ZATOICHI MEETS
THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN

(Aka: Zatoichi Meets His Match: Zatoichi 22)
(Japanese Title: Shin Zatôichi: Yabure! Tojin-ken)

(1971 - Japan)
With Shintaro Katsu, Jimmy Wang (aka Jimmy Wang Yu), Watako Hamaki, Michie Tarada, Shirou Ito*, Koji Nambara, Koji, Minawara, Shinsuke Minami*, Mutsu-o Totsuka* (*The Tenpuku trio)
Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda

Reviewed by JB

     Confused plots kept ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBO and the THE FESTIVAL OF FIRE from being top-notch Ichi films, but ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE ARMED SWORDSMAN, another "very special guest star" film, returns the series to basics.  No singing or dancing, no roughhouse comedy (except for one fart joke), no extraneous elements or characters.  Instead, it features Shintaro Katsu and guest-star Jimmy Wang Yu in a simple, tight story that is easy to follow and allows for both stars to shine in different ways.

     Jimmy Wang Yu was the top martial arts movie star in the pre-Bruce Lee era.  He had starred in many films, including at least two in which he played The One-Armed Swordsman.  With Wang Yu the action star of Hong Kong and Katsu the action star of Japan, and both men playing handicapped heroes, the idea of teaming them must have seemed natural, especially directly after guest appearances by two of Japan's most famous movie stars Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai.

    Katsu and Wang Yu work well together and it is a shame that, although they are both on the side of the good and nice, they wind up battling each other over a misunderstanding in the end.  It is said that two different ending were filmed, one for China, one for Japan.  You can guess who wins the battle in the Japanese version.  Aside from Wang Yu, the most fun members of the cast are the Tenpuku Trio, a popular group of comics who play three friendly drunks, one of them a blind masseuse named Hentoichi who, like our own Ichi, loves sake and cheats at gambling. 

     The violence in ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN ranges from a toothpick in the eye to an arm completely severed off, both in the same scene.  Another bit of gruesomeness will be especially interesting to Quentin Tarantino fans.  After you've seen what Ichi does with a sword and one man's ear, you will know why. -JB

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