Movie Review

THE GHOST OF YOTSUYA 1969

AKA: YOTSUYA KAIDAN: OIWA NO BOREI

This rare DAIEI horror gem utilizes the legendary Yotsuya Kaidan storyline. This version is by director KAZUO MORI (aka: ISSEI MORI) who is best known for the excellent ZATOICHI series of films. The complicated storyline takes place around 1786 and concerns the life of a masterless samurai, Iemon (KEI SATO) who is unhappy in marriage with his ill wife Oiwa (KAZUKO INENO) and hates working for a living doing assembly piecework for umbrellas. After he hires thugs to be part of an elaborate scheme to attack the young and rich Oume (CHIKAKO MASAGO), Iemon battles them off (all planned of course) so that he appears to be a superior swordsman. In gratitude, Oume (and her caretaker) are grateful... and Iemon concocts a plan for an arranged and profitable marriage to this rich young lady so that he can live the life he desires. Later, Iemon receives a gift of "medicine" from the caretaker to give to his sick wife Oiwa. A few days later, the caretaker drops by to visit, and informs Iemon that the "medicine" is poison and is for the purpose of killing Oiwa.

This was not Iemon's original plan, as he had no idea that the elixir was poison. Iemon had already engaged the half-blind masseur Takuetsu (SONOSUKE SAWAMURA), who has a crush on Oiwa... to seduce and rape her, so that he can get a divorce or have her killed for adultery. But now Iemon has a new plan, and begins giving Oiwa the medicine, which slowly begins to poison and disfigure Oiwa's face. Although Oiwa's health continues to deteriorate, it isn't fast enough for Iemon. This is when he informs the blind Takuetsu to murder his wife... not just assault her. While visiting, the masseur tries to have sex with Oiwa, and she fends off his advances with a knife, stabbing a wall instead. Takuetsu, freaking out after seeing her disfigured face, tells Oiwa of her husband's horrific plan. Oiwa is infuriated and wants revenge on her husband and prepares herself to find him. Takuetsu watches her getting ready in horror as she combs out her hair... which creates large bald patches on her scalp... while she kneels weeping and looking at her deformed face in the mirror. Oiwa sits up abruptly and begins to walk, only to stumble across the floor and into the knife stuck in the wall, slitting her own throat. Thus, Oiwa's curse comes into full effect... to exact revenge on all the people responsible for her disfigurement and death... with the curse being strongest upon Iemon. There are tons more plot twists and characters involved in this unique telling of the Ghost of Yotsuya, especially when Iemon's insanity begins to take hold. Watch for glamour girl (aka: the snake woman) IKUKO MOURI who has a small part in this horror gem as well. A definite Z-Grade Japanese horror gem to check out...