(Aka: Zatoichi 19)
(Japanese Title: Zatôichi hatashi-jô)

(1968 - Japan)
With Shintaro Katsu
Directed by Kenji Misumi

Reviewed by JB

     Zatoichi takes part in a hit on a local gangster, but when he discovers that it was a setup to procure the man's sister for the pleasure of a local official, he kills the boss who hired him.  No wonder this guy always has a price on his head.

     SAMARITAN ZATOICHI has a good story hampered by a script that often turns Ichi into a bumbling stooge.  It is also offputting that after so many films in which Ichi is a hero, we see him actually joining a gang and killing a man just as a job.  I though this was the kind of stuff he was atoning for on his endless journey down the back roads of Japan.  Of course, there are the redeeming factors of him becoming a bodyguard to the sister of the man he killed, and of course slaughtering anyone and everyone who had even the slightest connection with the hit by the end of the film.  But for the first time in the series, the characterization of Ichi is all wrong.  When the dead man's sister takes off on her own, Ichi suddenly become Jerry Lewis, running, stumbling, bumping into people in a literal blind panic.  There are some sight gags that make Ichi look like an idiot, such as when he has to fight six or seven gangsters while wrapped up in a wicker mat with only a hat pin as a weapon. 

     There is a definite lessening of the graphic violence that has crept into the series (only two hacked off fingers here) and the lighter comic sections are good.  Ichi also gets a fun sidekick who is not nearly as good with a sword but can still scrape his way through a fight without getting killed.  And in this year of "Ichi the Crooner", Shintaro Katsu sings yet another song on the soundtrack.  But the final fight between Ichi and the usual stock samurai character who has shadowed him throughout the film borrows a few too many elements from previous Ichi showdowns to really be memorable.  - JB

Zatoichi: Blind Swordsman     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


GOON: Shut up, you blind bastard!
(Ichi slices his sword through the room and places it back in its holder)
ICHI: You called me that one too many times.
(Goon falls over, deceased)

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2010 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee