The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch: SE
(Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, Courtney Gains, John Franklin, et al / 4K Ultra HD / R / (1984) 2021 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: What do you get when Noriaki Yuasa, director of Daiei Studios’ much-beloved Gamera series, makes a monochrome film adaptation of the works of horror manga pioneer Kazuo Umezu (The Drifting Classroom)?
The answer is 1968’s The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, a fantastically phantasmagorical slice of twisted tokusatsu terror ostensibly made for children that will irreparably traumatize any child that sees it!
Blu-ray Verdict: A young girl named Sayuri is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage – but trouble lurks within the walls of the large family home.
Her mother is an amnesiac after a car accident six months earlier, her sullen sister is confined to the attic and a young housemaid dies inexplicably of a heart attack just before Sayuri arrives - is it all connected to her father’s work studying venomous snakes?
And is the fanged, serpentine figure that haunts Sayuri’s dreams the same one spying on her through holes in the wall?
Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut and its home video premiere outside Japan, this rarely-screened, nightmarishly disorienting creepshow not only displays a seldom-seen side of kaiju auteur Yuasa, but its skillful blending of Umezu’s comics (published in English-language markets as Reptilia) arguably anticipates many of the trends seen in J-horror decades later.
Embracing the name of the film, director Noriaki Yuasa and cinematographer Akira Uehara cast a psychedelia atmosphere in sequences that explore Sayuri nightmares with trippy lights that gives sword fights with snakes and floating masked heads an incredibly off-beat vibe.
Whilst the title itself is pure pulp, Yuasa wisely limits kitsch for the dream sequences, to instead craft a psychological chiller, with Uehara silky black and white close-ups chipping at the fractured relationship between Sayuri and Tamimi.
Wrapping the terror round Sayuri with grueling smashes against her tiny hands, Yuasa and Uehara gives the family home a claustrophobic appearance with coiled tracking shots revealing Sayuri has nowhere to escape from the snake girl and the witch.
Putting two of Kazuo Kozu’s Manga’s together, Kimiyuki Hasegawa makes the matching up look seamless, with the stark screams of the dream sequences being painted with the vibrancy of Manga.
Unveiling in the beginning that the father is away abroad at work, Hasegawa makes the unsettling horror grounded, with excellently-written dialogue reflecting Tamimi’s psychodrama desire to be the lone sister to get attention from mum, and Sayuri’s nightmare of all the adults treating her concerns about Tamimi’s as fairy tale jealousy. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Brand new commentary by film historian David Kalat
This Charming Woman, a newly filmed interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli