It appears that writings of the early Meiji era (around 1870s) of Japan were littered with popularised tales of dokufu or “poison women”; women who were violent criminals, thieves and murderers. A lot of the tales were based on real people and then the tales were mainly exaggerated through popular fiction, kabuki theatre and much later in films.
One of the most famous was Takahashi Oden who, in real life, was known to have poisoned her leprosy-riddled husband and stabbed a businessman. She was tried and executed by beheading in 1879.
“Wicked Woman” (aka Poison Woman Takahashi Oden) was made in 1958, directed by Nobuo Nakagawa who is mostly known for his ghost and horror movies, even being cited by Hideo Nakata as the main influence on his film Ringu and modern “J-horror” in general. The film procures the use of Takahashi Oden as its main character and portrays her as a very manipulative and brutal woman, but one also driven by her compassion for her daughter who lives with her abusive father and is completely unaware of her mother’s existence.
The film itself is quite thematically focussed but feels a little bogged down by its heavy melodramatic nature. Despite the morality tale, the main actress, Kazuko Wakasugi, effects a brilliant performance that feels very real. The cinematography successfully conveys the themes within the film though minor stylistic inconsistencies rear its head in places. The story really moves along with an exciting pace and is nicely succinct (running at just 74 mins) so was enjoyable to watch. Hopefully more of these kind of films can get unearthed over time for the rest of the world to see.