This Months Screening

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman

zatoichi the blind swordsman film poster
All good things must come to an end. That was the case with the original Zatoichi series, which began way back in 1962 with ‘The Tale of Zatoichi’ and twenty five sequels later ended with this hugely entertaining 1989 finale.

As with any long enduring film series, the ingredients to Zatoichi are a boil in the bag process. Each film seems to have an obligatory gambling scene or Zatoichi defending a town from yakuza, as well as buckets of gory violence. Essentially, this final film takes the best moments from previous films, recycles them and plays like a 'greatest hits' homage.



Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman picks up the pieces after a sixteen year hiatus and sees Zatoichi (or Ichi as he is called) mixed up with a number of political prisoners. This stint inside the clink does not last long and before you know it, Zatoichi is back in business. It is not long before Zatoichi meets up with an old friend and… two rival yakuza gangs trying to muscle each other out of a local town!

Long time star of the series and director, Shintaro Katsu, cast his eldest son, Ryútaró Gan, as Boss Goemon, leader of one of the aforementioned gangs. The story kicks off into gear once Ichi scoops a huge taking inside a gambling house. Feeling insulted to the highest degree, Goemon dispatches his henchmen to ambush Zatoichi and his winnings. Big mistake…

As with many of the Zatoichi films, the blood letting is spectacular, the humour as oddball as ever, but as this is the final movie of the original series ('Beat' Takeshi Kitano's superb 2003 revival and 2010’s ‘Zatoichi: The Last’ generally do not count as cannon) it also conveys a sense of unexpected pathos, something many aging western action icons have struggled to satisfactorily address in more audience friendly mainstream cinema.

Speaking of western action, if you are unfamiliar with Zatoichi, a good aperitif for the series would be the entertaining ‘Blind Fury’ starring Grindhouse Dublin favourite Rutger Hauer. It recycles plot elements of ‘Zatoichi Challenged’, much like ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ did with Kurosawa's ‘Yojimbo’, the latter character who would go on to encounter Zatoichi in 1970’s ‘Zatoichi meets Yojimbo’! In spite of this being the closing chapter to a long running series, Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman can still be viewed as a standalone feature. In much the same way there is not much linear continuity to the Godzilla series, Zatoichi works similarly. Basically the film is a delight for fans and newcomers alike and is arguably one of the best in the entire series. Well worth checking out.

Starring: Shintarô Katsu, Kanako Higuchi,Takanori Jinnai,Ryûtarô Gan, Norihei Miki
Directed by: Shintarô Katsu
Review by: Conor Flynn Starring: Shintarô Katsu, Kanako Higuchi,Takanori Jinnai,Ryûtarô Gan, Norihei Miki
Director: Shintarô Katsu
Screenplay by: Tatsumi Ichiyama, Shintarô Katsu, Tsutomu Nakamura
Date released: U.K. 14 May 2007 DVD
Genre: Action
Duration: 116 min
Official URL: N/A
Reviewed by: Conor Flynn