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Illusion Of Blood
cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mariko Okada, Junko Ikeuchi, Mayumi Ozora, and Keiko Awaji

director: Shiro Toyoda

105 minutes (15) 1965
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Shadow Warrior DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Rob Marshall
"There's no greater villain than one who's never been in love." Tamiya (Tatsuya Nakadai) is an embittered ronin - a poor masterless samurai, without a job or prospects. He's ambitious and wants to work for a local lord but he can't even get arrested. When his wife Oiwa (Mariko Okada) falls ill, Tamiya acquires medicine for her that turns out to be poison and she becomes hideously disfigured. When he finds Oiwa home alone with another man, Tamiya slays his wife in a frustrated rage, and foolishly gets his disreputable pal to help dispose of the body. However, Oiwa's sister discovers a familiar kimono and comb for sale, and she begins to suspect her brother-in-law's secret. Later, after Tamiya marries again, a hideous ghost starts to haunt him...
   This is a tragic romance with theatrical overtones (it's based on a 19th century play), dominated by the shocking appearances of a zombified spectre from so far beyond the grave you don't wanna know about it! Betrayed by his spouse, driven to murder twice, Tamiya is dragged inexorably towards insanity by supernatural events that defy all logic but seem driven by a sense of poetic justice. Some of the spooky and ghoulish manifestations are downright eerie: an arm emerges from a laundry barrel, corpses nailed to a door pop out of the river, the grotesque face of Oiwa turning for effect in flickering candlelight - are imaginatively designed and superbly chilling, and filmed with an artistry that puts the crude tactics of today's movie scaremongers to shame.
   Despite lines of unintentionally funny dialogue ("Rats! How dare you nibble my recommendation?" as Tamiya finds vermin chewing up an introductory letter to a potential employer), Illusion Of Blood is an outstanding Japanese fantasy drama on a par with classics Kwaidan (1964), Ugetsu (1953), and Onibaba (aka: The Hole, 1964).
   DVD extras: text biographies, photo and artwork galleries, and label previews.