(Aka: Zatoichi 17)
(Japanese Title: Zatoichi chikemuri kaido)

(1967 - Japan)
With Shintaro Katsu, Jushiro Konoe, Miwa Takada, Yukiji Asaoka, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Mie Nakao,
Takao Ito

Directed by Kenji Misumi

Reviewed by JB

     Perhaps the best thing about this film is the unused literal English title, which, according to the Internet Movie Database, is ZATOICHI'S SPURTING BLOOD ROAD.  How they could have passed up that title, I don't know.

     Despite the disappointing choice of title, ZATOICHI CHALLENGED has much to recommend it, including a fine performance by Jushiro Konoe as a Toshiro Mifune-esque samurai, Shintaro Katsu warbling the opening theme song (an ode to the woeful life of Ichi), yet another pretty showgirl singing a pop tune while giving Ichi a ride to town, and a fantastic final showdown between Ichi and the samurai.  It also features a milestone of sorts for actress Miwa Takada, for whom this is her third go-around as a lovely young Mrs. Ichi-Wanna-Be.  Best of all is the particular evil scheme cooked up by the bad guys for this film - selling pornographic (but decorative) crockery!

     But ZATOICHI CHALLENGED is kept from being all it can be a poor casting choice.  I am not going to criticize a six year old boy here, but I must take the casting director to task for picking this particular kid to play Ichi's young traveling companion. He simply cannot act, and he does it loudly. Much of the film is centered on Ichi's relationship with this little boy, but the child proves to be such a brat and an irritant from frame one, it is no wonder the film ends with Ichi hiding under a bridge while the boy searches for him in vain.  Make room, Ichi, I'm right there with you. - JB

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