Thursday, August 18, 2011


According to a song on The Smiths’ first album, pretty girls make graves.

‘Lady Death’ is a zestfully cynical anime about a pretty girl (with anime-typical exaggerated décolletage) who makes a fuckload of graves. Difference being, she makes them in hell for a bunch of bad dudes who are not already dead, but damned and unrepentant with it.

The story starts in fifteenth century Sweden where nobleman Mattias is subjugating the serfs, pressganging the able-bodied peasantry into his army, defying the clergy and generally trampling down anyone who gets in his way. He treats his wife as badly as everyone else and keeps his daughter, Hope, confined to the ancestral castle. When Hope plays hooky to hang out with sensitive student Nicolo, Mattias takes umbrage, enslaves Nicolo and promises Hope an unpleasant punishment.

Unless you’ve had your morality surgically removed, you’re probably thinking by now that this Mattias geezer is basically a bastard. And you’d be wrong. He’s worse. Hope, sneaking about the castle by candlelight, discovers that her dastardly daddy is basically the devil incarnate. At this point, led by a priest who can stand Mattias’ tyranny no longer, a mob of angry villagers lay siege to the castle. Mattias transforms into Satan, destroys the castle in a fireburst and decamps to hell.

Only Hope survives, which the clergy interpret as a sign of witchcraft and have her arrested. Chained up in a dungeon, a harlequin figure visits her (an avatar of Mattias/Satan) and promises her reconciliation with Nicolo in hell if she pledges herself to the evil one. She rejects the offer. When the church decide to burn her at the stake, however, she takes the pledge out of desperation. Finding herself in hell, Hope discovers that the harlequin is basically a lying bastard and he delights in tormenting her for a while. Eventually summoned before Satan, she finds her dear ol’ pa keeping the company of lizard-tongued concubines who put on lesbian floor shows for his gratification.

This is not the kind of behaviour that I imagine anyone wants to see their dad indulging in. An altercation breaks out and Hope finds herself banished to the furthest reaches of hell. It’s here that she meets the similarly exiled weapon-maker Cremator, who also has a score to settle with Satan. Cremator trains Hope, who morphs from the flaxen haired, good natured and improbably large-bosomed Swedish maiden to the pale-skinned, white-haired, vengefully-inclined and improbably large-bosomed ass-kicking hardcore bitch Lady Death.

Long and short of it, Lady Death puts together a quite literal army of the damned and sets out to fuck Satan’s shit up. While dressed in the kind of nothing-to-the-imagination outfit that makes Vampirella and Red Sonja look like paragons of propriety. All of which I fully and wholeheartedly respect.

Adapted from the Chaos Comics series originally authored by Brian Pulido and illustrated by Steven Hughes, but making some fairly broad departures from the mythology of the comics, ‘Lady Death’ clocks in at a brief 75 minutes and is that rarest of beasts – a movie that could have done with being longer. It fair rushes through the original story section, then hurls itself into the Lady-Death-takes-on-hell-and-hell-gets-scared part of the plot in equally propulsive fashion. Hope’s transformation into Lady Death is dealt with in a series of dissolves lasting mere seconds, and it’s not long after that that our lass has thieved a sword of indestructible power and is offering Satan to come and get some if he thinks he’s hard enough.

The old saw has it that less is more. In the case of ‘Lady Death’ – which, in its present form, is a really terrific outline for a movie – more would have been more. Hell, yeah.

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