Kwaidan (1964 anthology)

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Summary

"A collection of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes." THE BLACK HAIR: An impoverished samurai leaves his wife to marry into a family of wealth and power, and soon regrets his new, shallow, unpleasant wife, and longs to return to his first wife, at last divorcing his new wife and returning home; he finds his old home in disrepair, but is welcomed back by his first wife, whom he promises to never leave again. He awakens the next morning to find that not everything is as it seemed to be when he went to sleep.... THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW: A young woodcutter takes refuge from a snowstorm in a seemingly abandoned hut, and is visited by a ghostly snow-fairy, who spares the woodcutter from death, on condition that if he ever speaks of what happened, she will kill him. Horror ensues when the young woodcutter later meets a beautiful stranger, falls in love, and marries her, and reveals the snow-fairy's secret to his wife.... HOICHI THE EARLESS: A young bard-monk begins wandering into the Dreamlands at night to entertain a court of ghostly figures with his moving recitations of ancient tales and songs; the other monks, realizing that the young poet is in danger of being lost forever in dream, take precautions to protect the poet, covering him in protective spells; unfortunately, the monks have forgotten something important before the spirits come to try to take the poet away.... IN A CUP OF TEA: A writer of ghost stories begins seeing a strange and disturbing face reflected in his cup of tea, and begins writing a story about it, a story which is never finished....


Details

Scene from Kwaidan (1964 anthology) "Snow Lady" segment....
  • Release Date: 1964
  • Country/Language: Japan, Japanese
  • Genres/Technical: Horror, Fantasy, foreign language
  • Setting: Secrets of Japan, Feudal Japan
  • Runtime: 3 hr 03 min
  • Starring: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe
  • Director: Masaki Kobayashi
  • Writer: Yôko Mizuki (screenplay), Lafcadio Hearn (story anthology)
  • Producer/Production Co: Bungei, Ninjin Club, Toho Company
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • Wikipedia: (link), (book)
  • IMDB Page: (link)


Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: not rated (equivalent to a PG or PG-13 for Violence)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian)

I kind of imagine Lovecraft might have enjoyed this very weird and atmospheric movie: the stories are very similar in content and tone to those of Edgar Allan Poe, mixed with just a dash of a slightly more menacing version of Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany's Dreamlands in the form of eerie Japanese faerie lands, and in the film's otherwise bizarre and dream-like (and strangely Nicholas Roerich-like) landscapes.

"Lafcadio Hearn, strange, wandering, and exotic, departs still farther [than Rudyard Kipling] from the realm of the real; and with the supreme artistry of a sensitive poet weaves phantasies impossible to an author of the solid roast beef type. His... Kwaidan, written in Japan, crystallises with matchless skill and delicacy the eerie lore and whispered legends of that richly colourful nation...."
- H.P. Lovecraft, on the book the film was based on

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • (review needed)


Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

THE BLACK HAIR: An impoverished samurai leaves his wife to marry into a family of wealth and power, and soon regrets his new, shallow, unpleasant wife, and longs to return to his first wife, at last divorcing his new wife and returning home; he finds his old home in disrepair, but is welcomed back by his first wife, whom he promises to never leave again. He awakens the next morning to find that his wife is actually a rotting corpse; when he tries to flee the horror and leave his wife again, he is attacked by her black hair.... THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW: A young woodcutter takes refuge from a snowstorm in a seemingly abandoned hut, and is visited by a ghostly snow-fairy, who spares the woodcutter from death, on condition that if he ever speaks of what happened, she will kill him. Horror ensues when the young woodcutter later meets a beautiful stranger, falls in love, and marries her, and reveals the snow-fairy's secret to his wife: his wife is actually the snow-fairy in disguise, and the woodcutter's weakness forces her to kill him. HOICHI THE EARLESS: A young bard-monk begins wandering into the Dreamlands at night to entertain a court of ghostly figures with his moving recitations of ancient tales and songs; the other monks, realizing that the young poet is in danger of being lost forever in dream, take precautions to protect the poet, covering him in protective spells; unfortunately, the monks have forgotten something important before the spirits come to try to take the poet away: they forgot to write the protective spells on Hoichi's ears, which the spirits violently rip from Hoichi's head. IN A CUP OF TEA: A writer of ghost stories begins seeing a strange and disturbing face reflected in his cup of tea, and begins writing a story about it, a story which is never finished....


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Despite receiving much critical acclaim, this film received a rather cold reception from American audiences of the 1960s. Feedback from audiences suggested that they expected Japanese horror films to follow the model of Godzilla (1954 franchise) with fast-paced action, atomic monsters, and lots of special effects. They disliked the subtle spookiness, even-pacing, and creepy mood of this film which critics had praised.


Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes

  • Some of the tales, such as that of Hoichi the Earless, might suggest some alternate ways of handling the Dreamlands as a sinister, ghostly faerie world peopled with alien spirits that drain the life and sanity from those unfortunate poets and dreamers who have wandered there.