About Meiko Kaji:
Japanese movie stars don't get much more iconic than actress Meiko Kaji. Born as Masako Ota in Tokyo in 1947, Kaji's history is sadly one of being continually misunderstood by the studios which employed her. Originally groomed as a matinee idol at Nikkatsu in the ’60s, she instead found fame there as the leader of a hard-boiled girl gang, riding motorcycles and brawling tooth-and-nail with both men and women. She moved over to Toei in the early ’70s, again miscast as a replacement for recently-retired period film star Junko Fuji, who had embodied a different kind of beauty and strength throughout the '60s. Before long, however, Kaji once again found her place as an outlaw character, this time as a nearly-silent, icily violent female prisoner who unwillingly becomes the leader of a rebellion against the patriarchy. Having found fame, Kaji once again defied industry expectations and passed up further star turns in favor of working with talented filmmakers in supporting roles, preferring to take her work as an actor more seriously, as well as devote much of her time to her own private life. She remains an inimitable presence in Japanese cinema, and an icon who continues to inspire filmmakers and audiences around the world.
A Note on Sequels:
In the world of Japanese genre filmmaking—samurai and yakuza films, exploitation movies, horror films—sequels were very rarely linked to each other by a continuing storyline. The first Lady Snowblood film even ends in the death of its main character, yet because the film was a financial success, Meiko Kaji returned from the dead for the sequel. The Scorpion films feature a continuing character—like the manga which inspired them—but only the first two films are linked by a continuous storyline. While all of the films in this program are later episodes in popular series, viewers needn't be worried if they haven't seen the original entries; all the films stand on their own.
—Marc Walkow, Guest Curator
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