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The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

Zatôichi monogatari (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 18 April 1962 (Japan)
The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur who also happens to be a master swordsman.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay) (as Minoru Inuduka), (short story)
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1 nomination. See more awards »
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The blind masseur and swordsman, Zatoichi, learns of a powerful political figure's secret and is quickly tailed by a group of killers.

Director: Kazuo Mori
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Yaeko Mizutani, Masayo Banri
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Wishing to find peace, Zatoichi travels to his old village but only finds trouble when he ends up in a love triangle and finds old scores have followed him home.

Director: Tokuzô Tanaka
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Seizaburô Kawazu
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A yakuza gang targets the blind masseur Zatoichi after he defeats their group in a wrestling match. Meanwhile a long lost love of Zatoichi's returns to his life.

Director: Tokuzô Tanaka
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Miwa Takada, Masayo Banri
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Zatoichi promises to deliver a maiden safely home but finds two dangerous gangs have a mysterious interest in the young girl.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Ryûzô Shimada
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Zatoichi is mistaken for a thief. To clear his name he must find and defeat the real villain.

Director: Kazuo Ikehiro
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shôgo Shimada, Mikiko Tsubouchi
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After being wounded in a fight, Zatoichi is nursed to health by a young woman and her father. Now indebted to the family, he works to protect their ferry business from local thugs.

Director: Kazuo Ikehiro
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Tatsuo Endô, Takashi Etajima
Drama | Adventure | Action
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A samurai with a high skill in chess makes friends with Zatoichi, who finds that things become peculiar in his presence.

Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Mikio Narita, Chizu Hayashi
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When Zatoichi witnesses the murder of a young mother he promises to deliver the baby to the father. Along the way he gains the help of a reluctant criminal.

Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Nobuo Kaneko, Gen Kimura
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

After Zatoichi learns of his sensei's murder he uncovers a horrible conspiracy involving the local government and crime family.

Director: Akira Inoue
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Norihei Miki, Mikiko Tsubouchi
Zatôichi (1989)
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Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution. Ichi's investigation into ... See full summary »

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In a town where debt-ridden peasants are being ruthlessly exploited, Zatoichi is forced to take sides between a cruel yakuza boss and his seemingly altruistic rival.

Director: Satsuo Yamamoto
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Action | Drama | Adventure
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Zatoichi, while fighting off the usual group of gangsters, meets the apprentice of the swordsman who created his blade, who relays bad news about the sword.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Yoshihiko Aoyama
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Shintarô Katsu ...
Zatôichi / Blind Man Ichi / Masseur Ichi
Masayo Banri ...
Tane / Tatekichi's sister / Seisuke's ex-lover
Ryûzô Shimada ...
Shigezô of Sasagawa / Sasagawa yakuza boss
Hajime Mitamura ...
Hanji of Matsugishi
Shigeru Amachi ...
Hirate, Miki
Michirô Minami ...
Tatekichi / Tane's brother / Saki's lover / Iioka yakuza member
Eijirô Yanagi ...
Sukegorô of Iioka / Iioka yakuza boss
Toshio Chiba ...
Masakichi / Iioka yakuza member (as Toshirô Chiba)
Manabu Morita ...
Seisuke / Tane's ex-lover / Iioka yakuza member
Yoshindo Yamaji ...
Yahei / Father of Tane and Tatekichi (as Yoshito Yamaji)
Yôichi Funaki ...
Yogorô / Sasagawa yakuza member
Eigorô Onoe ...
Rihei / Sasagawa yakuza member
Ikuko Môri ...
Yutaka / Shigezô's wife
Chitose Maki ...
Yoshi / Hanji's wife
Kin'ya Ichikawa ...
Mokichi / Sasagawa yakuza member
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Storyline

An impoverished blind masseur becomes a mercenary swordsman, to gain basic respect. The first of novelist Kan Shimozawa's Zatoichi series: 26 films, a TV series and a play, all but two starring controversial singer/producer/director Shintaro Katsu. First of six Zatoichi films directed by Kenji Misumi. The shrewd Zatoichi targets a yakuza-controlled village, because war with a neighboring town's smaller gang is brewing. The broke ex-masseur "Ichi" immediately wins big, by taking advantage of local bakuto's cheating, after they scoff at his asking to join a dice game. The larger horde, who have been given carte blanche by the local governor, summoned Zatoichi. Zatoichi hates the fact that he's become an outlaw, so he strikes up a friendship with the other gang's honorable hired samurai, who has TB. Written by David Stevens

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 April 1962 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

The Tale of Zatoichi  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Hanji's wife Yoshi practices "ohaguro" (literally: "black teeth.") In many areas of Asia, blackened teeth were considered a sign of beauty and maturity. In Japan, the practice was banned by the government in 1870. See more »

Goofs

When Hirate and Zatoichi are about to fight near the end, the horn of a modern ship can be heard in the background. See more »

Quotes

Zatôichi: [after asking Zatoichi what she would do with having so many children] Just don't raise them to be gangsters.
Tane: I won't... But why do you say that?
Zatôichi: Because to be a gangster is a foolish way to live.
Tane: Then why don't you live a decent life?
Zatôichi: It's like being stuck in a bog; it's not easy to pull yourself out once you've fallen in.
See more »

Connections

Followed by Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman's Pilgrimage (1966) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Sombre and effective period drama
14 May 2002 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

This is the first of more than 20 films featuring Ichi, a blind masseur-turned-swordsman in medieval Japan. Although he learned to wield a sword only to gain respect, Ichi finds his skill constantly in demand by criminal gangs. He's always reluctant to fight, and resorts to violence only with great reluctance and as a last resort. He prefers to make his living by practising his skills as a masseur and supplementing that income by conning greedy crooks who underestimate his gambling abilities.

In this first episode of a series that covered two decades, Ichi is hired by a gang leader to defeat a consumptive samurai who's been imported by a rival gang. The two swordsmen meet while fishing and become friends, but destiny has decreed they must fight each other, and only one will survive…

Fans of action movies may be disappointed with ZATOICHI MONOGATARI, because there's virtually no fighting for the movie's first hour. Instead, there's unusual emphasis on character development. Ichi himself receives much of the attention, and Shintaro Katsu (who also played the role in all the sequels) presents us with a subtle, complex portrayal of the reluctant mercenary. His scenes with the enamored sister of one of the gang members and with the mortally sick samurai are played with great sincerity without becoming sentimental. These two characters are also sensitively portrayed. Even many of the crooks are carefully established as individuals.

The climax won't disappoint action fans, though. Beginning with a flurry of gang skirmishes, frenetically edited to a throbbing score, it ends on a bitter and almost tragic note after the inevitable confrontation between the two protagonists.

Director Kenji Misumi embellishes the slow build-up with a succession of captivating black-and-white compositions and attention to period detail. A degree of pace is maintained by making scene transitions with cuts rather than dissolves. Sets are given visual depth by being framed with foreground objects. The camera is often positioned slightly above or below the characters' eye-lines. Very precise interior lighting creates interesting patterns on and around the actors. By contrast, the daytime exteriors are overly bright and tend to disrupt the mood.

Far from being a typical samurai movie, ZATOICHI MONOGATARI is an unusually somber yet effective period drama, and probably the best entry in the long series it inaugurated.


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