PSYCHOTRONIC PERSONAS: MEIKO KAJII

I have only actually seen the diminutive but powerful Meiko Kaji in a couple films but am in the process of correcting that. I saw her in three of the four Female Scorpion films she starred in and the second of the Lady Snowblood movies that served as a (not “the”) inspiration for the Quentin Taratino Kill Bill films. She is my favorite of the Pinky Violence Big Four (Meiko Kaji, Ike Reiko, Oshida Reiko and Sugimoto Riki) but maybe only because I have seen her in more films than the others. I am trying to get as many of these films as I can and see if that opinion changes later. I selected her to begin this new series/category called Psychotronic Personas since I had just seen Lady Snowblood II and got a collection of 60’s/70’s Japanese film music that featured her among the various artists. I also have a collection featuring Ike Reiko and I seem to prefer the recordings I have of Meiko Kaji because all the tracks on the Ike Reiko album have some orgasmic moaning sounds in the background ground on every track. While cool for one track it wore thin after five or six. And that is one of the reasons I would prefer Kaji over someone like Ike Reiko whose delinquent films roles blurred over into her private life resulting in runs with the law eventually. Kaji showed some restraint and prudence in her judgments and performances that I admire.

One such judgment I and fans look up to was her decision to leave Nikkatsu studios in about 1971 when the company began to move in the direction of its softcore Pinku/Roman Porno films for which it is often most remembered for. Kaji decided her career direction laid more with Pinky Violence films which emphasized violence and revenge oriented plots over gratuitous sex. She certainly owed Nikkatsu some gratitude for helping her land some starring roles in the Stray Cat Rock (Alley Cat Rock) series with director Yasuharu Hasebe as well as  her famous female Zatoichi type role in Blind Woman’s Curse (which I just recalled I have seen as well but need a rewatch) but she did not want to become simply another Pink Eiga star and left for a lucrative stint at Toei Pictures. There she created some of her most memorable roles. First in the Sasori (scorpion) series as a female convict then in her Lady Snowblood and Wandering Ginza Butterfly films. She stopped the Sasori series after four films because she was burned out with the role and did not like Toei replacing the series director Shunya Ito with her old Nikattsu director Yasuharu Hasebe. She exudes a strong screen presence that belays her small stature. She did not take her clothes off (though there is a moment of brief nudity in the first Scorpion Convict film) and her characters had an almost samurai sense of code and honor. Her characters were often blood covered and with a fixed and firm stare that was Dirty Harry like in nature.



Like many Japanese actors and actresses her acting career paralleled a successful singing career. I have uploaded three sample songs of her singing style. (NOTE: Those songs are temporarily unavailable and I will try to get them up soon.) Two of the songs are from the Kill Bill soundtracks and the third is from a collection I have here of Japanese film songs. After the 80’s Kaji’s career shifted to television roles and she has experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity thanks to the Tarantino films and the availability of her old Nikattsu and Toei films on DVD. She created some dark and strong female characters who seemed more concerned with revenge and justice than pleasures of the flesh. She was beautiful and alluring but somehow one does not see her as a sex object. She is sexy but aloof and seemingly uninterested in romance. Like a true  lone wolf.
.

Okay, I am not going to go through the hassle of uploading then embedding three songs, so here is one sample of a Meiko Kajii ballad from Blossoming Night Dreams, a movie much wilder than its title implies.

http://www.google.com/reader/ui/3523697345-audio-player.swf
BLOSSOMING NIGHT DREAMS TITLE SONG

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4 Responses to “PSYCHOTRONIC PERSONAS: MEIKO KAJII”

  1. You HAVE to see the first LADY SNOWBLOOD movie. I haven't seen the second, but based on what I've heard it pales in comparison to the first, and a lot of Tarantino's inspirations for KILL BILL are quite obvious when you watch it. I'm not a huge Meiko Kaji fan, but I really like her presence in what I've seen her in thus far.

  2. I now have the 1st Lady Snowblood and the Wandering Butterfly films. I burned them to disk and simply have to locate them which is easier said than done in this mess. Yea, I would not say I am some rabid fan of Meiko Kajii but she stacks up well against some of her competition in these films.

  3. She can scowl like nobody's business.

  4. Yea, she could at that!

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