20 September 2018 | jrd_73
Tenth Entry Goes Into Yojimbo Territory
Hell Is a Woman, the tenth installment in the series, is like the previous entry, above average samurai film entertainment. The film is entertaining throughout but has in particular one amazing sequence.
The plot is an interesting variation on Yojimbo. Two retainers are fighting over the leadership of a clan as their leader lies ill. Ronin flood the area looking to make money by being hired by one side or the other. Nemuri wants nothing to do with either side. Both confirm his belief in the self serving quality of those who hide behind phrases like "for the good of the clan." Rather, Nemuri is interested in keeping a promise to a traveling performer, a young woman, who he unintentionally set up to be killed through a thoughtless gesture, a joke really. The woman has a brother seeking vengeance on their father. Nemuri is trying to keep son from murdering father, but how can he find the brother with all the ronin in the area?
The Sleepy Eyes of Death films always include a rival swordsman. In the case of Hell Is a Woman, there are two, both memorable. One is young, stoic, and mysterious. The other is older, boisterous, and something of a drunk. Both are expert killers. The latter is scheming for a big pay day and Nemuri is going to help him get it. As Nemuri's infamy rises with the people he kills, the more money the leaders are paying to have him killed. Both leaders believe Nemuri has joined the other side and want him dead. In fact, Nemuri belongs to neither group. Not even the honest princess who wants to be by her father's side can raise much sympathy for Nemuri. He avoids all clan skulduggery (as the subtitles put it).
Hell Is a Woman is quickly paced, has some good swordplay, enough complications to keep the viewer more than interested, and some nice photography. In fact, one of the praiseworthy traits of all of the Sleeping Eyes of Death films is their professionalism. The world they create, grim as it may be, looks aesthetically inviting. Finally, Hell Is a Woman has a scene that is one of the best in the entire series. It takes place in dark woods at night inside of a lone shack that houses an old woman and a blind woman. The mysterious mood conjured up feels like it belongs in a horror film. The color photography is reminiscent of Mario Bava's Black Sabbath. One expects the old woman's head to fly off and attack Nemuri. It doesn't, but something else happens almost as thrilling. The end result is an eerie standalone sequence that the viewer remembers long after the film is over.