Zatoichi Challenged! (Japan 1967)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/29/00
Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada

Seventeenth film in the series.

Another long and drawn out Zatoichi adventure, but it really pays off in the last twenty minutes. The film opens with a woman dying in Zatoichi's (Shintaro Katsu) arms. She begs him to take her son to see his father, whom he has never seen. So, Ichi hits the road with a bratty kid in tow, and as fate would have it, the child's father is messed up in some dirty business. Ichi has a nose for sniffing out trouble, and he eventually makes a mess out of everyone. However, there are other forces at work who also want the child's father - preferably dead. The final showdown between Zatoichi and the government samurai is superb, and is one of the best fights in the entire series (which is saying a lot). The ending is bittersweet as Ichi and the boy have to part ways, and Ichi once again wanders off into the sunset - alone. A good Zatoichi outing, but it would definitely benefit from more fighting and less talking.