Not to be confused with ZATOICHI'S
FLASHING SWORD. Seriously, did the people who retitled these
films for American audiences have any imagination?
At least the title
to do with the
movie. Picking up a theme from ZATOICHI'S VENGEANCE, our
masseuse learns something about his sword that forces him to give it
up. What will his life be like without his most trusted
"friend"? As it so happens, life is not all that bad, at
least for a while. But will the usual circumstances beyond
control force Ichi back into his hacking and slashing ways?
Considering that the series went on for eleven more films, you should
leaning toward "yes".
Because of Plot Point
A (no sword),
there is not a lot of swordplay until the end, but the
film is still lots of fun. It begins with Ichi hitching a
ride with a traveling show, and a beautiful young woman singing him a
song. Typical of the increasingly looser ends found in these
films, after this initial introduction, neither the maiden nor the
traveling show itself features much in the overall plot. When
Ichi reaches town, he meets the usual array of people who are under the
thumb of a local crime boss, but this time, Ichi must be careful, as
all he has is a bamboo stick as a cane. Nonetheless, he does
pretty well with it, fending off the inevitable attacks from gang
You haven't lived, I mean really lived fully and deeply in this ever-changing world in which we live in, until you've seen Shintaro Katsu perform his intentionally campy duck song, complete with goofy choreography, which rivals Adam West's "Batusi" in silliness. It occurs in the film's funniest scene, in which Ichi, knowing he has the upper hand on the crime boss, makes a small social gathering uncomfortable for everybody. Entertaining himself more than anybody else, Ichi performs his song and dance (to stunned silence) and follows up by "accidentally" mooning his hostess and spilling sake all over the boss's lap.
Throw in some gambling scenes (always surefire highlights), an above-average cast, and a nifty little twist concerning Ichi's sword during the requisite mass-slaughter denouement, and you've got yet another winner in this inexhaustibly fun series. in fact, ZATOICHI'S CANE SWORD is my favorite Ichi film. - JB