Fight, Zatoichi, Fight! (Japan 1964)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/24/01
Cast: Shintaro Katsu

Eighth film in the series.

A band of brigands kill a woman in a palanquin, mistaking her for Zatoichi. After working off a debt, she was returning home to her husband with their newborn child. Grieving over the tragedy, Zatoichi takes it upon himself to return the child to his rightful father and apologize for the incident. Along the way he enlists the aid of a pretty pickpocket, and the majority of the film details their journey and their bonding with the little boy. But the villains are never more than fifty feet behind them, always looking for the perfect moment to strike. Not surprisingly, the boy's father isn't such a great guy, and he decides to try his hand at winning the honor of killing the legendary Zatoichi.

Slow, plodding, clichéd, predictable, and light on action, but full of heart and tear-jerking sentimentality. Again, another fine performance from Shintaro Katsu, and his feelings towards the boy are genuine and heartbreaking. The direction and cinematography are also top notch. Unfortunately, the film tends to rely on the obvious sit-com elements of a lone blind man attempting to care for a baby, juxtaposed with his yakuza lifestyle and his plight to stay alive. Luckily for Ichi, the villains in the film are some of the stupidest yet, although they finally get smart at the end of the film by attempting to distract him with noise. Surrounded by burning torches, Ichi becomes vulnerable and a spectacular fight goes down. In the confusion, Zatoichi even catches on fire, but still desperately fights on. Quite dazzling. A good film, but a bit too slow for my tastes.