hoshiden’s whereabouts. Local street entrepreneur Ryuji (Sonny Chiba) joins her in the search, and eventually in a bloody raid on the yakuza headquarters where all Hell breaks loose.

After watching the first GINZA picture, I adjusted my expectations for the second film accordingly. Having expected a full throttle Pinky feature in the first film, and being sadly disappointed, I fully expected the exploitive Pinky Violence elements to have no apparent stamp here in the second film.

WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY 2: SHE CAT-GAMBLER, unlike its predecessor, is a feature that really stands out. Although, not as hard-hitting, brutal, or frenetic as other Japanese exploitation films, SHE CAT-GAMBLER is able to develop a revenge story that is very interesting, while leading the picture to a final reel that sensationally makes the entire film worthwhile. The narrative slowly builds the characters towards a final showdown that is brilliantly stylish, bloody, and relentlessly gripping.

Although veterans Sonny Chiba and Meiko Kaji are fantastic individually, together they fizzle. The chemistry between the two are brilliant onscreen. They really work well together, allowing Japanese fans to stare at awe as these two titans of Japanese pop cinema perform brilliantly. In the final action piece where Kaji and Chiba slash through their enemies, the electricity sparking off the screen is something truly special.

Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi seems to understand which genre GINZA is aiming for, and adjusts the perspective of the sequel accordingly. In this somewhat darker picture, women are furiously beaten as well as brutally crushed with bamboo sticks. These dark elements allow SHE CAT-GAMBLER to stand much higher than its lighter counterpart part, and breathe a far more memorable tale.

Although like the first film, SHE CAT-GAMBLER does suffer from some slow pacing mid-way through. Some of the secondary characters do exhibit some very cliché and frustratingly comedic characteristics. Also as the film unfolds, some the plot developments do end up being very predictable. But fortunately, these moments do not appear often and really don’t affect the basic enjoyment of the film.

WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY 2: SHE CAT-GAMBLER is a sequel that is stronger than its predecessor in almost every aspect. With a stronger cast, superior story, and a fantastically wicked final reel, SHE CAT-GAMBLER ranks a very respectable Japanese exploitation entry.
7/10

VIDEO:
Synapse does an incredible job yet again on this release. Presented in an anamorphic 2:35:1 pristine print, SHE CAT-GAMBLER is projected flawlessly with no proper scratches, marks, or damage apparent.
9/10

SOUND:
SHE CAT-GAMBLER is presented in a Japanese Mono track with removable English subtitles. No sound glitches, significant hisses or muffles appear present on the track. The English subtitles are presented with absolutely no grammerical mistakes and do a really fantastic job in translating the film to the Engish speaking audience.
8/10

EXTRAS:
Yet again, Synapse pulls all the stops on the extras departments.

Chris D. provides a yet another insightful commentary track for Synapse. Chris D. covers a variety of fascinating subjects throughout film, including the career of Sonny Chiba, the state of the industry at the time, and how these films affected the cultrual society. He is able to put the film in an historical context, allowing the film to be seen on a more realistic note.

Next up, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi to provide another in-depth interview, this time for his sequel. The subjects covered in this portion include his relationship with Chiba, his sentiments on directing the actors, his relationship with Toei, and his opinion on directing various other Japanese projects. This is another brilliant extra that really gives the film depth, Yamaguchi is able to give the viewer totally different perspective on the film, allowing the audience to fully appreciate the project as whole.

The final interview on the disc concerns Pinky expert J-Taro Sugisaku. In this feature, J-Taro Sugisaku constructs a 30 minute Meiko Kaji appreciation essay. Sugisaku does a really fine job assessing Kaji qualities and abilities as an actress and how she is seen both inside and outside her native country. It’s very informative and definitely a must view for fans interested in learning more about the incredible Meiko Kaji.

Like its first counterpart, the final extras for SHE CAT-GAMBLER contain both theatrical trailers, as well as a reversible DVD cover which includes the much superior Japanese artwork.
8/10

OVERALL:
WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY 2: SHE CAT-GAMBLER is fine Japanese film that intertwines its exploitation elements beautifully. It’s bloody, lightly dark, and definitely worthwhile. Synapse have done an incredible job on this project, and should fully commended in putting together a release that truly encompasses what a proper DVD should be.
8.5/10
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1 comment:

THE MAESTRO said...

saw this great actioner yesterday!Kaji and Chiba make a dynamic duel! The raid in the yakuza's den was epic!I love Kaji!
check out my blog as well!
http://thespidermust.blogspot.com/