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The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)
"Zatôichi monogatari" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Action, Adventure, Drama  |  18 April 1962 (Japan)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 3,079 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 31 critic

The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur who also happens to be a master swordsman.

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(screenplay) (as Minoru Inuduka) , (short story)
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Title: The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

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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
Chitose Maki ...
Yoshi / Hanji's wife
Ikuko Môri ...
Yutaka / Shigezô's wife
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
Yoichi Funaki ...
Yogorô / Sasagawa yakuza member
Kinya Ichikawa ...
Mokichi / Sasagawa yakuza member
Eigorô Onoe ...
Rihei / Sasagawa yakuza member
Yoshindo Yamaji ...
Yahei / Father of Tane and Tatekichi (as Yoshito Yamaji)
Edit

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

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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

Just before Shigezo leaves for battle, his wife strikes a flint over his shoulder. This was a common good luck custom that evolved from an ancient Shinto spiritual ritual. See more »

Goofs

Hirate's fishing line is clearly a modern transparent nylon filament. See more »

Quotes

Zatôichi: [after asking Zatoichi what she would do with having so much 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 you once you've fallen in.
See more »

Connections

Followed by Adventures of Zatoichi (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Blind Samurai Star is Born
2 March 2009 | by (Salzburg, Austria) – See all my reviews

"Zatôichi Monogatari" aka. "The Tale of Zatoichi" (1962) is the fantastic start to the longest and most famous series of Samurai films, the wonderful "Zatôichi" series about the eponymous blind swordsman, gambler and masseur impersonated by the great Shintarô Katsu. Katsu is one of my personal favorite actors, and I am equally an admirer of the brilliant director he often worked with, the great Kenji Misumi. This first film in the series, as well as several more to come, was directed by Misumi, in my opinion one of the greatest Japanese directors of all-time. My personal favorite films by Misumi will always be the brilliant "Kozure Okami" (aka. "Lone Wolf And Cub") films (1972-1974) starring Shintaro Katsu's equally great brother Tomisaburo Wakayama (four out of the six films were directed by Misumi), as well as the outrageous Samurai-Exploitation classic "Hanzo The Razor - Sword Of Justice" (OT: "Goyôkiba") starring Katsu himself. It was the "Zatôichi" films, however, that made Misumi a known director and brought Katsu to stardom, and the series has long obtained an enormous cult-status. In total, Katsu played the role of Zatoichi in 26 films as well as in a 100-episode TV-series that ran between 1974 and 1979. Misumi directed six of the films, as well as many episodes of the series.

The reasons why the Zatôichi franchise enjoys such an enormous cult-status are numerous, but I will stick to the most important ones. The eponymous hero, Zatôichi must be the most likable character ever in cinema to work as a hired sword. Zatôichi, a blind masseur, has obtained his sword skills because he was tired of being looked down upon by others, as usual for blind people in Feudal Japan. Due to his excellent sword-skills, he makes a good living as a hired swordsman. His senses of smell and hearing are as excellent as his swordsmanship, which makes him one of the most powerful swordsmen. Even so, Zatôichi is a kind, gentle and humorous man by nature, who will rather solve problems otherwise than having to kill someone. Shintaro Katsu is brilliant in the role of his life, and I cannot imagine for anyone else to fit the role like Katsu did. Cult-filmmaker Takeshi Kitano (of whom I am a great fan) took a new turn on the role in 2003 - Katsu had passed away in 1997 - and did so greatly. Yet, to me, the only true Zatoichi will always be Shintaro Katsu. This first film in the series is one of only two that were filmed in black and white, and it already epitomizes what makes the brilliance of the series. "Zatôichi Monogatari" mixes Smurai Action with Comedy, Drama and philosophical elements. The film begins with the crafty Zatôichi, who tricks a bunch of fellow gamblers into underestimating him... The film marks the beginning to a great and highly successful series that may not be missed by any lover of Japanese cinema. I had seen several other "Zatôichi" films with Katsu, as well as the 2003 film with (and by) Kitano before seeing this one. The action is great in this first film, but it is the plot that outweighs the fighting by far. Overall, "Zatôichi Monogatari" is a great little piece of cult-cinema and everybody even remotely interested in Japanese films must see it.


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