Bakeneko: A Vengeful Spirit (Kaibyo noroi numa, 1968) is a noirish, black & white horror film, or kaiden-eiga, ghost movie, set about the same time as the Fall of Osaka Castle. It has an amazingly spooky soundtrack which would be great to have for sound at any Halloween party.
At Saga Castle in Hizan the vassal Nabeshima Naoshige (Ryohei Uchida) committed treason against his lord, Ryuzoji Takafusa, taking Saga Castle for himself. Lord Takafusa was walled up alive, & Lady Takafusa faced the humiliation of being forced to become the uncouth Nameshima's bride.
Lady Takafusa had a beloved cat, Tama, striped like a tiger. Clutching her pet close to herself, she strode out into a swamp, drowning herself with her companion cat at her side. The swamp became known thereafter as the Marsh of the Curse.
Jonosuke (Kotaro Satomi), a fine young samurai, is engaged to Yukiji who the usurper Nabeshima suddenly fancies. The lovers secretly meet & promise one another that whatever happens, they will stay together. Becoming accidentally lost on the Marsh of the Curse, a fiery will o' the wisp appears in mist, & Yukiji finds the cat Tama.
Jonosuke is soon being persecuted by Lord Nabeshima. He & Yukiji decide to flee the province & petition the Bakufu government for assistance. But spies watch them & they do not get far before Jonosuke is engaged in a duel with several of Nabeshima's retainers. He barely escapes. Yukiji is captured.
The rescue of Yukiji results in some excellent scenes of swordplay as the lovers strive to get beyond the provincial boundary. Alas, they end up fatally injured in the Marsh of the Curse.
Tama laps Yukiji's blood, a standard image in this kind of story, the blood-lapping cat becoming a supernatural harbinger of vengeance. By drinking a slain woman's blood, her spirit becomes bonded to that of the cat, which will thereafter be able to take on the aspect of the woman.
Saga Castle becomes horribly haunted with bloody deaths at every turn. A young vassal named Ukon (Bunta Sugawara) investigates the supernatural events, seeking a method of saving their lord from the ghostly woman.
Yukiji's ghost becomes creepier & creepier with transformation sequences & extreme violence. When Yukiji's sister Yuri commits suicide to avoid being forced to serve the disgusting lord, Tama laps her blood too, thus resurrecting Yuri's spirit to get closer & closer to the ultimate revenge.
Ukon's investigation causes him to fall under the influence of the cat-girl. He turns against Lord Nabeshima & though the vile lord successfully fends off the attacker & wins their duel, he has by then lost his last bit of sanity, & flees into the swamp pursued by ghosts & the vampiric cat.
The film is merely good of kind, an entertaining sample of a type of film that tended to be released around Bon Odori, as a summer "chiller."
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