Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman And The Fugitives (Japan 1968)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/6/00
Cast: Shintaro Katsu

Eighteenth film in the series.

More Zatoichi goodness, but the series is definitely in a formulaic rut. Drama, story telling, and characterization are nearly non-existant as Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) stumbles into yet another town full of criminals and Yakuza bullies. He hooks up with a kind doctor and his beautiful daughter, and helps out with their business until he learns that the townfolk are being mistreated by their corrupt leaders. Then, of course, it's time to teach them a lesson, which inevitably leads to more conflict and strife, until Zatoichi is forced to kill everyone. The last twenty minutes offer some great action pieces, and Ichi even gets seriously wounded by gunfire at one point. This marks a definite change in execution, as this is the first film in the series to show a good amount of blood. There's even an outrageous blood geyser slaying at the beginning of the film that got me all excited for some "Lone Wolf And Cub" styled action, but it was just a tease. Fortunately, Shintaro Katsu's charisma and presence is enough to drive the film through its paces, and it's always a joy to watch him swing his sword around.