Zatoichi: The Return Of Masseur Ichi (Japan 1962)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: The Tale Of Zatoichi Continues
Review Date: 5/6/00
Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Tomisaburo Wakayama

Second film in the series.

A true sequel to the original "Zatoichi", this film takes place a year later when Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) returns to visit the grave of the samurai that he killed at the end of that film. Unfortunately, along the way he stirs up trouble when he is hired to massage a clan lord who has gone insane. In order to keep their lord's mental condition a secret, a group of Yakuza are hired to kill Ichi. But there's another subplot going on that's even more interesting. A thick tension develops between Ichi and an equally matched scruffy one-armed samurai, played by Shintaro Katsu's own brother, Tomisaburo Wakayama (Ogami Itto from the incredible "Lone Wolf And Cub" series). More troubles befall Ichi when he's forced to fight Wakayama and when he finds out that the lovely Otane is getting married to a local carpenter. The film ends on a very strange and abrupt note as Ichi wildly slashes out to satisfy his own anger and personal vengeance.

Good stuff. Again, this entry is in black and white, and the music score is sparse. The action scenes have been cranked up a notch, and it's great to see both Shintaro Katsu and Tomisaburo Wakayama in action. They are both great actors and great swordsmen, and the fight cinematography takes full advantage of their abilities. It seems like competent fight cinematography is a lost art these days. In true sequel form, the film makes lots of references to the original, which is kind of cheezy, but it still manages to work as a standalone film.