THE TALE OF ZATOICHI CONTINUES

(Aka: The Return of Master Ichi; Zatoichi 2)
(Japanese Title: Zoku Zatoichi Monogartari)

(1962 - Japan)
With Shintaro Katsu, Yoshie Mizutani, Masayo Banri, Tomisaburo Wakayama
Directed by
Kazuo Mori
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

A beautiful day for a swordfight here at Mass Slaughter Fields     Though beautifully filmed and featuring yet another quality performance by Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi the Blind Masseuse and Master Swordsman, THE TALE OF ZATOICHI CONTINUES feels like a quick, cheap sequel made to cash in on the success of the first film. The story takes place a year after TALE OF ZATOICHI, as a wandering Ichi heads back to the town of the first film to pay respects to the samurai he befriended and inevitably killed in battle.  When he gets there, he finds gangsters still holding grudges, leading to the mass-slaughter of most of them. But the film takes a half an hour to get Ichi back to that town, and features much exposition and internal Ichi monologuing for those in the audience who hadn't seen the first film.

    There is a second story about Ichi and a mysterious crippled man (played by Katsu's brother Tomasiburo Wakayama) who both loved the same woman years ago.  After 72 minutes of these dueling plots, neither one of which is terribly involving, the film ends.  When I say "the film ends", I mean that seconds after Ichi finishes off one final bad guy, the "the end" sign comes up so abruptly, you may think that the real end of the film was damaged long ago and lost forever.  The poor guy slashed by Ichi's sword doesn't even get a chance to fall down before the film is rushing you out of the theater.

     Disappointing as it seems today after the simple beauty of TALE OF ZATOICHI, THE TALE OF ZATOICHI CONTINUES was obviously enough of a hit in Japan to spark roughly two dozen more sequels over the next decade.  The series would get much better after this, when the makers realized the potential of the character and the need for a proper story in each new film that allowed the peculiar talents of both Zatoichi and the man who played him to shine.  - JB

Zatoichi: Blind Swordsman     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


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