ADVENTURES OF ZATOICHI

(Japanese Title:Zatôichi sekisho yaburi)
(1964 - Japan)
With Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada, Eiko Taki, Kichijiro Ueda, Mikijiro Hira
Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Reviewed by JB

      For a movie titled ADVENTURES OF ZATOICHI, it really isn't all that adventurous.  After such a good entry in FIGHT, ZATOICHI, FIGHT, ADVENTURES OF ZATOICHI, like its blaring theme music, promises much excitement but never delivers.

     Traveling to Kusama for New Year's, Ichi finds himself involved in, well, not much at all.  He befriends two separate lovely ladies, two cute little boys, deals with two separate stock samurai characters and meets an old drunk who may or may not be his father.  But aside from the usual dispatching of  yakuza gang members in the last fifteen minutes, Zatoichi really accomplishes very little.  Unless I missed it, he doesn't even bother killing off the big boss and the corrupt official who are making life miserable for everyone in town.  Typical of this entry are the two comical merchants introduced at the beginning.  Funny and lively, their antics make us look forward to the scenes they will share with Ichi.  Yet there are none - after the first few scenes, they disappear from the film.

      Yet, like nearly every Zatoichi movie, ADVENTURES OF ZATOICHI manages to entertain.  The lesser Ichi films are good for playing a "Zatoichi Drinking Game" (which must be done with sake, of course).  Take one drink for every time:

      - Zatoichi chuckles and mentions that he is just a blind man.
      - A bad guy cries out "Zatoichi???" when he is suddenly surprised to learn that this expert swordsman and blind masseuse is the famous Zatoichi.  (How many expert swordsman and blind masseuses are there roaming around Japan anyway?)
      - Zatoichi discovers cheating at a local gambling house.
      - Zatoichi facetiously offers to massage a young woman.
      - Zatoichi shovels more rice into his mouth than he can actually swallow.
      - Somebody calls Zatoichi a "crazy blind bastard" or something similar that mentions his blindness.
      - A pretty young maiden softly calls him "Ichi-san".
      - Zatoichi lets his sword fly and nobody dies.  But moments later, something we never expected is revealed to be cut in half.
      - Zatoichi talks to himself to either advance the plot or inform those in the audience who walked in late what is going on.
     - Bad guys go running into a hut to kill Zatoichi. A moment later, they both come out screaming and fall over dead.
      - The pretty young maiden waits for Zatoichi to return, yet he never does, as he is once again wandering down that long and winding road.

      The only thing missing in this entry is "Zatoichi sings, dances or plays a musical instrument."  And a tight story. Still, it's Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, so it can't be all bad. - JB

Zatoichi: Blind Swordsman     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

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